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Weekend Freebie: Regret Nothing

To celebrate this long and glorious holiday weekend, and because I am so thankful for all of my amazing followers, I am giving away the third installment in my Paris gallery wall freebie series. I love this print, because we should all regret nothing!

Just click, save, print, and frame! And if you missed the other two freebies in this series you can find them here and here.

With Thanksgiving over it means that it is finally the most wonderful time of the year! And I have created some fun Kate Spade inspired holiday prints to celebrate. Tis the season to wrap and decorate colorfully!

Hope everyone enjoys their long weekend and stay safe through those sales!

Ashley B
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Outfit: Red, White, and Warm

blazer (very old, similar here and here) // turtleneck // skirt // tights // wellies // beanie

Who says you can't wear bright colors in winter? As I begin to think about how I am going to pack seven months of clothing in two suitcases (it's like picking your favorite children!), I am also thinking about how I can make my clothes work through multiple seasons. Figuring out how to layer or "winterize" will save me money (let's just say I don't have a lot of winter clothes) and packing space.

I was a bit skeptical about how this outfit would turn out. I have always loved how my favorite red fluted skirt looks with this nautical striped blazer, but was unsure that I could make it winter-time appropriate. I have purchased a couple plain turtlenecks and tights in the hopes they would layer well under what I already own. I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked the turtleneck and tights layered underneath! I topped the outfit with my go-to wellies (the packable kind) and, believe it or not, my very first beanie. I think I am officially a beanie believer.

I am sure the rest of the country is not loving this fall's crazy chilly temps, but it has proven to be great practice for me and has been super helpful for figuring out what will work this winter in Florence.

Hope everyone eats too much tomorrow and enjoys their long holiday weekend!

Ashley B
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10 Quick Tips to Improve Your Writing

It is officially that point in the semester when students are knee-deep into writing final papers and I am about to be knee-deep into grading them. Unfortunately, students' inability to write is a common topic of conversation, or rather complaining, among teachers/professors/GAs.

Now, I don't think that all undergraduates can't write. When people complain they obviously over-generalize the problem. I do believe, however, that many undergraduates fail to understand how poorly they write and many don't take the initiative to improve their writing. And I can relate. I was a terrible writer when I started college. Thanks to curriculum changes in many states over the past couple decades, high school students are receiving less and less grammar instruction. I actually learned more about the mechanics of English grammar when I started studying Italian (just another reason to learn a second language!).

When I began my master's program, I had to work really hard to improve my writing, and to be honest, it remains a weakness. Unfortunately, the only way to truly transform your writing is to write (not the answer most students want to hear)! There are, however, some quick tips you can follow that will immediately improve your papers.

1) Don't Write the Night Before
Writing is the process of thinking. So writing a first draft is an important step in the process of developing your argument (a.k.a what you want to say). But if your first draft is your only draft, your ideas will tend to be underdeveloped and unclear.

2) Don't Write Your Introduction First
Because writing is the process of thinking, you often haven't fully developed your ideas until you have written the majority of your essay/paper. Starting with the introduction is like trying to do a double axel on your first day of skating lessons. Since your introduction should outline your entire paper and succinctly convey your argument, it's much easier to write at the end instead of the beginning.

3) Be Clear and Concise
Cut the clutter! Extra words do not make you sound smarter. If you can say something in three words, say it in three words. In addition to unnecessary words, don't overuse the thesaurus. Using words incorrectly or in an awkward way doesn't improve the clarity of your writing.

4) Be Specific 
Use specific verbs and nouns. Instead of stating "the war caused great damage," explain exactly what kind of damage and why it was considered great. For example, "World War II destroyed important urban centers as well as agricultural lands. Europeans struggled to rebuild after years of destruction."

5) Focus on Writing Strong Topic Sentences (and Transition Sentences)
The main idea of your paragraph should be clearly spelled out in the first sentence. This is called a topic sentence. It may feel like you are revealing the secret of your magic trick, but this isn't a magic trick, it's a paper! Show your cards and make sure your reader knows exactly what you are trying to say in the first sentence.

6) Mix Up Your Sentence Structure and Length
Just like hemlines, some sentences need to be shorter than others. This keeps your writing, like your wardrobe, interesting. Following up a long complex sentence with a shorter, more straightforward statement is a great way to emphasize an argument or point.

7) Watch Your Verb Tenses
Usually you should pick a verb tense and stick with it. If you start writing in the present tense, you should continue writing in the present tense. Obviously this is not a universal rule and tenses were created for a reason. For most of the undergrad papers I read, however, verb tenses are randomly switched. This makes the paper more difficult to read. Remember, if you are talking about the past, use the past tense consistently!

8) Use Active Rather Than Passive Verbs
Don't lean on "to be" verbs. These are passive and can usually be replaced with more active and specific verbs by inverting your sentence structure. You can't completely avoid using "was" and "were" (I've actually had students try this, and it's a disaster!), but you can minimize their use to write a stronger paper.

Passive: This shirt was designed by Marc Jacobs.
Active: Marc Jacobs designed this shirt.

By switching the order of your sentence, your subject (Marc Jacobs) becomes the active agent and you can use a more specific verb (designed) instead of was.

9) Dates and Places go at the Beginning or End of a Sentence
And "however" is usually stronger in the middle of a sentence, rather than the beginning.

Yes - In 1492 Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.
Yes - Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492.
No - Columbus, in 1492, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.

OK - However, many students still struggle with paper writing.
Better - Many students, however, still struggle with paper writing.

10) Proof, Re-read, and Proof Again
I'll be honest, I am a terrible proof reader. I tend to read quickly and what I think is there rather than what is actually there. Knowing my own weakness, I always enlist a trusted friend to proof (hi Britt). It is also a great idea to read your paper aloud. If you stumble over some of the wording, odds are your reader will too.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful! If anything, they make a great paper editing checklist.

Happy end of the semester writing!

Ashley B
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Outfit: For the Love of Plaid

sweater (similar) // shirt (similar) // skirt // tights // bag (old, similar) // booties // hat (last seen here)

What can I say, I've been really into plaid this fall. Is it just me, or does plaid just feel super festive?

I've had this J.Crew silk printed heart shirt for a couple years, and it is surprisingly versatile. I basically treat it as a black button up, and voilĂ  it goes with everything (you can read more of my tips for mixing prints here). I am also loving all of the cropped sweaters this season. Short girls rejoice!

I typically steer clear of sweaters for a couple reasons. First, I live in Florida. And second, bulky and/or long sweaters are just not flattering on me. But given the fact that I am about to spend the winter in Florence and travel to some pretty cold places (Paris, London, Dublin, etc.), I need to get over this and stock up on some sweaters. Enter the cropped sweater. The proportions (especially when layered over a longer button up) are infinitely more flattering.

Finally, I have a new-found appreciation for tights! I scored these tights at ASOS (but my all-time favorite tights are still J.Crew's super opaque tights). What I like about these is they have the look of thigh-highs with some playful polka dots on the sheer part just above the knee. I think they are so fun and flirty.

Happy Monday and cheers to a short work week!

Ashley B
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Weekend Reading

I seriously cannot believe that this Thursday is Thanksgiving! Not only am I ready for the holiday season to begin, I am so ready for this short work week. 

Here's a little weekend reading to sweeten your Sunday:

Taylor Swift is right, it is time to stop calling women "crazy."

The fascinating history of the cat eye.

I bought (and rocked) my very first beanie this week (#floridagirl)! I loved it so much I also ordered this one.

What Barbie would look like if she were "normal."

So many new arrivals in the Preppy Printshop! This one is my personal favorite.

I am loving this window pane dress for winter. 

This Target coat is adorable and such a steal! And this plaid peacoat is also fab and reasonably priced.

Do you suffer from "impostor syndrome?"

Want to up your Instagram game? This blog post is very informative and I have recently discovered Iconosquare, which helps you pinpoint optimal posting times and what content your followers respond to the most.

Speaking of social media, will we all be communicating in just emojis in the future?

And of course, I have to comment on the upcoming holiday of Thanksgiving. Once again there is a lot more history behind the "day we stuff our faces." You can read more about the "real" Thanksgiving here. Also, Thanksgiving wasn't an actual national holiday until Abraham Lincoln decided to make it one in 1863. 

Finally, Thanksgiving was the subject of the most hilarious student question I have ever received while teaching abroad in Italy. The student asked, "what do Italians do for Thanksgiving?" I still chuckle when I think of this question!

Happy short work week!

Ashley B
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Preppy Printshop: Holiday Prints

It's Friday, which means that next Thursday is Thanksgiving and that Christmas is only 34 days away! Can you believe it? Where does the year go? Cue the holiday music, red coffee cups, gift wrapping, and death of my diet! 

I had a couple requests on Instagram for some holiday themed prints, and of course I had to oblige. Prints are an easy and chic way to decorate for the holidays, and I think they look especially great on a mantle with stockings hanging below. 

I tried to do something different than your standard red and green, deer/reindeer silhouette, and plaid. Instead, I went for something a bit more colorful and cheeky. I hope you like them as much as I do!

Are you ready for the holidays?

Ashley B
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Impostor Syndrome

Each day last week, after I completed a section of my comprehensive exams, I was bombarded with the same question - "so, how did you do?" As I answered, "ok, I guess," the anxiety welled inside of me. What was I afraid of exactly? It's the same fear I always have as I pass another milestone in completing my doctorate - what if they find out I have no clue what I am talking about?

Here's the thing, the longer I study (22 years of schooling to be exact... sheesh!) and the more I learn, the more I feel like I know nothing! They call this impostor syndrome and apparently it is incredibly common, especially among female academics.

But why do so many women (including myself and Brittany) fear that they are intellectual phonies? While I think it is important to question yourself and your competence every once and a while (after all you can't know everything), feeling like a fraud isn't healthy and could potentially sabotage your success. I am particularly concerned that this seems to be more of a problem for high-achieving women.

This article argues that successful women are more susceptible to impostor syndrome because they have internalized long-held cultural norms that tell women they are less qualified then men (I mean we still earn less than men for the same job!). Furthermore, impostor syndrome thrives in highly competitive fields, like grad school. Not only is graduate school competitive, but there is also a "criticize first, praise later" mentality. This is meant to push you, but often leaves you wondering if you can hack it.

Furthermore, many women today seem to think we've achieved some sort of gender equality in education. But as this article highlights, outdated gender norms still affect classroom dynamics (at every level) and women's perception of their own qualifications and abilities, which only contributes to the impostor syndrome.

So what can we do about this? It is imperative that we talk about it. As simple as that sounds, realizing that your fears are common, and rooted in centuries of patriarchy, helps you sort fact from fear. Celebrate your accomplishments and successes, no matter how small they feel. Britt and I are both still working on validating our accomplishments rather than chalking them up to perseverance or luck! Finally, don't let feeling like an impostor derail your confidence and ambition. Use it to drive yourself to work hard and do your best.

And if all else fails, take it from the expert Jessica Collett (a professor of sociology at Notre Dame), who says “... [R]esearchers find that impostorism is most often found among extremely talented and capable individuals, not people who are true impostors.” I don't know about you, but that quote made Britt and I feel much better!

Do you ever feel like an impostor?

Ashley B
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Preppy Printshop: New Arrivals

I have to say, I am so excited about these new prints. They combine everything I love - books (and lots of them), top knots, reading, polka dots, coffee, naps, and inspiring quotes! What's not to love?

While I love each print individually, I was even happier with the way they came together as a set - I mean, instant gallery wall! And with the new 4 for $40 deal (which includes free shipping!), they would make a great gift for the brainy bookworm in your life.

I really appreciated everyone's feedback on Instagram, and per your requests I included stripes, quotes, and a little pink and gold. I am still working on some more designs - including the suggested holiday prints (I'll be debuting them later this week). But please feel free to leave more ideas of what you would like to see in the Preppy Printshop

Which is your favorite?

Ashley B
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Outfit: Buffalo and Leopard

I live by the motto that leopard is a neutral. It absolutely goes with everything, which makes it the easiest pattern to mix with other prints. I am loving all of the buffalo check pattern this year and it only seemed natural to mix the two. And you won't believe that this coat, which looks and fits great, is from Target and is only $39.99 (it also comes in other patterns)!

Since it has been unseasonably chilly this fall (it was 40 degrees this morning... in Florida... in November!) I layered my favorite piped blouse underneath and topped it with my go-to neck bow (last seen here). Never underestimate the versatility of dresses! With some strategic layering, they too can be as versatile as separates.

I love that the weather has been so fall-like, but here is the thing that drives me nuts about Florida -- in the summer, when it's 95 degrees outside with 100% humidity, you freeze because the air conditioning is blasting. But when it gets chilly out, everyone cranks up the heat and you swelter in your winter clothes. I always feel like I am dressing for the wrong season! Ok, rant over.

What are your favorite patterns and prints for fall?

Ashley B
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Climbing Out From Under My Comps Rock + Monday Reading

I had every intention of publishing this link roundup over the weekend, but after my comps Friday, my brain was mush. And well, I really didn't feel like doing much for most of the weekend. I feel like I have been living under a rock for the past two weeks. Everything in my life was put on hold (you should see my inbox) as I prepped for my exams. It was necessary, but now I feel like I have so much to catch up on!

I finished my last exam on Friday. Unfortunately, I also had a grant proposal that was put on hold for comps. Immediately following my last exam, I got to work on finishing my proposal (#nofun). So it didn't really sink in that I was done right away. Saturday morning, however, was a different story. I woke up feeling liberated! I was so pumped I made it to my favorite morning workout class (Les Mills Body Attack) and then treated myself to extra large Dunkin Donuts coffee and lots of R&R.

That afternoon Britt and I took some blog photos and then headed to Sephora to do a little birthday shopping for Britt. She recently decided she wanted to up her lipstick game. Britt is one of those naturally pretty women who doesn't have to wear makeup, so she has never really gotten into it. But after borrowing my favorite red Chanel lipstick (#19 Gabrielle), she realized how great an amazing red lip can make you feel and decided she needed her own arsenal. Her first mistake was bringing me along. I am a major makeup junkie, so lipstick shopping turned into a full makeover. That evening my committee members/advisors put together a dinner to celebrate Britt's birthday and my completion of comps. It was a really fun evening full of wine, great food, and lots of birthday cake.

Sunday morning was filled with more relaxing, more Dunkin, and one more workout class. That evening I slowly started to catch up on life - cleaning, answering emails, laundry (so much laundry), and grocery shopping. It will probably take me all week, but I'll get there slowly but surely. I have also neglected the Preppy Printshop and I am hoping to have some new prints (including holiday prints) out this week!

And, because it's better late than never, here is some Monday reading for you!

These plaid pants (pictured above) are everything! And perfect for the holidays. Also these are a great, less-expensive alternative.

I am sure you know that a student, or teacher, ID will always get you a 15% discount at J.Crew and Kate Spade, but this article reveals 52 more things you can score with a student ID.

The perfect cape for short, curvy girls.

Simplify your life by tossing these 20+ items you can live without.

Fashion Sudoku anyone? I love this idea, especially for packing.

I've been really into the idea of a capsule wardrobe lately, especially as I begin to think about packing for seven months in Italy. This is a great (and free!) worksheet for planning a capsule wardrobe.

My new favorite hair accessory.

Oh Tina Fey, I love you! This is spot on.

New holiday arrivals at J.Crew! I fell in love with these wool pants (size down). So comfy and flattering and that red color... divine!

How cute is this mini handbag?

Spring beauty preview - a bold brow, bright lips, and a messy bun. This I can do!

And in case you missed it, the week before last I shared some of my tips and tricks for taking your own blogging photos that look professional(ish).

Ashley B
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Outfit: Capelet Coat

I am sure everyone up north and in the midwest is cursing this unseasonably early cold weather, but down here in Florida, we are super excited to bust out our coats and sweaters so early... so indulge me!

capelet coat (navy still available) // top // skirt (on sale!) // tights (my all-time favorite) // 
boots (super old, similar here)

I don't know about you, but I love the cape trend! It looks so simple and chic... on everyone else but me! For us short, curvy girls, this trend is very hard to wear and even less forgiving. I've tried numerous capes on, but I had to come to the tough realization that I will never look great in a cape - it takes two inches off my height and adds about 10 pounds!

I am a firm believer in that no matter how great a trend is, you must always dress for your body type. If you are short and/or curvy and want to embrace the cape, I recommend sticking with a belted cape, like this one and this one.

But not to fear, I found the perfect compromise - flattering but still on trend (#winwin)! I scooped up this Tory Burch capelet coat during their last big sale. But I actually purchased through Nordstrom, because they price match and because I had a ton of Nordstrom notes I had been saving up. In the end, it was a steal (Nordstrom will price match any sale, even with online sales and orders)!

The best part about this coat is that the capelet is completely detachable. I figured this would be great for traveling this winter and spring. For the cooler temps I have the extra layer of the cape and when the weather warms a bit, I still have an adorable little grey coat (I probably should have taken a picture without the capelet on).

Who knew I could find a flattering cape! Have you embraced the cape trend?

PS - After 22 years of schooling, I took the last exam of my life today! 

Ashley B
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From the Archives

As you read this I am completing the second day of my comprehensive exams (#icanseethelight). Obviously I am no state of mind to be writing any creative or insightful blog posts this week - sorry my brain is fried - but I thought it might be fun to round up some of my favorite posts from the archives.

My favorite DIY and decorating posts:

My favorite outfit posts:

My favorite how-to posts:

And for grins, my favorite snarky history post.

Hope everyone is having a better week than I am!

Ashley B
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Outfit: Gina Made It Urban Turban

In the words of my bestie/roomie/blog-tographer, "this headband is stupid cute!"

blazer // dress // blouse // knee highs // shoes // bag (old, last seen here) // headband ℅

I have long been a fan of Gina Made It bun bows (last seen here and here). So when Gina asked if I wanted to try one of her Urban Turbans, I didn't hesitate to accept! I figured if the style and quality of the Urban Turban was anything like her bun bows, I would love it.

The Urban Turban (great name, no?) did not disappoint. It's not a full-on turban, it's more like the perfect blend of a functional headband and stylish turban. The rich silk fabric is gathered and tufted on top of a comfortable headband base. This gives it just enough volume and interest without being overpowering or costume-like.

As soon as I pulled it out of the package and tried it on, Britt and I were instantly smitten. Britt declared that it was "stupid cute," and that I absolutely needed another. She then promptly started looking online for other colors and patterns. We both decided we also love the black white striped version.

I think the Urban Turban has surpassed the bun bow as my favorite hair accessory! Although the bun bow is still a close second.

Which is your favorite? Bun bow or Urban Turban?

PS - These are the pictures from the photo shoot that was featured in the behind the scenes peek last week in my how-to blog photography post.

Ashley B
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Weekend Freebie: Paris is Always a Good Idea

We all know that Paris is always a good idea. But do you know what else is also always a good idea? Yep that's right, a free 8 X 10" print! This weekend's freebie is the second installment in my (#free) Paris series (two down, two to go!). In case you missed it, you can find the first freebie in the series here. Just save, print, and frame!

Where are you hanging your free prints? I'd love to see! Make sure you hashtag #PreppyPrintshop and tag me (@historyinhighheels) on Instagram, and I just might share your picture.

Have a great weekend!

PS - How great would this look with a hot pink matte?

Ashley B
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Have you all noticed a theme lately in my Instagram posts? Yep, my desk. Because for the past couple weeks it has been the center of my universe. I am sure you are tired of hearing about my comps prep, well let me tell you, I am tired of prepping! 

This week has been particularly difficult, as I am losing my study stamina! But I just need to power through the weekend and then Monday the real torture begins. I feel mentally ready, I am just not sure if I have the patience to write three essays for six hours (each) over the course of three days. But I guess there is only one way to find out!

My overall approach for studying for this exam was to create notecards for every book/article on my reading list. This was a great idea until about half way through, then it became super tedious. Fortunately, I had budgeted enough time for burnout and after a couple days of procrastinating I was back on the notecard horse. Once I completed the cards, I began organizing them by date (of publication) and theme, this was really helpful for my final phase - creating outlines based on my exam topics (I won't know the actual questions until the day of the exam). 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the history PhD comprehensive exam, it is basically three essays on different topics - like women and medicine in early modern Italy - and you use basically every book you have read on the topic while in grad school to answer the question. They can be content based questions about a specific historical event, time, or movement, or more likely, a historiographical question. It's definitely comprehensive!

So now that I have all of my cards created, organized, and outlined, this weekend is all about review, review, review! The weather this weekend is supposed to be gorgeous, so I think I will grab a blanket and my notecards and review outside! 

champagne print // bar cart // wine tumblers // shaker (old from West Elm)

This last picture represents the massive drink I am going to have once this is finally over!

What are you up to this weekend?

Ashley B
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