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Packing for a Weekend Getaway

So, last week I packed my bags and hit the road bound for DC. I need to look at a manuscript at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which makes the perfect excuse to visit my cousin who lives in DC (where the Folger is located).

My cousin and I are from Florida, and while he lives in DC, we both wanted to experience real fall. I mentioned to him that I also needed to look at a document in the Beinecke Library at Yale. We both decided it would be fun to see Yale's gorgeous campus, so we decided to take a long-weekend road trip up to New Haven. I could look at the manuscript I needed and we could also do all the fall things -- apple picking, leaf peeping, and cider sipping in addition to explore the Yale campus (more on our fall adventures later this week)!

I struggle to pack for a long weekend. I have mastered long-term packing, but I can never seem to find the right bag or number of clothing items for just a couple days. This trip was the perfect time to try my new Archer Brighten Ella Overnight Weekender.

Not only is this bag beautiful (I love the bilberry color), but it is also the perfect size and design for a weekend trip (or as a carry-on bag). It holds enough clothing, shoes, accessories, and toiletries for 2-3 days. It has a padded pocket for your computer, easy-accessible mesh pockets for snacks or things you want to have handy, and a discreet pocket for important papers or documents. It also has a side-shoe pocket to keep your dirty shoes off your clean clothes (this can also double as a pocket for dirty clothing).

In addition to all of these organizational features, the bag is both soft and structured. The fabric is stain resistant nylon, available in three gorgeous colors (which you can see here). I also love that there is an exterior pocket for your passport and phone, and the opening of the bag expands really wide to allow you to easily see and access everything. Finally, unlike my previous carry-on tote, even when I fill this bag to capacity and throw it over my shoulder, it doesn't strain or hurt my back! The adjustable strap lets you select the perfect length for maximum comfort and weight distribution.

I am really impressed with the quality and functionality of this bag. In addition to the Ella, Archer Brighton also makes totes, backpacks, and lunch bags. The backpack is just as gorgeous as the Ella, and it might have to be my next purchase!

Are you ready for the best part of this post? Archer Brighton and I are teaming up to give away an Ella Weekender! Look for the giveaway November 11th on Instagram!


Ashley B
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10 Things I Never Travel Without

The past two years seem like they have been a whirlwind of travel! And the past six months have been even crazier -- summer in Florence, Provence and the Loire Valley, a Mediterranean Cruise, Boca Grande, the Napa Valley, and Los Angeles.

I have been home from L.A. for just a week and I am already back on the road. This time I am headed to the Northeast for some more research and fall fun! Needless to say, sometimes I feel like all I do is pack and repack (I never seem to fully unpack though). The good news is that with each passing trip, I refine my packing process (you can see more of my packing posts here).

Today I wanted to share some items that no matter what, I never travel without. Obviously I never travel without my laptop, phone, wallet, toothbrush, and other basic essentials. This list is (hopefully) made up of items that you may not think to travel with, or simply aren't familiar with.

1) T3 SinglePass Luxe
Hair appliances can be the worst to travel with. They are usually bulky, heavy, and require adaptors and converters for international travel. Not to mention if you want curls you need to pack a curling iron, but if you want straight hair you need a straightener or blow dryer. I no longer bother with blow dryers and multiple hair styling tools. I have one go-to tool that is slim, light, dual voltage, and can straighten my hair or give it waves/texture -- the T3 SinglePass Luxe. In one pass my hair is smooth and shiny, or with a simple flick of the wrist, I have soft waves. And any styling tool that works world-wide with no switch or converter is a huge plus in my book!

2) Wrinkle Releaser
I used to travel with a steamer, but I am always looking for ways to streamline and simplify. Travel-sized wrinkle releaser takes up a fraction of the weight and space in your bag than a steamer. Not only does it really take out almost all wrinkles, it also freshens your clothing (big plus when you're on the go and can't access or have time for laundry). For tough wrinkles I spray and then let the garment steam while I shower.

3) Ziplock Bags
Forget fancy cosmetic bags, heavy duty, gallon-sized Ziplock bags are the way to go. I pack all of my toiletries in them, plus a few extras in my bag. When something spills, I simply toss the old bag. Ziplock bags weigh less then toiletry bags and can double as on-the-go food storage, laundry bags for smelly items (or wet swimsuits), and shoe bags to keep your dirty shoes off your clean clothes. Finally, in a pinch they work as small space bags.

4) Camera (Not Your Phone!)
It may seem like a pain to bring a large camera along with your phone around with you everywhere, but I have never once regretted having a high-quality version of a photo I loved. You can read more about the camera I travel with here.

5) Cellphone Battery Case
My built-in battery case has been a lifesaver on numerous occasions. I go through them pretty quickly (wear and tear and droppage, whoops), but they are worth their weight in gold as far as I am concerned. I can use GPS, text, Instagram, or play games all day without worry.

6) A Hat
Hats may seem like they are more trouble to travel with then they are worth, but I disagree. Hats are the secret to looking great without much hair and makeup effort (a bonus when you're traveling and will be taking lots of pictures). I pack mine in the bottom of my suitcase or simply wear them on the plane (yes, I have worn multiple hats on my head through the airport, #noshame).

7) Shower Cap (+ Dry Shampoo)
Ok, so the dry shampoo is obvious (I swear by this one). Less washing equals less time spent on your hair and less hair accoutrements you need to pack. But a quality shower cap is the key here. You never know what your shower situation may look like and you don't want the moisture and heat from the shower wilting or ruining your hair. Trust me, this shower cap will change your life!

8) Neosporin
I have a weird Neosporin addiction. I use it to heal everything from hangnails to chapped lips to blemishes (all of which increase exponentially when traveling). I mean it prevents scars and infections, why not lather yourself in it? Plus it is great for treating blisters.

9) Kiehl's Avocado Eye Cream
This stuff is miraculous. And like the Neosporin, I use it on more than just eyes. If I am in a particularly dry climate or get an unexpected sunburn, I will use it on my entire face or dry/burnt area. It is super moisturizing and brightening.

10) Floss
Obviously, I use floss to floss my teeth. But floss can be super handy in a pinch. It can be used as makeshift thread or string to fix or tie something together. I am basically MacGyver... but with floss.

You do you swear by when you travel?


Ashley B
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How To Take Better Notes

I take a lot of notes.

Like a good grad student, I take notes on every book, article, and archival document I read. Writing things down is one of the ways I process information. For some reason, when I write something down, not type or highlight, I can remember it. So, over the years, note taking has become a mainstay of my academic process. These notes are essential for remembering and processing information, but also for creating a repository of knowledge specific to my dissertation.

But what use is this knowledge if I can't organize, tag, and search it? While the act of writing is an important part of my process, it doesn't create a very efficient system for using the knowledge I acquire. Case in point, when I returned home from researching in the Florence archive, I had notebooks filled with notes and transcriptions -- far too much information to remember what was in each notebook. I spent too much time re-reading and re-processing what I had already written. And what if I had lost a notebook? That precious information, which in my case can only be accessed in the archive in Italy, would be gone forever!

Needless to say, I was very excited to try Wacom's Bamboo Folio smartpad. Sure, I could type my notes, but that is twice the work and takes double the time. Now I can work smarter, not harder. I can still handwrite my notes, but instead of getting lost in the pages of a notebook, my notes are digitized. From there, they can be transformed into rich text, which allows them to be searchable. Game changer.

With the Bamboo Folio smartpad, you write your notes as you normally would. Personally, I advocate for the Cornell method of note taking. I think it is the most efficient and analytical method since it pushes you to ask questions while you take notes and summarize key ideas rather than simply copy. You can read more about how to take Cornell-style notes here. Once you have completed your notes, your Bamboo Folio syncs with your Bluetooth-enabled tablet or smartphone. The Inkscape App and cloud then allows you organize, edit, and even share your notes and sketches. You can learn more about the Wacom Bamboo Folio smartpad here.

The first time I synced my notes, I was hooked. I cannot wait to begin tagging and organizing all of my notes. The pad can save up to 100 pages of notes before you have to sync it, so don't worry about taking notes on the go. I really wish I had this technology when I was prepping for my comprehensive exams. The Folio is also not much larger than letter-size paper, so it is easy to take with you to class and the library, or in my case, the archive.

My note-game will never be the same again!

In addition to the Bamboo Folio, Wacom also sent me the Bamboo Duo pen and stylus to try. This pen and stylus combo is so handy! You will never have to worry about carrying a separate stylus again, and you can quickly switch from tablet doodling to list making with the same pen. I carry it with me at all times, and I bet it will be a game changer in cold months when you need to be on your phone but you don't want to take your gloves off!

Want more academic tips? Here are 10 quick tips to improve your writing and here is the secret to reading like a graduate student.

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Wacom and Her Campus Media. All words and opinions are my own.
Ashley B
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10 Things: L.A.

I have been back from L.A. for a few days now. While I miss the hell out of Soulcycle, it is nice to get back into old routines (like Dunkin Donuts coffee lol). I really enjoyed my time out in L.A., although I really didn't know what to expect when I first arrived. I am glad I had over a month to explore, because I had no idea how massive L.A. is and how spread out everything of interest would be. Had I just been visiting for vacation, I probably would have been really unprepared for this and missed out on seeing quite a bit. So, I thought I should share my 10 favorite experiences in L.A. to help others who plan on visiting and might be overwhelmed by L.A.'s vastness too.

Ten Things You Must do in LA:

1) Visit the Beverly Hills Hotel and Rodeo Drive
The Beverly Hills Hotel and Pool are a pink and green dream! The entire place is retro in all the right ways. If you can't afford to stay there, you can always go for breakfast and some pool-side lounging. Afterwards, make sure you visit Rodeo Drive for a little retail therapy.

2) Escape to the beach in Santa Monica
Santa Monica may not be the best beach in the L.A. area, but it easily accessible via the metro. It is also a great little town with good food, nightlife, and a boardwalk.

3) Dine and shop in Silverlake
Silverlake is the "hippster" area of town. This up and coming are is full of stylish coffee shops (like Alfred) and hip eateries. Don't miss the adorable Micheltorena stairs.

4) Bruch at Bottega Louie and get rooftop cocktails at The Ace Hotel
Two of my favorite places in downtown L.A.! See more of Bottega Louie here and the Ace Hotel here.

5) Hike to the Hollywood Sign
There are lots of hikes in the Hollywood Hills, but the hike to the famous Hollywood sign is not to be missed! You can find all the details of my hike here.

6) Visit The Huntington
This hidden gem in Pasadena/San Marino houses a European art collection, massive historical library, and more than a dozen themed botanical gardens to explore.

7) Take a photo on the pink wall and explore Melrose
Melrose is full of insta-worthy photo ops -- the famous pink wall at Paul Smith, Alfred Tea, Alfred Coffee, and the Made in LA mural, just to name a few. This area also has great shopping!

8) Shop 'til you drop at The Grove
Speaking of shopping, the famed Grove is another important shopping stop. Plus there is a yummy farmer's market to refuel at.

9) Take a studio tour
Embrace the magic of Hollywood on a studio tour. All of the studios offer one and you will usually get to see something filming or bump into someone famous (I visited the Universal lot).

10) Find your inner art critic at LACMA and the Broad
Whether or not you like modern art or not, you will enjoy these two contemporary art museums. If nothing else, you have to visit the light pole installation.

What would you advise someone they simply had to do while visiting L.A.?

Ashley B
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Best of Italy - 12 Day Itinerary

I get this question a lot: "I am traveling to Italy for the first time and I was wondering which cities and sights I should see?"

I get it. Planning a trip to Italy can be overwhelming. There is so much to see and do. And most people are limited by number of vacation days and travel budgets. For most, a trip to Italy is a once in a lifetime experience and they want to make sure they see as much as possible and don't waste time on sights or cities that are not worth it. So how can you make the most of your first trip to Italy?

I have put together what I think is the perfect introduction to Italy. It is an 11 or 12 day itinerary that hits the best of the best and lets you experience a variety of Italian culture. This itinerary is specifically designed for first-timers. Jump below if you want to see my recommendations for people who have already experienced the highlights of Italy.

Day 1 - Venice
If you can, flying into Venice is a great option. The airport is smaller and rarely crowded. From the airport you can easily arrange a water taxi to your hotel and get a free(ish) private tour of the Grand Canal in the process. Once you have dropped your luggage, you can spend the day fighting jet lag wandering the romantic and charming streets of Venice. Be sure to see the square and basilica of St. Mark's, the Bridge of Sighs, and let yourself get lost before enjoying an evening gondola ride. Most tourists only day-trip to Venice so the city is surreal at night. Be sure to take an evening stroll.

Day 2 - Venice and Burano
Begin your second day in Venice with the Secret Passageways Tour of the Doge's Palace before hopping on the local vaporetto to Burano (conveniently located close to the Doge's Palace). Spend the rest of your day exploring Venice's most colorful little island. And be sure to enjoy a delicious and wonderfully-fresh seafood meal while you are there. If you are feeling adventurous, you can also hop over and see the island of Murano before returning to the main island of Venice.

Day 3 - Florence
On your third day take an early morning high-speed train to Florence (about a two hour ride). Once you arrive, drop your luggage and head to see Michelangelo's masterpiece, the David. To maximize your time, I highly recommend purchasing the Firenze Card, which gets you into all of Florence's best museums for 72 hours and gives you priority entrance (without making reservations). After marveling at the David, head to the "Duomo" (Florence's famed cathedral). Climb Brunelleschi's gravity-defying dome before visiting the church's interior, baptistry, and duomo museum. If you are feeling bold, you can also climb Giotto's bell tower. Climbing more than 600 steps definitely earns you a gelato stop (here are my favorites). After gelato, head to the Palazzo Vecchio (again I recommend booking the secret passageways tour, not included in the Firenze Card). End your evening with the gorgeous Ponte Vecchio (you can see more of my favorites in Florence here).

Day 4 - Florence 
For your second day in Florence, explore the other side of the city (across the river), which is called the "Oltrarno." Highlights of this hip hood include the Palazzo Pitti (royal residence of the Medici) and Boboli Gardens, Piazza Santo Santo Spirito (eat here), and the Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a bit of a hike, but completely worth it. It is the best view of the city.

Now you could stay a second night in Florence and bus to another Tuscan town like Siena the following day, or even take a day trip to the Cinque Terre. But I suggest renting a car (you can do this in town or at the airport) and road tripping a little bit, to truly get a sense of Tuscany. I would start by spending the evening in a local agriturismo outside Florence or Siena.

Day 5 - Tuscan Countryside
Spend the night in a stunning Tuscan country farmhouse and use the next day to explore adorable Tuscan towns rich in history, tradition, and food and wine! You can read my road trip suggestions here. After a day of exploring, drop your rental at the airport and hop on the high speed train to Rome. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Rome.

Day 6 - Rome
Start your day with Rome's most iconic monument, the Colosseum. I recommend getting an early start if you want to snap some incredible pictures without hoards of tourists. Like in Florence, it is wise to purchase the Roma Pass, which will give you priority access to most of Rome's major sights. From the Colosseum you can explore the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. Refuel in Rome's trendy Monti neighborhood before heading to see the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. From the top of the Spanish steps head south on via Sistina and left on via dei Cappuccini to the unbelievable Capuchin bone church (not for the faint of heart).

Day 7 - Rome
Most of your second day in Rome will actually be spent in a different country, Vatican City. Like the Colosseum, St. Peter's Basilica is well worth an early morning visit, the light is incredible. From the church head around to the other side of the city (or country) to the entrance to the Vatican Museums. Your Roma Pass won't work for the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, so be sure to book ahead here. I also recommend a visit to the excavations under the Vatican, which you can learn more about booking here. Touring the Vatican will take most of your day, but I suggest making time to visit the Castle Sant'Angelo before enjoying evening drinks in Piazza Navona.

Day 8 - Rome
For your final day in Rome, I recommend spending the morning in my favorite neighborhood, Trastevere. That afternoon say arrivederci to Rome and catch the high-speed train south to Naples. You might be tempted to explore Naples, but I personally recommend seeing the Amalfi Coast over Naples (particularly for first-time visitors). From Naples, switch to a local train to Sorrento. Sorrento is an easy central location from which you can enjoy the fabulous Amalfi Coast. Read my tips for traveling the Amalfi Coast here.

Day 9 - Sorrento/Capri
Spend your first day on the coast exploring the island of Capri. It is an easy ferry ride from Sorrento. In the summer these ferries are packed, so you will want to reserve your tickets early. In Capri you can hike, shop, be a beach bum, or any combination of the three. You can see my list of the 10 things you must do in Capri here.

Day 10 - Sorrento/Positano
From Sorrento you can take the local public bus to the town of Positano, my absolute favorite sea-side Italian town. You can read more about Positano here and here.

Day 11 - Sorrento/Ravello/Pompeii
Choose your own adventure for your last day on the coast. You can explore some of the smaller, lesser known towns along the coast like Ravello or Atrani (you will need to arrange a private car for this). Or, you could take the local train to see the ruins of Pompeii. Or, you could also take the day to simply enjoy and relax in Sorrento.

Day 12 - Depart from Naples
Depending on your flight, you can take the local train to Naples and depart from there. Or, if you prefer to depart from Rome, give yourself an extra day for travel and spend the night near the Rome airport (especially if you have an early morning flight). Rome's main international airport (Fiumicino) is about an hour outside of the city. I highly recommend the airport Hilton.

This highlights tour should definitely get you started planning (and getting excited about) your first trip to Italy! You can see more of my general tips for traveling to Italy here. And remember, if you are looking for a personal travel guide/agent to help you arrange all of this, Travel Italian Style is there to help.

If you have already seen Italy's best and you want more, I would suggest the following destinations to explore:
Milan and Lake Como or Lake Garda

Buon Viaggio! 

Ashley B
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Hollywood Hike

Hiking is not exactly a big activity in Florida, as you might have imagined. I have only hiked a handful of times in my life. But what hiking I have done, I have loved! Hiking the Cinque Terre is one of my all-time favorite activities. And when I wasn't freaking out over jumping across large rock crevasses in Barbados, I love hiking there as well. So, when I heard you could do a seven-mile hike to the Hollywood sign, it immediately made my LA bucket list.

There are actually lots of hikes you can do in the Hollywood hills from Griffith Park (many are shorter and easier then the one I did). But for obvious reasons the hike to the famed Hollywood sign is the most popular. I thought the hike was pretty easy, especially when compared to my Cinque Terre and Barbados hikes. It is basically a steady, low-grade climb to the top of Mount Lee (they call it the moderate hike). There are lots of people and dogs (and as I quickly discovered curious coyote, don't worry he was super chill) along the way and there are easy to follow signs.

I had my Uber drive drop me off at the entrance to Griffith Park off Canyon Drive. From this spot you can also explore the Bronson Caves, which are super famous and have been featured in TV series and movies. You can find more detailed directs for this hike here. These were the directions I studied and followed. It felt complicated when I was reading about the hike and I worried I would get lost. But it is so simple once you are on the ground.

The hike takes you to the summit of Mount Lee, which is actually above the sign. If you want the photo op, make sure you take a quick detour down Mount Lee drive, either on your way to the sign or on your way back. Once you turn down Mount Lee drive, you can't miss it. You will see everyone taking selfies lol.

After my hike, I rewarded myself with another LA favorite, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse (you can see all of my favorite LA eateries here).

Have you done the Hollywood Sign hike?


Ashley B
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The Huntington

dress // hat // sunnies // bag (similar) // mules

I truly cannot say enough good things about The Huntington. Not only are the botanical gardens and art museum wonderful to visit, they have created a refuge for scholars. I have never worked in such an amazing library with so many wonderful resources and equally wonderful people. This has been such an enjoyable and productive time for me.

But you don't have to be a scholar to enjoy The Huntington. Their gardens and art collections are open to the public six days a week. Surprisingly, almost everyone I met in Pasadena and LA had never been to The Huntington. If you are or going to be in the LA are you should definitely set time aside to visit.

The incredible property and library were built by California railroad tycoon Henry Edwards Huntington and his wife Arabella. Both Henry and Arabella were avid collectors of European art and rare books. Arabella was fascinated by Versailles, while Henry collected books on science and medicine (part of this collection is a scientific history of the Medici dedicated to Anna Maria Luisa, which I was able to read at the library). Following World War I, Arabella and Henry took advantage of the destitute European art market willing to sell almost anything to begin their collection. After Henry's death, the art collection, library, and estate were opened to the public.

In addition to the Huntington's mansion, you can also visit the property's numerous botanical gardens (the Huntingtons were also into collecting plants from around the world). Each has a theme and houses an incredible array of plants from around the world (most I had never seen before). My favorites are the Rose Garden, Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and Dessert Garden (I wasn't expecting to love the dessert garden as much as I did).

In addition to several lovely cafes, you can also picnic on the grounds. It is basically the perfect way to spend the day. More importantly, while The Huntington is one of the wealthiest cultural institutions in the country, they devote most of their resources to education and research. Oh and PS, you know they are good people because their gift shop sells Kate Spade picnic accessories.

You probably had never heard of The Huntington, but now you have. And trust me, you should definitely add it to your LA itinerary!


Ashley B
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Santa Monica Pier

The famed Santa Monica Pier was on my LA to-do list. Although, I am not really sure why. I honestly did not know much about it or what to expect. But, I had a free morning, knew it was famous, and decided why not? As luck would have it not only does the metro go all the way from Pasadena to Santa Monica, but I also had a friend from Florida who had recently relocated there. He offered to show me around for the morning.

Truth be told, I was disappointed by the actual pier. It was smaller than I had imagined and only had a couple rides and food stands. Fortunately, the rest of the town is lovely and Matt showed me the highlights. We started with a stroll overlooking the ocean (so weird that the beach isn't flat btw) to the famous Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, where we just happened to run into the press day for the new movie Keeping Up with the Joneses.

From there we headed to the pier and down to the water. We ended our morning with mimosas and brunch at the gorgeous Casa del Mar. Santa Monica is a really cute town with great dining and places to shop. After a long brunch Matt had to head out so I did a bit of retail therapy before heading back to Pasadena. 

While in LA, I have struggled to dress appropriately for chilly morning and super sunny, hot days. Especially when I am spending the warmest part of the day outside. I landed on this long-sleeve dress that I had recently purchased from Madewell's Sezane capsule, which you can see more of here. The long sleeves kept me (some what) warm through the morning chill, but the light fabric saved me from the sizzling sun while I explored Santa Monica. I think this dress will look great with tights and a cardigan for true fall weather. 


Ashley B
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WAYF Floral Dress

hat // sunnies // dress // mules // c/o Digerolamo bag // lip (finally the perfect nude)

I recently discovered the clothing line WAYF, which stands for "where are you from?" It's a LA-based line that excels at mini dresses and pretty blouses. You can't shop the brand directly, but it's sold at all my favorite retailers - Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Revolve, and Shopbop (who, if you haven't heard, is currently having a mega sale).

What I love about WAYF is that their pieces are on-trend and flattering, but above all, they are very affordable. These, of course, have made the line insanely popular with bloggers, so I am sure I am not the first to mention WAYF. And you have already seen me wearing WAYF here and here. But I think it is always worth highlighting great clothes at great price points.

I picked up this pretty floral bell-sleeve number before I departed for LA. It is easy to wear and comfortable so I figured it would be perfect for weekend sightseeing. I paired it with my new favorite hat and comfiest mules. It was perfect for a morning strolling through Beverly Hills.



Ashley B
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