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Fashion Friday: 9 X 9

I don't know about you, but I am loving J.Crew's new arrivals! So I though it would be fun to use their new arrivals for a 9 X 9 post (an idea I stole from Bethany at Perfectly Couture, love her!).

I think creating 9 outfits from 9 items of clothing is a great exercise. It helps you be more creative with your clothing. This was what I loved most about my 30 X 30 challenge, so I think a little 9 X 9 challenge is a great refresher. It is also a good exercise for packing! I mean just look at what you can do with nine items! Could you imaging traveling for over a week with just 9 articles of clothing?

Image Map

Have a good weekend! 

PS - click the pic for links!

PPS - the popover is Paris themed... need!
Ashley B
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Applying to Grad School

Yesterday I received a message inquiring about applying to graduate school and how they should begin preparing for the application process. I thought this was a great question and that I should share my response with a wider audience. Of course, I can only speak with any real authority on applying for a history masters and/or PhD program but, for the most part, much of this applies to all graduate programs.

First, it is never a good idea to apply for a graduate program at the last minute! If you are thinking about applying at the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015, now is the time to start planning.

1. Research and Connect
I think the biggest mistake applicants make is blanket-applying to a large number of programs without researching what topics or areas of study that program offers or specializes in. For example, many schools specialize in certain areas of history, like European, American, Latin American, or Ancient history. If you want to study Chinese history, you shouldn't apply to a program that doesn't offer courses on that topic or specialize in that field. It doesn't matter how good your grades are, you won't get in!

Once you have selected a program with topics of study you are interested in, you need to reach out to the faculty member (or members) you would like to work with.  Yes, emailing a stranger can be uncomfortable, but connecting with faculty and letting them know you are applying to the program and are interested in working with them is crucial. They will be inundated with applicants and this will help you standout from the crowd. Don't feel awkward, scholars love having motivated students who want to work with them!

2. Personal Statement
Almost every program will ask for some form of personal statement. These are difficult to write so start early! They need to be thoughtful and specific. You want to highlight why you want to study history (or another subject) and why you will succeed in their program. You want to be clear about what you want to study, but not so specific that they think you aren't willing to learn new things and grow. So for example, you might say I want to study the American Revolution, instead of saying I want to understand what made General George Washington great. You should also name drop in your personal statement. If there is a faculty member you would like to work with, mention them by name. You want to tailor your personal statement to each university you are applying to.

If you would like to read my personal statement as an example, just Email Me!

Some programs will also ask for a writing sample. I can not stress enough that this needs to be well-written and error free.

3. Scores and Grades
The good thing about graduate programs is no one cares how "well-rounded" you are. They are looking for specific skills and areas of competency. So if you are applying for a humanities program, odds are no one will be overly critical of your less than stellar math grades. That being said, your overall GPA should be good. If it isn't you need to explain why in your personal statement. Being honest makes you a more viable candidate.

You will also probably be required to submit test scores--either the GRE, LSTAT, GMAT, etc. More and more schools are placing less emphasis on these scores, but they are still important. You need to meet the minimum requirements to get your foot in the door. Unfortunately, everyone applying to grad school will have a good GPA and test scores, so you really need to study and do the best you can on these exams. Fortunately, you can take them multiple times, but be warned they are pricey. I recommend studying for 2-3 months and then taking the exam for the first time. But make sure you have 6-8 weeks before your application is due, just incase you bomb your first attempt and need to re-take.

4. Letters of Recommendation
These are so important! You need to carefully select who you ask for letters of recommendation--another reason why starting early helps. Ask professors from your undergrad who you have worked closely with. Asking professors who don't remember you or don't really know you will yield horrible rec letters. They will be generic and unenthusiastic, and this is an immediate red flag for admission committees.

So, if you haven't connected with any of your undergrad professors, now is the time to get started! Establish relationships with them by working on a special project or paper. That way they will have something meaningful to write on your behalf. Do not ask family, friends, or employers. Graduate programs care mostly about your academic performance.

Don't wait until the last minute to ask for a letter of recommendation from a professor. And when you do ask, help them out by providing a cheat sheet of yourself. Include your grades, GPA, research projects, awards you have won, etc. This will help them craft a really specific letter that highlights all of your talents and achievements.

I am sure there are things I am missing, but these are the most important parts of the application process. If you have any specific questions about applying or about history programs in general, please don't hesitate to Email Me! Like I said before, scholars love to hear from promising students and love (I mean love) to mentor (it makes us feel important lol).

Hope this helps!

Ashley B
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New Spring Arrivals: Lilly Pulitzer

As I am sure you already know, the first release of Lilly Pulitzer's Spring line debuted Monday. And once again, Lilly doesn't disappoint. I realize Lilly is an acquired taste, but if you are like me and love color (especially pink and blue), you will adore the prints and patterns of this first release!

Here are some of my favorites:



The dresses are always my favorite. But I am also loving this scarf and these wedges. I have these same wedges in gold and I wear them constantly, I am so happy they finally released them in navy!


Which pieces do you love?

PS - I am also loving the over-sized winged black eyeliner and teased hair the models are sporting, very retro.
Ashley B
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Chic on the cheap!

I wanted to add a bit more style to my bedroom, but after the holidays I didn't exactly have a lot of extra cash lying around. But if you are resourceful enough, you can still have style without spending a fortune.

I spray painted this Ikea laptop table gold and added some prints (from the Preppy Printshop of course). I layered them in some inexpensive Ikea Ribba frames to add dimension and I found this adorable little clear lamp from Home Goods. Finally, I filled the negative space under the nightstand with my clutches, which are sorted and displayed in a clear acrylic letter holder! 

I think my new night stand looks adorable with my Lilly planner and ABD mug.

I had been eyeing this Pottery Barn Teen Pop Dot white and navy duvet for a while, so when it went on sale after the holidays, I pounced (btw still on sale). Obviously I had to get the shams monogramed. PS - those curtains are actually Target shower curtains! Ignore the wrinkles, I was overly eager to get it out of the packaging and on to my bed.

I like to read and sip coffee or tea in bed, so a cute lucite tray was a must. I ordered this Libbie & Winston monogramed tray a while back and I think it goes perfectly with my new duvet.

And last but not least, my custom pillows finally arrived and I love them (and they are now available in the Preppy Printshop)! A special shout out to Hunter who inspired my pillow business venture.

Ikea desktop and trestle legs, also spray painted gold.

I had planned on placing all three pillows on the bed, but how cute is this "girl you better work" pillow on my office chair!

I feel like the room finally lives up to my amazing Ikea dream closet I built last year. The only problem is now I never want to get out of bed!

What do you think?

Ashley B
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Top 5 Study Abroad Mistakes

No matter how cliché it may sound, studying abroad is a life changing experience. But only if you make the most of it. Over the years I have seen students make the following mistakes again and again:

1. It's called study abroad for a reason... it is not a vacation!
For some reason students feel that studying abroad is more of a vacation then an academic semester in a foreign country. Every year I witness students fail their classes. I find this mind boggling since most study abroad classes are designed to enhance your experience with important and meaningful background information and excursions. In addition to relating directly to your experiences abroad, most study abroad courses design their course load to fit your excursion/activity schedule, and many summer programs assign the bulk of the work for when you return home.

I always tell students, if you wanted a vacation, you should have taken one. You could have saved all that money you spent on tuition! Students who make the most of their study abroad experience value the education they receive while abroad and recognize that while it would be easier to not have homework or wake up early to visit a museum, studying Leonardo da Vinci and then seeing his work in real life, is a once in a lifetime learning opportunity.

2. You spend all of your time with fellow Americans speaking English.
I get it, being in a foreign country and not knowing the language is challenging. You will naturally gravitate to other Americans who share your culture and language. While there is nothing wrong with bonding with other Americans abroad (you will most likely become very close with others in your program), you should also try to meet and mingle with locals (always being safe of course)!

3. You prioritize drinking and partying.
Many students who study abroad are not of legal drinking age in the U.S. They arrive abroad to discover it is completely legal to consume alcohol. Of course, many are already aware of this, and sadly, it's their main motivation for studying abroad. This is not a legitimate reason to study abroad. Let me repeat, if you primary reason for spending thousands of dollars to study abroad is to drink, you need to reevaluate your priorities and plan your own personal vacation.

While drinking and partying may not be a motivating factor for you, once abroad many students get swept up in local club culture. Too much alcohol and too many late nights will quickly derail your study abroad experience. Like anything, drinking and partying are best in moderation.

4. You budget too little and pack too much.
I always advice students to layout everything you want to pack. Then subtract half and double your spending money. While this sounds extreme, I give this advice from plenty of first hand experience. Every year students pack way too much and are miserable lugging it around a foreign country, which more often than not is filled with uneven sidewalks and lots of stairs. Many students also underestimate their spending money and it's always better to over-budget rather than under-budget.

5. You expect everything to function like it does at home.
I don't know why students expect everything (everywhere) to work like it does in the U.S. Well, I kind of do and I think it is a deeper issue in our society and one of the reasons Americans should study abroad to begin with (click here to read more about this). I digress, but my point is that if Italy, for instance, was exactly like the U.S. you would have no reason to go in the first place. The beauty of it is that it's different. You will have culture shock (for sure) and you don't have to love everything about your new "home," but try to accept things for the way they are. I always tell my students to embrace the difference and proclaim "when in Rome!"

Have you studied abroad? If so, what do you wish some one had told you before studying abroad?

Ashley B
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Insta-Lately: OOTDs

Sunday Strolls
Lilly Pulizter popover (similar) // jeans // Sperrys (scored at Nordstrom Rack)

Sick Day
pjs // mug

Keeping it Casual
Kate Spade tumbler // jacket // striped J.Crew dress (old) // Chucks

Cold Hands Warm Heart
sweater // vest (similar) // leggings // boots

Pink and Red
J.Crew flannel (old) // vest // jeans // shoes // clutch

Winter White
jacket // top // jeans

Saturday Stripes
top // skirt // Chucks

Happy Sunday!

Ashley B
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Weekend Freebies: Valentines

I can't believe it is almost February! I'll be honest, I'm not a huge Valentine's Day fan. Not because I am cynical or single, but because it is the day after my birthday and I don't like to share lol.

But I thought it would be fun to share some cute Valentine's Day prints. They are little 5 X 7 inch prints that you can frame or send as a sweet little valentine to a loved one. Enjoy!

Ashley B
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Fashion Friday: Warby Parker Spring 14

I don't think it is a secret that I love glasses. Contrary to popular belief, I think glasses are super chic and sexy. I also love that I can get away with less makeup when I wear them lol.

My favorite glasses are by Warby Parker. I love them not only for their chic styles, but also their amazing at-home try on program. Currently I have the Chamberlain in whiskey tortoise. But when I saw the new Spring arrivals the other day, I new I wanted another pair! How cute are these?

But by far my favorite pair is the Kimball! I must have these (in the marzipan)!

I have already placed my free at-home try on order. I am trying the Kimball in both colors and some of their new sunglasses. I will post pictures once they arrive!

Which pair are you loving?
Ashley B
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J.Crew Popover: Wear Now Wear Later

I am seriously obsessed with J.Crew's popovers. They are the most comfortable and versatile shirt... ever! You can wear them layered in the winter or by themselves with the sleeves rolled in the summer. Even better, they are released in new colors and different patterns every season. I love clothing items that are season-less and effortless!

I created "now and later" looks for three of my current favorite popovers, the Abstract Diamond, Misty Fog Floral, and Chambray (and P.S. the you can add a monogram to the Chambray!).

skirt // vest // boots // jeans // heels
vest // pants // shoes // shorts // shoes

A close second in the versatile and comfortable shirt category is Lilly Pulitzer's Elsa top, but more on that later ;)
Ashley B
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Loving Lately

I have been slightly obsessed with my Instagram lately. I blame my artistic side. I just love composing pretty little vignettes and outfits! I also find it incredibly inspirational for the Preppy Printshop. I love following @stephsterjovski, @sugarandcloth, and @designlovefest. Of course there are so many more!

Hunter Boots
If you couldn't tell from the Spring prints (here, here, and here), I am loving Hunter wellies! I love designing with them and wearing them (I want all of the colors!). And this polar vortex has given me plenty of opportunities ;)

Diptyque Candles 
I have seen these candles everywhere and I can't help but wonder what makes them so special? They certainly are beautiful, but are they worth it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Pink and Red
I have also been into the unexpected combination of pink and red. My new Kate Spade travel cup is the perfect example of how this seemingly odd combo just works. I am also loving how the always fabulous Blair Eadie has styled this color combo. Maybe I should pair something pink with my red wellies!

Keyboard Covers
Cute and functional, what more could you want? I have this one and love this and this!

What are you loving lately?

Ashley B
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Running Gear

Ok so as I mentioned last week, week two of my marathon training stunk. And this week isn't off to the best start since I'm sick! Fortunately I have time to call that week (and maybe this week) a mulligan(s) and start anew. No matter what, I am determined to get back on track!

Marathon training (even a half) requires careful training and the proper gear. My friend Courtney (a.k.a the crazy triathlete) has been instrumental in helping me prepare (check out her blog here). Running 3 to 4 miles, while by no means easy, doesn't require much forethought. But a run over 5 miles (or over an hour) does. You need to think about gear, water, and nutrition.

As far as gear goes, I like to run with music, which means I need a way to carry my iPhone (it also tracks my mileage and pace). Courtney suggested a SPI belt, which was great for short runs, but I also wanted something that could hold water. I found this running belt on Amazon and can't wait for it to arrive. I also ordered these headphones. For some reason earbuds do not stay in my ears (so frustrating).

I have come to the conclusion that while running shorts are cuter, they drive me crazy when I run (all of the ridding up!). So I am going to invest in some quality running crops. I love these, plus they are reversible!

Finally, per Courtney's advice, I need to start playing around with nutrition. There are tons of gels, drinks, and bite-sized snacks out there, and honestly I have no clue where to start! Courtney suggested I get a variety and start trying them on my longer runs. Any suggestions? All recommendations are appreciated!

Still on my list to figure out, the right (quality) shoes (I am going to a running store to check my pronation), and a sports bra that doesn't chafe! Again, suggestions are appreciated!

Ashley B
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How I Do It: Paper Writing Tips

It is only the third week of the semester and I already feel underwater. In addition to my teaching responsibilities and my usual coursework, I have also been feverishly working on a conference paper. The fact that it is a paper that will be presented to a room of people I hope will some day hire me, this paper comes with extra pressure to say something meaningful.

I am sure you can all relate--writing is terrifying! Every time I sit down to work I am paralyzed by fears of failure and ineptitude (who isn't?). But writing, no matter your major, is a life skill we all need to master! So I thought I would share my paper writing tips.

1. Stop procrastinating and start writing!
We all do it. You sit down to write and then you remember the thousand other things you need to do, and before you know it four hours are gone, your house is spotless, checkbook balanced, laundry clean, and you have written bubkiss. Writing is the act of thinking. You don't have to know exactly what you want to say, you just need to start writing. Which leads me to point number two...

2. Your first draft WILL ALWAYS BE TERRIBLE, and that's ok.
That's why they call it a first draft. Take the pressure off yourself and just sit down and write. Every writer begins with a less than stellar first draft. But trust me, if you start there (and give yourself enough time to revise) it will improve, and you will have something meaningful to say.

3. Don't start with the introduction.
The introduction and the conclusion are the hardest parts of any paper to write, so why start there? Start with the easy stuff, the body of your paper. Once you have written your first draft you will have thought about your paper on a deeper level, making it easier to craft and argument, a.k.a. your thesis, a.k.a. the most important part of your introduction. The rest will flow from there.

4. Give yourself enough time.
Writing, thinking, and revising take time. You will not be able to do it the night before, even if you pull an all-nighter. I don't care if you "work better under pressure," good writing takes time and that's all there is to it!

5. Keep it simple.
For some reason people think that "sounding smart" requires long and complex sentences. Unfortunately, longer and more complex sentences only undermine your paper's clarity. Put the thesaurus down and simply say what you mean!

Now if I could only take my own advice! Anybody else have some great paper writing tips?

Ashley B
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Insta-Lately: OOTDs

I can't believe another week has come and gone. This semester has certainly started strong! Here is what I wore this week:

Sunday: Happy Hour

How cute is this little clutch from Nordstrom? It is perfect for an evening out - just big enough to hold a phone, lip stick, credit card, and some cash. 
Clutch // Top (on sale!) // Jeans // Ballet Flats (on sale!)

Monday: Bring it!

Monday I was armed and ready for my crazy week with my fabulous Dange Dover work tote.
Sweater (similar) // Shirt // Jeans // Ballet Flats (similar)

Tuesday: Rainy Day

Jacket // Top // Skirt // Boots

Wednesday: Sweatshirt Chic

Wednesdays I work from home, so my typical outfit consists of comfy yet cute sweatshirts and jeans! I would spend all day in pjs, but I make too many coffee runs lol.
Sweatshirt (old) // Jeans

Thursday: Frightfully Cold

Scarf (old) // Puffer (similar) // Boots

Friday: Stripes on My Sleeves

Tee // Jeans // Necklace // Navy Bracelet // Bow Bracelet (old)

Saturday: Weekend Layers

I love this top (who doesn't love faux layers?) and I can't believe it's from the Loft (and 40% off when I picked it up!)
Top // Puffer (similar)

Ashley B
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Weekend Freebie: Reminder Printable

There is nothing worse than leaving your house for the day and forgetting something important like your wallet, phone, or even worse, your pearls!

Don't fret, I've got you covered! Simply print, frame, and hang this reminder printable next to your front door and you'll never leave home without the essentials again!

Enjoy and happy weekend!

Ashley B
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Fashion Friday: Slip-on Sneakers

I love, love, love all of the cute slip-on sneakers I've been seeing for Spring! Such a fun and wear-able trend. I especially love when they are juxtaposed with day dresses and skirts.

Here are some ideas on how to style them:

hat // top // skirt // shoes

dress // shoes

dress // shoes

Will you be rocking slip-on sneakers this Spring?

Ashley B
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