The Hunt: Wool Coats for Work

coats for workSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

After the weekend we’ve had (thank you Jonas), it may seem a bit silly to talk about professional-looking coats — after all, when it’s freezing, nasty and disgusting outside, being warm and dry are the primary considerations. Particularly when working from home is easier than ever, if you make it into the office at all, no one should be judging you for blizzard attire like an expedition coat and Sorels. But it isn’t blizzarding every day in the winter, and I still think a wool coat (or, fine, even a slim-fit puffer coat like some of the ones we featured on our roundup of washable coats for CorporetteMoms) does look more professional.  Shop for a winter coat that covers your thighs (for warmth, as well as the most versatility — nothing looks quite so silly as a peacoat and skirt), and be sure to size up if you need to to accommodate a sweater or blazer beneath your coat. (Other great layers: silk turtlenecks and long johns can add serious warmth without bulk, and there are so many puffer/fleece vests that I’m kind of tempted to try them under my winter coat on really cold days.) I’ve always looked for a wool/cashmere blend as the best (the cashmere makes it warm; the wool makes it durable), but I’ve also heard great things about alpaca’s warmth; these days you can find technical enhancements to wool like Lands’ End (pictured after the jump; it’s good to 10 below!!) or lined with thinsulate, like some J.Crew and LL Bean coats.  Ladies, what coats are you wearing this winter? How many do you have; which ones do you think are the most professional-looking, which are the warmest, and so forth? Have you recently bought any coats you love? 

First, a roundup of some special interest coats:

(If you’re interested in previous discussions, here’s our roundups from 2013 and 2009.)

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Slow Cooker Recipes for Busy Women

slow cooker recipes for working womenWhen we were doing our roundup of posts to help with your resolutions, I realized it’s been too long since we had an open thread with shared crock pot recipes.  So many recipes have easy prep, easy clean up, and such a long cook time that you can start your dinner before you even leave the house in the morning. I’ve always been a huge fan of slow cookers, even in my singleton days — if I wasn’t planning on working late enough to get a Seamless dinner and didn’t have dinner plans, odds are good I had something brewing in the slow cooker for an easy weeknight dinner.  I’m a big fan of using the slow cooker to “lock me in” to healthier choices than I might make otherwise.  Shall I stop in to the fast food place? Nah — I’ve got food waiting for me in the crockpot at home.  To that end I’ve made a ton of stuff in the slow cooker that you don’t need to make in a slow cooker — pierogies, fried rice (with brown rice and/or quinoa), and meat sauce all come to mind.  I’ve posted some of my favorite recipes before (like the 5-ingredient Moroccan Chicken Lentils Stew or my super-healthy pulled pork) but I’ve pasted another one we like, Mediterranean Beef Stew (in my slow cooker right now!) below.  (Pictured.) So, ladies, please share — are you the fan of slow cooked dinners? Which are your favorite slow cooker recipes?  

For what it’s worth I almost always use a slow cooker liner to make cleanup easier, and although I have some fancier slow cookers, my favorite one remains an old 4.5 quart one similar to this $30 one, pictured above.  (Pro tip: just make sure the stoneware is entirely removable — I had a cheap one when I first got out of college that had the stoneware attached to the electric base and it made cleaning a total pain.) If you haven’t used a slow cooker before, note that there are a ton of recipes for vegans and meat-eaters alike — and these days a lot of recipes go well beyond canned cream of mushroom soup.  (Though, FWIW, I really like cream of mushroom soup — but I avoid cream of chicken soup like the plague.  If you get the boxed soup or boxed tomatoes it’s a bit healthier because you avoid BPA.)

Another note: cooking for the freezer has become hugely popular — people will cook double amounts or cook several recipes in one weekend in order to fill their freezer with pre-cooked meals. Another popular technique is slow cooking from the freezer — pre-assembling slow cooker meals that can just be dumped in — and then freezing those.  (I have some links in our Further Reading, below.) I don’t have a lot of experience with either technique, and I’d love to hear your experiences.   (I’ll admit I often use frozen veggies, particularly for things like chopped onions (I haaaaate chopping onions for some reason) or at the end of a recipe to bulk it up (like adding a bag of frozen cauliflower to Buffalo Chicken Pasta), but I tend to raise my eyebrows at a recipe that just has you chopping fresh vegetables and adding them to a freezer bag along with raw meat and other ingredients, without blanching them first — but maybe it just doesn’t matter in a stew or whatnot.) Oh, a lot of people are also doing things like ricing cauliflower to use with stew dishes instead of using white rice, which is something I’ve yet to try, but fits with my “the more vegetables the better” philosophy.

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Tales from the Wallet: Paying Down Debt vs. Saving

paying down debt vs. savingIt’s the New Year, and I heard a lot of chatter among commenters about when they should be paying down debt vs. saving. It’s a huge question, and we’ve talked about some related things (like how to pay off huge student loans and live within your means), but we haven’t talked about when to save vs. when to pay down debt in too long. Readers, what are your best thoughts on paying down debt vs. saving? When is getting out of debt a priority?

(Pictured: Comme des Garçons ‘Super Fluo’ French Wallet, $204 at Nordstrom.)

A few thoughts from me:

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The Hunt: Laptop Totes and Sleeves

laptop totes for womenSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We haven’t done a roundup of stylish laptop totes in a THOUSAND YEARS, so I thought we’d take a look today. Ladies, do you have any trusty laptop totes? Do you prefer a laptop sleeve or an entire tote for laptops?

Psst: we’ve talked about how to lighten your load in the past, as well as how to save your back while commuting.

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The Hunt: Red Cardigan Sweaters

workwear basic red cardigan sweaterSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

If you’re going to buy a single sweater to start expanding a work wardrobe that mostly consists of black/gray/navy suits and white/blue blouses, what should you pick first? In my mind I think it’s got to be a burgundy or red cardigan sweater — preferably in a silk blend so you can wear the sweater year-round(ish), wash it easily, and get a great drape if you button it and throw it around your shoulders — either on your summertime commute (after July 15 I’d say) or over a blazer as another layering piece in winter or spring (before March 15 I’d say). (So in other words, consider retiring it from March 15-July 15, but otherwise wear it all the other seasons.) It’s also festive for the holiday season and Valentine’s Day. You can pair it with oranges and pinks in the fall, and pale blues and even lavender in the winter. Ladies, what color cardigan do you wear the most?  What is your favorite cardigan brand and style? 

Note that the Lord & Taylor cashmere sale seems to be quietly happening today — lots of L&T-brand cashmere is marked down to $59-$69, including a nice red cardigan, pictured above, for $69 (was $174). 

First, some general round-ups for special interests:

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The Hunt: Flat Knee-High Boots

flat knee-high boots for workSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

Even though it may feel like a bootie world right now, flat knee-high boots are still a great look, particularly for commuting and casual days at work. It’s been a while since we last rounded them up (2014, 2013, 2012), so I thought we’d go on the hunt today. Ladies, have you bought any great knee-high flat boots to wear to work lately? Do you still like the look, or have you mostly switched over to booties for work outfits?

Psst: check out our recent round-up of knee-high heeled boots for work.

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