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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in August

Photo: retailers

If you follow our monthly feature Your Shopping Cart, you know that we have some eerily good intel on what you all are buying. Which led us to think that, as Strategist editors, we could turn the tables and highlight all the things we’ve been buying for ourselves. As you’ll notice, it’s both a blessing and a curse to be a Strategist editor; we’re picky, but sometimes we just have to get on with it. (It’s online-shopping expertise meets IRL needs.) Below, what we all bought in August.

Alexis Swerdloff, Strategist editor

I thought it was time for my very active almost 2-year-old to get a bike, so I headed to our balance bike roundup and ordered our top pick. Like the reviews said, it’s super-lightweight, easy to put together, and while he’s only vaguely interested in it at this point, he was able to get the hang of it and sort of scoot along. Even if he’s not in love with it now, it’ll apparently last him until he’s 4.

Karen Iorio Adelson, senior writer

Photo: retailer

I hadn’t been tempted by any quarantine crafts until I started to see friendship bracelets popping up on my feed (like these from Neon Tea Party) and remembered I was actually pretty decent at making these back in my summer-camp days. I ordered this pack of embroidery floss, and I’ve already made a bunch for myself and anyone else who will let me tie one on them. It’s a relaxing activity that helps me turn my brain off and keep my hands off my phone. To brush up on my technique, I’ve been watching YouTube videos (like those from Masha Knots) and bookmarking patterns on Bracelet Book.

Samantha Irby’s daily recaps of Judge Mathis episodes in her newsletter never fail to make me laugh, so I just ordered her latest book, and I’m sure I’m going to love it.

Nikita Richardson, writer

I’m the kind of person who will finish her glass of water before the waiter has finished filling everyone else’s glasses. And yet I find myself perpetually dehydrated because I’m too lazy to refill a glass over and over again. So I bought a Takeya (for 30 percent off at Bed, Bath & Beyond!) and now I’m the most hydrated I’ve ever been.

I’ve basically been wearing the same big T-shirts and my favorite baggy linen dress since the start of the pandemic. Dressing nicely was purely a “going to the office” thing for me. But this puff-sleeved mid-length dress is the first item of clothing that’s moved me in five months, and now that it’s in my closet, I’m fully in love.

Peter Martin, senior editor

American Crew Defining Paste
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$14

My mother-in-law, who has graciously hosted us and provided childcare over the last six weeks, has a very intense anti-COVID-19 protocol. (The other day, I caught her washing bananas.) The only real issue this has presented is haircuts. Our last quarantine host, my sister, had been cutting my hair, but now that we’re at my in-laws, she’s no longer available and house rules strictly forbid going to a barber. The Fat Boy putty I usually use works perfectly when my hair is short, but after more than a month, I need something with a little more hold, so I bought this American Crew paste. It’s one of the few medium-hold products I’ve ever used — and I’ve tried dozens over a decade as a grooming editor at a previous job — that doesn’t make my hair look shiny or feel crunchy.

This is not an interesting purchase, but if other people are as unaware as I was of its existence, hopefully this serves as a helpful PSA: If you buy a new car and transfer your EZ Pass over, like we did in June (a Buick!), it’s very easy and cheap to replace the velcro strips that came with the pass but refused to come off of the old car’s windshield.

Casey Lewis, senior editor

Photo: retailer

I have more jean dresses than I have jeans (which is to say: too many). But that didn’t stop me from buying this zip-front denim shift that can be worn for late-summer adventures now, over a swimsuit with Birkenstocks, and to the office later, over a turtleneck with tights (if we ever return to the office, anyway).

I ran out of my Boy Brow away from home and, in a pinch, grabbed this at a local CVS. It only cost me five bucks, and though my expectations weren’t too high — I spent two seconds in the makeup aisle and just grabbed the first brow filler I saw — I actually love the stuff. Unlike the Glossier formula, this formula is waterproof — great for pool or beach days — and it’s also really natural-looking and easy to apply. I honestly don’t think I’ll go back to using anything else!

Maxine Builder, deputy editor

This summer, I replaced a decade-old sleeping pad with a well-reviewed (and fairly expensive) lightweight sleeping pad — and I hate it! The only way I can get comfortable on it is by deflating it so much that I’m basically sleeping on the ground. So I decided to replace that with this Therm-a-Rest foldable foam sleeping pad. It’s a lot bulkier than its predecessor, but it’s still fairly lightweight, and if I’m actually able to sleep on it, it’ll be absolutely worth it.

I have been dreaming of replacing my mismatched glasses with a set of sleek Bodega glasses ever since I read about them on the Strategist in 2017, and after years of putting it off, I finally did it — because there’s nothing quite like a pandemic to make you realize that there’s no time like the present. They’re perfect, hold a lot of liquid even though they seem very stout and short, look great on my open shelving, and at $40 for a set of 18, I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.

Tembe Denton-Hurst, writer

Once upon a time, Tevas were an unthinkable, unacceptable choice of footwear, mostly because the only people I ever saw wearing them were my high-school teachers who looked very decidedly uncool doing so. But in the years since, I’ve slowly changed my mind. Last year, I bought a pair of classic original Tevas in white, and I liked them so much I found myself purchasing another pair of Teva’s just this week. The only thing I didn’t love about the original style was that the band across the top cut into my wide foot, making them uncomfortable after a few hours. But that’s totally solved with the Hurricane Drift Sandals, which are more rubbery and stretch a bit better to fit my foot. I also like its molded shape and how easy they are to slip on and off.

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Photo-Illustration: retailer

Another month, another book haul. This month, I picked up Luster, Raven Leilani’s much-talked-about debut that I’ve been stalking for months. It follows a 20-something-year-old Black girl who’s sort of tripping through questionable decision after questionable decision only to find herself in the middle of a very messy real-life situation. I sped through this book in just a few sittings, and while I’ll save my official feelings for the Strategist book club meeting, I’ll say this: Buy the book; you won’t regret it.

Chloe Anello, junior writer

One of my dogs unexpectedly died this month. She wasn’t sick or really that old, so we didn’t have time to prepare ourselves for it, unlike my dog who died of cancer and another of very old age. It all just happened so fast. I kind of didn’t know how to act, so I did some retail therapy and bought a few things I’ve always said I wanted but never got around to getting. That includes this tie-dye set from Aerie, which is similar to the one I already own and love. I’m really into Aerie’s new Offline collection, which includes tall sizes for a few of their leggings, and for someone who’s five-foot-nine, that’s such a treat. I don’t have to rock an accidental crop or worry that 7/8 leggings will be more like capris. Aerie also always uses size-inclusive models, so I get a better sense of how their stuff will look on me.

I’ve really been throwing myself into my hobbies lately to cope with the stress of the pandemic and my dog dying. I bought a new loom to give me more opportunities for bigger projects, since this one is twice the size as the largest one I owned before. (I’m now making a patchwork blanket, in case you were wondering.) I also got a new embroidery book that’s all about flowers. I wind down at the end of the day working on my projects, and it’s been really helpful for me.

Anthony Rotunno, senior editor

Like contributor Chadner Navarro, I have basically been living in linen button-down shirts for the past few months. They’re easy, breezy, and make me feel a bit more put together despite the fact that the only people I’m often “getting dressed” for are my husband and cat. But unlike Navarro, my wardrobe of linen shirts is exclusively from J.Crew. At last count, I had no less than eight of the button-down shirts it makes using Irish linen from Baird McNutt, a collection that’s been years in the making. And on a recent rainy day spent outside of the city, I popped into a J.Crew Factory store, where I added one of these more-affordable linen shirts to my collection. While technically a linen-cotton blend, the fabric feels pretty much the same as my 100 percent Irish linen shirts and, importantly (to me), the Factory shirts have button collars, too. Plus, you just can’t beat the price — especially since I can wear them at least through September, and maybe even longer (because, again, who’s really looking?).

I did not purchase these: The folks at Merrell kindly sent me a pair after I raved to them (and our readers) about how much I loved wearing the brand’s Jungle Mocs. They promised that, if I liked the Jungle Mocs, I’d love the Hydro Mocs as a lighter-weight, breathable alternative. And they were right about that. The Hydro Mocs are just as comfortable to walk (and bike) in but far lighter and way more ventilated thanks to their porous design. The one downside I’ve found is that I can’t take full advantage of that porous design, because I have to wear them with socks, or else the rubber material unpleasantly rubs against my heels (which could be a sizing issue; not being able to try them on, I just went with the size of my Jungle Mocs). The upside of this downside is that I can have fun pairing these with the six different pairs of tie-dyed socks my friend Michelle made for me, which give the shoes a slightly different look depending on what colors are peeking through.

Louis Cheslaw, writer

I’m moving in September to an apartment with more space but no dishwasher. Because I don’t like constantly reapplying dish soap to a brush (and therefore don’t really do it) when I spotted this nifty soap dispensing brush in a store in Hudson this month, I had to have it. It’s from the Oxo Good Grips Line that shows up on the site constantly, so I know it’s built well. It’s also under $10, which I appreciated given how expensive moving is.

In August, Hilary and I asked tasteful people about their favorite masks, and Hilary spoke to publishing giant Lisa Lucas, who recommended this one. I wanted it immediately, because it has adjustable ear straps, which solves the too-tight issue I was having with other fabric face masks in the spring. I bought it thinking I’d wear it when the weather cooled down and fabric masks were bearable again, but I’ve actually been wearing it ever since it arrived and been totally comfortable. I also like that it has an interior pocket for a filter, which I plan to attach should cases spike in my city again.

Dominique Pariso, writer

The minute I saw this silkscreened Yoko Ono “A Piece of Sky” face mask in our Don’t Dillydally column, I knew I had to have it. It’s one of nine artist-designed masks released by Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The mask is handmade by Citizens of Humanity and, I have to say, almost too nice to wear (which is obviously not the point).

I also bought a subscription to isolarii, a new imprint started by an old college editor of mine that is a series of “island books” released every two months. Essentially, each volume is organized around a singular idea so every new release promises something completely different. For example, the first work is called Salmon: A Red Herring, by Cooking Sections duo Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe — with forewords by Hannah Landecker, Bruno Latour, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and David Zilber, that explores food and color. The next edition is New Russian Feminist Poetry. Lately, I’ve been feeling my brain getting stagnant — and my usual balm of beach reads and television isn’t helping — so this promises a fun challenge. Plus, getting little treats in the mail has become a delight unto itself: This is, after all, the year of zines, letter writing, and care packages.

Kayla Levy, junior writer

California has been on fire since mid-August in this year’s bought of increasingly severe, climate change–induced wildfires. The 625 (and counting) fires have forced over 100,000 people to evacuate their homes amidst a global pandemic and put first responders (including incarcerated folks) in increased danger. California farmworkers, who consistently work to produce more food than any other state in the U.S., are also on the frontlines, working for minimum wages without hazard pay or governmental disaster relief (many are undocumented). So this month, I donated to the Farmworker Project’s Fire Relief Fund, which donates 100% of contributions to farmworkers. If you’re looking to give directly to the farmworkers who put produce on your plate, they’re still $67,000 short of their goal.

With California on the mind, I also got some body wash from my favorite Bay Area–based body care brand, Juniper Ridge, which sustainably harvests its products and donates 10% of all profits to organizations that protect the wilderness. The crisp, piney scent of its Coastal Pine body wash reminds me of my favorite Point Reyes hiking trails.

Lauren Ro, writer

I picked this up on a recent trip to Costco. I’d been looking for a sippy cup that didn’t leak (the ones with the weighted straw are kind of the worst) and had also been meaning to get a thermos for my toddler’s lunches. This set was exactly what I needed. The bottle is great for keeping his milk cold (and contained), and the jar keeps his food warm enough. Having both of these things has made mealtime less stressful. The jar is especially a lifesaver when going on all-day excursions. Instead of hoping that Augie will eat whatever we happen to pick up for lunch ourselves, I can pack his food in the morning and know that he’ll have something he actually likes, whether we’re at the beach or on a hike.

There was a pretty significant period of my life where I had bangs. Now I can’t stand the feeling (or the look) of them on my forehead. All the hair that I had lost after Augie was born has thankfully been growing back, but that also means that my “baby hairs” are now long enough that they’ve unfortunately become unintentional bangs. And they’ve been driving me crazy. I’d been using whatever bobby pins I had around to pin them back, but the little covered points kept peeling and snagging, and they just didn’t do the job they were supposed to. I did a quick search online for the best bobby pins, and these MetaGrip ones were at the top of basically every list. It felt a little silly to pay $14 for a pack of 300, but I have no regrets. They’re just superior to every bobby pin I’ve ever tried. They’re your standard size and shape, but the metal feels really substantial and the grip is supertight: They don’t ever have to be adjusted once they’re in my hair. I love them so much that I keep track of every single one, though I don’t really need to since there are literally hundreds of them at my disposal.

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, junior writer

Inspired by Shangela’s What I Can’t Live Without, I decided to purchase this eye primer, along with this eyeshadow palette, to make the colorful makeup looks I’ve been doing lately really pop. When Shangela wears it, she says, “you can clock my eye paint from the back row,” but as long as you can see mine from six feet away, I’’ll be happy.

Photo: 20-08-07 Accessories AM1 B13 jes

My birthday is next month, and while I won’t be taking that international trip I hoped to be on, I’m still going to get dressed up and make the most of what little I can do. I know I want to wear a dress, but I’ve been really torn between this one, and this one, and this one, and also this corset, but this Rahi dress is the only one i’ve ordered so far. Fingers crossed it’s perfect when it arrives, because the way shipping times are these days, I might not have enough time to order another one.

Hilary Reid, writer

My big purchase this month was a “chair and a half,” a category of seat I did not know existed before shopping for studio apartment–size furniture. Smaller than a loveseat but bigger than an armchair, the very literally named chair and a half turned out to be a perfect fit for the space — small enough to not crowd the apartment and long enough for me to more or less stretch out on (with my legs dangling off). I went for a white slipcovered one, which makes it feel a little like the petite (and less expensive) cousin of a big Rachel Ashwell couch.

Katy Schneider, senior editor

I paid my rent, stocked up on household essentials like dish soap and toilet paper in case we all get shut back inside again full-time, and then just bought a lot of newly released books. I read the bulk of Luster, by Raven Leilani, which we are reading for our Official Strategist Book Club, in a single, fevered sitting on my stoop. Then there’s The Margot Affair — well, let me just include the description here: “The secret daughter of a French politician and a famous actress drops a startling revelation that will shatter her family in this beguiling debut novel.” And The Death of Vivek Oji, which I am very excited to start next.

Rio Viera-Newton, writer

Full disclosure — this purchase was deeply influenced by Katy, who has long raved about the extreme comfort and sleek style of Tabi footwear. These hoovelike shoes are something between a sweater, sock, and sneaker: The flexible, soft fabric is incredibly snug and cozy, while the jelly soles create a bounce and agility that’s perfect for just about every scenario. I got them in the color “Dust” and wear them constantly — on coffee runs, on walks, even just lounging around the house. And these shoes are constructed from recycled polyester yarn spun from post-consumer PET bottle waste.

I found out about this mask through Marquia Walton, author of the amazing article “What I Learned From Decolonizing My Beauty Routine” for Elle magazine. This deeply healing and restorative mask uses thyme, vitamin A rich kale, honeysuckle, neem, and French green clay to balance, purify, and calm inflamed or congested skin. This is a great mask to use on breakouts, picked skin (don’t do it!) or simply if you want to feel a deeper clean.

Aisha Rickford, intern

I don’t own a lot of work clothes, so because I had some Everlane credit AND they were on sale, I bought these flattering, form-fitting yet comfortable work pants. I can’t wait to actually wear them, but for now, I will try them on occasionally, preparing for some imaginary day in the future when we will all return to in-person work.

Photo: retailer

This book is huge, hardcover, and close to 700 pages long, but I have carried it with me practically everywhere this month, from the beach to any time I’ve had a free moment in my car or out and about to sneak a few pages. It’s been a tough year, to say the least, and Midnight Sun — which is Twilight, but from Edward’s perspective this time — has been a really nice way to nostalgically relive my preteen Twilight obsession and delve into a familiar story and characters in a time when most other things feel very uncertain and unfamiliar.

Leah Muncy, intern

My brother’s birthday is in September, and he’s loved Pikachu ever since he was 5, so I got him this Pikachu plushie. (P.J., if you’re reading this, pretend it’s a surprise.) When I bought it, I told the cashier that it was for my brother, and she was like, “Aww, how old is he?” I was like, “Oh, no, he’s turning 24.”

Ever since Doja Cat released “Moo” way back in 2018 (and because I grew up surrounded by farms and Tractor Supply stores) I’ve been really enamored of the cow print trend. I like that the print on this (surprisingly sturdy) canvas tote is a more subtle brown and cream and the splotches aren’t too smooth or symmetrical — it actually looks like genuine cow print. I bought the horizontal version, which is now sold out, but the vertical version is still in stock.

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.

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in August