6 Desk Must-Haves {Work Chic}

As a consultant, I don’t typically stay in one office for very long. But, one thing remains the same – my must-haves to keep at my desk. Unless the project is very short (my shortest ever was only 1 week), I typically have a small number of items I try to keep with me during the work day.

(in no particular order)

1. Lotion(s)

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Especially in the winter, there’s nothing worse than being stuck at your desk with your hands (or arms, etc.) painfully dry from the weather. Ok, there are always worse things (like late phone conferences or grouchy co-workers), but it’s pretty uncomfortable. I got this gift set of hand creams and lotions from the Body Shop at a post-holiday sale for pretty cheap. I also like to keep a bottle of regular lotion, if I have the space.

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2. Salt, pepper, & other condiments

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I usually eat lunch at my desk. This means I either grab something quick for take-out or bring something from home. Besides the fact that almost no office I’ve worked had salt and pepper (what’s up with that?), I sometimes don’t have time to wander around looking for salt and pepper. And sometimes food just really, really needs some kind of seasoning added, ya know (I may take after my dad as far as enjoying a little more salt than most)? And french fries without ketchup? Not for this girl. Sushi without soy sauce? I’m thinking not so much. They’re supposed to give you these things when you order take-out, but after having one too many snafus, I started keeping my own little collection at my desk.

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3. Sponge

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I’ll never forget the shared sponge at one of my first offices. It was discolored and smelled really weird from as far as 5-6 feet away. They told me they kept it in check by dousing it in bleach or something every once in awhile. Whoa. Not for this germiphobe. Even if the sponge wasn’t questionably safe, I probably still wouldn’t want to share it. I love to have hot tea at my desk, and I usually use a non-disposable mug (hmm…perhaps the mug should be on my must-have list, too?). I also like to keep some non-disposable plates at my desk, so the sponge is definitely required when those are being used daily. I store my sponge in a solo cup at my desk so it can dry out after use without getting everything else in my desk wet. (If you’re in a bind, I’ve found you can use a paper towel instead of a sponge.)

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4. Umbrella

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This one doesn’t get used much, but boy, has it been a life saver! Depending on your parking situation, keeping an umbrella at your desk can be very helpful. If you can access your car without going outside, then you can probably just keep an umbrella there. But for days with sudden, surprise rainstorms and your car outdoors, it can be great to have this back-up waiting.

5. Sweater, blanket, space heater

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This group may be the most important for me. Why do all offices seem to be set to “icebox”? I find most offices way too cold for my liking, so I’ll keep things at my desk to stay warm. Most offices don’t allow space heaters, but if they do, that’s usually my #1 choice. Otherwise, I like keeping cardigans (nice ones you can wear around the office – or even a pretty wrap) and blankets (that’s right blankets! sometimes you get desperate. what?) at my desk.

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6. Snacks

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The original list I had in mind had only 5 items…until I remembered that I needed to add my snacks. Did I say the heating items were most important? I may have to rethink that. I’m not sure what’s worse – to be shivering cold and unable to concentrate or starving and unable to concentrate. Either way, I definitely have to have things to eat at my desk. You can check out my post on healthy snacks to keep at the office by clicking here.

I have some more items that are more nice-to-haves. Perhaps I’ll share those next? :)

What are your desk must-haves at work?

Outfit: Simply Working It

Hi, my name is Diana, and I work in corporate America. We like to stick to mostly neutrals, though I do like to add color now and again. For this particular outfit, I went neutral.

For this outfit, I knew I wanted to wear one of my favorite skirts – a tie-front Elie Tahari skirt I scored at a Neiman Marcus Last Call sale a couple years ago for less than $50. It’s my go-to and has enough personality that I need only add a basic top to call it a {work} outfit. I like to let the tie be the focal point, though the shirt does have some pattern on it and I added some bling on my wrist with a turquoise and gold bauble bracelet.

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I was in the middle of taking a couple photos when…

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…I got photo-bombed by Bailey!

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He’s such a ham.

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Hubby ended up playing frisbee with him for awhile – it’s one of his favorite forms of entertainment (both for Bailey…and hubby :lol:)

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Ensemble:

Skirt – Elie Tahari (scored on sale at Neiman Marcus)

Top – Ann Taylor Loft (purchased on sale)

Shoes – J Crew (heeey…also scored on sale)

Bracelet – local boutique

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Random, but awesome – reader Alissa made my Individual Italian Spinach Parmesan Egg Bake (click for recipe) for her hubby for their anniversary this morning! Too cool! Glad you both liked it, Alissa! :)

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Reader question: How formal is the dress code for your work environment? How do you push the envelope fashion-wise?

Work Chic: Investment Pants

I got all Stacy + Clinton on a pair of pants recently.

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I’ve always been an off-the-rack shopper.

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It wasn’t until I started watching What Not to Wear that I even considered getting clothes tailored.

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So, while I’m sure I’m a little more late to the game than most, I’ve finally taken the plunge.

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My weight has fluctuated significantly over the last several years and thusly my pants are in various sizes and shapes. Basically, none of them fit just right. I’m going to go through them and get them tailored one by one, but most recently, I purchased a pair of investment pants at J Crew. They weren’t the cheapest, but I’m hoping they’ll last awhile. I got a simple, black, classic-styled pair of pants in a mid weight wool that I can wear year round. I’ve purchased pants at various stores over the years, but the J Crew ones by far fit my body best.

I was torn between two different sizes. The smaller one was a little too tight and the larger one a little too big. I ended up going with the bigger size and having J Crew take them in. They also hemmed the pants to take them up a wee bit.

I wore them to work for the first time today and they fit like a charm. Yay for custom-fit pants!

If you work in a professional environment requiring dressy or business casual attire, I definitely recommend purchasing some investment pants. You’re looking for a classic color (black or gray) that will go with a lot of your other clothes and accessories in a professional (not clubbing-tight or low-cut) style. Get at least one nice pair, and get a tailor to help them fit you juuuuust right. ;)

I purchased my pants at J Crew, but I also really like getting work clothes at:

  • Banana Republic
  • Ann Taylor LOFT
  • Ann Taylor
  • Gap
  • Limited
  • Department Stores (Belk, Nordstrom, etc.)

Where’s your favorite place to get work clothes?

Christmas Tree Garnish + Work Chic: Commute Shoes

Work Chic: Commute Shoes

I adore reading The Sartorialist, a blog featuring street fashion of (mostly) regular people in NYC, to get great ideas for style and fashion. Ok, who are we kidding, I mostly just look at the pictures. But the stories are usually short and well-worth the couple minutes it takes to read them if you have the time. I always wonder when I see the photos of the stylish women on The Sartorialist, “How on earth can someone really be walking around NYC in those sky-high heels?!” I’ve asked my friends who live in NYC and most say you just deal with the pain. But, I’m not a deal-with-the-pain-kind-of-girl. I suppose that’s why I don’t work in the fashion industry, though I did once have a fashion blog (one that I’m considering updating again!).

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When I want to dress up without killing my feet, I turn to commute shoes.

Commute shoes are comfortable shoes you can wear getting from Point A to B (usually from my house to work). These shoes are not necessarily stylish, but take the brunt of my walking so I can wear the slightly less comfortable, but decidedly more attractive shoes once I reach my destination. For example, I used to park in a flat lot and have to walk 3 or 4 blocks just to get to my office. While I could have walked 3 or 4 blocks in heels, it just seemed more sensible to walk to my office in tennis shoes and put my heels on once I reached my desk.

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Heels are fun to wear and look great. But, heels are not fun to wear when you’re carrying a couple heavy bags and huffing and puffing down the street because you’re late to work and trying to move quickly. Have you ever tried speed-walking in heels?

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Instead, wear something more comfortable while you’re driving/walking and otherwise commuting. Once you reach your destination, throw those heels on, baby!

What types of shoes would make good commute shoes? Anything that you find comfortable to wear! Personally, I like to wear either some comfortable flats or tennis shoes.

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As an added bonus…ever notice that scuff mark where your heel hits the mat in your car? If you use commute shoes, your heels will be saved from this terrible damage.

Eats

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I made hubby and I carob oatmeal today! You pretty much just make regular oats, but stir in about 1 tsp or so of carob powder. It’s sooo good!

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Carob oatmeal tastes so much like chocolate oatmeal and yet not. I loved it! It was a super easy way to switch up breakfast.

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In the bowl: old fashioned oats, water, milk, chia seeds, flaxseed meal, carob powder, coconut flakes, organic peanut butter, agave.

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Post-work, I went to a birthday dinner at Big Daddy’s to celebrate Michelle’s birthday. A couple of us ordered the Kill the Keg special – a holiday beer for only $1 with a cinnamon-sugar rimmed cup. I loved the sugar-rimmed cup idea…it was so festive and tasty.

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Hubby and I split a salad…

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…and a burger with fries.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

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Hubby and I decided to finish decorating our tree tonight. Yes, I realize it’s been nearly a week since I first started decorating the tree. *sigh* I’ve been running around like a crazy person for the last week, staying up till 1 or 2 am trying to finish projects…things have been so busy! I guess that’s one of the downsides of trying to keep up with a 9-to-5 job, teaching Zumba, blogging, and keeping up with everything else. Or at least…attempting to. I may or may not have a pile of laundry in the dryer that has been there for 3 days now. ;)

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Anywho, what tree decorating party would it be without cookies?!

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I made chewy, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I’m hoping to share the recipe soon! They’re pretty tasty – crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Mmm…

We also found a Christmas station on Pandora…

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…and we even got Bailey into the spirit by putting on his “Bailey Claus” costume. He pretty much hates wearing this…you can tell by his face. lol

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But he was a good sport about it.

Bailey watched patiently while hubby and I finished garnishing our Christmas tree.

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Hubby and I enjoyed hot carob drinks with our oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

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I’m telling ya…this carob stuff is gooood!

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Addicting even. Maybe even more so than dough balls!

Also, thank you all for your tips on my first 5k! I’m really nervous, but mostly really excited! Please keep the tips coming if you have other ideas. Thanks!

What are your tree decorating traditions? Do you do it on a certain date? In a certain order? While enjoying certain foods or drinks? Tell me about your holiday decoration traditions.

Work Chic: Staying Out of a Fashion Rut at the Office

Work Chic: Staying Out of a Fashion Rut at the Office

When you’re dressing for work, there are ups and downs of having a casual dress code. The up is that you can dress much more casually than you could in many other situations, so you can be more comfortable during the day. The down is that because you can dress more comfortably (and who doesn’t want to be comfortable at work?), you find yourself easily falling into a too-casual habit of dressing and (dare I say) fashion rut.

I admit it…I’m a victim. I used to work in an environment so formal, we could barely wear peep toe shoes and couldn’t even wear denim or cropped pants! The strict dress code had me a little less cozy than I wanted, but it kept me looking nice. But now, I wear jeans almost every day and my typical top is some sort of simple sweater. Sometimes I wear khakis. Usually, I stick with denim. A skirt is a rarity and a button down shirt, which I used to wear a few times a week, is now more a memory than a staple item.

But, every once in awhile, I catch a second wind and decide to dress up!

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Lookie at me! I wore a skirt AND heels!

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So, how do you keep business casual from putting you in a fashion rut? Here are my tips:

  • Remember, you’re at work. If you want to be treated professionally, you need to dress professionally.
  • Try to purchase work clothes that are both dressy enough AND comfortable. If you actually like wearing something that looks nice, you’re more likely to wear it.
  • If you can afford it, go shopping. Purchase a new staple item to throw into your usual rotation. If you’re short on cash, try adding just a new accessory. Or shop your closet and find something you haven’t worn in awhile that you want to wear again.
  • Have fun getting ready for work. Turn some music on, dance around, and primp yourself.
  • Consider planning your outfits in advance. Choose your outfit the night before work. Or if you want, go ahead and select a week’s worth of work outfits. You may have more fun when you have more time putting different looks together.

Reader Question: What are your tips for staying out of a fashion rut at work?

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I had fun dressing up today, but boy was I ready to get out of these heels when I got home!

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You would too if you were wearing these! lol

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For tonight’s dinner, our star ingredient was brussels sprouts!

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I recently saw a brussels sprouts and cous cous dish in my Martha Stewart from November and decided to do a play on it.

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I made warm brussels sprouts and quinoa salad with lemon and garlic.

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I needed two sizes of garlic for dinner: sliced and minced.

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The sliced was for my chicken. I did a quick chicken in garlic, lemon, and white wine.

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Dinner was pretty tasty, but I’d have to tweak the recipes before sharing them.

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I did love the combo of veggie, quinoa, and chicken!

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I love how quinoa is a nice change of pace from my usual carb-ish side – rice!

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Hubby and I enjoyed dinner whilst catching the latest Glee.

Not trying to spoil anything for my West cost friends, but did you see Emma’s “bling”!? Whoa! I didn’t see that coming!

I was trying to finish dinner and blogging early enough so I’d have time to either read or do some crochet, but most importantly, get to bed at a reasonable hour. I decided baking cookies > crochet, so I threw a quick batch together. They’re cooling on the stove now…can’t wait to try them!

Anywho, I’m finishing blogging at a record early (yes…late for most, but early for me!) time for me – 10:25 pm and I’m about to hit publish! Woohoo! :)

Remember to weigh in on my question about fashion rut above! I’d love to hear your tips!

Work Chic: Let the Office Be Your Kitchen

Over time, I’ve started keeping a few essential food-related items at my desk at work to make myself more comfortable.

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My essential kitchen items to keep at work list includes:

  • A ceramic bowl
  • A ceramic mug
  • A ceramic plate
  • Pretty napkins
  • A personal sponge

Ceramic Plateware

So…why all the ceramic? Well, if you’ve ever tried to microwave food at the office, you may have had a tupperware or two melt on you, depending on how long you were trying to heat said food item. There are some things you just can’t heat up in plastic. Beyond that, I’m trying to move away from plastics in general. I feel like when I heat food up in plastic that poisonous chemicals are slowly leaching into my food. Not sure if that’s real or not, but if you’re not sold, read the first reason of this paragraph.

And why not paper plates or other disposable items? I think it’s more eco-friendly and cost-effective to simply re-use plateware.

Currently, I am using disposable forks, knives, and spoons, but I would like to get a set that I can keep at the office and re-use.

Additionally, I brought in some of my favorites for my work-plateware. I mean…you have to look at your plates etc at work than you probably do at home, so they may as well be something you enjoy seeing and using. I brought in items that were colorful and pretty.

Pretty Napkins

This is the same reason I have the pretty napkins. On most days, I use whatever paper napkins I’ve collected from getting food out, but the pretty ones are nice to have when you want to use them.

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Personal Sponge

Ok, and so what’s up with the sponge you ask? If you’re going to keep re-usable plates at your desk, you’re going to need a way to clean them. Sure some places have a sponge in the kitchen, but…Well, have you ever seen the community sponge at the office? You know, the one that is multiple colors, has remnants of someone else’s food on it, and smells funky? Yea…there’s no possile way I’m using that one. I’ve seen offices with clean-looking sponges, but as a germiphobe, I have a hard time using something that has been used to clean things that have touched half the office’s mouths. Ew. I keep my own little sponge in a cup at my desk so I know exactly how clean it is and where it’s been used.

Be sure to check out my other Work Chic Post: Best Healthy Snacks to Keep at the Office  and stay on the look out for more office tips coming your way soon. :)

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After my fabulous oatmeal-on-the-go breakfast, I moved on to a new twist on stir-fries…

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How’s about stir-fries with a new healthy addition – sea vegetables!

I learned from my acupuncture appointment that most Americans are deficient in iodine, which sea vegetables are high in. I think I’d heard this before from reading random news articles…and I’d heard that in general, they were good to eat, so I’ve been adding them to my pantry. I currently have: nori, wakame, and now dulse in my pantry.

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I first learned about dulse from Brendan Brazier. The ingredient is commonly found throughout his book Thrive. I ended up picking some up with a health food store groupon and have been wondering how to use it.

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I like to find easy ways to incorporate healthy foods into things I already eat (like sprinkling nutritional yeast on steamed veggies or salads). So, on Wednesday, I figured…what the heck, why not toss some into my lunch time noodle stir fry?

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In my stir fry, I have: tofu, edamame, udon noodles, soy sauce, chicken broth, sesame seeds, and of course…dulse.

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The dulse added an interesting flavor to the stir fry, but nothing bad. Just different. I think I’ll have to keep up this new habit in future versions.

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Hubby also brought home this giant churro from Costco. It was truly huge.

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So large, this sweet tooth fan and churro fanatic couldn’t finish it.

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After work, hubby and I went out to run errands and stopped by IKEA.

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We decided to just go ahead and eat dinner there. He had the pasta combo and I had the veggie soup, which I think is pretty good.

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And what meal wouldn’t be complete without an IKEA cinnamon roll. It wasn’t nearly as good as the one I had last time, and I only ended up eating about 3/4 of it. I think I’m losing my sweet tooth touch. First the churro, then the cinnamon roll. Whoa! lol But, I wasn’t going to force myself to finish eating something when I was already full either.

We also stopped by Crate and Barrel and I got some fab goodies that I can’t wait to share!

Do you keep any kitchen items at work?

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