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December 6, 2018

TRAVEL GUIDE: Best Eats in Fredericksburg, VA.

     Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit and explore Fredericksburg, VA for a press trip! Fredericksburg is a quaint city in Northern Virginia that is very rich in history. It's also rich in many other things... good food and drinks being one of them! Today I'm sharing reviews of the restaurants and cafes that I got to dine at, and next week I'll be sharing a full Travel Guide for Fredericksburg. You'll notice that a lot of these restaurants have addresses on Caroline Street- that is the main downtown street in Fredericksburg, and it's full of great eatery options! (Also a fitting name since my friend Caroline accompanied me on this trip to assist with blog photography!)

Thank you to Visit Fredericksburg for hosting me and making some of the meals featured complimentary. Thank you for supporting the brands and organizations that partner with Southern Belle in Training!

     Eileen's Bakery and Cafe (1115 Caroline Street): If you know me, you know that I can never resist a trip to a local bakery. Blame it on the fact that my first job in high school was at a bakery in my hometown! Either way, there's just nothing that beats homemade baked goods. Eileen's Bakery and Cafe in Fredericksburg has a real hometown feel to it. The bakery is housed inside of a historic church, which was built in the 1800s! There were a variety of tasty breads and pastries to choose from for breakfast. I ordered a butter croissant with tea, and for something sweet I treated myself to a maple shortbread cookie. Caroline and I really enjoyed this spot for a casual breakfast!

     Benny Vitali's (722 Caroline Street): If you're looking for a tasty and quick bite to eat, be sure to stop by Benny Vitali's! They call themselves the home of the "Virginia Slice". Virginia Slices must translate to meaning the largest sizes of pizza ever. Caroline and I split a slice in half... it was so big that just eating half of it filled each of us up!

     Foode (900 Princess Anne Street): Foode was our favorite restaurant that we ate at in Fredericksburg! This is a farm-to-table restaurant with a pretty diverse menu. We ate there for lunch on Saturday. I loved the setting of the restaurant- it was light and airy inside and decorated with a fun modern flair. The food was also fantastic! I had the shaved steak sandwich, and Caroline ordered a Mediterranean chicken dish, which came with hummus, pita and olives. I really enjoyed my sandwich, but Caroline's dish was fantastic. I may or may not have stolen several bites!

     Kybecca (402 William Street): Kybecca was the fanciest restaurant that we dined at in Fredericksburg! Their website describes the restaurant as being a "rustic-chic eatery and bar." Similar to Foode, I loved the ambiance of the restaurant. They are ranked #10 on TripAdvisor for Fredericksburg area restaurants! They do have a full dinner menu but the prices were a bit on the high end ($20-$30), so Caroline and I opted to go for drinks and dessert instead. She had a glass of wine and I ordered the Autumn Sangria. It was one of the best sangrias that I've ever had! We also split a Local Artisanal Cheese Board, and the S'Mores dessert (Neither of which photographed well, but believe me that they were great!). I have never met a cheese board that I didn't like, and the Kybecca s'mores were a really fun gourmet take on a classic treat!

    Orofino (1006 Caroline Street): If you're craving really authentic Italian food, Orofino is the place you need to visit! This downtown restaurant features cuisine from many regions of Italy, and each month they have a special menu with dishes and drinks from a specific Italian region. The region of the month for December was Piedmont, and the cheese fondue that I ordered (pictured below) was from that special menu! Caroline and I both ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara for our main courses. It was so filling that I didn't even come close to finishing it! Thankfully I brought it back to Charlottesville and it was my lunch/dinner on Monday.

     Goolrick's Pharmacy (901 Caroline Street): I saved the coolest and most unique place for last! One of the coolest fun facts that I learned on this weekend trip was that Fredericksburg is home to the oldest continually operating soda fountain in the country! How cool is that? Goolrick's is an old school main street soda fountain and pharmacy. Grabbing a milkshake there was truly like a step back in time! My favorite type of milkshakes are chocolate malts, and the one at Goolrick's was wonderful. They also have a limited lunch menu with different sandwiches!

    It looked like there were many more great Fredericksburg restaurants in addition to the ones that Caroline and I visited. This is definitely a food town! The Visit Fredericksburg website has a whole section on dining that includes information about the places that I visited, and many others!

     Have you ever been to this part of Virginia? I'm looking forward to sharing my Travel Guide with information about the hotel we stayed at and activities that we did- that'll be on the blog next week.

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese


December 5, 2018

Midweek Ramblings.

{Delilah's new favorite thing is sitting / sleeping in my bathroom sink while I get ready for work in the mornings. It's adorable! Follow me on social media @miss_alk}

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  • The Bush Family and Kennebunkport: Such sad news over the weekend to see that former President George H.W. Bush had passed away. The Bush family summer home is actually next-door to my hometown in Maine. Their home is in Kennebunkport, and I'm from Kennebunk! This is a nice little round-up on places that the late President Bush and Barbara Bush enjoyed visiting when they were in Maine. 
  • Instagram sucks: There are a lot of bloggers that waste a lot of time and energy each day ranting about the Instagram algorithm on social media, and I really try not to be one of those people. No one likes a complainer right? Well, I'm breaking my own rule today. My likes on my blog Instagram account and IG Story View numbers have both gone way down in the last month, and last week especially. 😭I work really hard to select photos for my Instagram that I think fit my brand, and that people will enjoy seeing. I know that I'll never be the most famous blogger, but at the same time it is good to see when people respond well to your content. I try not to let things like likes get me down, but when it becomes day after day and week after week of feeling like people don't like your content, it can feel tough. The only plus side is that I know I'm not the only one dealing with this right now- it seems like a lot of other bloggers have also been struggling on Instagram! I'm hoping it can turn around for everyone in 2019! 
  • 52 books: My reading goal for 2018 was originally 30 books. I blew past this pretty early in the year, and set a new goal of 52 books read. (One book per week of the year!) I was doing well with reading regularly up until about the start of November- once I started filling in on the morning show at work and had such a big schedule change, it was hard to keep up with reading for a few weeks. Now I have less than a month... But I'm determined to hit 52 books! 10 to go in 3.5 weeks... do you think I can do it? 

Weekend recaps:
  • Last weekend: I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia for a press trip! One of my best friends from college, Caroline, came up to enjoy the weekend with me and help with photography. I'll be publishing a restaurant guide and a travel guide- stay tuned for the first blog post tomorrow!
  • This weekend: My first weekend in Charlottesville in... awhile! Three weekends ago I was in Richmond for the day, two weekends ago I was in Texas for Thanksgiving, and this past weekend I was in Fredericksburg. I love to travel, but also love being home! This weekend on both Friday and Saturday I have work events for the radio station, so it'll be a busy but fun weekend. I'm also looking forward to a Christmas cookie baking night with my friend Abigail on Friday night, and catching up with my friend Leslie on Saturday.

Purchases: My only purchases this week were Christmas gift related! 😊

  • Bargain of the week: this tweed skirt is under $20 and it is so cute! 
  • Is anyone else a Big Bang Theory fan? (I LOVE it and I'm devastated the show ends in 2019!) This cutting board would be the perfect Christmas or birthday gift for a fan of the show! 
  • I love this darling top for holiday or winter nights out! 
  • Pink striped sweater? Yes please! It also comes in a variety of other colors. 
  • I really like the colors in this plaid shirt

Recipe of the week: I didn't do any cooking last week since I was only home for a few weeks. But this week I'm planning to try three different recipes- can't wait to share my favorite in next Wednesday's post!

Song of the week: Teenager in Love by Dion and The Belmonts. Lately I've gotten really into a 50s music playlist on Spotify- music from that decade is just so happy! Seriously- I don't think you can listen to 50s music without smiling. This song has become one of my favorites!

On the blog this week:

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese 


December 4, 2018

Houston/The Woodlands Travel Diary.

     You might have seen on Instagram that I spent five days in the Greater Houston area of Texas for Thanksgiving this year! I wanted to share more pictures and details from my trip in today's post. I titled this blog post "Travel Diary" instead of travel guide. This trip was 100% a vacation, and since I didn't stay in a hotel I wouldn't have any lodging options to review for a travel guide. But I still wanted to share some memories from my trip, so Texas travel diary it is. 😊

    One of my really good friends from North Carolina, Ciera, moved to Texas this summer! She had an amazing career opportunity come up, and decided to make the big move. Since I've lived out of state since I went to college, I was so excited for her to have the chance to work and experience life in a new area! Ciera has visited me in both Vermont and Virginia, so I knew I wanted to support her in Texas and make a trip out before 2019.

     Ciera lives just outside of Houston, so flying into a Houston airport was the most convenient. I found in researching flights that it's actually cheaper to fly on Thanksgiving rather than a day or two before (since less people fly on the holiday itself), so I had a 5:30 am flight out of Charlottesville on Thanksgiving Day. Ciera picked me up from the airport, and then we enjoyed a really relaxing Thanksgiving. Our friendship tradition is to make Chrissy Teigen's mac n cheese recipe from her Cravings cookbook, so we had a very cheese-filled Thanksgiving meal! I actually don't like traditional Thanksgiving foods, so this was like my perfect holiday lunch. We also set up and decorated Ciera's Christmas tree on Thanksgiving!

     On Friday morning, we were up and at 'em and ready to hit the mall! Ciera suggested that we do Black Friday shopping at The Woodlands Mall, located just north of Houston. This mall didn't disappoint! The Woodlands area is beautiful. There are several office buildings and hotels near the mall, and there is also a waterway/canal that runs near the mall! In the warmer months, you can ride little boats in it. (I was so sad they had closed that for the season during Thanksgiving week!) The Woodlands Mall itself is two stories, and in addition to having a great variety of stores, it was also very clean and well maintained inside.

     We took a break to have lunch at Brio, located right next to the mall. I think that Brio is one of the best chain Italian restaurants out there. They also had a location in Charlotte, and it was my mom's favorite restaurant to go to when she used to visit me in college. The Woodlands location is beautiful, and it's located right on one of the waterways! It was warm enough that we were able to eat lunch outside. 😊

     Our shopping adventures continued after lunch, and we headed about a mile away to an area of The Woodlands called Market Street. This charming street is where a lot of the higher end stores are located- everything from Kate Spade to Tiffany & Co.! There's also a beautiful Christmas tree in this shopping area that we had to take a picture with.

     Saturday was our big adventure day! I told Ciera that there were two things that I wanted to do while visiting her in Texas. The first was Black Friday shopping (CHECK!), and the second was go to the beach! I'm an East Coast girl through and through, and I'd actually never been to a beach in the Gulf. Galveston is about an hour and a half from Houston, so we decided to head there for a day of fun. It was in the 60s the day that we went to the beach, which was perfect weather! Not too hot, but warm enough to enjoy being outside. On the way to Galveston, we drove right through downtown Houston. The skyline there is HUGE and BEAUTIFUL!

     A lot of people had told Ciera prior to our beach trip that Galveston isn't a nice beach. If you're from the Carolinas, you might relate as a lot of people don't think Myrtle Beach is that great. (I highly disagree- but that's a blog post for another day!) That was kind of the same vibe that we had about Galveston, but we still wanted to see it. Let me just say that this WAY exceeded our expectations in the best way!

    What we discovered Galveston to be was a charming beach area that does a great job fusing old historic areas with new attractions! There are some really nice hotels right on the beach. The beach itself was beautiful and very clean (which was very different than things Ciera heard before our day trip!). The water was amazingly warm for November... I'm pretty sure that the beaches in my hometown in Maine never have water that warm, even in the height of summer!

     There's an amusement park in Galveston called Pleasure Pier. While we didn't end up doing any of the rides there, we did walk over to check it out! (And amazingly across the street, there is a combination Chick Fil A and Dippin' Dots ice cream restaurant!)

     We also walked around in a few of the residential streets near the beach. The homes in Galveston were so charming!! Look at all of these beautiful colors:

    Visiting Galveston was truly the highlight of my trip! I'm dying to go back and actually stay in that area, and have a few days to both relax on the beach and explore more of the history in this quaint little beach city!

    On the way back from Galveston, Ciera told me that we had a special pit stop. It was a visit to Buc-ee's! I had never heard of Buc-ee's,  but I learned that it's a uniquely Texas attraction. Buc-ee's is a gas and convenience store chain, but what really sets them apart is that they own the largest convenience stores in the world! I think the Buc-ee's that we visited was probably twice the size of the grocery store in my hometown. They sell every convenience store item known to man, as well as a lot of clothing and home decor. It reminded me of a larger version of a Cracker Barrel gift shop. I also couldn't get over the Buc-ee's mascot!

     Sunday was the most chill day of the trip. I joined Ciera for a service at her church, and then we set off in search of Tex-Mex for lunch. What's a trip to Texas without Tex-Mex, right?

     Oh my gosh y'all... I think that the food we ate has permanently ruined me from eating any other Mexican food ever again. Ciera took me to a favorite restaurant called Pappasito's. OH MY GOSH! This might have been one of the best meals of my life. Their queso was 100% the best that I've ever had. Since getting home, I've been looking up a lot of copycat Pappasito's queso recipes online to see if I can try and make something that resembles it. We split an order of the chicken fajitas, which were also the best fajitas that I've ever had! I had tres leche cake for dessert, and their cake isn't only housemade, but it's also topped with homemade meringue. DIVINE! Have I convinced you yet that you need to eat here? Sadly Pappasito's restaurants are only in Texas- but I am praying they might try and expand to the East Coast! 😉

    We finished off Sunday with something that was in very true Texas fashion: a visit to a shooting range! I had never shot a gun before, and I felt like Texas would be a good place to do that for the first time. In full honesty, shooting is not my thing and I don't really have any desire to do it again soon. But hey- I can say I tried it!

    On Monday morning, Ciera had to go back to work, but I had one more fun thing to do! I finally got to meet my blogging friend Jenny from Breakfast at Lilly's in person! I've run a blogging group called the Millennial Blogger Network (it's for blog and social media engagement) for a few years now, and Jenny is another friend that helps run it. So fun to finally meet her!

    Then it was off to the airport for me, and back to Virginia! I had such a wonderful little Thanksgiving vacation to Houston and the surrounding areas. Ciera and I were able to do quite a lot in the days I was there, but at the same time it felt like we didn't do anything since there is so much to see and do! This is one destination that I'm already excited to go back to. Here's my list of things I want to do on my next visit to this part of Texas:

  • Eat at Escalente's (Jenny says this Tex-Mex restaurant is better than Pappasito's- how is that even possible?!)
  • Eat at Whattaburger 
  • Eat Vietnamese food (Houston area has a huge Vietnamese population and this is one of my favorite cuisines!)
  • Eat at a local donut shop
  • Explore Downtown Houston
  • Visit the Houston zoo 
  • Visit Lake Conroe 
  • Shop at the Houston Galleria (This is one of the top 10 largest malls in the country! I loved Woodlands Mall, but apparently this puts it to shame.)
  • Spend more time in Galveston. 

     I also thought it would be fun to conclude this travel diary with a few funny observations of mine about Texas! I had only been to Texas once before when I was five years old, so I barely remember it. I also hadn't been anywhere near Houston before, so this was a totally new experience for me. Here's a few random things I noticed about this part of the Lone Star state:

  • MALLS EVERYWHERE: I'm not sure if this is the case for all of Texas... but the Houston metro area had more malls and strip malls than I'd EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. We drove I-45 to Galeveston and back... 80-90% of that two hour drive was just going by mall after strip mall after mall after strip mall... you get the idea! Don't get me wrong... I love a good mall and I love to shop, but after awhile it got to be a bit much even for me! I guess you can't say that Houston has a lack of shopping options? 
  • Local donut shops: While I didn't actually go to any of these, one thing that I noticed from all of the driving around was that Houstonians love their local donut shops! I didn't see a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' the whole time I was there, but most shopping areas had either a Shipley's donuts, or some sort of local donut shop. 
  • Cowboys: The Texas stereotype about cowboys is true!! Many local businesses use cowboys or western themes in their marketing. I even saw a car dealership called "Cowboy Kia."
  • Dialysis: This is super random, but all over Houston and surrounding areas I saw tons of doctors offices that specialized in dialysis! I've honestly never seen a specific medical office for that before, and I kept seeing these everywhere. Like... most of the exits off of I-45 had at least one place that did this. 
  • Adult stores: Houston has a TON of adult stores and adult entertainment. Some of them had really funny names that Ciera and I laughed about... but overall it was kind of sad to see all that. One thing that I did like about living in Vermont was that strip clubs were illegal in the state (and there weren't many adult bookstores either), and here in Charlottesville you don't really see that stuff either. Just kind of shocking to me that there's a big enough market to support all that in Houston. 
  • Post-Hurricane Harvey: Houston of course was devastated in 2017 from Hurricane Harvey. I was expecting to see a lot more damage, at least closer to Downtown Houston. After seeing Houston, I honestly wouldn't have believed that a catastrophic hurricane moved through just a year ago! Houston has done an amazing job at repairing the damage it seems. Maybe there are some areas that are still very affected, but I definitely didn't see any.

     So that is my trip recap for Texas! Would I go back to Houston and the surrounding areas? 100% yes! I think Thanksgiving was a perfect time to visit with the weather, it was in the 60s and 70s everyday. Would I want to live in Houston? Probably not. I love big cities, but I think Houston is just a little bit too big. Pretty sure that I'm an East Coast girl through and through. 😊 But it sure is a fun place to visit! Now I'd really like to go to San Antonio and Dallas.

    Have you been to Houston or any of the surrounding areas before?

    God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese
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