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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in May

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

If you follow our monthly feature “Your Shopping Cart,” you know 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 May.

Rachael Griffiths, editorial intern

As summer approaches, the thought of a full face of makeup is never appealing. Along with the usual sweat and SPF applications (every two hours!), once you add a face mask to the equation, full glam is firmly off the table. This is why, recently, I’ve opted for one or two light products, just to enhance my natural glow. I used to forego blusher, finding it made me look like an over-saturated clown, but I’ve recently made the switch from powder to cream, and the difference is astounding. I picked the “Orgasm” shade — a rather pretty gold-flecked pink — a few weeks ago from the Nars counter. It’s so easy to apply, just simply tap it on with your finger, and as it’s a buildable pigment, there’s no fear of an overzealous pat landing you in clown territory. A little dab and fancy I look as though I’ve just waltzed off a flight from a week in Italy, and not the Avanti West Coast from Lime Street. In fact, the only other thing I’ve found that gave my cheeks a colour to rival “Orgasm” was having to shout the shade name over the bustling crowd at Selfridges … perhaps next time I’ll order online.

Technically my parents bought this one, but the idea was actually mine (after having spent a lovely afternoon in a similar tub at a friend’s house). It took us a while to decide on a suitable size — we’re a family of four, but we’re keen to have a few guests this summer (COVID-depending), so we landed on this six-man from MSpa. It has 138 jets, a maximum temperature of 42 degrees, and tucks nicely on the decking. Despite it being my idea, it’s actually my parents who haven’t been out of the thing since we bought it. I often vaguely hear the now-familiar sound of bubbles as I’m typing away at my laptop. Due to this oddly miserable May weather, we’ve relied on a gazebo to make the tub habitable, but we’re looking forward to unzipping the tarp once the sunshine eventually arrives.

Ailbhe Malone, senior editor

I’ve been on the hunt for a short-sleeve silk shirt for a while, and while I was circling a “buy once, wear forever” option from cool-girl brand Sark (founded by former stylist Lauren Grant, and all made in London), I spotted this one from Whistles in the Selfridges sale. Though it’s still expensive, it’s a quarter of the price of its Sark cousin. I’m thinking of wearing it open over a white vest for a kind of West Side Story moment.

I went to Ikea for the first time in a year, and picked up these solar-powered lamps. I had spotted them on gardening writer Alice Vincent’s Instagram Story, and grabbed three for the tree that drapes over the fence at the end of my garden. The lanterns glow gently through the night, and look far more expensive than they are (as my friends commented when they were around at the weekend). I was impressed to note that they stayed put during May’s storms. I was so impressed in fact, that I returned to Ikea and bought three to send to my mum for her garden (Ikea in Ireland was still closed for a further month at the time).

I also went to the hairdresser for the first time in six months. My grown-out full-head bleach was unsalvageable, so I pivoted to ash-blonde balayage. My hairdresser suggested Wiig as an at-home toner — it’s made by the Creative Art Director at Taylor Taylor, and unlike Olaplex, you can use it in the shower. It’s meant I’ve maintained the ash blonde consistently since leaving the salon (no mean feat).

Harry’s started life as a side project in the back of the Fumbally Café in Dublin, and has since sprawled across the water to London, Leeds, and Amsterdam (amongst others). Though I am loyal to the spicy original nut butter (I buy it in bulk directly from Harry’s, but in a pinch, I also get it at Stokey’s Deli), recently I’ve been waylaid by the cocoa-buzz variant. It’s harder to track down in shops (if you’re in Ireland, it’s sold most places Harry’s is sold) but is supremely delicious: cacao nibs, hazelnut, and a pinch of coffee make it like a slightly savoury Nutella. This month, I gave in to greed and bought a case of six.

Rachel Mantock, writer

A French start-up, Manucurist is all about “green” polishes that leave out as many “toxic” ingredients as possible. I’m always sceptical of claims around “greenness” and toxicity, because whether something is actually toxic depends on quantity and usage (like swallowing versus using something topically). But, I’d experienced yellow staining and damaged nails from DIY gel kits before, which can be a reaction to specific ingredients. Plus, the Greenflash gel polish range from Manucurist can be removed by soaking in acetone-free nail polish remover, without a need for excessive buffing and scraping. I’ve been known to take layers of my nail off doing this, and the process is just tedious, so a simplified removal process is what I wanted.

If applied as instructed, they claim an “up to ten days” lasting ability. So far, no chips, but it’s only been three days (and it’s on my toes, where gel manicures seem to last forever anyway). If I’m going off YouTube and Instagram videos, I’ll be surprised if the removal process isn’t easier than the standard, too.

Full disclosure, I went for this option because it was cheaper than their signature set, but it’s meant to be easier to travel with (because of the reduced LED lamp size). It comes with a top coat, base coat, one gel colour, an acetone-free polish remover, plus a “mini” LED curing lamp (with a weaker voltage than their main lamp). I also added in a cuticle remover and soft nail buffer.

The gloss olive finish on this lamp is really satisfying. Maybe it’s all the recent Shrek discourse, but the almost limey green finish stood out above the other finishes. I was after a retro-ish table lamp (it’s technically a desk lamp, whatever) for a side table in my living room (which has a few ’60s and ’70s elements), that’s right in front of floral curtains, which are patterned with green foliage. The olive green of this lamp ties in well, and it comes with a dimmer switch. This makes it ideal as a low level reading light, when you don’t want the full power of the ceiling light. It’s made out of aluminium steel, and comes with five year guarantee for durability confidence, too.

I’ve read recently that sand timers can be helpful for those who suffer with time blindness (guilty). A bit like colourblindness, time blindness means you don’t visualise time in the same way as a neurotypical person. While more alarms seem like the obvious answer, these can pull you out of a work flow, because they’re sudden and abrupt. Not only are sand timers softer “alarms,” but they’re a visual reminder of time passing, literally. This can be super helpful if your concept of how time passes is atypical. They look quite nice as home-office decoration, too.

Yes, they are technically kitchen timers, but I use them at my desk. The material of these sand timers is listed as “durable glass” by retailers — my only (small) criticism is they feel a bit plasticky. Otherwise, this three set of 60-, 30-, and 15-minute timers was the best set I could find for the price. Being clumsy, I have already dropped them a few times and they haven’t chipped (yet).

Chris Mandle, writer

On my balcony this year, I’m growing tomatoes, Scotch bonnets, Swiss chard, and plenty of fresh herbs like dill and mint. But some vegetables (like squash, courgette, and cucumber) can’t self-pollinate — they need bees to help them out. So I always scatter some of these bee-friendly wildflowers in any spare hanging baskets, to give the space a little character and to do my part. According to the RHS, it’s important to plant bee-friendly flowering plants — they help improve biodiversity in your area (especially if, like me, you’re in a block of flats). Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are in terminal decline, so chucking a handful of seeds in an unused part of your space can really help. Despite the lack of sunshine this month, I’ve already seen some of these wildflowers spring to life. Nature is healing!

I am the sort who always sets the table at the weekend — even if we’re just getting a Chinese takeaway — and after (literally) burning through my marbled HAY candles far too quickly last month, I wanted to find some inexpensive alternatives. On a recent trip to Regent’s Street, I spent a good half an hour noodling around the H&M Home flagship, and picked up these honey-coloured options. I swear my local’s Kung Pao chicken tastes a lot better by candlelight.

I have amassed all sorts of masks while testing them for our comprehensive guide. Some I have loved, some I have loathed, but all have one thing in common: they have been worn to within an inch of their life. Elastic has snapped, stitching has frayed, and so the time came for me to invest in new ones. I remembered a number of my colleagues spoke highly of the Uniqlo airism face masks, so while I was in-store picking up some boxers (trust me on this) I grabbed a navy three pack for £9.90. So far, I’ve been really impressed with them — though they lack a metal nose bridge, and adjustable straps, they come in more sizes, so it’s easy to find one that fits your face (loose masks are, after all, the reason your glasses tend to steam up). They’re also supremely soft and comfy, even on the hot, stuffy confines of the Central line.

My 20-month old niece had a trip to A&E this month (thankfully she was absolutely fine) but it sent me in a bit of a spiral. Being apart from our families at times of great stress is really difficult, and I wanted to send her something in the post for being brave (and because it’s an uncle’s job to spoil her, frankly). Given she has started saying the word ‘digger’ at every opportunity (in a delightful Yorkshire lilt, no less) I thought she’d like this set of wooden construction trucks. She can recreate the hubbub of the roadworks currently going on down the street, which she has become quite fixated on, apparently.

Rosie Percy, senior audience-development manager

When I moved in with my partner earlier this year, he brought a second-hand Dyson with him. The older vacuum felt too clunky and heavy after moving from a house to a first-floor flat, and its suction power was waning. We needed something petite that could still reach every corner of our high-ceilinged flat, that was powerful enough to use without disturbing the neighbours.

I looked on AO, (there’s often a lot of choice with reviews to back everything up), and found the Bosch Serie 4 Flexxo Pro Clean. The cordless vacuum was rated 4.7 out of 5, with one review claiming it “gave Shark and Dyson a run for their money” — for £150 and free delivery, I was sold. It arrived a few days later and was assembled in minutes, and after a decent charge it had a 50-minute run time: enough to clean our flat four times. It’s light to manoeuvre and doesn’t miss a crumb, and is still sleek enough to stash away in our bijou flat. The best bit is that the body of the vacuum detaches to become handheld, with an extendable nozzle to reach the corners way beyond my 5-foot-1 height.

Last year I was gifted a pair of Lululemon running tights, and they quickly became my favourite thing to wear while working out. They’re supportive and stay up when I move, but the best thing about them is the close-fit pocket that securely holds my phone without it bouncing around, allowing me to listen to music and track my run without any distractions or tatty armbands.

As much as I love them, the £100+ price tag was a bit steep for me to justify buying again. Then when I saw Uniqlo’s new Airism range, I spotted a pair of leggings that looked suspiciously similar. High waisted, full-length, with a phone pocket on the leg: but at £20, a fraction of the price. I ordered the olive leggings, and the matching bralette, and took them for a test run. My phone slid into the side pocket and stayed in place for a whole 5k, while the super-soft Airism material offered UV protection: no bad thing now that I’m running by the sea more often. They also look and feel so great that I want to buy more to wear even when I’m not working out — and for that price, I can.

The last time I bought knives was in a Brighton Asda in 2014, and they’d accompanied me through six house moves across three counties since. They needed replacing, and restrictions relaxing allowing friends over for dinner again was the excuse I needed. Not knowing much about knives (and therefore not wanting to spend a lot), I looked at what ones we’d written about before on The Strategist and found a top-rated chef’s knife and santoku knife set for just £30.

The Homgeek knives look much more expensive than they are — I even filmed them inside their display case and asked several(!) friends to guess how much they cost, and none of them got it right. As well as looking good, both knives have a professional, reassuring weight to them and make light work of slicing through a chunky butternut squash. After working with blunt instruments for years, the sharpness of these stainless-steel blades took me by surprise, and I sliced through a washing-up sponge while cleaning them — so these aren’t to be underestimated.

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.

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in May