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Weekend Reading

There is nothing like celebrating the first week of the semester with a three-day weekend! I have a pretty low-key weekend planned - some Labor Day sale shopping, time with friends and family, and of course, working out (because my bestie is a drill sergeant).

Here is some weekend reading to enjoy while you sip your coffee:

Everyone is talking about the Tory Burch sale, and for good reason. It's the perfect time to buy that high-ticket item you were lusting over. I am debating between this bag and this one. Thoughts?

I really want to turn this saying into a kitchen print, because it gets me.

Did you know Barbie has an Instagram? And it's perfect!

Jimmy Kimmel's version of a Friends reunion.

A great alternative to the gorgeous Rag and Bone Talia V-neck sweater at ¼ of the price!

Enjoy the long weekend!
Ashley B
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Outfit: Effortless Chic

Some days you just want it all--you want to look chic and put together while still being comfortable and without really putting in much effort. On those days I turn to my fool-proof outfit: Boyfriend jeans, graphic tee, and a blazer. This combo creates instant style without much time or effort!

blazer (old, love this one) // graphic tee (on sale!) // jeans // bag (similar) // sunnies // necklace // pumps (similar)

For years I was convinced that there was no way boyfriend jeans could look good on me. Baggy is a hard look to pull off when you are five-foot tall and curvy! But I finally caved and purchased this J.Crew version a couple weeks ago. 

When I tried them on in the store, I was surprised that they could be so comfy and flattering all at the same time (also the cuff means no hemming, yay!). If you are on the shorter and curvier side, I would recommend that you always balance a baggier item of clothing with something fitted and structured, like a blazer.

What is your go-to effortless chic look?

Ashley B
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Preppy Printshop: Prep Avenue Print Collection

First of all, a big thank you to everyone for supporting my little Etsy shop. I still cannot believe how much it has grown over the past couple months. Your responses to my prints have far exceeded my expectations, and I am so very grateful!

It was hard to find the time and inspiration to create new prints while I was in Italy, so I was so excited when Shannon from Prep Avenue reached out to me about a print collaboration when I returned home. She was the perfect muse! I instantly found myself inspired by her vibrant, preppy, witty, and playful style. I began sketching and playing around with ideas and before I knew it, I had created an entire collection. Shannon was also a blast to work with, she has a clear sense of her style, great taste, and isn't afraid to embrace a little #patternplay. She's definitely a girl after my own heart. I mean seriously, how perfect is her dorm room (click here for the full tour)?

The Prep Avenue Collection is now available in the Preppy Printshop. And tomorrow Shannon will be giving away your choice of three prints from the collection on her blog! So start picking your favorites now. I think the Pattern Play Fashion Print is my favorite.

Which is your favorite?

PS - I love seeing what you all do with your prints and pillows, so don't forget to tag the #preppyprintshop or @historyinhighheels on Instagram!

PPS - Cara from Caralina Style created this adorable, and affordable, dorm room decor with some of my free prints. A great option for fashionable co-eds on budgets ;)

Ashley B
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How to Write a Personal Statement

Personal statements are the worst, but incredibly important! They are often the hurdle that stands between you and admission into your choice university, graduate school, or winning that prestigious fellowship. If you haven't had to write one, odds are you will. They are almost always an important component in university admissions, scholarships and awards, and even job applications.

I have been struggling to write a new personal statement for my Fulbright application for weeks! It is probably the hardest thing to write because it has to be a combination of genuine personal reflection, non-conceited bragging, and a clear sense of what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. You have to be able to answer really important questions about who you are, what you believe, and what you want... and that is never easy!

A good personal statement provides an important first impression to grant and/or admission committees. It tells your personal and intellectual biography to demonstrate why you are qualified for a fellowship/grant, school, job, etc.

Overall Structure:

Generally, personal statements are written in narrative form that moves from your past, to your present, and finally, to your future. This narrative form allows you to convey why you are interested/invested in what you are applying for (past), how you are qualified and/or equipped to achieve what you want to do (present), and how you will use this award/experience (or how it will aid you) in your goals (future).

The Introduction - This paragraph is the most important and should hook the reader to your story. You want to begin with something unique and interesting about yourself or your personal experiences that helps the reader understand why you are interested in what you are applying for. As you write this, try to answer, or at least think about, the following:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you hope to gain?
  • What do you hope to give back?
  • Why are you applying? How will this grant (or admission, or job) aid you in achieving your goals? (Remember what you are applying for is a vehicle to your goal(s), not your goal!)
The Body - The body of your statement should elaborate on your introduction and provide specific examples of your past experiences and skills that you introduced in your first paragraph.

The Conclusion - After providing specific examples of why you are interested in studying a subject or topic and how you are equipped to excel at researching, attending a specific university, or performing on the job, reflect on these statements. Analyze how you will relate your personal experiences to how you will use that grant, fit in at that university, or excel at that job. Equally important, connect the specific grant/application/job you are applying for with your future plans. Emphasize how this is a crucial stepping stone to achieving your larger goals.

Important Tips:

Say No To Cheese - You want to avoid over-blown and unrealistic statements about changing the world and making a difference. Words like inspire, passion, and dream should be avoided, since they are often over-used and come off as empty cliches. Also just avoid the following phrases:
  • From a young age...
  • Since I was a child...
  • I have always been fascinated by...
  • I have a thirst for knowledge...
  • The world we live in today...
Why? These statements are empty and reveal nothing specific about you. To avoid writing a cheesy and impersonal statement, focus on giving real and personal examples of your points. You want to make sure you are telling rather than showing. For example, you could wax poetically about your love of knowledge, or you could show them by discussing a specific example of when learning something new changed your persecutive on something.

In my personal statement I was trying to convey why I believed study abroad was important and how it changed lives - see already sounding cheesy. To fix this, I focussed and reflected on my personal experiences abroad and transformed that sentiment into the following: "I traveled to Italy for the first time in the summer of 2004, just one year after the U.S. invaded Iraq. Prior to my study abroad experience, I viewed this conflict as a simple “us versus them,” “right versus wrong” situation. When I arrived in Rome I was shocked by the sight of policemen patrolling the streets with machine guns, while at the same time peace flags hung from apartment windows. As I discussed the invasion and subsequent war with locals, I realized this conflict had global ramifications. Furthermore, most of the people I spoke to viewed the war through a different lens than my own. This was the beginning of my new international perspective, which would enable me to grasp issues from multiple cultural perspectives on a global level. Studying in a city in which two thousand years of history lay at your feet, combined with the geo-political circumstances I found my self confronted by, sparked an interest in the study in history. I came to understand that history could shed light on the complexity of human interactions both in the past and in the present." (...Or something like that)

Don't Be Conceited - There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. There is no getting around talking about yourself and your accomplishments (because you should be) but you should do it in a way that appeals to the reader. Diffusing an egotistical tone is as simple as reflecting. How have your opportunities and achievements changed you?

Final Quick Tips:

  • Cut irrelevant personal facts
  • Humor rarely translates in formal essays like this... so just don't
  • Avoid degrading and negative comments about yourself and others
  • Don't lie!
  • Avoid simply listing all the places you have been, books you have read, or jobs you have held
  • Don't quote others, this is your statement, not someone else's
  • Always avoid the word "always"

Not matter how much advice I give you, writing a personal statement is going to be difficult. But hopefully these tips will empower you to reflect and write something meaningful. After four weeks and countless edits, I think I have finally finished my Fulbright Personal Statement!

Hope this helps!

PS - Don't forget to check out my tips on applying to grad school!
Ashley B
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Outfit: Clean Lines

There is nothing better than a crisp, well-fitting navy and white striped shirt. And when paired with a great tailored skinny pant it feels very Audrey-esque. 

I discovered this striped top and pant the other day at J.Crew (I know surprise, surprise), but since I often overlook simple pieces, they didn't immediately jump out at me. It was only through the coaxing of my personal stylist (Greta, she's awesome) that I was convinced to try the new Dannie pant. They actually looked terrible on the hanger. They appeared overly high waisted and long, so I was shocked when I put them on and they fit amazingly (they came to my natural waist and didn't need to be hemmed)! And the back zipper closure means that they look great on your bum! I also loved the side zipper detail on the shirt.

top // pants // tote // ballet flats (similar) // sunnies

The Dannie pant is meant to be the new Minnie - and I am hooked! I love this pant because they make you look instantly put together with zero effort and they go with everything. But not to worry, if you remain a Minnie pant lover, Greta assured me that they will still be available online (just no longer in store).

What are your favorite basic pieces?
Ashley B
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Weekend Freebie: Pink AND Navy Print

It's official, weekend freebies are back! This weekend's freebie is a fun pink and navy ampersand print. It's the perfect addition to any gallery wall.

Just save, print, and frame. If you all have any ideas or requests for the weekend freebies series, please let me know. I love hearing your feedback!

Ashley B
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Fall Fashion Finds

I don't know if it's my shopping withdrawal from my months abroad or if everything for this fall is simply perfect. I swear every time I turn around I find just the piece I was looking for, which has led to some serious shopping over the past couple weeks. I am going to have to impose a shopping ban ASAP. But for now I thought I should share my fabulous fall finds!

1) THIS jacket is everything!

2) These patent leather menswear inspire loafers at Zara for just $39.90!

3) The perfect floppy wool hat (X2 - burgundy and mix black)

4) Leopard slip-on sneakers... WITH BOWS!

5) A winter-white fluted skirt (paired with this horse pattern button-up. And when the weather gets cold, layered with the perfect navy puffer vest and my navy riding boots!)

6) Another puffer vest in burgundy (anybody else excited that this color is going to be big for fall?)

7) A great navy and white striped shirt, because you can never have enough!

8) J.Crew's Turner pant (one patterned, one plain)

9) Not too slouchy but still oh-so comfy boyfriend jeans

Still on my list:

1) A shapely black coat

2) Knee-high socks (to pair with my loafers)

3) Cropped sweaters (love this one and this one)

4) A mini-bag (obsessed with this one and this one)

What have been your favorite fall purchases? And what is still on your list?

Ashley B
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Apartment Therapy: Bedroom Update

Like I said before, whenever I get home from Italy I am in the mood to nest. It's a combination of things--living in a dingy, impersonal rental apartment for months, and the state of my apartment when I get home (let's just say it needs a lot of cleaning after three months). So I've spent the last couple of weeks cleaning and sprucing the place up a bit.

While I love my white PB Teen monogrammed duvet cover, with a cat and the rate at which I shed, it's very hard to keep clean. I wanted something a little darker that I could switch it out with. I found this navy and white patterned duvet cover and immediately fell in love! Bonus, it's reversible!

I also wanted a bit more storage in my bedroom. My open wall closet is amazing, but provides little drawer space. So I picked up a Malm 3-drawer dresser at Ikea and with a little painter's tape and navy paint it was transformed in a couple hours into a chic bedside table!

To create the Greek key look I simply taped off the pattern I wanted with painter's tape (in reverse, so the pattern is left blank and the space you don't want to paint is covered with tape). This created a stencil that I could then paint. Because of Ikea's glossy finish, you might want to prime or you will get some paint bleed. Or you could be lazy like me, skip the primer, and touch up your edges with a white Sharpie (tip: when working with white Ikea furniture and frames these white Sharpies are miracle workers!).

And voila! The quick and easy finished product:

I have also been hard at work transforming my bathroom. That project, however, is a bit more intensive. But I revealed a sneak peek on Instagram... stay tuned!

What do you think of my latest bedroom updates?

Ashley B
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THIS Coat!

Try as I might to avoid buying too many fall/winter items so early in the season (when I can't even wear them) I just keep stumbling upon the most amazing pieces that I simply cannot resist! For example, this Banana Republic jacket. It is absolute perfection. 

When I saw it in the store, it immediately reminded me of the J.Crew coat I lusted after a few years ago (and was famously styled by Atlantic Pacific), but at $495 it stayed a lust rather than a must. So when I saw this jacket (for ⅓ of the price!), I pounced! I don't even care that it's still a million degrees out, I couldn't wait to channel my inner Blaire and style this coat! 

jacket (only available in store right now, but I am sure it will go online soon) // popover (similar) // jeans // crossbody (similar) // sunnies // sneaks // bun bow

I can't seem to find this jacket online. I think the stores received it before the new arrivals go live on the website. My advice? Head to your nearest Banana Republic ASAP. My local store was already almost sold out. I had to have mine sent from a store in Orlando! 

Fair warning, be prepared to see me wearing this jacket a lot this fall and winter!

Ashley B
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Weekend Recap: Reunited

After ten (long) months on a Fulbright research scholarship in Barbados my bestie has finally returned home! So naturally we spent all weekend together making up for lost time.

Thanks to weather delays and lost luggage Britt didn't arrived home until super late Friday night. But in true Brittany form, she was up and ready to work out bright and early Saturday morning. Have I mentioned how nice it is to have your best friend double as your personal trainer lol? She's definitely in better shape after ten months in Barbados than I am after three months in Italy!

After a brief workout, we headed to our favorite little french restaurant, Piquant, for some much needed cappuccinos and fancy french salads. Naturally, we worked off our brunch with a bit of shopping (#shoppingismycardio).

That evening I had to share Brittany with her family (not fair), so I spent the evening working on my bathroom. Here is the sneak peek I shared on Instagram in case you missed it:

Stay tuned, I hope to reveal the finish product soon! And don't forget to follow Shannon of Prep Avenue for the debut of our new line of prints we created for her dorm room gallery wall!

Sunday morning we wanted to do something new and exciting. We had heard of this great outdoor Thai market and decided to find it. I honestly did not expect to find a beautiful Buddhist temple in the middle of Palm River, Florida!

The market was amazing. There were tons of food stalls selling curries, spring rolls, fresh rolls, Pad Thai, and my personal favorite noodle soup. We quickly learned that it gets very crowded and if you don't want to wait in the thirty minute noodle soup line, get there early!

In addition to freshly prepared Thai food the market also sells fresh flowers and specializes in orchids. If that wasn't enough reason to go, the property sits on the Palm River and all are welcome to visit the fully-operational Buddhist temple. It really was the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning. Although in the future I think we will wait until the weather cools off. It was crazy hot and muggy!

After the market we squeezed in another workout at the YMCA (have I mentioned she's crazy about working out?) and that evening we broke out the prosecco to officially celebrate her return. There is nothing quite like some much needed girl time with your bestie! So happy to have her back!

What did you do this weekend?

Ashley B
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Outfit: Juxtaposition

One of the best parts about working in academia is the summer. It's a misnomer, however, that teachers and professors "don't work" during the summer. We work, it is just a different kind of work. I work from Italy and when I get home, I work in my pajamas from home. Unfortunately, the summer is coming to an end and in just two weeks I have to start putting on real clothes, heading to work every morning, and teaching. None of which can be done in your pjs (sadly). But that's ok, I have discovered the next best thing - J.Crew's Turner pant. All the comfort of pajamas with all the style of J.Crew (and I didn't even have to hem them)!

Zara blazer (similar) // Madewell tee // J.Crew Turner pant // C. Wonder leopard pumps (similar) // Tory Burch bag (similar)

I paired mine with a t-shirt and blazer because I love the juxtaposition of slouchy and structured, which is exactly what these pants are! Plus the elastic waistband is very forgiving, remember I just returned from 3 months in the land of pasta. I have a lot of working out ahead of me lol.

Have you tried the Turner pant?

PS - this weekend is very exciting, it's the weekend my best friend finally returns from her 10-month research grant in Barbados!
Ashley B
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