sunday circular

10 Things That Delighted Us Last Week: From Packing Cubes to Perfect Pants

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

We write about hundreds of products each week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked some of our recent favorites: expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly launched gizmos, and very good deals we uncovered while trawling through the vast online-shopping universe — including the chili crisp that Top Chef’s Buddha Lo uses on everything, work-appropriate trousers that J. Crew employees swear by, and bulk gum for daily chewing.

Buddha Lo’s OG chili crisp

Lao Gan Ma Chile Crisp
From $4
From $4

When we asked professional chef and Top Chef winner Buddha Lo what he can’t live without, he told us that even though “chili crisps are everywhere now, everyone knows the inspiration came from this one right here.” The “OG” Lao Gan Ma can be put on (and improve) anything, from instant ramen to lobster bisque to some “to-go that wasn’t that great.” Lo likes to pair it with burrata or stracciatella, and names it as a “key ingredient in some of my sauces,” musing that “I think it’s the umami that comes with that chili crisp that works so well. It’s not raging hot, but you get a little heat.”

A throwback phone case

Casetify just released a customizable phone case that’s very reminiscent of Crocs and Jibbitz. The slim silicone case is studded with holes that let you mix and match adorable pins shaped like rainbows, daisies, and happy faces (sold separately in sets). Considering how the ’90s revival doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon, we anticipate that the cases will fly off the shelves — so if you want to snag one for your preteen niece (or yourself, no judgment), don’t dillydally.

Bulk gum for frequent chompers

$9

Curbed and Grub Street’s social-media editor Zach Schiffman “genuinely feels more productive while chewing gum. There’s something about the sensory distraction that allows me to focus on the pixels on my screen,” he writes. That’s why he buys gum in bulk on Amazon and keeps it on his desk for all-day chewing. His go-to brand is Xylichew ice mint; it’s “sweetened with birch xylitol, which the company says helps slow the rate of acid production in the mouth and prevent erosion of enamel,” Schiffman explains. He recently ordered a 500-count bag, which shakes out to a very wallet-friendly $0.10 per chiclet of gum.

Packing cubes to sort your stuff

From $90

As soon as Japan’s borders reopened in October, Brooklyn-based writer and stylist Diana Tsui booked a flight for late January to take advantage of Niseko’s “Japowder,” a lightweight snow that makes you feel like you’re snowboarding on clouds. Tsui and her husband spent lots of time on the mountain, of course, but also visited a fish market, grilled their own seafood dinner, and attended a Snow Festival filled with giant ice sculptures. For the trip, Tsui brought along her monogrammed Paravel packing cubes, which “make it easy to separate my husband’s gear from mine since we shove all of our snowboarding clothes into one suitcase,” Tsui told us.

The dad sneaks sported by Macklemore

Rapper Macklemore told us that he can’t live without his New Balance 550s, which remind him of wearing white Air Force 1s. “I don’t know what it is about the 550s, but they’re just easy. I can wear them with anything,” he told us. “They’re super-comfortable — great arch support. It’s a design that reminds me of the ’80s, and I love that era.” Even though it’s a classic dad shoe, he doesn’t really think of it as a dad shoe: “I think of the [Nike] Monarch as the most quintessential dad shoe. And there’s other New Balance models that I think are more dad shoes,” her clarified, adding that maybe “dads in the ’80s were wearing this, but no dads are busting out the 550s these days. They’re busting out them Velcros and getting on that lawn and starting up that mower.”

Pants to wear to the office …

We surveyed a panel of current J.Crew employees to get insider tips on what to buy (and what to skip), and multiple associates recommended the Camerons as the best work pants. Their favorite style is the four-season stretch, which is made with an elastane blend that gives them a forgiving fit and relaxed feel without looking sloppy. “They are so comfortable and are a perfect price for a nice set of business pants,” said one associate. They also wash well and maintain their shape, even with a heavy percentage of elastane.

… and pants to wear to the skate park (and everywhere else)

Strategist writer Erin Schwartz only ever wants to wear their Dickies skateboarding pants. They bought their first pair last summer “while searching online for a pair of medium-blue pants that weren’t jeans,” and the slouchy-yet-crisp trousers quickly became a favorite. So they recently bought another pair, this time in black. “The pants hang nicely over pretty much any shoe, from Vibram-soled Chelsea boots to chunky dad sneakers,” Schwartz writes. “I also love that the Dickies pants come in a size range from a 38 all the way down to a 26, a rare find in men’s pants.” Since Schwartz is only five feet tall, they did have to chop a few inches off the hem, but the “twill weave means you can leave the hem raw without worrying about the fabric unraveling, similar to denim.”

Customized mailers for a hotshot author

Packola Mailer Boxes
From $134 for 100
From $134 for 100

In our latest installment of “Assistant Files,” we spoke to “Sophie,” who has been an assistant to a best-selling novelist from Brooklyn since 2020. Sophie recounted a time at the end of 2021 when she and her boss put together mailers to promote her boss’s debut book, which was released at the beginning of 2022. The mailer was going out to 75 of the author’s close friends, influencers, and celebrities, including Aubrey Plaza, Maria Hinojosa, and Kimberly Drew. They wanted the boxes to match the book jacket exactly, so Sophie reached out to the publisher and cover designer for the exact hex codes used in the design. “It was very, very outside of my normal duties,” she says.

A Hydroflask-esque cooler for breast milk

Strategist contributor Elyse Moody has been pumping breast milk for nearly a year since giving birth to her daughter, and has discovered that “the most challenging part of pumping outside the house is figuring out how to store the milk when it’s not getting fed immediately to my daughter.” She found a solution in the form of Ceres Chill, which sort of resembles a camping Thermos. The unique thing about the Ceres Chill is that “it can actively chill warm liquids,” Moody writes. “It has an inner chamber, which is uninsulated stainless steel and screws securely into the outer vessel. You can fill one of its chambers with ice and water to chill as much as 24 ounces of breast milk for 20-plus hours,” essentially eliminating the need for a fridge or cooler.

The soothing heat pack that lulls Kimiko Glenn to sleep

Actress Kimiko Glenn counts these hot-and-cold packs among her very favorite things, especially since she’s constantly cold. “I’m one of those people whose hands are freezing at any given moment,” she says. To keep warm, she surrounds herself with multiple heat packs: “Instead of those heavy weighted blankets, heat packs are my safe space.” She uses this microwaveable one every night to help her go to sleep; since the heat dissipates within an hour, she doesn’t have to worry about overheating during the night.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

10 Things That Delighted Us: Packing Cubes to Perfect Pants