what it is: Zara appliqué shirt

why i love it: You can never really go wrong with a classic, androgynous button down. This version is every bit as sophisticated as its Brooks Brothers counterpart, but the metal hardware detail on the collar gives it a more current, stylish feel. I can see this shirt being worn a wide variety of different ways, styled more casually (as in the photos above) or for the office. 

where to get it: zara.com, $60
what it is: Bite Beauty High Pigment Matte Pencil in Grapevine

why i love it: You know how you have that one shirt that people always compliment, without fail? This lip color is the beauty product equivalent of that. Every time I wear it,  at least one or two people compliment me or asks what brand it is. I love this product because the fuchsia color is rich and saturated, but it's also blendable and buildable, so you really can achieve whatever look you want. The pencil applicator also helps with precision and the texture of the lip color itself is smooth and matte without being drying. It's the perfect final touch for a night out, and something I always keep stashed in my purse.

where to get it: sephora.com, $24
Pasta has always been my go-to when I'm hungry, home alone and want something that requires minimal effort. And as much as the 9-year-old inside me still loves pasta with butter and parmesan, I've decided to take my new status as a college graduate to branch out on my quick and easy pastas. I found this recipe in the Trader Joe's cookbook, and the 5 minute prep time and 20 minute cook time is not far off. With one amendment to the original recipe, this turned out to be the perfect post-work easy, filling and tasty meal and my new fall-back pasta.
Yeah, you cook it in wine. In a sauté pan. I was skeptical, too.
red wine pasta
serves 4-6

1 (16-oz) bag of long pasta (spaghetti, capellini, etc), I used angel hair
1 bottle red wine (I used Trader Joe's Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, the book suggests Zinfandel or Syrah)
4 cubes frozen crushed garlic (also found at Trader Joe's)
red chile pepper flakes
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
4 oz crumbled feta (the original recipe called for Gorgonzola) 
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (optional)
parmesan for topping (also optional)

Pocket square not required, but done right it can't hurt. Thanks to Suit Supply for perfect styling.
So now you have all the pants you need, and you know what to look for in a shirt, but for those formal occasions that don't quite require a suit, you're lost. Slapping a tie on doesn't really solve the problem, especially because a tie with no jacket is sort of pointless. You need a middle ground. Enter the blazer. A sport coat also works here, and they are different things, but for style purposes they can be worn the same. 

Neutral is key here. Navy is the most common, but a black or understated gray can be equally as versatile. The blazer is great because it adds a formal look to an outfit without making you look overdressed, and you can pair it with many different shirt/pants/tie (if necessary) combinations. Dress up jeans with a blazer, or throw one over a shirt and dress pants for an after-work formal look. Wear it with your sockless shoe in the summer and layer it with a sweater and button down in the fall and winter (see this impeccably done above). The possibilities are literally endless. I'm partial to the traditional navy blazer, but just make sure you get a color that works best with your wardrobe and a fit that makes you carry off this look convincingly. Once you add this item to your closet, you probably will wonder what you did before you had it.
Blazer: Suit Supply
If I had to choose my favorite hair product, it would undoubtedly be dry shampoo. I love my serums and sea salt sprays, but the many benefits of dry shampoo sets it apart. Besides the obvious lazy girl aspect of not having to wash hair as often, it also adds texture, breathes life into styles and doesn't strip hair of its natural nourishing oils. A truly great invention, hair scientists. 

But that said, there are tons of different dry shampoos on the market. Within the past few years, almost every brand has come out with their own version. I've tried quite a few, from the expensive salon versions to the cheapest products from the drugstore, so now I bring to you the dry shampoo throwdown. See how each of these different brands measures up. Rankings are based on a scale of 1 (don't put yourself through that kind of torture) to 10 (absolute miracle in a bottle). 
Suave Professionals Dry Shampoo, $2.74, target.com

Lightweight (so it doesn't get white and chalky) with a subtle scent, this bargain product is actually one of my favorites. But it's also not as effective on seriously greasy hair, if that's what you're working with.

Overall ranking: 8
Big Sexy Hair Volumizing Dry Shampoo, $17.95, ulta.com

Perfect for prepping hair, adding texture or refreshing yesterday's style, this is my favorite of the four. It makes unwanted oil seemingly disappear but doesn't leave any residue behind. 

Overall ranking: 9
TRESemmé FreshStart Volumizing Dry Shampoo, $5.49, ulta.com

A good basic dry shampoo that's good for daily use and effective on limp hair. The only drawback is that it can tend to leave white residue on hair if you use too much.

Overall ranking: 7

Blow Faux Dry Dry Shampoo, $20, blowpro.com

Typically I'm a huge fan of Blow products, but even though this is the most expensive of the four brands, it's also my least favorite. The superfine powder simply isn't effective compared to the other brands.

Overall ranking: 5
These cookies are actually healthy. Sure, they have chocolate chips and peanut butter to make them taste great, but the oats, minimal added fat and chia seeds (one of the buzziest super foods of the moment) give them plenty of nutritional value. I used this recipe from one of my favorite healthy food blogs.  
Chia Seed Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 12 

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup all purpose or gluten-free flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chunks or chips 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

what it is: Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25

why i love it: My skin is far from perfect, but I absolutely hate the feeling of wearing heavy foundation to even it out. My belief is that heavy makeup that can sink into pores is far worse than no makeup at all. This BB cream is pretty much the best of both worlds, because it evens skin to perfection but feels weightless, almost like you're not wearing any makeup. If you still don't know what BB cream is, it's pretty much the best invention ever. Think of it as the Swiss Army Knife of foundation or a tinted moisturizer on steroids: it's an all-around over-achieving makeup, moisturizer and treatment in one. I especially love this "Water Fuse" formula because it forms a dewy barrier on the skin, regulating moisture (so your skin stays nourished but doesn't get greasy). Dr. Jart, whoever you are, I commend you.

where to get it: sephora.com, $34
what it is: Tarte The Bright Side Double-Ended Eye Brightener

why i love it: Are you awake yet? No? Meet your new best friend (that can't be ordered at Starbucks). First, a tip: to de-puff tired eyes, refrigerate your eye cream. The cold moisturizer will help tackle puffiness and also feel amazing. Then, use this handy product to fake a wide-eyed look. 

After applying under-eye concealer, use the less intense daytime highlighter on one end to brighten anywhere you might need it: tear ducts, brow bones, cheek bones. The powder is super blendable and subtle, and the applicator allows for precision. The nighttime brightener has more of a purple hue that catches the light even more, which means you can use it more sparingly or when you want a more dramatic look. 

where to get it: sephora.com, $20
This flavorful pasta salad is a great way to use up any fresh veggies you have on hand. You can pretty much add anything you want because the simple red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing complement almost everything. I decided to make a greek-inspired salad, but to add roasted eggplant for variation in texture and flavor and to forgo the olives usually found in greek salads because the feta already added enough saltiness. Paired with some grilled shrimp, it's all you need for a light summer dinner. 

greek pasta salad with roasted eggplant
makes a giant batch, enough to serve at a party!

1 14oz. box of pasta, cooked according to instructions (I used this one)
1 medium eggplant
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 medium red onion, chopped into small pieces
4 oz. block feta cheese, cut into half-inch cubes
3 heaping handfuls fresh baby spinach, torn into small pieces
8-10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

what it is: Madewell Arrowstack necklace

why i love it: If you follow me on Pinterest (if you don't, I dedicate this emoticon :( to you), you may get the feeling that I have a moderate (read: severe) addiction to anything that comes close to a chevron print. If I had my choice, I'd use it to adorn my home, nails, outfits and anything else that can be adorned. I've also already established that I have an abiding love of all things Madewell. 

Last week two of my obsessions collided when I stumbled upon this mixed-metal chevron necklace at Madewell, and let's just say, two obsessions do make a right. Simple and versatile, this necklace can serve as the stand-out centerpiece accessory in one outfit, and as a layering piece in another. I love the mixed metal aspect of it because it pretty much leaves room for interpretation when deciding what other jewelry to wear with it. Plus, it's chevron! I rest my case.

where to get it: madewell.com, $55