We write about hundreds of products a week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked some of our favourites — expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly launched gizmos, and the very good deals we uncovered while trawling the vast online-shopping universe this past week, including an inexpensive, student-friendly laptop, a reliable place to learn a new language, and a two-player board game that’s sure to end some friendships.
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A personal language-tutor platform
Finding a dependable way to learn a language can be almost as tough as mastering the new grammar itself. When we asked six language experts for their advice, it became clear that new skills are best developed by speaking. “If the learner cannot express something,” said Dr. Julio Torres, assistant professor of applied linguistics at University of California, “then the more proficient interlocutor can provide feedback in the moment and correct or help the learner figure out what they want to say.” The website Italki puts you in touch with private language tutors, and lessons start from as little as £5 for an hour.
A hyper take on Scrabble
If you spent lockdown dazzling your partner/flatmate/parent with your Scrabble skills, you might want to give Bananagrams a whirl. The fast-paced word game can be played solo or with up to eight players, and as there’s no board required, it’s ideal for travelling (think: staving off the boredom of a delayed flight). “It took us a couple of rounds to learn how to play, but it’s very easy to pick up,” says Strategist UK senior editor Ailbhe Malone. “You’re basically playing solo Scrabble while also racing the other player.” Ideal for those who want to add a touch more chaos to game night.
Duvet covers that make lazy days more enticing
It doesn’t feel like it yet, but autumn’s around the corner. And speaking to experts about duvet covers, this John Lewis set came highly recommended. No doubt that’s thanks to its 200-thread-count Egyptian cotton and percale material, at just £55 for a double duvet. “Hotels tend to use sheets and duvets with a thread count of between 250 and 300, but anything from 200 upwards is going to give you a smooth, luxurious feel,” said interiors blogger Antonia Ludden. Interiors writer Gina Kay Daniel agreed: “It feels supersoft and perfect for all seasons.” An ideal all-seasons duvet cover as we begin the transition from sweltering heat to brisker breezes.
A slip dress that guarantees compliments
While we’re talking about all-seasons purchases, this week Strategist contributor Grace Banks told us about a zebra-print slip dress that she wears year-round. The twist? It cost just £7 (from Amazon) and is technically a nightdress. “I’ve amassed a collection of slip dresses over the years,” she wrote. “But this nightie leaves other slips in the dust.” It stays soft after multiple washes and comes in five other colourways.
This baby-friendly mirror …
If you’re not sure what to gift the 6-month old baby in your life — you can’t exactly ask them for pointers — our experts have you sorted. “One toy I would get them is a mirror,” says Dr. Patricia Cantor, professor of early-childhood education at Plymouth State University. “They like looking in the mirror — they have no clue it’s themselves, but they like doing that.” This mirror is made from plush, soft material, keeping baby from accidentally hurting themselves as they attempt to win a staring contest with their own reflection.
… and a stimulating board book
If they already have plenty of toys, a book is another good option. Sarah MacLaughlin, senior writer at Zero to Three, told us that at 6 months old, babies don’t quite see a full range of colour – so she recommended this black and white board book to keep them stimulated.
An affordable laptop for writing a dissertation
Summer is whizzing by, meaning it’s almost time for the return to school. And while the scenes in most uni libraries can almost look like a Macbook ad, there are plenty of other laptops up to the task of full-time study (at a fraction of the cost). If you’re not looking to run any intensive applications — such as Photoshop — try this unfussy Chromebook. “Chromebooks represent a pretty solid value,” says Tony Larson, an IT professional. Alan Zilberman at Laptop MD Zilberman is also a fan, and calls this option from Samsung “a great device that is well rounded and appropriate for any student.”
The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.