As we've already made incredibly clear here at The Fixation Files, we're pretty obsessed with Deb and her blog Smitten Kitchen, one of the absolute best food blogs out there (and there are a lot out there). So when I wanted some appetizer inspiration for a party I was having, I went straight to Smitten Kitchen to find a recipe that looked good. I ended up making this recipe because it sounded easy, flavorful and relatively healthy. Not only were these eggplant toasts all of the above, but they were also gone within minutes because my guests loved them so much. So thank you for the inspiration, Deb! 
This is a great appetizer, side dish or even main course, if you serve the bruschetta with some mixed greens on the side. 

eggplant + feta bruschetta
makes about 8 toasts - but I recommend making more!

1 medium eggplant, cut into small, bite-sized cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled crumbled feta
1 scallion, thinly sliced
3-4 chives, minced
8 slices of baguette, brushed with olive oil 
1 large clove garlic, peeled and left whole

 
 
Okay, so you're suited up, shirt tucked in and you need those final details before you put on your shoes and go. Today is about those two big details you can't leave home without.

the tie

 It's such a simple addition, and some argue that it's wholly unnecessary these days. But that aside, you need a tie. And although you can have a little fun with your interview outfit/suit in general, you can only have limited fun with your suit accessories in a professional setting. No bow ties or skinny ties here (as much as it pains me to say), and go easy on the pattern mixing.; there's a fine line between just right and too much. Go with a knot that's comfortable, but fits correctly with the corresponding collar.

The easy and traditional thing to do is to go with a white or light blue shirt with a straight or semi-spread collar and patterned tie, and although that's not wrong, per se, you'll stand out if you go with a well-patterned shirt and solid tie, in the correct color combination. It's a striking look that's on the rise as patterned shirts are having a moment. If you're too afraid of the pattern mix or you've already got a suit-on-shirt pattern mix and don't want to tempt anything with a third pattern, it's a go-to that won't let you down.

the shoes

The shoes can be tricky, and they can really break a suit outfit if they're bad enough. If you're going to own only one pair of dress shoes, they should be black, and the toe shape should be neutral--not too round, not too pointy, not too square. The style is really up to you. A plainer dress shoe is probably the most versatile, but an oxford is a nice wardrobe component. If you don't like laces, there are nice no-lace options, but it's personal preference once you've chosen a good shape.

Of course, you should have an alternative to black in your closet arsenal as well. A mid-brown is going to be the most go-with-everything for your money, but if shoes are your thing, a good oxblood can also serve that purpose. A darker brown is harder to pair with the colors suits tend to come be, but the right shade in the right finish can go a long way if it's not your only pair of dress shoes. The shape principle still applies to these other colors, and I recommend having a trusty black and a brown/oxblood to go with your black, and all your grays and navys. Then if you still don't feel footwear fulfilled, you can go for more adventurous styles, designs and even colors.
-E
 
 
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Joan Smalls at the Diane von Furstenberg F/W 2012 show
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Lindsey Wixson at the Marc by Marc Jacobs F/W 2012 show
A classic red lip will likely never go out of style (if it ever does, nobody tell me, please). It's something every woman - and some men, like Marc Jacobs - can pull off if they simply find the right shade for their coloring. But I believe the most modern way to wear a red lip now is to keep it matte. Inspired by the runway looks above, as well as a technique I saw demonstrated by Shiseido's Dick Page backstage at Fashion Week few years ago, I give you the step-by-step guide to getting flawless, long-lasting, on-trend, runway-worthy matte red lips. 

First, a few tips: 
1. This look absolutely works with lip colors other than red; I'm personally a big fan of orange and fuchsia as well, but I thought I'd keep it more on the classic side for this post. 
2. It obviously helps if the lip color you're using doesn't have a super shiny finish on its own, but this trick will mattify most products, as long as they aren't glosses. 
3. The color will last even longer if you have a good base to work with - that means smooth lips. If you need to exfoliate before getting started, I recommend simply wetting your lips and gently rubbing them with a face towel to get rid of any flakiness. Then be sure to moisturize with a good lip balm.
Step 1: Carefully apply lip color to lips, making sure the outer line is exactly where you want it to be (I don't see any need to use a lip liner if you use the lipstick itself for this purpose). This will create a good base for the color. I used Estée Lauder Pure Color Velvet Lipstick in Red Velvet.
Step 2: Blot lips with a tissue. Step 3: Dab finger tip in loose, translucent mineral powder makeup (I use this one from Laura Mercier) and gently press the powder into lips. Make sure the powder is completely colorless so it doesn't detract from the vibrance of the red. This step should take away any shine and create a satiny finish. Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 again, building color to create a long-lasting matte finish.
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See? Now I look EXACTLY like Joan Smalls and Lindsey Wixson.
This look is best worn with minimal makeup and a smile. 
-S
 
 
what it is: Twistband no dents hair ties

why I love it: I had been hearing about these hair ties since last summer, but it seemed that only people who were from or had traveled to California had access to them. A friend gave me one to try, and I'm now obsessed. I don't have to worry about these breaking like the hair ties I used to use, and they hold my hair up just as well, if not better, than the alternatives. Not only do these not leave a dent in your hair, I don't even feel it when it's on my wrist out of use like I did with my old hair ties. These come in an array of colors, and they make other products too, like headbands. Now that I know where to find these, I don't think I'll ever be switching back to my usual drugstore hair ties.

where to get it: thetwistband.com, $2 for one hair tie (come in 3- and 6-packs, too)
-E
 
 
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Cutouts are a major trend right now, and one of the most accessible ways I've found to wear them are on tops (or dresses) with cutout shoulders. I love this top because it's an interesting update to the plain old t-shirt, and it is edgy but still simple enough to work with a variety of different outfits.
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I often use my accessories, makeup and/or nail color to bring added interest and color into an outfit. This is one of my favorite belts because it adds an unexpected pop of serious color to even the dullest of ensembles, as does my bright blue nail polish (one of my go-to shades for summer).  
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Outfit: Forever 21 top (similar here), Wilster skirt (similar here), Target shoes
Accessories: Clear sunglasses , Forever 21 belt (similar here), Forever 21 bracelets (similar here), Madewell bracelet
Beauty: H&M nail polish in U Must Have This-S

*All photos by Susan Saltzman

 
 
what it is: the sunset sandal by Madewell

why I love it: Madewell typically causes problems for me because every time I walk into the store, I want to buy everything in sight. These sandals have been around for almost two years, and I've been lusting after them ever since I first saw them during the summer of 2010. It seemed like every woman in New York made these sandals part of her summer uniform that year, and with good reason. They're completely versatile, transition easily from day to night and look just as chic with a pair of jeans as they do with a summer sundress. They're also super comfortable because they're a fairly low heel (3.5 inches is about as low as I'm willing to go!) and have a built-in platform. Two years later, they're still just as current as they were during the summer of their debut. Maybe the summer of 2012 will be when these sandals finally make the leap from my wish list to my closet?

where to get it: madewell.com, $158
-S
 
 
what it is: The sunglasses shape of the moment: round. Except for some reason the cool-ness of round sunglasses sort of mandates they be called "shades" instead, amiright?

why I love it: Round sunglasses are a throwback to both the 90s and the 60s, two of the trendiest decades to sartorially reference these days. Because of the sheer array of different designs out there, it's not hard to find a style that's flattering and also extremely fun. Bonus points for bright colors, tortoise prints and/or metal hardware. These shades easily liven up any summer ensemble and make a basic jeans-and-t-shirt outfit look instantly - and effortlessly - cool. Still haven't found the perfect pair to get you through this summer? Well, that's why The Fixation Files is here to help with some super cute options (you're welcome). 

where to get it: see the round-up (see what I did there?) below


ASOS Round Sunglasses With Metal Bridge Detail, $19.88, asos.com
Loren Shades in Hot Pink, $40, nastygal.com
Karen Walker Number Six Crazy Tortoise, $329, karenwalker.com
ASOS Flat Top Round Sunglasses in Mint, $24.86, asos.com
-S
 
 
what it is: Bare Minerals Deep Cleansing Foam

why I love it: This post may not be one of our most glamourous, but let's face it (pun intended): skincare is one of the most important parts of your beauty regimen. How you take care of your skin now will affect how it looks later in life. That's why I take my skincare products quite seriously. This cleanser is the highlight of my skincare routine because it's the perfect balance of gentle and effective. Just a tiny dab lathers into a creamy foam that absorbs oil and makeup while brightening and smoothing skin. This cleanser somehow minimizes pores and prevents shine while simultaneously leaving skin feeling moisturized and clean, not tight or dried out. That means it fights blemishes and wrinkles at the same time... such an overachiever.

Plus, one tube lasts for a long time. I use it twice a day every day, and I'm still working on the same tube I've had for almost a year! So even though the $20 price tag may seem a bit high for something that ultimately rinses down your drain, this product is definitely a good value. 

where to get it: bareescentuals.com, $20
-S
 
 
I've loved standard basil pesto for as long as I can remember. I was a weird child who didn't shy away from green pasta - I actually preferred it to the typical buttered noodles most kids grow up with. Now I love experimenting with incorporating different flavor combinations into the pesto I make, and this recipe is my now my favorite summer variety. 

The sweetness of the peas, nuttiness of the parmesan and decadence of the crispy shallots make this pasta a stand-out side dish (great for bringing to a summer party!) or indulgent main course for the next time you encounter a serious pasta craving. 
minted pea pesto with crispy shallots
makes about 6-8 servings

1 package pasta (I used whole wheat thin spaghetti)
1 ten-ounce package of frozen peas, thawed 
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup of parmesan, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup of walnuts (pine nuts work too)
5-6 fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 large shallot, thinly sliced (for garnish)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil, separated
salt and pepper to taste

 
 
why I love it: Sally Hansen's Effects Real Nail Polish Strips make it easy for even the least manicure-capable of us to achieve stunning nail art. I especially love "Mod About You," a colorful geometric print that feels current for this summer. Just follow the simple instructions on the package and you'll end up with a manicure you won't be able to keep yourself from staring at. The strips may be a bit pricey compared with your average drug store nail polish, but if you're careful and follow all of the steps, the strips can last for up to 10 days!

where to get it: Drugstores, mass retailers, Ulta.com, $10
-S