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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in September

Photo-Illustration: 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 September.

Casey Lewis, senior editor

I bought this dog toy mostly because of the nostalgic appeal of Nerf, a company I fondly remember for its foam blasters. If Nerf made toys that were durable enough for my rambunctious brother and me back in the day, maybe it would make dog toys tough enough for my pit-bull-boxer mix. I’ve tried dozens of plastic and rubber toys, all of which my dog chews through in minutes. But not this one! Even though it’s fairly inexpensive, especially compared to the “tough chewer” toys, it’s endured a month of daily use. It’s big-dog approved, but even my parents’ little white fluffy dog — who tops out at ten pounds — loves it.

Jordan Bowman, writer

I decided it was time to replenish my stock of basic T-shirts. I picked up a few from the Uniqlo U line because it’s a heavier fabric compared to the Uniqlo packaged DRY tees. I personally prefer a heavyweight tee, which you can layer under a denim jacket, a hoodie, or a nice fleece during the colder fall mornings. If you’re feeling more adventurous, Uniqlo also has a boxy-fit tee.

When you read Greg Tate, you spend most of your time wondering if you’ve been experiencing culture the wrong way. He’s capable of writing about music and culture in a way that makes the experience feel enlightening. You start to wonder, Did I actually hear this album? Whether it’s a breakdown of Outkast’s legacy or Ghostface Killah’s albums, Tate continues to pique my interest with every sentence, helping me decipher the meaning of art that I thought I had already understood.

Peter Martin, senior editor

Infants may not mind the discomfort of traditional thermometers, but toddlers do. And they tell you about it. (They also tell every new person they see that “Daddy run red light,” even if it only happened once and you explained that it was an accident.) We bought this forehead thermometer after our 2-year-old made it clear that she was ready for an upgrade. Instead of a wriggly fight on the changing table, we just run this thing from one temple to the other for an instant readout. The other day, she actually asked me to take her temperature just for fun.

There are many benefits to working with Liza, but the one I’ve appreciated the most lately is her mask expertise. Now that my wife and I are back in the city and wearing masks more often, we are stocking up. Liza suggested these Baggu masks for my wife, since they have adjustable ear straps to customize the fit and extra fabric panels to cover the nose and chin, which provide a good seal and will help keep her glasses from fogging up. My wife can’t bring herself to wear the leopard print, but now we also have a good gift for my mother-in-law.

Kayla Levy, junior writer

After years of (painstakingly) kneading challah dough by hand — followed by an even more deeply misguided decision this month to manually make (and deliver by bike) a couple dozen loaves of the bread across Brooklyn — I finally broke down and ordered the refurbished gold standard of stand mixers: a seven-quart, bowl-lift behemoth from KitchenAid. My grandfather (the challah recipe’s originator) and mother (who makes her challah in the same type of mixer) both approve.

After getting an expensive piece of kitchen equipment that doesn’t really fit in my kitchen, I focused the rest of this month’s spending on more practical necessities, like donations and these bike lights to keep me safe while riding at night. I picked up a two-pack at my neighborhood bike shop, Dixon’s Bicycle Shop, but they’re also available at REI.

Lauren Ro, writer

I wanted a sheepskin rug for my closet ever since I spotted one in Liv Tyler’s dreamy Architectural Digest home tour. She was standing barefoot in her closet on a snow-white rug that just looked so soft, and I had to have one for myself. I did a bunch of research on genuine Australian and New Zealand sheepskin and landed at Overland, a company known for its sheepskin coats, where the rugs had hundreds of glowing reviews and came in a bunch of sizes and colors. I settled on a runner in linen, and as soon as it arrived, my toddler dove onto it and started rolling around like a dog, literally giggling with glee at how nice it felt. We were both immediately obsessed. I still love the inexpensive ones from Ikea we’ve collected over the years, but these are the real deal.

I finally bought this hair turban that Rio wrote about last year because I was tired of my wet hair dripping all over me and soaking my clothes after a shower. I always blow-dry my hair, but only after it’s been air-dried a little, and I usually roll it up in a towel and pile it on top of my head during that in-between time. Then I got a much-needed haircut and my hair was now too short for that. Enter the turban, which really is kind of life-changing, as Rio promised. It secures my hair and keeps it away from my face (though, I have to say, it’s a little tight and squishes my ears), all while soaking up all the excess water in a matter of minutes. That means I can get to the blow-drying stage quicker and spend less time doing it — and get on with my life.

Maxine Builder, deputy editor

I adopted a dog! Her name is Harmony! She has just one eye because she was attacked by a viper, and I love her (though she hasn’t moved from underneath my boyfriend’s desk since we picked her up yesterday)! And to prepare for her arrival, I went through all of our expert-recommended dog content to make sure she has the best of the best — but I’m probably most excited about her Ruffwear collar and the matching leash and harness. We’re going to go on so many good walks.

Speaking of walks: It’s that time of year when I decide, Yes, I will become a runner. (See my wish list from 2018 for additional proof of this phenomenon.) This year’s attempt comes in the form of signing up to run a socially distanced 5K to support the Somerville Homeless Coalition. And in starting to train (because, yes, I am so woefully bad at running that I need to train for a 5K the way others train for a marathon), I realized that the only workout-y shorts I owned were Patagonia Baggies. So I asked our resident running expert, Karen, for a recommendation, and she flagged the Nike Tempos as a “good gateway short.” At just $30 a pair, they’re affordable enough that even if (or, rather, when) I quit running again, I won’t feel too bad when they sit in my dresser drawer until my next burst of aerobic athleticism.

Louis Cheslaw, writer

In my August haul, I wrote about how I’d been trying not to spend too much money in anticipation for my September moving costs. As expected, moving into a new place this month did mean I spent a little more — but so far, both of my big-ticket purchases have been truly worth it. The first was this Samsung TV, which is giant but lightweight and comes with all the apps I’d want (Netflix, Hulu, HBO, YouTube) already installed. Crucially, it also has AirPlay compatibility, so I can stream from my laptop and iPhone easily too. I mounted it with this $37 steel mount from Home Depot, which was cheaper than the others out there, but it still seems sturdy and flexible.

The second-most-expensive purchase I made this month was this office chair, after coming across it in our guide to the best less expensive office chairs. Not only is it very sleek and adult, but it’s also comfortable to spend the best part of your day at. For example, you wouldn’t think it had full recline capabilities — but it does! I went for the brown model, and while it was back-ordered, it was at my door within two days of the date the company said it would be back in stock and took under a minute to assemble.

[Editor’s note: This item is scheduled to restock on October 7, 2020.]

Karen Iorio Adelson, senior writer

I heard about this cheap activewear brand when I was doing research for this story on athleisure dupes and — since I’m basically living in leggings these days — I decided to order a pair to try out. They’re very soft (like the much more expensive Lululemon Aligns), stretchy, and comfortable, and I love that they have deep side pockets for toting around my phone during the day. I did start to notice the fabric pilling a little, but for only $24, they’re pretty good leggings and have earned a spot in my rotation.

Leah Muncy, junior writer

My black Chucks were on their last legs, so I picked up a pair of these chunky Run Star Hike platforms. I actually didn’t intend to buy this particular style — I was just trying them on for fun — but these are, hands down, the most comfortable pair of Converse I’ve ever worn. They’ve got a “SmartFOAM sockliner,” according to the website, which feels like I’m walking on pillows. The sole has a substantial amount of tread, which will be perfect for slippery sidewalks come winter. Nordstrom recommends sizing down, but I find they run true to size.

I’ve been playing a lot of guitar during the pandemic, but the guitar I was using was this child-size, nylon-string one that my mom bought for me when I was 8. I was looking for a no-frills, steel-string acoustic guitar and settled on this top-rated Yamaha, admittedly after seeing Phoebe Bridgers play a similar one during her NPR Tiny Desk concert. So far, I love it. It’s on the smaller side, and I have small hands, so it’s really comfortable to play. The sound is clean, and the action is just right. Somehow, it’s under $200, which is an absolute steal.

Tembe Denton-Hurst, writer

September is my favorite month of the year — partly (okay, mostly) because it’s my birthday month. That and the incredible weather. I wanted a dress that would make me feel grown and beautiful, and this rust-colored dress from ASOS fit the bill. I tied it differently than the way it was intended (a traditional wrap-style dress) and ended up with a custom-looking dress that earned me lots of compliments. I love that it was comfortable too, so I was able to eat as much paella and French fries as I wanted, without worrying something would stretch beyond recognition or rip in two.

Another month, another slate of books. This month, I bought quite a few titles, but I’m particularly excited about Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel. I’m almost finished with it, and my God, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Gyasi deftly draws her main character, Gifty, and manages to submerge you in her world, even when not much is happening at all. It’s an incredible read, she’s an incredible writer, and I’d recommend that everyone pick it up.

Nikita Richardson, writer

I recently decided that making pottery is out of the cards for me in 2020, so I’ve turned to weaving as my new hobby. I’ve bought so many things recently to get started, but my favorite purchase are these beautiful handmade bobbins (used for weaving with small amounts of yarn) from a maker in Idaho.

Speaking of small businesses, my mom retired last year, and her new obsession is selling vintage items she finds at estate sales in Georgia on Etsy. She’s not the best photographer, so my sister and I bought her a light box so she can take better pictures of her finds. (What can I say? I come from a long line of hobbyists.)

Anthony Rotunno, senior editor

Approaching seven months of living a socially distant life, I’m starting to miss some old routines. One is popping by one of the handful of Porto Rico coffee shops — whether in Williamsburg, the East Village, Greenwich Village, or on the Lower East Side — to pick up some beans. I’ve had to replace that with ordering from the company online, which I’ve been doing every couple of months since the spring. Porto Rico’s deliveries are reliable, its customer service is excellent, and, while I’m no coffee snob, I’ve never had a bad bean or cup of coffee in my decade of shopping there. The house blend is always a favorite (and a good place to start), but what I like even more is picking up whatever’s on sale when it’s time to place another order.

Oops … I did it again. (I purchased yet another J.Crew linen shirt.) But when I saw this tie-dyed guy on sale, I couldn’t resist.

Liza Corsillo, writer

Photo: kabir fernandez

While I love the look of cow print, I’m never going to buy myself a cow-print dress, jacket, or pair of pants. So when I saw this backpack on Baggu’s website, I jumped at the only chance I could see for myself to get in on the trend. I have another Baggu backpack in solid terra-cotta orange that has held up incredibly well through hundreds of trips to the farmers’ market and the beach and on my bike. So I knew this one would last. I love the print, but it’s the shape and straps that make me want to take it everywhere. It’s nice and roomy, with two outer pockets that are perfect for my phone and my mask. But no matter how full I pack it, the straps never dig into my shoulders. And because they are wider than other fabric straps, I can wear this backpack comfortably for long periods of time, and even while hiking, and barely feel that it’s there.

From $33 for 3

Over the weekend, I had to make a quick trip to Staples to buy tracing paper. Nearly 45 minutes later, I walked out with my tracing paper and a small tower of these Bigso storage boxes. In the past, I have spent way too much money on similar boxes to store artwork, papers, and photographs in a way that actually looks nice and keeps everything organized and easy to grab. But these were a steal in comparison to others I’ve bought, and, in my opinion, more attractive. I can’t wait to start filling them up with new drawings. They seem to be sold out on the Staples website, but here’s a set of three you can pick up from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Hilary Reid, writer

The return of sweater weather meant ordering more of this spray, which is possibly the most useful fall and winter product I own. It’s basically like a nicer Febreze that smells like cedar, and you spray it on sweaters between wears and washes and anywhere those sweaters are stored. I’ve gone through many bottles of it over the past few years, and I am pretty sure it’s kept my sweaters looking fresher and with fewer moth holes.

I went to the Met this month, which was incredible to visit at 25 percent occupancy. But what was also incredible was returning to the Met’s uptown neighbor pharmacy, Zitomer — home of the storied Zitomer ladies and an extensive headband selection — for the first time since March. I picked up a headband similar to this one but made from flat, woven brown satin.

Chloe Anello, junior writer

Maxine wrote a story in 2018 about the Theragun, which is beloved by many pro athletes and costs $600. I always complain about sore muscles after workouts and a sore back, probably due to my poor posture, but I’m not a pro athlete, so spending $600 on a percussion massager seemed pointless. Even $300 for the Hypervolt felt like a lot. In that same article, Maxine recommended this much less expensive Wahl massager, so I looked into it. As someone who writes a lot of our People’s Choice posts, I liked what I saw — 4.2 rating, nearly 5,000 five-star reviews, and not sold by a third party — so I bought it. And I really like it so far. It’s extremely loud, so you won’t be able to discreetly use it in a meeting, if that’s your intention, but that doesn’t bother me. It has four different heads and gets the job done. For about $40, it’s well worth the money.

One of my boyfriend’s friends started a clothing line called Marlboro.NY that’s essentially an ode to upstate New York. And as someone who lives and grew up here, I think it’s pretty great. I bought his mug first, but I’m currently obsessed with this cheeky T-shirt that says “God Loves Upstate New York.”

Dominique Pariso, writer

From $20

In the summer, I swear off most actives, since my skin is really prone to dark spots. Now that the summer sun is going on hiatus for a few months — and I’ve got a nasty bout of maskne to contend with — I’ve refilled my custom bottle of Curology. Hopefully, the powerful blend of tretinoin, clindamycin, and azelaic acid should do the trick.

I’m also starting to prepare for the inevitable long, cold winter to come, so I bought some comfy clothes from Uniqlo U’s latest drop, which is chock-full of chic options for the homebound. The beige sweatshirt and sweatpants combo I chose is already sold out, but the sweatshirt (in black, dark brown, and off-white) is still in stock in a few sizes.

Rio Viera-Newton, writer

I picked up this wonderful double-cleanse set at a Target, which is a collaboration between Pixi Beauty and skin-care guru Caroline Hirons. The two-step set comes with both a balm and cream cleanser (start with the balm, wash, apply the cream, then wash again) so you can ensure your skin is dirt, sweat, and SPF free before bedtime.

I’m absolutely over the moon for these tiny little cherry earrings that I bought from Stella and Bow. They’re delicate enough for everyday wear (they’re petite, not big and chunky), but they add a subtle pop of color and playfulness to my outfits. Pair with Beauty Bakerie’s lipstick “Mon Chéri” for the full, joy-sparking effect.

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, junior writer

My biggest purchase this month was first month’s rent and a security deposit on my new studio apartment — so stay tuned next month for lots of home purchases — and that took up all (and then some) of my spending money. I did, however, come across this bag at a stoop sale. I knew the seller, and the tags were still on, so that gave me hope about its authenticity. It was missing the removable interior pouch and the cross-body strap, but for the extremely discounted price I got it for, I couldn’t pass it up.

Katy Schneider, senior editor

For the past couple of years, I’ve bought somewhere around 90 to 95 percent of my clothing at Sincerely, Tommy in Bed-Stuy. It’s the best store in every single way. This month, I bought two things there: these really, really great boots, which are chunky, a pretty olive color, and made out of vegan leather, and a pair of brown Pleats Please–y comfortable pants, which are unfortunately not sold online.

Aisha Rickford, intern

I love Uniqlo’s basics, especially its Heattech line, so I stocked up on some fall items for my wardrobe, including these leggings. I have worn them almost every day since they arrived in the mail. They are comfortable, stretchy, flattering to my shape, and — best of all — very warm. I plan to buy a pair in every color.

Although I’m still in a committed relationship with my favorite multitasking Briogeo co-wash, I’m a natural-hair-product junkie, so when OG natural-hair vlogger Whitney White dropped her African black-soap shampoo, I couldn’t resist. It’s great for clarifying the scalp without drying out my always-dry hair and is packed with nourishing ingredients like black-cumin-seed oil and turmeric.

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 September