October 31, 2017

VERMONT TRAVEL GUIDE: Best Trails Near Burlington.

     One thing that often surprises people about me is that as much as I am a fashion-loving girly-girl, I also love the outdoors. Hiking, visiting botanical gardens, going on scenic drives, water activities in lakes, enjoying sunshine... all things that I love doing!! I wouldn't say that I'm a huge outdoorsy person.... I have my limits, and those limits end at camping. I am NOT a fan of camping- I had some bad experiences with that growing up with scarred me for life! But if outdoor activities are happening in daylight and guarantee I'll be back in my home by that night, I'm all about it! 


Best Hiking Trails Vermont



North Carolina had a lot of hiking opportunities in the western part of the state. I did get to visit some cool trails and mountains while I lived there, although not as many as I would have liked. I made it a personal goal to get outdoors more frequently living in Vermont, at least during the warmer months. I think that I did well with that this summer!! My favorite trail, which you'll read about in this post, I visited bi-weekly (sometimes even more) for most of the summer either before or after work, and it was such a great way to build in outdoor time during my weeks. If you're coming to visit the Burlington area anytime soon and looking for a way to get outside, these walking and hiking trails are my favorites!! The two mountain trails I'm sharing in this post are both smaller mountains, and they're perfect hikes for day hikers like myself- anyone who enjoy hiking as an occasional hobby, but might not be up for a steep all-day hike! 



Shelburne Bay Vermont


   
     1. Shelburne Bay Park Trail, Shelburne: I found this trail kind of on a whim, and it was such a delightful spot to find! Since moving to Burlington, I'd heard a lot about a natural area called Shelburne Farms. I'd been wanting to visit there, until I saw on their website that since Shelburne Farms is privately owned, they charge daily admission prices. I definitely prefer free outdoor experiences, so I was really excited to come across the Shelburne Bay Park Trail, which is owned by the town of Shelburne and completely free to enjoy and explore! This beautiful trail follows the lake and then ends up into the woods, and it was a perfect walk for a weekend. I enjoyed taking lots of pictures of the lake views from the trail!


 
Colchester Causeway Vermont


     2. Colchester Causeway, Colchester: If you follow me on Instagram Stories, you should recognize this spot, as I come here pretty frequently! After my radio studio, it is hands down my favorite place in Vermont!! This trail is unlike any that I've ever been to before. The Causeway jets out straight out onto Lake Champlain, and when walking on it you're surrounded by 360 lake views! It's truly incredible. It's a very long path that goes almost across a portion of the lake and out to one of the Champlain Islands. It doesn't quite connect the mainland to the island (boats still have to be able to pass through the lake, but in the summer there is a ferry in the daytime for bikes! If you walk out far enough, you can see the sign pictured above, where the county line changes in the middle of the lake. I work in Colchester, so the Causeway isn't too far of a drive for me to make before work, or after work back in the summer when it was light out. It's such a beautiful place that I love to visit, and if you're near Burlington for travel, I can't stress enough how special this trail is! 


     
Mount Philo Vermont





   
     3. Mount Philo, Charlotte (pronounced Shar-LOT): A group of my coworkers took me to hike Mount Philo the weekend after I moved to Vermont, and it's one of my favorite memories from my first weeks here! Mount Philo is a small mountain, and it can easily be hiked in about an hour. The summit is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic and take in the beautiful views, as there's lot of picnic tables and Adirondack chairs at the top. If hiking just isn't your thing, but you still want to take in the views, you're in luck as Mount Philo actually has a paved road that goes all the way to the top in addition to the trail! So you can hike it or drive it. Mount Philo is one of Vermont's state parks, so during the warmer months there is a slight admission charge, but during the colder months it's free to access this hike!


Snake Mountain Vermont


     4. Snake Mountain, Addison: This mountain is a bit of a steeper hike than Mount Philo, but it is still easy to complete within a couple hours. My coworkers and I also did this one when I was still new to Vermont- and the day that we did it the weather was in the 40s, and it actually hailed a little bit when we reached the summit. Brrr!! I'm sure it would be much more enjoyable in beautiful weather, but I still loved the views anyways, despite the cold! Since Snake Mountain is taller than Philo, you have a wider and more impressive view of Lake Champlain and the surrounding farm towns.



      And there you have it- four of my favorite hikes and trails that I've discovered here in Vermont! If you missed my first Vermont Travel Guide post all about my favorite local restaurants in Burlington, you can check that out here.



     Please let me know of any Vermont Travel Guide blog post requests that you have! I want to make these as helpful as possible for anyone thinking of visiting the area! 😊



      God Bless,



      xoxo Annaliese

October 30, 2017

How to Wear Lilly Pulitzer in the Fall.

     It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Lilly Pulitzer, and the iconic bright colors and preppy styles that has made the brand famous. Of course my love for Lilly does intensify a bit during the warmer months, but it doesn't mean that I stop loving Lilly in the fall and winter!! Today I'll be sharing a fall-appropriate Lilly outfit, and a few tips that I use when putting together preppy looks to keep my Lilly love going strong all year long (even here in Vermont!).


How to Wear Lilly Pulitzer in Fall

Lilly Pulitzer in Fall

Fall Preppy Style - Lilly Pulitzer

Stowe Vermont - Preppy Fall Style

Tory Burch Riding Boots Lilly Pulitzer

Stowe Vermont Fall Foliage

Vermont Fall Style



Photography by Melissa Lynn Studios 


This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Southern Belle in Training! 






     Lilly Pulitzer can absolutely be worn in the fall, and even some pieces in the winter months!! As long as it's the right Lilly items. The main reason that I ordered the day dress that I'm wearing in today's post is because I knew it was the perfect Lilly dress to transition from summer to fall. The navy stripes and purple design on it are a bit of a contrast from some of the pinks, greens, and bright neon hues that are present in a lot of Lilly's summer shift designs. It was so easy to make this outfit ideal for fall by adding a vest and riding boots! If looking for Lilly dresses to wear in the cooler months, look for ones that might be short sleeved or have 3/4 length sleeves like this one did, and in darker colors than Lilly's traditional summer color palette. 


      Other Lilly items that I enjoy wearing in the cooler months are scarves, athleisure (I adore my workout leggings that I have!), and Elsa tops. A bright Elsa top is a great way to add a pop of color to a fall or winter business casual look. I don't personally own any Lilly Pulitzer sweaters yet, but I do know that they make some gorgeous sweater and cardigan options as well! 


     And of course I can't forget... the best way to add a pop of Lilly to your look during fall and winter is to bring a Lilly travel mug with you for your hot beverage! I bought my Lilly travel mug during freshman or sophomore year of college, I still use it multiple times a week, and it's held up so well!! I want to ask for another one for Christmas this year since I use my first one so much. 



     Today's outfit post is the last of my Stowe, Vermont photoshoots with my photographer Melissa! We did a Stowe day trip a few weeks back, and were able to get some really fun photoshoots in (this post, this post, and this post were also done that day!!). Unfortunately we were there a few days before the foliage really started to turn, but I was still happy to spend an afternoon there shooting! Stowe is a very quaint little resort town deep in the Green Mountains of Vermont. It's about an hour south of Burlington, and although it's very drivable for a day trip, I think it feels much further away! Just from browsing my Instagram and Blog Lovin' this fall season, it seems like a lot of bloggers from all over the country have been vacationing in Stowe during foliage season. I think Stowe would be a cute place to visit if you're unfamiliar with New England and want a taste of small town life for a few days! 








     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese 





October 28, 2017

MONTREAL TRAVEL GUIDE: The BEST Shopping at Quartier DIX30.

    When I was in 9th grade, my Honors English class used to have a weekly discussion question on our class website. It was kind of like a mini essay, to practice writing outside of traditional papers. Anyways, I'll never forget that one week's question asked what your biggest goal was in the future for your life. Most of my classmates responded with things related to educational goals, having families someday, once in a lifetime dream experiences, or things along these lines. My answer to the question at age 14? To shop at the Mall of America. I know, I know. I'm cringing now thinking back on that!! (Really Annaliese?! That was your life goal?) But that just goes to show you how I've always been a fan of the retail experience. I'm sharing this little story to give you a bit of background into how much I truly enjoyed visiting this special shopping center outside of Montreal last weekend! I've definitely found one of my new favorite places here in the North.


    One of the things that I dislike the most about life in my new home state of Vermont is the extreme lack of brick and mortar retail. Vermont's government has a ton of regulations in place to make it very hard to new growth and development to enter the state (even in populated areas), and while I do see the benefit of maintaining the natural beauty of the state... I'm also 110% team retail/new buildings/economic growth/NEW THINGS! Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the country right now, both population and industry, so it was definitely a shock to move here to Vermont. Having such a lack of retail presence is definitely hard as a fashion blogger! Of course online shopping is available and I have taken advantage of it since moving, but in my heart I've always been more partial to the experience of shopping in-store or at a mall. The "largest mall" in the state of Vermont is a town over from Burlington... and let me just say it is SAD, y'all. I go there sometimes to pick up Bath and Body Works candles... and literally the status of every other store in there depresses me! There are actual malls in New Hampshire and New York, but the closest ones are still about three hours each from the Burlington area, and that's a long ways to drive with my current work schedule of being on-air six days a week. So for the longest time, I didn't have a solution to my lack-of-shopping problem! 


     I don't know why it took me a full six months since moving to realize this.... but the winning answer wasn't in New Hampshire or New York. It was to the north, in Canada! Hello province of Quebec and Montreal metro area... land of abundant malls and fabulous shopping! 


Best Montreal Shopping Guide


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     One of my coworkers, Joann, and I did a day trip to Montreal last weekend, and after spending the earlier part of the afternoon in the downtown of the city, she told me that she had to take me to a nice shopping area outside the city on our way back to Vermont. I was expecting something maybe of the size of a large strip mall? Like I said- Vermont has almost non-existent retail, so just about any type of shopping center seems cool compared to where I live now! Joann took me to Quartier DIX30... and this place was unreal. My mouth actually dropped open in awe as I parked the car and we started walking! Forget one really nice strip mall... this was like 12 huge strip malls all next to each other! I've always enjoyed visiting large malls and shopping centers when I travel, and despite all the malls that I've been to in the past, I've NEVER seen something like this before in my life. It was ENDLESS.


   



     Here's a picture of the DIX30 directory for reference!! Each of those colored sections is like a huge strip mall in itself. I really don't feel like I can convey how big this is! I tried to find some more specific info about the shopping center online. DIX30 is considered to be Canada's very first "lifestyle" shopping center, and by square feet it is actually a little bit bigger than the Mall of America! My favorite mall in Charlotte, SouthPark, had 150+ stores. Currently, DIX30 has 300+ stores, and it isn't fully completed yet!! It truly is a "lifestyle center." 


     



      This was my favorite second of DIX30! Two HUGE locations of two of my favorite stores, right next to each other!! The Zara was three levels and I could not get enough. I haven't shopped at a Forever 21 in-store since before I moved, and it was so fun to finally do that again! 






     For American stores, DIX30 has a lot of popular American fashion and home goods retailers like Banana Republic, Michael Kors, Pier 1 Imports, American Eagle Outfitters and Aerie, and Urban Outfitters. I was also really surprised to find an Anthropologie there! I used to love browsing Anthro back in Charlotte, and I had no idea that they had international locations. DIX30 also has a huge plethora of wonderful Canadian retailers. While exploring, I saw locations for Le Chateau, Ardene and La Senza, which are just a few of my favorite Canadian stores! 



     Another thing that I loved so much about visiting DIX30 is that it wasn't just about the great shopping, it truly was a whole experience and ambiance. Each shopping district had its own feel to it, and many of them had pedestrian only streets that were decorated to the nines. The one pictured below was one of my favorites that we saw- it had a gorgeous fountain in between several buildings with shops and restaurants, and one of the walkways had beautiful lanterns hung between the buildings (which you can see up close in the first photo in the post!).



Quartier Dix30 Montreal




     Joann and I were only able to spend a couple hours at DIX30, and I feel like I barely touched the surface on this amazing shopping center. My dad is coming to visit me in Vermont next weekend, and I already told him to pack his passport and prepare for a shopping trip! I can't wait to go back and experience more of this place. 



     Quartier DIX30 is located in the Montreal suburb of Brossard, Quebec. Brossard is on the South Shore of Montreal, so it is closer to Vermont/New York. You don't actually have to cross the bridge into Montreal to get to DIX30, so you don't have to stress about city and bridge traffic to visit here. It's about an hour and forty five minutes to get to DIX30 from Burlington- plan for about a two hour drive in case you have any traffic at the border, which can happen. 


     Right now it is so to the advantage for US residents to shop in Canada, with the way that the dollar exchange is right now! It is very favorable for US currency holders to shop in Canada currently- and it will save you money on clothing purchases to do so there! I am just so frustrated that I didn't start doing this sooner.... Montreal and its suburbs are really so accessible to Burlington, and clearly the retail options are much better! 



     I hope y'all enjoyed this little recap of my visit to DIX30! Question: would you be interested in a blog post where I visit and review multiple malls in Montreal and the suburbs? Although DIX30 is the largest shopping area, it certainly isn't the only one, and I think it might be fun over the next few months to visit different malls up there and review them all in a guide for US shoppers! Is that something that would interest you?




     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese 

October 26, 2017

Fall PR Packages Review.

     It's that time again! Every couple months on the blog, I like to share and review the fun PR packages that I get through blogging. Most of them are beauty related, but sometimes I do get some that fall into other categories. You can check out my previous PR Packages post here! As always- my little disclaimer that this post isn't sponsored in any way by the brands featured, PR Packages are "gifts" that brands send out to bloggers to test and review at their leisure, I'm not currently in a paid relationship with any of these brands! So all opinions in today's post are absolutely 100% honest! Let's jump in:


Beauty Blogger - Unboxing Fall PR Packages


This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Southern Belle in Training! 




     First up are a few new packages from one of my favorites, IT Cosmetics! I know that many of y'all have become hooked on this brand just like I have, and that makes me so happy, because so many of their products are game changers. The first package that I recently received from IT had two new skincare products. First up was the Miracle Water, which is a liquid cleansing product. I tested this for a couple weeks and while I did like it, but it probably isn't something that I would purchase on my own, since you should probably have a certain type of cotton pad to apply it with for it to really work well. They also sent their Secret Sauce anti-aging moisturizing cream, which I enjoyed testing! However- I didn't see any difference between this on my skin and their Confidence in a Cream, which I was previously using. (So I've gone back to finishing my Confidence in a Cream, and then I'll probably come back to Secret Sauce to finish that- lol!) I think both work very well as moisturizers, I just don't see a difference between the two and the results. 





      
     Next up from IT Cosmetics- they recently re-did their fan favorite CC Cream! The new version is called Your Skin But Better CC Cream with SPF 50+. Wouldn't this be just ideal for summer with the high SPF?! I actually wasn't a huge fan of the original IT CC Cream,  but so far I'm liking this one better! I wear shade Light, and it looks gorgeous on! 





      Unfortunately... I really didn't like the products that are up next. I promise to always give honest reviews in these PR Package review posts, and the truth is that sometimes I just don't like certain products very much!
      John Freida sent me several haircare items from their Frizz Ease line. A background on my hair: I had pin-straight hair growing up, but I permed it during my freshman year of college. Since I got a perm with "virgin" hair, the perm took very well and remnants of it lasted well for the rest of my college years! My hair has predominantly gone back to straight now, but my natural hair still has a little bit of wave and frizz to it, and probably always will, thanks to that perm. Anyways, I was excited to try these products on my natural hair, but was unfortunately super disappointed in the results! The shampoo and conditioner left a lot of residue on my hair, and the curl/wave enhancing products just made my hair look dirty and unkept, instead of naturally wavy and pretty. I think as far as the curl enhancers, that might be because I don't have a lot of natural curl anymore as its been years since I had that perm. I'm giving those products to a friend who has naturally curly hair to see if she has different results! But anyways, I wouldn't recommend the John Freida Frizz Ease products for someone with hair like mine.





       The next product is from another favorite line of mine, Aveda! Their newest haircare product is called Texture Tonic, and it's a perfect blend of a salt and sugar spray, that's designed to add texture and natural waves to your hair. I tested this a few times when I had damp hair after a shower, and sprayed some Texture Tonic onto my hair, scrunched it, and then slept on it as it air dried. The end results were definitely better than the similar product that John Freida Frizz Ease had sent over! Texture Tonic probably isn't something that I'll be using too much in the winter months to come, but I feel like this will be a product that I'll come back to the the summer, for an easy and relaxed hair look for lake and beach days!! This is essentially beach hair in a bottle!





      The next few products are from a new-to-me brand! About a month ago, Elemis sent me their Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, which was being packaged in a limited edition special pink box for October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Y'all- this cream is incredible. It feels like you're putting a big, cozy blanket of moisture and goodness on your face! That might be a weird analogy, but really, I've never used any face cream that feels as luxurious as this one! And I loved the pink packaging for October. Elemis also just sent me another package of skincare goodies that arrived right as I was shooting the photos for this post. I wasn't able to test the products yet, but they look amazing, and it was so kind of the brand to already send more goodies! 





      Pun intended... Goody Hair recently sent me a bunch of goodies! I've loved Goody's hair accessories for many years! Their hair elastics, clips, and bobby pins are affordable and also work so well! They sent all the essentials, and a gorgeous-looking new hair brush! Fun fact: I actually haven't owned a hair brush in about a year and a half. (I just use a wide tooth comb.) I'm excited to give brushing a go again! 




     And lastly- a non-beauty package! I did an Instagram collaboration this summer with YumEarth, which is a great organic candy and snack company. I've become social media friends with one of their sweet employees, Jacqueline, who does their marketing and PR. She sent me the sweetest little Halloween package, filled with mini sizes of YumEarth candy favorites! 






      And that's it for my Fall PR Packages!! Holiday PR gifts should be arriving soon... so stay tuned for that post in a month or two!







      God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese

October 25, 2017

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases + Current Wishlist.




{In Old Montreal this weekend - one of the most European feeling parts of the city! Follow me on social media @miss_alk!} 


This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Southern Belle in Training!




Ramblings:
  • Unexpected amazing weekend: I was so worried going into this weekend that I was going to spend it alone...again. Since moving to Vermont I've had too many weekends to count where I haven't had any plans minus going to church on Sunday, and while down time can definitely be nice sometimes, I'm too much of an extrovert to enjoy doing that every weekend! I ended up having some really fun last minute plans come together, and this was by far my favorite weekend since moving here! The weather was gorgeous (it has been a beautiful October), and my friend Anna and went hiking on Saturday evening after I got out of work. On Sunday, one of my coworkers and I took a spontaneous day trip to Montreal. We explored Old Montreal, Chinatown, and then went shopping on the way back to Vermont at the biggest mall/shopping center type place that I've ever seen in my life!! That experience is getting a blog post of its own on Friday! My weekend ended with getting to meet some of Anna's other girlfriends on Sunday night, which was so fun. This was the first weekend I think in the six months I've lived here since I didn't really dwell on missing Charlotte... and that felt nice. 😊 (Speaking of enjoying Vermont more- check out Monday's post if you haven't yet!) 
  • Fall "bucket list" progress: I shared an informal fall bucket list for this season in this blog post, and I'm excited that I've been making progress with doing fall activities. I went on a fall hike this weekend, I've baked two pumpkin dessert recipes, and tomorrow night my bible study group is carving and painting pumpkins! It's definitely fun to make the most of fall while I'm living in such a fall-friendly state.
  • Pumpkin spice WHAT? If you need a good laugh today- check this out!! Despite the fact that I moved back to New England... I can never resist the chance to get a laugh out of the weirdness of my home state of Maine. I can't believe this sign was real and actually on display to the general public! 
  • One week from today: It'll be Christmas in my apartment!! Last year I started the tradition of putting up my Christmas tree on November 1st, and I think that tradition is sticking around permanently! I'm already excited to get the apartment decked out for the holiday season.


Purchases:
  • Um so my retail therapy needs were definitely satisfied north of the border this weekend! My coworker and I enjoyed exploring Montreal's cute little Chinatown, and we both bought some gorgeous dishes from a tea shop there! They had the prettiest China patterns. I love finding unique things for the home and kitchen like that, which aren't necessarily sold at national retailers. 
  • For the first time in MANY months- I finally got to shop at physical location of one of my favorite stores! One of my favorite things to get from this retailer are sports bras, and this one was on-sale, so I had to grab it. How cute is it?! 
  • I also picked up a few new winter beanies and headbands! With Vermont's winter steadily approaching... I know that I'll need more cute wintery hats for freezing weather. 
  • My newest favorite store to visit when I travel internationally is Zara. I'm kind of obsessed! Montreal has a bunch of Zara locations, and I was so excited to visit one this weekend. I picked up this adorable skirt, which will be so perfect for fall and winter outfits! 
  • I also bought some super cute jeans this weekend. I couldn't find the exact pair online, but they're very similar to this pair from Nordstrom.


Wishlist:
  • Ummm.... ALL of Zara's blanket scarves!! I have one from last year (see it styled in this blog post) but they had so many cute ones for this season! 
  • How darling are these little stud earrings? I saw them while shopping this weekend... they're a little bit more than I usually spend on tiny studs, but they're just so cute! I might have to order them if they go on sale. 
  • Okay, why are Christmas tree skirts so expensive?! I didn't buy one last year because I never found one that I really liked that was worth the money. I've been browsing around online already at them... this one is so pretty, but also really expensive! Ugh! 
  • A super cute plaid shirt for fall!! This would look great layered under sweaters. 



On the blog this week:


      Enjoy the rest of your week!



     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese 





October 24, 2017

A Millennial Christian Perspective on Nightlife.

     So here's an interesting preface to why I'm writing today's blog post! 😊 I still have a few Charlotte related recommendations posts that I wanted to share here on the blog, and I thought it made the most sense for me to do those all within six months post-move. One Charlotte post that I think would be a lot of fun to write is a guide to Charlotte nightlife. From senior year of college-on, I did go out on weekends quite a bit with my friends, and definitely got to know the nightlife scene fairly well. I think Charlotte has some really fantastic nightlife options (as well as some terrible ones which I want to tell y'all to avoid!), so hence why I want to write this blog post!


Should Christians go to Nightclubs?



      HOWEVER - before sharing something like this on my blog, and being seen as "promoting" things like nightlife, drinking, and that type of scene, I wanted to first write a faith/personal related blog post kind of sharing where my personal convictions as a Christian young woman lie with things like alcohol, nightlife culture, hookups, etc. One of my biggest pet peeves/turn-offs in life is people who are blatant hypocrites, and I would never want any of you to think that about me and my beliefs. I am far from perfect, and will be the first to admit that (and have certainly made mistakes in my life, including in some of the areas talked about in today's post), but overall I do try and strive to live a morally sound life. I think this post might be helpful too especially for any younger SBIT readers. When I was growing up in middle and high school and interested in faith/trying to surround myself with Christian resources, there are a lot of viewpoints in the Christian world that are extremely anti alcohol, modern dating, and any type of nightlife. After my own college experience and a year of post-grad living in a big city, I've formed my own thoughts and views on all of this. Views which I believe still honor God and my body, and my Christian lifestyle, but also still allow me to enjoy time with friends in different social settings, and expose myself to different types of scenarios. 


      I asked one of my closest friends from college and senior year suitemate, Caroline, to help me write this blog post. I'm sure many fellow bloggers feel the same way, but my blog is something I am so proud of and that's extremely personal to me, so I almost never accept guest posts here. I can count on one hand the number of times that I've asked someone to help me write a post or guest post for me in the five years that I've been blogging. But as soon as the idea for this post came to mind, I knew Caroline had to be apart! Not only is she a dear friend (and also helped with blog photos during college!), but she is one of the wisest souls and most talented writers that I know, and I believe she has much more wisdom than I do on this subject. I hope that you will enjoy her contributions to this post. 😊





   

     I'm going to start off all of my thoughts on all of this by saying that I heard a fantastic church sermon about the topic of Christians and alcohol a couple of years ago at Forest Hill Church, which is where I attended during the years I lived in Charlotte. Head Pastor David Chadwick delivered so much truth on this subject, and I just loved it. (You can listen to the sermon online here!) It is a 40 minute sermon, so obviously I am going to paraphrase a lot out of it for the sheer length of this blog post, but I will say the thing that David emphasized so much and that really stuck with me is that alcohol itself isn't a bad thing when it's being utilized in moderation, and in retrospect in a life of faith. (I mean.... wine is in the bible many a time after all! Haha.) It is not designed to become an obsession, or an addiction. He stressed that when alcohol began to be used in a person's life for selfish reasons and to distract away from keeping their eyes on God and living a Christ-filled life, that is a big problem! I was in college when I first heard this sermon, and I immediately made many connections. How many times had I witnessed classmates of mine drinking too much, and then making terribly selfish decisions that they probably weren't even aware that they were making? (Not to mention all of the horrible crimes that can occur due to drinking too much alcohol... that's an entirely different story!) He also said in the sermon that God will give different people different convictions about alcohol. Some adults will be able to have alcohol be apart of their lives in responsible, social contexts. Others cannot have that, either for addiction reasons, health reasons, or maybe just personal convictions in their faith. What is important though is that neither group should judge each other. Alcohol is an area where Christians can get very judgmental of each other, and that absolutely is not right. (True story and example of this: a Christian guy {who did not drink at all due to personal convictions} that I really liked at one point in time, told mutual friends of ours that he ultimately decided not to pursue a relationship with me due to the fact that I "drank alcohol." That really did not sit well with me, especially since I am solely a social drinker!!)


 
      Here is a little bit of my own personal history with alcohol and why I am a Christian young woman who does drink and enjoy nightlife (in moderation!):


     In high school- I was about 110% anti-alcohol for minors. I always joke that since I had such a bad experience in high school socially, I ended up eventually making my friends solely based on the fact that they also didn't drink and do drugs (and then once I was in college, I realized how little else I had in common with most of my high school friends- lol!). I spent my freshman year of college at Christian university with a dry campus, and didn't have any friends who drank at the time, which was great. Alcohol just wasn't apart of the first year of my college experience. However, that honestly did not prepare me well for transferring to a more traditional campus in the city the following year! The college that I ended up graduating from had a bit of a partying problem... but then again, I'm sure most public and private universities that aren't religiously affiliated probably do! 
   

    At the school that I transferred to, it was very different than my former university, and campus culture-wise I had a bit of a rough first year settling into the differences, namely the fact that partying was so prevalent with my new classmates. True story: I actually lost some friendships (and almost lost, yet later resolved others) that I made initially at my new college due to me being judgmental about underage drinking and partying. I totally own that now and see how that was really wrong, but it was really hard for me to adjust to the new environment after being in a school and having friends where alcohol just wasn't apart of life. I was in the minority at my new school as I never had a fake ID, something that I'm still very proud of!


    By my senior year of college, I was 21 and had started to adopt different views on alcohol, mostly due to the nature of the university that I was in and the friends that I was surrounding myself with at the time. After turning 21, I started going out on the weekends, a lot. It became rare for the first semester of senior year to have a weekend where I wasn't going to a nightclub with college friends. Although I had started drinking and stepping out of my comfort zone a bit, I will say I am thankful that to this day I can say I have never been blackout drunk. There were many nights during that semester when I drank more than I would now, or might have after having a few drinks said things, worn things, or danced in a way that I'm not proud of or doesn't reflect my faith, however, I am so thankful that in college, I never drank to a point of complete intoxication, or being not in control of my body or my surroundings. That happens to too many people in college- and that should NEVER be a goal! Hungover as I might have been sometimes on weekend mornings of senior year, I always woke up the next morning remembering what happened the night before. I never accepted drinks from strangers. I always tried to look out for my friends that I went out with. I always made it back home in MY bed at the end of the night... never someone else's.


      Due to some serious circumstances that happened in my life around the time I graduated college (which I talk more about in this blog post), I realized I needed to slow down and re-think some of my weekend behaviors, especially as I was leaving college and heading into adulthood. I call myself a Christian woman... were my behaviors on weekend nights reflecting that? One of my biggest pet peeves in the world is people who are blatant hypocrites... something that I never want to be. I knew I needed to think about a lot.


     There are some aspects to nightlife (and I suppose drinking in general) that I do like, and I don't feel compromise my faith or morals. Having a drink or two while out for a nice dinner? I don't see anything wrong with that. Having a little more than I normally drink while enjoying an evening with my best girlfriends, and guaranteeing that Uber will be my ride that night? I also don't see anything wrong with that. If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I love to dance to my favorite songs. I'm not the best dancer by any means, but my favorite part of nightlife isn't the drinks or meeting guys, it's dancing! Such a good workout and so much fun to do so with your friends. If I want to go to a nightclub or bar so I can dance and have fun with friends who I know and trust, I also don't think there's anything wrong with that! All of my best nights of memories from going out are the nights when the focus is on friendship and dancing, not a focus on trying to meet guys or get overly tipsy.


    (To lighten up this post for a second... if you're curious by what I mean when I say I "love dancing".... see the photos below from when I was a bridesmaid in a wedding this spring!! This is the same way that I dance when I go out! {I think my interesting dancing actually thankfully scares away a lot of creepy club guys- lol!})







   
      There were a lot of nights my senior year of college when I went out looking to dance with guys I didn't know, seeking the feeling of attention that I wasn't getting in other aspects of my life, since I was single and really unhappy about it at the time. Sure- I wasn't going home with these guys and sleeping with them, but even dancing with them in the manner that I was in public, around many of my peers from school... probably wasn't the best reflection of me. And I see that now. And now when I go out, it's not with the goal in mind of grinding up on some stranger! (In blunt terms. 😉)



     So to wrap all of this up.... if these ramblings have made any sense at all.... I am a fan of nightlife, and moderate social drinking, when both are being done appropriately, and with the right intentions. I thank God all the time for the lessons that I learned during my senior year of college. Now in Vermont- I'm kind of in a place where I would like to be going out more, however I still haven't met a ton of people up here yet... and another one of my main tips would be DO NOT go to a nightclub alone (Probably a given, but true!).... so my weekend social life has been pretty quiet since the big move.  And you know what? That's okay! There is more to life than drinking and nightclubs. Things like developing your faith, hobbies, investing in relationships... it all comes back to that sermon I talked about in the beginning of this blog post. When nightlife and/or drinking begins to become an idol in someone's life, something is wrong.



     And now that I have written something along the lines of an essay that's probably longer than most papers I wrote in college... let me turn this over to Caroline!






    First off, I want to thank Annaliese for the friendship she has shared with me. Some of my sweetest memories of college are from our morning talks in our suite bathroom. She would sit on the counter and I on the floor. Here, we shared our hearts, our dreams and our fears, and in these moments of vulnerability, we grew and forged a committed friendship. Thank you for asking me to be a part of this blog post. It’s one of the highest compliments you could have given.




     In the Christian community, there seem to be the three great sins: drugs, sex, and alcohol. Whether you or not you have grown up in the Christian community, I believe many individuals view these three the problems, however, their abuse often come from a heart condition. Maybe the condition is disappointment, maybe rebellion. The point is that there is usually more to the story than meets our eye, and often, nightlife or “partying” is the setting we have been told (or maybe have personally experienced) all three co-exist. Bur for many of us, there is a draw toward this setting. There seems to be a kind of zeal to it that may be missing in our day-to-day lives.

     So how is a Christian supposed to feel about nightlife? Is it a moral sin? Does it glorify God?

     Why do we even feel this torn up about the subject?

     Restlessness.

     I want to look at Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son for some insight. The parable begins: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.”

     Many of us have heard this story before, and we hear this beginning with the notion that it was wrong of the youngest son to ask for his share of his father’s estate. I want to challenge this notion. What if the younger son wasn’t acting rebelliously or with disrespect? What if he had this desire for more, a restlessness for a life of

     Like the youngest son, I think many of us have this gut deep feeling that there has to be more. More life. More hope. More strength. More something. Just more.

     We were meant to live. I mean, isn’t that what Jesus’ entire message and purpose was for? He preached life. Eternal life. A present life forgiven by grace and surrounded in a community of his spirit, his angels, and those here on Earth who know and revere his name. We were designed to celebrate, to dance and sing, to dare, to hope. We are even commanded to: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” Hebrews 10:23.

     I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t believe specifically about nightlife. But I will tell you this: You are loved. And your actions will show whether or not you believe in the value the Lord has placed over you and your life. You were designed for abundance of spirit. You were not intended to be alone or forgotten. The restlessness you feel means you are still alive—and you are still hoping. Live life in the fullness we as Christians are called to live, in the humility to sit at his feet and love him openly, and don’t you dare let fear keep you from experiencing freedom before the Lord. But most importantly, follow peace. His peace guards our hearts (Colossians 3:15). His will is found in His peace.

      I want to end with one of my favorite quotes of all time by author Francine Rivers. It is from her book Redeeming Love. I believe that at the end of the day, this charge is something we should all desire and strive to live our lives according to.“Love the Lord your God, and love one another. Love one another as He loves. Love with strength and purpose and passion and no matter what comes against you. Don't weaken. Stand against the darkness, and love. That's the way back into Eden. That's the way back to life.” 



     Thank you so much for reading today's post! It's been on my heart to share a post on this subject for a long time here on the blog (Really- this has been over a year in the works in my head!), and I'm so glad one of my dearest friends was able to share her heart on the subject as well. Caroline and I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on the subject!



     And my best nightlife of Charlotte post will be coming soon... 😊




     God Bless,




     xoxo Annaliese