July 29, 2016

The Ideal Summer Romper for Under $15!







Photography by Deeana Kourtney Photography




Romper {exact one in-stores only, but I love this print and this print!} // Shoes: {Similar here} // Necklace: {Last season, very similar here} // Bracelets c/o // Lipstick 




     One type of outfit inspiration that I really enjoy sharing on my blog are budget friendly yet trendy and fun looking for nights out. As I've said in past posts, nightlife attire is a very certain look, but you don't have to spend a lot to look great! Nor should you- anything can happen during nights out (from drinks being spilled to God forbid more serious situations!), so the way to go is by finding the best bargain pieces that still fit your style. My personal style for going-out also tends to be a little bit more conservative... if I do decide to highlight a feature such as my legs or chest, I tend to be covered up in other areas! I personally think that showing less skin, or being tasteful about what you do show, is always the classiest way to go. :-) For example, since this romper is a little bit shorter, I chose to pair it with jeweled flat sandals instead of heels or wedges! 


     Summer nightlife attire is a bit more flexible and you can often put together a whole outfit around a cute dress or romper! I am just obsessed with the romper that I'm wearing in today's post. It is bright and fun, comfortable and lightweight to wear (so perfect for those hot summer nights), and it is under $15!! What what! 


     Unfortunately the print that I'm wearing here was an in-store exclusive only, but it is available online in some other fun options. How gorgeous is this print



     I haven't been going-out too much in post grad life, but I do have a dear friend (from blogging! Can you guess who?) coming to visit me in August, so I'm looking forward to showing her some of my favorite Charlotte nightlife spots then. 



    I hope that everyone is having a great start to your weekend! Thanks as always for reading! 





    xoxo Miss ALK

July 27, 2016

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases.






{Dress here // Follow me on Instagram + Snapchat @miss_alk)



Ramblings:

  • Conference Preparation: I head to Charleston for the Blog Societies' annual conference in just one week from tomorrow! This will be both my first blog conference and my first time visiting Charleston. To say that I am bursting with excitement is an understatement. This week I am focussing on planning all of my conference outfits and making sure that I have my blogging necessities as well (like business cards, portable chargers for electronics, and print-outs of my media kit!). I know that this experience will be both a lot of fun, and also a time of growth for my business and brand!
  • Call Me Betty Crocker: I've been spending most of my weeknights lately by getting acquainted with my KitchenAid mixer! I have always loved baking up sweet treats and trying new recipes, but due to the fact that I never had a kitchen in my college residences, I haven't done very much cooking or baking in recent years, so I guess I have a lot to make up for (and my tastebuds aren't complaining!). One of my favorite recipes that I've baked lately were these tasty muffins
  • Becoming politically knowledgable: 2016 is a huge year as far as presidential elections go. The first year that I could vote was 2012, and I'll be the first to admit that I was not a well informed voter for that election. I don't want to let that happen again! I am still young, and still figuring out my political views. I have been trying to watch both conventions this week and last, and to keep my mind open while watching all of the speeches and reading commentary online. I will also admit that I don't love politics and talking about it often confuses me, but voting is a privilege and I want to make the right choice this year! I think that everyone should be making an effort to education themselves on both parties and candidates' platforms right now.
  • Coming up on the blog... As some of my long-term readers might know, my birthday and blogiversary fall on the same day (That was great editorial calendar planning almost four years ago... ha!). Anyways, coming up this September I will be celebrating my 22nd birthday and 4th blogiversary! This year I've seen a lot of bloggers do fun reader inspired Q&A posts to celebrate their birthdays or blogiversaries. I think this might be something fun to do so as of now I will be accepting any question request for this post!! You can tweet me questions to @rainbowflash94, or email them to me at rainbowflash94@yahoo.com. (I respond to emails much better than I do blog comments!) 


Purchases:
  • I have been loving this NSale purchase lately... look for it in some outfit posts that will be coming up over the next couple of weeks!
  • I just bought the most darling dress to wear as one of my outfits for the Blog Societies conference! Unfortuntely the exact dress isn't online (but look for pictures of it next week!), but this equally cute and similar dress is by the same company. 


     And my question of the week: since I've been on such a baking kick lately, have you baked anything yummy lately? (Please send me Pinterest pins if you have!)



     xoxo Miss ALK

July 25, 2016

My First Apartment: Bedroom Reveal!!














Photos by Deeana Kourtney Photography



Bed: Bedroom Expressions {similar here} Bedding: Jessica Simpson Collection // Pink Blanket: Target // Accent Pillows: At Home {similar here} // Paintings (above bed): At Home {similar here} // Painting {right of bed}: Evelyn Henson // Lamp: At Home {similar here} // Desk: IKEA {similar here} // Dresser + Mirror (holding perfume and jewelry): Rooms To Go Sophia Vergara Collection // Desktop Art Block: Curly Girl Designs // Lilly Pulitzer Inpsired Letter: Etsy // Desktop Gold Mug: Anthropologie // Planner: c/o Me & My Big Ideas // Pencil Case: Kate Spade // Makeup Containers: The Container Store 




     The much-awaited post is finally here: I'm so excited to be showing y'all my new bedroom today! While I was excited to move into and decorate each room in my apartment, my bedroom is what I was most enthusiastic about making my own. 


  
      This is the first time in my life that I've ever had a bed larger than a twin! Because of that, I had to get everything brand new for my bed: from the mattress to the bed frame down to the accent pillows! The two things that I knew before moving into my apartment were that I wanted a tufted headboard and white bedding. My headboard in my childhood bedroom is wooden (and in college dorms you don't have headboards), so I wanted something different, and I also think that tufted headboards are so elegant.  The white bedding might be a bit cliche since I am a fashion blogger... but I had fallen in love with pictures of so many other bloggers' bedrooms and I am always drawn especially to the look of crispy, white bedding! 


     There are certainly a lot of white bedding options out there, and when shopping for bedding I did thorough searches of both local home goods and department stores, and also many online retailers! I ended up going with this bedding set mainly because of the unique draped ruffles sewn into the design. This bedding pulls off the "undone yet perfectly polished" look so easily. I personally have never been one to enjoy making my bed, and I knew that if I wanted to start doing this in post grad life then I would need bedding that was easy to make. Things ended up working so well, and it takes me about two minutes each day to make my bed (less then half the time that it takes me to make my twin bed back home, just because of the differences in bedding!). 


     Followers of my blog or social media know that I am definitely a fan of color! After I realized that my bedding was definitely going to be white, and the headboard that I selected coordinated with the tan walls (which came with my apartment ;-) ), I knew that it was time to start adding chic and small pops of color to the room! Accent pillows are a great first place to start. I love the ones that I picked and they have been great for the summer months. I might switch them out later this year for fall/winter. And I fell in love with these two pink abstract art pieces for above my bed, which I found at my local At Home store (similar art piece here). The Lilly Pulitzer inspired letter "A" was a dorm room decoration from college that I purchased on Etsy a couple of years ago- it now hangs on the door of my bathroom! 


     Lastly is the table next to my bed. It is technically a desk, but I am currently using it as a table for my extra makeup storage and some additional decorations. My next decorating project for my room will be to turn this table space into a blogging desk! I want to move my extra makeup into my bathroom, figure out new homes for some of the decorations, and buy a really cute desk chair. I long for the day when I will live in a place that has room for my own blog office, but for the near future I will work on making this desk idea a reality! (The desk was given to me by a friend of mine from college who moved this past winter- sometimes friends who are moving can be a great source of apartment furniture or decor!) 


     
      I am so pleased with how my first "big girl" bedroom came together, and I can't wait to see what future rooms of mine will look like through years to come. Decorating my new apartment has been lots of fun, and I've realized that with time and perseverance, home design can absolutely be done on a budget!



    Thanks so much for reading!





     xoxo Miss ALK


July 22, 2016

Summer Fun at Craft City Social!




    I have two new favorite Charlotte hot spots for this summer season, and luckily for me, I also have had the honor of working with both of them through Southern Belle in Training! Le Meridien and the Sheraton Charlotte are two neighboring hotels in Uptown Charlotte, and this summer each of the hotels opened up a fun new venue to both hotel guests and the general public. Le Meridien launched City Lights, a modern new rooftop bar concept for Charlotte, and the Sheraton launched Craft City Social, Uptown's first public pool and day club! Some of you might remember that I attended the grand opening festivities for both of these venues earlier in the summer.


     Last weekend, I was thrilled to be invited to Craft City Social to attend their first DIVE IN movie night event of the summer! A little bit more about Craft City Social: the highlight of the venue is the brand new pool and beautiful cabanas surrounding it, which have a nice view of Uptown behind it! The bar and day club portion of Craft City opens beautifully to the pool as everything is open air. Inside there is a large bar, many comfortable couches and chairs that make the perfect hang-out space, and even some fun games like foosball! While Craft City is known more as a day club due to the pool, they are open well into the evenings as well, and continue serving there food and drink menus.


     DIVE IN movie nights are a chance to cozy up on beach chairs or in the cabanas and to watch a movie under the stars! It's essentially a drive-in movie experience, but at a swanky pool club and in the heart of the city. For the inaugural summer of DIVE IN nights, Craft City has chosen to air retro and/or musical movies. The movie that was selected for the first event was Grease. Surprisingly I had actually never seen this classic film, so I was very excited to finally get to see the tale of Sandy and Danny played out on the big screen!


     My "date" for the evening's festivities was my suitemate from senior year of college, Caroline. She's been on my blog before, and she actually took most of my blog photos in my final semester of school! We haven't seen a lot of each other this summer due to new schedules and travel plans, so it was so nice to have a girls' night out at the movies together. :-)





     Caroline and I enjoyed some delicious strawberry basil margaritas on the house from Craft City, and then settled in to enjoy the movie! The weather began to get questionable right before it was supposed to begin, so the DIVE IN movie night was moved inside near the bar. But this ended up working to our advantage I think, as we got to relax on the comfiest of couches, and we ended up being closer to the gourmet popcorn bar that was set up for guests to enjoy (and complimentary!).





     Sorry that my iPhone picture quality isn't the best, but this just shows you a little taste of all of the incredible popcorn toppings that were offered! I enjoyed hot pepper flakes and parmesan cheese on my popcorn and it was delicious.


     Caroline and I had a wonderful time watching Grease at the first DIVE IN movie night, and as always I can't wait for more fun memories to be made at Craft City Social!


     For all of you who are in the Charlotte area and interested in visiting Craft City, now is the time to do so because they are launching a special contest! One of Craft City's signature trademarks are their large and bright yellow rubber ducks that float around in the pool. In honor of a few of the rubber ducks that went missing in recent weeks, Craft City Social Club is hosting a Dirty Dozen Ducks contest! They have created 12 special ducks (which have been decorated by local artists), and these ducks are waiting to be "adopted" by Craft City guests. Craft City Social Club is encouraging those who take a special duck home to post 10 Instagram photos with their duck in various locations (tagging @craftcitysocialclub and #whattheduckclt in each post), and at the conclusion of the contest each duck owner will be entered in a contest to win three nights' lodging at Starwood Hotel properties (which own the Sheraton Hotel that Craft City is located in). How fun is this?!

     The Dirty Ducks will be available for pick up on the Craft City Social Sunday Splash Bash Pool Parties on July 24th and 31st. (Those wondering what a Splash Bash Pool Party is like can check out my recap blog post of the 4th of July Splash Bash here!)



     To my Charlotte readers: have you visited Craft City Social and/or City Lights yet? For non-Charlotte reader friends: is there anything comparable to this in your town or city? :-)



    xoxo Miss ALK



     P.S. Happy public access opening of the Nordstrom sale today! Check out my favorite picks in Wednesday's post, or in the widget on the top of my blog's homepage!


 
      Craft City Social Club provided me and my guest with free admission to their event. All opinions are honest and my own. Thank-you for supporting the brands that support Southern Belle in Training! 

July 20, 2016

2016 #NSale: My Favorites + What I Purchased.





Shop this collage:





     
     The opening date of the 2016 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (aka Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined of the blogging world) was last Thursday for Nordstrom card holders. I just became a credit card holder this year so that I could shop the sale during the early access period. I knew that I wanted a certain item and didn't want to risk it selling out, plus I am also trying to continue to build up my credit right now, so becoming a card holder was a win-win for me. But I do know that many of my readers are not Nordstrom card holders and don't intend to become ones during this year's sale. That's one of the reasons why I postponed this post until closer to when the sale opens to the public! 

     I also wanted to keep my round-up of NSale favorites short and sweet. Pretty much every other blogger out there has already shared their favorite picks, and as with most major sales, there are certain items that are definitely getting over-promoted right now. I'm all about cute fall items, but I personally don't want the same basic sweater that I know tons of other people will be wearing a few months from now, all because every other blogger was promoting it! But with that being said, I do think that there are some incredible buys to be found in this sale, and I did want to share just a few of them with y'all. 


     Y'all know about my obsession with my Tory Burch riding boots, so I treated myself to a belated graduation present and bought a second pair. (This was the hot ticket item that convinced me to pull the trigger on getting the card for Early Access!) This year's pair of riding boots are actually cheaper than the ones that I bought in the 2014 sale.... what what! And they come in two beautiful colors, both of which I have the links for above. Since my other pair is very dark, I went with the lighter shade this time.


    If you are considering buying Tory Burch riding boots when the sale goes public- set you alarm for 3 am EST (12 am PST) when the sale opens!!! These will sell out almost instantly as soon as the sale is fully open- mark my words! It's too good of a deal to beat.


     Although this was the only Tory item that I purchased this year, I shared a couple other items of note above as well- a cute cross-body purse and some classic neutral sandals. These items are very reduced as well!


     Cece by Cynthia Steffe is one of my favorite clothing lines- I absolutely love how girly and feminine all of the pieces are. I was so happy to see a few Cece pieces in the NSale! 


     Everything else that I have shared is pretty self explanatory... I think the Kate Spade watch is gorgeous and I probably would have purchased it had I not gotten the boots. The other item that I did get was the cute Kendra Scott bracelet- it'll be a perfect layering piece for arm parties!



      Have you shopped the NSale yet? What did you buy? Or if not, will you be shopping it soon?






      xoxo Miss ALK

July 19, 2016

Summer Workout Wear with Fabletics.













     Some of you might remember that I dealt with an unexpected concussion back in April. For most of my senior year of college, I had actually done very well with going to the gym and making fitness a priority in my schedule! But after having this happen to me at the end of the school year and not being cleared for physical fitness for several weeks following, it definitely got me out of whack with my gym routine. Even after I got cleared to work out again by a doctor, I was still scared about how my body (and especially head!) would react to physical activity. The good news is that I went the gym for the first time in a few months just last week, and it didn't trigger any concussion symptoms! The bad news however is that I am extremely out of shape... I definitely need to get back on my running game. (It sure was fun to pretend to run in 95+ degree weather for these photos... ;-) ). 


     Fabletics, the athletic wear brand that Kate Hudson helped to found, reached out to me for a collaboration at literally the perfect time! I am just starting to get back into regular workouts, and getting cute new workout clothes is always the perfect motivator to jump back into fitness. Fabletics just opened their first North Carolina store in Charlotte SouthPark Mall, and I was so delighted to attend a preview event on July 12th with one of my blogger besties, Morgan. We had so much fun getting to shop the store and beautiful summer collection before everything opened to the public - although the preview event did end up being way busier then I expected.

 I ended up finding two workout outfits that I loved at the event, and this purple sports bra, which coordinates with both! I'll be sharing the other outfit that I came home with soon. I wanted to share the outfit that I did in this post because I think it is ideal for working out in hot summer weather, especially for outdoor activities! I've been saying this a lot on the blog lately, but temperatures have insanely hot and humid here in Charlotte this summer. If you're going to be working out in the great outdoors, you need to be wearing very light clothing so that you don't overheat. The Neema tank is so breathable and flowing, and the Carrie shorts are the most lightweight workout shorts that I have ever worn- they even beat my favorite monogrammed Nike shorts!

     Here are a few photos from the preview event:






Look at all of the Fabletics fans waiting for the store to open!






     If you live in the Charlotte area, be sure to try and attend the Fabletics Official Grand Opening Celebration on July 23rd! You will also get the chance to shop the brand new collection in person, and there will be special discounts! Fabletics will also have champagne for all shoppers (21+), and a special performance by an acro yoga artist. Don't miss out on the fun if you're in the area!


    Lastly, at 9 am EST today, I'll be hosting a giveaway on my Instagram account for an $100 Fabletics gift card! You can use this to shop at your local Fabletics store, or online! Be sure to stop by my Instagram account @miss_alk to enter.


     And even better than one giveaway is three giveaways! Fellow Charlotte bloggers Morgan from How 2 Wear It and Chloe from A Queen City Girl are also partnering with Fabletics and giving away gift cards on their blogs/Instagrams - so be sure to follow them and support their posts! 







    xoxo Miss ALK



     Today's post was sponsored by Fabletics. All opinions are honest and my own. Thank-you for supporting the brands that support Southern Belle in Training!

July 18, 2016

The Cutest Business Casual Look.













     Summer is normally the time of year when I wear the most bright colors- I like to wear color year round but summer just begs for it! This year has been different for me though, and I've been experimenting with wearing a lot more black and neutrals recently. I don't mind them if I can put together outfits that have a girly feel to the neutral colors, and I think this outfit does exactly that! How darling is this swing skirt from Banana Republic? It's just long enough to pass the business casual dress code requirements, but short and light enough to be perfect for summer weather. 


     I don't have a traditional 9-5 job currently, but business casual attire is something that I have recently become a lot more acquainted with recently! The broadcasting school that I am attending for the next year requires all students to wear business casual clothes to all classes.  I personally love the dress code, for one because I enjoy dressing up, and also because to me this gives broadcasting school a very different feel from college! I was very guilty this past year as a senior of showing up to some of my 8 classes half in my pajamas (insert monkey emoji with hands over eyes here...). The fact that my current educational program has a dress code helps me to feel professional and motivated. This outfit would be perfect to wear on a class day at broadcasting school! 



     I know I told y'all on Twitter that I was posting my bedroom reveal post today... I am postponing it to next Monday! It will most definitely be up then though, and I'm hoping it will be worth the wait! I had the most fun decorating my bedroom out of all the spots in my new apartment. 


     Also, in other blogging news, instead posting my usual Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases post this Wednesday, I'll be sharing my personal guide to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale then! A lot of bloggers have already shared their sale guides and favorite picks,  but I know that many of my readers are not card holders and couldn't shop the sale Early Access, so I wanted to post my favorites closer to when the sale opened to the public. So stay tuned for that! In the meantime, I did add some of my NSale favorites to the top right of my blog, which you can look at and click through.









    xoxo Miss ALK




     Banana Republic provided gifted product for this blog post. All opinions are honest and my own. Thank-you for supporting the brands that support Southern Belle in Training!





July 17, 2016

How to Make a Car Emergency Kit.

      This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #UBKForMe #CollectiveBias






    Summer is a season known for many things, but something that is quintessentially associated with an American summer is a good old fashion road trip. Whether you're journeying across your state on a day trip excursion, across state lines to visit family or friends, or across the country in pursuit of adventure or exploration, there is no better time than now to hit the road. (Not to mention that gas prices are also quite reasonably priced this summer!) I'm excited to be road tripping with some blogger friends of mine next month when we attend a blogging conference. I'm sure that the car ride will be a highlight of the trip! 


     Unfortuntely, sometimes mishaps can occur on road trips. As much as we all love our cars and invest into making sure that they run smoothly, they aren't 100% fool proof. Life can still happen. Mishaps can be anything from car accidents to flat tires to dead batteries, or even just being stuck in a bad traffic jam or hitting a detour. You never quite know what to expect on the open road. 


     While road conditions and car problems might be of surprising nature, one thing that you can do to take action is by preparing an emergency preparedness kit for your car! This kit will have a variety of items in it: some safety related, some that are there for practicality's sake, and a couple of easy entertainment type items in case you are ever stranded somewhere. See what I think are the essential items for a car emergency kit:




    An item that I think is an absolute must-have for an car emergency kit is a paper map (or even better, a paper atlas!). Even though GPS devices and smartphones have now become commonplace as the means for finding our way, technology still isn't 100% fool proof. There are still areas of the country that don't have cell service, and sometimes our devices can also crash on us. Reading a map is an excellent skill to have, and I'm so thankful that my mom taught me how to do this when I was younger! (Fun fact about me: I absolutely adore reading maps and atlases for fun as well!)

     Two items that I also wanted in my own kit were a lint roller and an adult coloring book. You never know when you might be in a sticky situation with your clothes and want to clean up a bit, and as far as a coloring book goes, you also never know when you might be stranded somewhere and need fast and easy entertainment!




     A flashlight and hammer are essential to keep in your car in case of emergencies. These are items that you might not use on a daily basis,  but if you ever need them you'll be so glad they're there! And two items that I use quite often that I keep in my car are packs of tissues and a spare umbrella. Tissues can have a variety of uses, and living in the South... you never know when a downpour will hit!




     And finally, for all of you ladies, keeping feminine hygiene products in your vehicle is an absolute must! I'm not normally one to talk about things like periods on the blog... but let's get real for a second, they don't always come when they're supposed to! And even if yours does, chances are you could have a friend riding in your vehicle who might be having her time of the month. It can sometimes be difficult to pick up your preferred feminine hygiene products when you are traveling and in a quick pinch. My preferred brand for tampons and liners is U by Kotex®. (And no- I'm not just saying that because this is a sponsored post. It actually is! Again without being TMI- I've been using this brand for years and now it's the only brand of products that I will buy.)


      I think that is always better to be safe rather than sorry, and to keep everything back-ups of everything that I might need feminine hygiene-wise in my car and ready to go. This is why my U by Kotex® Click® Tampons and Barely There Liners make up the last item in my car's emergency preparedness kit! You can conveniently find a wide array of  U by Kotex® tampons, pads and liners at your local CVS store: 






     Lastly, I've heard before that some people keep bottles of water and perishable food in their car's emergency kits. Here in the South, summer temperatures are often in the high 90s and feature extreme humidity, so I didn't think it was the most practically decision for my kit to keep food and water in there- I was worried about how long it would last! But if you are from a cooler climate, these might be excellent additions to your car emergency kit. 






     Have you made a car emergency kit before? What would be your essential items for one? 


     
     xoxo Miss ALK

July 13, 2016

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases.





{Follow me on Instagram and Snapchat @miss_alk!}



Ramblings: 


  • The biggest rambling of all is that I started broadcasting school this week! In case you missed it, I shared in this post back in April that my plans after graduating college this spring were to stay in Charlotte for the following year (hopefully permanently!) to attend broadcasting school here in the city. This program will give me in-depth studio and voice training to prepare me for both the radio and television career market, and more experience than I was able to get in the college classroom and through my internships. Anyways, classes started this week and I had a wonderful first day of school! It gave me confidence in the decision to pursue further education after college (this is like the equivalent of "grad school" for my field.) 
  • In case anyone needs a laugh today... this is the funniest Buzzfeed article that I've seen in awhile!! Since Buzzfeed and similar websites have exploded in popularity and content, I think it's getting harder and harder to find the truly funny articles. But this one takes the cake and made my day!
  • Myself and three of my NC blogger friends: Cara, Morgan and Sarah, will be heading to Charleston in just a few weeks for the annual Blog Societies Conference! I cannot WAIT! This will not only be my first blog conference, but also my first visit to Charleston. We are starting to talk amongst ourselves about planning an agenda for the times that we don't have conference activities, so if you've been to Charleston before, please comment (or email me!) and share any restaurant or activity recommendations! 
  • Speaking of Morgan, she and I attended a really fun event in Charlotte' SouthPark Mall last night! It was the pre-opening event for the new Fabletics store, which sells adorable workout and athleisure attire. A big thank-you to the Charlotte Agenda for inviting us! After the event, we headed to Nordstrom to try and get a sneak peak at NSale merchandise. The store already had it all out, it was just behind big curtains- so dramatic! I snapchatted a bunch of what we saw, so be sure you're following me on there to see today before the snaps expire tonight!


Purchases:
  • How cute is this top which I recently purchased?! It is so lightweight and perfect for hot southern summers, and the color makes it an easy fall transition piece as well. 
  • Another reminder that the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale begins TOMORROW for cardholders!! Be sure to check out my blog post from yesterday for more info about the sale if you haven't previously shopped in it. 
  • Okay so I haven't actually purchased this (yet...), but how freaking cute is this?! Like if I had a full time big-girl job and wasn't back in school, I would have walked out of the Lilly Pulitzer store with this, probably without trying it on. If I don't spend much in the NSale I can definitely pick it up soon, but at the same time I want new riding boots... #decisions. ;-)


     My weekly question for y'all: with the Nordstrom sale approaching and so much buzz about Nordstrom right now, I want to know, what is your favorite department store? Is it Nordstrom or somewhere else? Personally, I shop at Nordstrom for select items and retailers, but my favorite department store for general merchandise is probably Dillard's! I think they always have the cutest dresses. Belk is another favorite of mine (a Southern department store chain.) 



     xoxo Miss ALK

July 12, 2016

Getting Ready for the NSale... (and Two Other Great Sales!)




     I certainly can't be the first blogger to break the news to you, but since the famous Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is such a big deal here in the blogging world, it needed a post of its own on my blog as well.  If you are new to shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, I've broken down some helpful how-to's about the sale below:



What is the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale? 
      While Nordstrom has lots of sales throughout the year, their Anniversary Sale, which begins each year in mid-July, is by far their biggest sale of the year! Nordstrom is an excellent department store because they carry a wide range of both high-end designers as well as more affordable labels. The anniversary sale features hundreds upon hundreds of marked down items, including but not limited to clothing, jewelry, accessories, beauty and home goods! But what sets this sale apart from those of other retailers is that it's brand new fall and winter merchandise that is going on sale. Typically retailers only put merchandise from previous seasons on clearance. Nordstrom does the exact opposite in their Anniversary Sale, and it's a great time to get a head start on your fall wardrobe- heck, even your Christmas shopping!



Do I absolutely need to shop the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale?
     During this week and for the rest of the month, you will see this sale over-promoted by bloggers. It happened two years ago, it happened last year, and it will happen again this year. Mark my words. ;-) The reason that we all feel compelled to share the products from this sale so much is because the mark downs are very good for the quality of the items (especially the designer brand pieces in the sale!). However- once the sale opens and you take a look at this year's items... if you just honestly aren't feeling like any of them are calling your name, don't feel like you have to buy! While I made a big purchase in the sale two years ago (my beloved Tory Burch riding boots!), in last year's sale I just didn't "love" any items. Sure there were a lot of picks that were pretty great, but I also studied abroad last summer which took up a lot of my money at the time, so given that I didn't fall in love with anything, I knew that it was a sale that I could skip. Being financially responsible is always the most important! And remember too- there are other department stores! I personally am a huge fan of Dillard's and Belk and tend to shop there just as much as I do at Nordstrom. And if high-end designer items are your calling, there is also a ShopBop sale this week (more info about that at the end of this post!)
      So basically my point is- get excited about the Nordstrom sale, and be prepared to shop, but if you don't fall in love with anything, don't put pressure on yourself to buy things that you won't really love!



What is Early Access?
      Early Access is when the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale opens online early for Nordstrom card holders! It opens to cardholders this week on July 14th, and to the general public on July 22nd. (The sale ends August 8th). While there will still be plenty of great items in the sale on July 22nd and beyond, the hottest items (such as certain styles of designer purses, watches and boots) tend to sometimes sell out before Early Access is over. If you want to guarantee that you'll get your favorite item! Sign up ASAP for your Nordstrom card! Nordstrom has two card options: a credit card and debit card. While I am generally a fan of debit for everything, I chose to go with a Nordstrom credit card as I am trying to build my credit currently. But it is so great that they offer customers the choice! Another interesting thing is that Nordstrom also offers customers a brand-new rewards program which you do not need to open a card to be apart of. However- simply being a rewards member doesn't allow you Early Access to the Anniversary Sale.



What items am I looking for in the sale? 
      While there are truly hundreds of items that will be marked down starting on July 14th, and many of them from designer brands, in order to avoid over-spending I will be going into the Anniversary Sale with certain items on my wishlist. The #1 item would be a new pair of Tory Burch riding boots! My pair from two years ago is still holding up well, but I wear them so much in the cooler months that I could use another pair. If I don't like this year's Tory Burch offerings, I might look at other brands that have riding boots in the sale.
     I will also have my eye on Kendra Scott jewelry, cute pajama sets (this is a great time to upgrade your pajama and lingerie collection!), and dresses that are chic and cute for my upcoming travels in August and September!



     So there is all the info about the Nordstrom sale! One of my favorite North Carolina bloggers is Caitlin from Southern Curls and Pearls, and she has written an excellent NSale guide post which I also recommend checking out if you want more information.



     But this really must be sale week, because in addition to the upcoming NSale, there are two other fantastic sales happening this week!


    First off, today is the second annual Amazon Prime Day for Prime members, featuring over 100,000 deals worldwide on Amazon (yes- 100,000+ deals!). Two categories to be aware of is that there are 30% off clothing, shoes and accessories, and 35% off luxury beauty items.


     And ShopBop is also having a surprise sale today! This sale will only be running through today and tomorrow. ShopBop is a premier online retailer for designer brands. While I find their price ranges to typically be out of my budget, the fact that all of their already on sale designer merchandise is further marked down right now is definitely worth checking into! Save 25% on designer sale items with code DESIGNER25 through July 13th. While the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale will be focusing on upcoming fall and winter collection items, this ShopBop sale is a great time to get last chance savings on favorite summer items- (especially designer swimwear!).


     Since the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale isn't open yet, I've linked my favorite items from the Amazon and ShopBop sales below! Happy Shopping!


     And speaking of shopping, I am so excited to be attending a grand opening event for a new store here in Charlotte tonight! Be sure you're following me on Snapchat and Instagram @miss_alk to follow along.







     Lastly, one more chance for you to win the $1225 Nordstrom gift card giveaway that myself and some other great bloggers are sponsoring, just in time for the sale!

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Gift Card Giveaway




     xoxo Miss ALK

July 11, 2016

TRAVEL GUIDE: Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

     When I think of my college years, one of the first things that comes to mind is my journey from being a native Mainer to becoming a Southern girl (or a "Southern Belle in Training," hence my blog's name!). And when I speak of this transition process, a very large part of it was quite literally, the journey! The journey being that each May and August, my dad would help me make the 15-16 hour drive from either North Carolina to Maine, or Maine to North Carolina- depending on which semester was ending! Since the drive from my native home to my chosen home is so long, we never did it all at once, and always spent nights along the road.

     There are two main ways to drive from Maine to NC on the interstate highways. One would be to follow I-95 out of Maine and all the way to Virginia, and then to pick up I-85 into Charlotte. This might seem on paper to be the most direct, but in reality this route takes you directly through many of the East Coast's largest metropolises (including Washington DC!), so my dad and I never took this route. Instead we would do a combination of 11 interstates, starting with I-95 in Maine, and ending with I-277, which is the spur that runs through Uptown Charlotte!


     The interstate that you are on for the longest on the route that my dad and I take is I-81. We pick it up just outside of Harrisburg, PA, and remain on it until just south of Roanoke, VA. This brings the portion of the drive on I-81 to just shy of 350 miles... about 1/3 of the total mileage for the trip! And the majority of the time on I-81 is spent driving through the beautiful mountains and countryside of Western Virginia, otherwise known as the Shenandoah Valley.


     My dad and I have spent many nights and taken countless rest stops in the cities and towns off I-81 in this region of Virginia. This was a part of the US that I was previously unfamiliar with before my first time helping my dad do the drive, and last week when I did the Maine/NC drive with my mom for the first time, it was delightful for her to get to see how beautiful the Virginia mountains are and how charming this area is! I thought that it would be fun to put together a travel guide blog post of some of my favorite places in this region that I have gotten to discover over the past few years. Without further ado, here is my travel guide to my favorite cities and towns off of I-81 in Western Virignia, from North to South!





Harrisonburg: This city of just under 50,000 is located directly off of I-81 in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. It is well-known for being home to James Madison University. My dad and I have spent many nights here during our road trips, as it's a good enough distance from either leaving or coming to Charlotte that it's a good place to stop at for a night.

Lodging: We usually stay at Marriott hotels on our road trips. We have enjoyed staying at both the Fairfield Inn and the Courtyard hotels in Harrisonburg and found both hotel stays to be pleasant experiences!

Food: A fast food staple of the Carolinas, especially for college students, is Cook Out, a late night drive-up chain known for their burgers and milkshakes (although my personal preference are their delicious quesadillas!). Cook Out does have some locations in Virginia, and one of the northernmost locations of all is in Harrisonburg! This is a great place to stop for something quick if you're just passing through and are unfamiliar with what is Cook Out, and it's also very accessible from a highway exit.
     If you have a bit more time to spare, my dad and I have enjoyed dinner before at the Taste of India restaurant. We both adore Asian cuisine, and especially quality Indian food, and when we dined at this restaurant we were very impressed with both the service and the food!
     Lastly, as a self-proclaimed milkshake coinesseur, I am very picky about the milkshakes that I give my seal of approval to. (I'm not even a big fan of the ever popular Cook Out shakes!) But I was absolutely blown away by my first experience having a chocolate malt shake at the famous Kline's Dairy Bar in downtown Harrisonburg. Emily of Emily Sacra photography took me there at the end of our photoshoot last year (more about that at the bottom of this post!), but if you are passing through the area and do have any extra time to spare, make a trip downtown to Kline's and you will not regret it!




Emily Sacra Photography





Staunton: This quaint Virginia town does not look like very much when cruising by the exit on I-81, but if you stop and drive a mile or two into town, you will be absolutely blown away! Staunton is full of vintage and local charm, and the downtown has one of the most charming and unique vibes of any small town that I've ever visited. 
     My only visit to this town was for one of the funnest rest stops ever: getting to meet up with my friend Meredith (of Meredith Sledge Photography) in May 2015 to both catch up, and have a photoshoot for my blog! To date, this was still one of my most creative and inspired photoshoots of all time. Meredith is unbelievably talented, and the town of Staunton provided the perfect backdrop for her work. I would love to return to spend more time in the downtown someday and see what else the area has to offer though!

Lodging: I have never spent a night here on road trips (Usually just north in Harrisonburg as it's not that much further up the highways, but there are a variety of lodging options in the town and near the highway! 

Food: Meredith, my dad and I enjoyed coffee and treats and a delightful coffee shop called By and By, which is located on E. Beverley Street in the downtown area. This place was the epitome of what a local coffee shop should be!




Meredith Sledge Photography 
{Dress is old from a boutique // similar necklace // similar hat






Lexington/Natural Bridge: The last stop on my Western Virginia travel guide that I'll be covering is town of the Lexington, and the Natural Bridge attraction, which is just south of Lexington further down I-81. Lexington is a cute town that reminded me a lot of Staunton- not much to see from the highway, but as soon as you're in the downtown there is much charm and history. Lexington is also a college town and is home to Washington and Lee University, and Virginia Military Institute. 


Lodging: My mom and I stayed at the Best Western Plus in Lexington on our most recent road trip from Maine to NC. An important note: there are two Best Westerns in Lexington: a regular one and then the Plus hotel. We really enjoyed the Plus hotel and found it to be clean, comfortable, and they provided a nice complimentary breakfast! 
     I haven't stayed here so I can't vouch for it, but when my mom and I enjoyed the downtown of Lexington, we saw the most lovely looking historic hotel called the Robert E. Lee Hotel. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area I'm sure! 


Food: My mom and I enjoyed dining at The Southern Inn restaurant in downtown Lexington! They serve contemporary Southern and American cuisine, and had a very diverse menu. (I personally would recommend the lamb meatballs appetizer!) If we had more time, I would have loved to walk on some of the town streets near the restaurant and universities. 







Natural Bridge Attraction: One of my favorite things that I have ever stopped to do on a road trip, and possibly favorite nature related excursions ever, was when my dad and I visited Natural Bridge in August 2015! Natural Bridge is a natural attraction that was formed thousands of years ago when a cavern collapsed in Virginia's mountains. The result was truly a "natural bridge" formed by rock and land. You can take a hike on the various trails in Natural Bridge park to see the bridge itself, and the other beautiful nature in the park. This is very easily accessible from the highway, making it a perfect rest stop. 








     And this concludes my road trip travel guide to the western part of Virginia! Have any of you ever been to any of these towns and cities before? Or have any of you ever grown so accustomed to the same long road trip from repetition, that like me and my parents, you've discovered a new part of the country that you've grown fond of?


    Lastly, if you ever are in this area or are in need of a photographer (or need a great photographer who travels!), I have to recommend Meredith Sledge Photography and Emily Sacra Photography, the two amazing photographers and sweet friends of mine from this area who I worked with for the shoots featured in this post! 




     xoxo Miss ALK