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Take Me Aweigh









I am currently freezing in D.C., but this time last week I was enjoying some fun and sun with Emily in Siesta Key. Siesta Key is one of my favorite Florida secrets. Not that it is that much of a secret anymore, but it is definitely not well-known and I would like to keep it that way (more on Siesta Key here).

Siesta Key beach has the most amazing sand. It is actually a pure quartz sand beach, which feels like powdered sugar between your toes. I have yet to discover any sand like it elsewhere in the world (although I am sure it is out there).

For a relaxing beach day, I wore this fabulous Trina Turk lace up tunic. Given the nautical setting, I naturally went with a red, white, and blue theme. Thank goodness nautical and navy will never go out of style. My favorite part of this look, however, are these red fan earrings. I think you are going to be seeing a lot of this style for spring and summer. In fact, statement earrings in general are making a comeback. And I am on board!

What spring or resort trend are you embracing?


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10 Fun (and Unique) Things to do in Florence/Tuscany




I feel like Florence and Italy have been on my mind quite a bit lately. In just a little over a month I will head to St. Louis to officially begin planning this summer's semester abroad and to meet the students participating. I also have lots of friends and friends-of-friends who recently departed for a semester abroad. It is around this time of year I really start to miss Italy and begin counting down the days until I return. To assuage my Italy-lust, I thought it would be fun to share some fun and unique things to do in Florence!

But first, a quick disclaimer. Florence is a city full of famous and must-see attractions. This list is not intended to replace any of the main highlights of Florence, simply enrich them with some unique experiences. If you have been reading here for a while, then you know that I don't buy into the idea of "authentic" travel. All of your travel experiences are authentic; just because these are lesser known does not make them superior to more famous sites. Bottom line, do them all! You can read more about why I dislike the notion of authentic travel here.

For a list of all of Florence's must-see sights, click here.

If you are in Florence for the semester, I really recommend making time for all of these:

1) Hit the Road with a Vintage Fiat or Vespa Tour
This is a fun and unique way to get out of the city and experience the countryside. Tuscany is positively gorgeous and these tours show you the highlights of the phenomenal landscape and a couple of quaint medieval towns. You can read more about the vintage Fiat tour here and the Vespa tour here. And don't worry about being nervous, all tours begin with driving lessons and use empty country roads.

2) Explore La Specola
Probably Florence's craziest museum, La Specola is a museum of zoology and natural history. But this description makes it sound much tamer than it is. The genesis of the museum is a 17th/18th century collection of wax anatomical models. These are amazingly accurate/creepy and give a rare look at early modern medicine. Over the years, more was added to this wunderkammer of a museum including a collection of taxidermied animals from around the world (like the stuffed hippo that was a 17th century Medici pet that lived in the Boboli Gardens). Trust me, this museum is surreal and not to be missed!

3) Road Trip (Anywhere!)
While you have to be 25 to rent a car in the US, you only have to be 18 to rent a car with AutoEuropa in Florence (they will of course charge you more because you are young)! Road tripping is another great way to get out and explore the countryside and medieval hill towns of Tuscany, many of which like Volterra, Pienza, and Montepulciano are only accessible by car. You can see more of my Tuscan road trip through fields of sunflowers here.

4) Discover the Peacock Palace
This architectural gem is a hidden treasure in Florence, although sadly rarely open. Built in the 19th century by a Spanish prince, the palace (know as the Sammezzano castle) was constructed in a colorful "moorish-oriental" style. Today it is largely abandoned, but efforts are being made to open it to tourists whenever possible. You can find more info here.

5) Learn About Wine with Pino
Pino is one of those great Florentine characters who have been teaching students and visitors about the food and wine of Tuscany and Italy for years! Pino will take you and a group of friends through an entire tasting process, teaching you how to properly taste and pair various wines. Be warned, it is a lot of wine and you will be tipsy (and happy) when you leave. For more info on Pino and his wine cellar, click here.

6) Visit the Medici Chapels
The Medici Chapels are one of my favorite museums in Florence. And since it isn't on most people's radars, it is usually not crowded and there is never a line. The chapels are located on the back side of the Medici's family church in Florence, San Lorenzo. This is where Florence's most famous family is buried and memorialized. Inside you will find tombs by Michelangelo, an incredible array of exotic and expensive marble, and most of the elaborate reliquaries of saints collected by the family (as in lots of creepy bones in shiny gold cases). The museum also does a lot of really good exhibits in English. You can find the official website here.

7) See a Football Game or Calco Storico
Depending on when you are in Florence, you should definitely try to attend a Fiorentina football game. It is a great cultural experience and you can easily purchase tickets while in town (more info here). If you are in Florence during the summer, you can watch the historic and original football game -- Calcio Storico. This medieval game is like a cross between soccer, kickboxing, and wrestling. It is crazy, intense, and is accompanied by full Renaissance pageantry. Visit Florence has a great article on Calcio Storico here.

8) Take the Secret Tour of the Palazzo Vecchio
This is one of my favorite tours in Florence, and with a student ID, it is a steal! This small group tour takes you through all of the secret passageways of Florence's Medieval town hall. It is a great way to get a more in depth look and explanation of Florentine governance through the centuries -- from an oligarchy masquerading as a Republic to a heredity Duchy ruled by the Medici. Honestly, it is just super cool to sneak off into places no one else is allowed to go. To book, simply drop by the box office of the Palazzo Vecchio and ask. They can sign you up for the next available tour on the spot. The Palazzo Vecchio also does amazing interactive tours for kids.

9) Enjoy an Aperitivo on a Terrace
I am pretty sure there is nothing better than sipping prosecco over one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You can see all of my favorite rooftops here.

10) Hike or Bike to San Minato//Piazza Michelangelo
I do this "hike" almost everyday when I am in Florence (it's actually more of an inclined walk). It is beautiful scenery, great exercise, and ends at a church with the most spectacular view of Florence. I've outlined the details of this hiking/biking route here.


What is your favorite thing to do in Florence?
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Bold Spring Florals




Florals are always trending for spring. This spring, however, I am especially excited becuase bold florals will be all the rage. Swap your dainty pastel florals for bold and bright blooms! Case in point, this J.Crew silk top in vintage floral. I will admit, it is not for the faint of heart, but I love the bright colors and large floral print. To subdue the look, I paired this top with my favorite military-inspired skirt. A little juxtaposition is always a good idea.

You might also notice the gorgeous backdrop of these photos. We shot them at the Ringling in Sarasota. The Ringling is a true Florida gem. Built by circus tycoons John and Mable Ringling, it is a massive estate which houses a world-class art museum (collected by John and Mable), gorgeous gardens, and a mansion built in the style of the grand palazzi that line the Grand Canal of Venice. The Venetian palace, affectionately called Ca' D'Zan, is clearly my favorite. I also love the amazing banyan trees that dot the property. Banyan trees, which are indigenous to Southeast Asia and India, were actually brought to the west coast of Florida as a gift for Thomas Edison. Edison originally planted the trees in an attempt to find a more cost effective way to produce rubber. The trees ended up thriving and can now be found along the coast, from Ft. Meyers to St. Petersburg.

Even if you don't have a grandiose setting with a faux Venetian palazzo and exotic trees, you should still consider adding a few bold florals into your spring wardrobe. I have rounded up my favorites below!

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The Politics of Fashion: Modern Work Wear



Like most young professionals, I struggle to balance my personal style with my professional wardrobe. Of course, my struggle has the added difficulty of navigating a predominantly male and old-fashioned profession. As a young (well, at least youngish looking lol) female academic, I am constantly judged by my appearance. Even among women, it is a no-win situation.

Don't dress too feminine.

Don't power dress.

Wear a suit.

Don't wear high heels or anything too tight.

Wear heels so you appear taller.

Wear dark colors, no patterns.

Don't wear black.

Wear makeup (but not too much) to appear more competent.

Et cetera, et cetera.

The problem is that as a woman I make a statement with my clothing no matter what I choose to wear. You see, for the male academic dressing in a suit is neutral, it is the default for male power and authority (intellectual or otherwise). For women the act of getting dressed is never that easy. If I wear a suit I am "power dressing," "trying too hard," or perpetuating masculine perceptions of authority. If I ditch the suit for dresses and *gasp* patterns, I am "too feminine" and run the risk of being perceived as not serious or less competent.

The debate rages over what female academics (particularly historians) should and shouldn't wear. Funny thing is, I really don't think the students in my classes give a crap about what I am wearing. I have heard stories of students critiquing a professor's appearance on evaluations, but I have never had a student comment on mine (thank goodness).

While I certainly don't have any definitive answers on this topic, I do think it is important to talk about. If only to remind ourselves that fashion/clothing can embody, reflect, and/or transcend race, class, and gender hierarchies.

What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you balance your personal style with your professional wardrobe?

I've linked some of my favorite professional yet stylish options below:


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Spring's Hottest Trends



So I know it is not even February yet and here I am planning for spring. But I can't help myself. I've given up hope on any sort of winter here in Florida (which happens every year at this time), and I am fully ready to embrace spring. I love the start of a new season because it means new trends to try and a chance to revamp your wardrobe with exciting new pieces.


Obviously, you should always be selective with the trends you embrace. A good wardrobe is equal parts timeless classics and fashionable finds. But I must admit that there are a lot of trends I am loving for this spring. Some of these aren't exactly new, but carryovers from the fall and winter. Thanks to Gucci retro inspired loafers are not going anywhere for a while, and neither are voluminous and bell sleeves. There are also some timeless classics back once more, like pale pinks and bold stripes. Fresh for this spring are fabulous flatform and platform wedges, lady-like jackets, and embellished bags. Shop for favorites for each below!


Retro Loafers:

Voluminous Sleeves:

Platforms and Flatforms:

Pink, Pink, and More Pink:

Stripes:

Lady-like Jackets:

Embellished Handbags:
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(Re)Writing History



What is the difference between history and the past?

This is the question I love to pose to my students on the first day of any history course. They usually stare back at me puzzled for a few minutes. But, once they start to think about, they come to some great conclusions. Despite only a few being history majors, this semester's class had fantastic answers and were really engaged with the question of why history matters. So, I thought it might be fun to share some of the ideas from our discussion.

History is not simply everything that happened in the past.

History is indeed true stories from the past retold by historians. Yet, history cannot tell every story or perspective from the past. Historians select moments of the past to tell, or retell. Thus history, in any form, will never be the whole truth. Furthermore, the stories we do choose to tell, are interpretations of past events, peoples, and places (based on what evidence survives), which, more often than not, actually reflect the ideas, values, and cultures of the historian interpreting the evidence.

By this point you might be wondering, what is the point of history then, if it cannot tell us what actually happened? Here is the thing, it can and it can't. You see, uncovering the truth of the past is not the historian's goal. Historians are not only concerned with what actually happened, but how that event was understood from multiple perspectives, and what all of these truths might mean (then and now). And in some cases, the myth or what is untrue can be more meaningful than the truth. For example, Jack the Ripper has never been proven to be one man. But the myth of the Ripper left an indelible mark on the culture of Victorian London.

I don't want to give the impression that history isn't concerned with the truth or what actually happened. It absolutely is. But in many cases "truth" and what "actually happened" are not so easily discerned. The past itself has no narrative. Historians uncover truths from the past and create narratives that have (and have always had) a purpose. History is has never been the simple memorization of dates and names. It uses actual events of the past to analyze and offer arguments that help understand the human experience.

My goal is that from history my students and I can gain perspective on ourselves and the world around us, in the hope that if we can better understand humanity, we might actually better humanity. Now more than ever, I think the humanities, which continue to be underfunded and underappreciated, matter. I often wonder how people expect to improve the present if they don't understand how and why we got here.

Obviously, this was a lot of rambling on the meaning and significance of history. I know I can get carried away. I just want everyone to love and appreciate history like I do! And obviously if you are reading here, you probably already do.


Now it is your turn, why do you think history matters?


Love history too? Here some more posts you might like:
A bit more on my dissertation research here and here.
Why I think more people should study history
5 books that changed the way I thought about the past and present
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Winter Brights




Who says that just becuase it's cold outside you have dress in boring neutrals? I prefer bright colors and bold color combinations even in chilly weather. Any time the weather dips below 70 in Florida, I go running to my closet for a jacket. Maybe it is a byproduct of being a Floridian, but I love jackets and coats! And this cropped pink jacket has been on repeat all winter long.

jacket (sold out, similar on sale) // hat // sunnies // top (also here) // skirt (old, similar) // booties (similar) // c/o Dagne Dover tiny tote

For a day of eating and mural sightseeing in Wynwood, I paired my go-to cropped pink jacket with with my favorite bell-sleeve top and bright red fluted skirt (click here for more on Wynwood). The diamond mural and ombré wall were definitely my favorites, obviously since they coordinated so well with my outfit.

Sadly this jacket and skirt are no longer available, but I have linked some similar options. This bell-sleeve top comes in a couple colors (also seen here) and is one of my favorite purchases to date. It is one of those pieces that looks very fashionable and dramatic, yet is still super comfortable and easy to wear. It will also transition easily into spring, since bell sleeves will be here to stay for a while.

Anyone else dare to wear brights in the winter?


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Wynwood, Miami



So, I am sure by now you have heard about, or at least seen a million pictures on Instagram, of Miami's coolest and most colorful neighborhood, Wynwood.

Wynwood is basically Miami's Brooklyn. It is a hipster haven full of cool cafes, vibrant murals, art galleries, trendy eateries, and eclectic bars. Naturally, it was high on my travel bucket list.

Wynwood was once an unsightly warehouse and manufacturing district before it was transformed into a thriving arts district. The area is just a short drive over the intracoastal waterway from Miami Beach. It is definitely worth a stop when visiting Miami. Emily and I stopped to explore Wynwood on our way home from South Beach.

I was immediately taken by the amazing murals. In fact, Wynwood is one of the largest open-air and street-art installations in the world. But before exploring fully, Emily and I fueled up on duffins (doughnut and muffin hybrids), cappuccini, and avocado toast at Cafe Miam. I mean what is a trendy neighborhood without avant-garde baked goods and avocado toast?

Fully satiated, we wandered and admired the colorful murals. We, of course, took a thousand photos, before heading to Zak the Baker. And as if the bakery wasn't enough, when then decided "flock it" and headed to cutest flamingo-themed ice cream shop, Serendipity Creamery. In an effort to survey all of the areas best eateries and cafes, we also investigated The Salty Donut, Panther Coffee, and Coyo Taco. It's important to be thorough. If you're not a foodie, don't worry, you can also take an art tour for a more in depth look at the famed murals.

Wynwood definitely did not disappoint and should not be missed when visiting Miami!
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