January 30, 2017

Off-the-shoulder Sweater + My 3 Must-Watch Winter TV Shows.







Photography by Deeana Kourtney Photography


Sweater {under $20!} // Jeans {similar} // Shoes // Earrings {old, similar here} // Necklace {similar} // Rings {middle finger criss cross ring, ring finger silver ring} // Lipstick // 



     It took awhile for the off-the-shoulder trend to grow on me. First it was summer tops and dresses, and I will admit I was a little bit surprised when the trend stuck around for fall and winter styles as well! I have broad shoulders for my body's frame, so I never thought that this style of clothing would look very good on me. Little did I know that I just had to find the right OTS pieces! I did end up finding some that I liked a lot last summer, and I finally had to bit the bullet and try an OTS sweater for winter as well. The one that I'm wearing here is so comfortable, and could be styled many different ways. Best of all - it's under $20! It is a Shein find... I have been finding more things from there in recent months. Would y'all like to see a blog post soon where I share some buying tips to shopping from Shein? It's definitely a unique retailer since their price points are so low and they are internationally based, but gems are to be found on their website! 


     To mix things up for this Monday's outfit post, I thought it would be fun to also share my three must-watch television shows for this winter! Since I am going to bed so early now on weeknights for my new radio internship, I don't actually watch any of these live right now, but I look forward to catching up on them all throughout the week. (And my roommate and I don't have DVR- so all of these are available to watch *for free* on each of the station's websites each week! Woot woot!)

  • Jane the Virgin (CW): This show is currently midway through its third season- and I have to be honest- it took me awhile to fall in love with it! I began the first season on Netflix when I was in college, and at that point I couldn't get into it. This show is supposed to be an American version of Spanish-style telenovelas, which are a certain type of soap-opera. I just couldn't get into the crazy plot in the first season though, and stopped watching. When the second season when on Netflix, I decided to pick up on where I'd left off and give it another try, and I'm SO glad I did!! I got used to the humor and insane plot of the show, and now I'm obsessed with it. Jane the Virgin is about a 20-something college student named Jane, who is also a virgin, who in a freak accident becomes artificially inseminated and pregnant after a visit to the gynecologist. But the show is about so much more then that, and there is also an exciting crime plot woven into the story which is unrelated to Jane's pregnancy! I like this show more with each season that goes by, and I'd highly recommend it. 
  • Star (Fox): This is a brand new show which just premiered this winter, and honestly it's quite different from any other TV show that I've loved before. It's about three young girls who move to Atlanta to try and start a girl band (think TLC meets Fifth Harmony), which might make it sound like a fun and upbeat show, but that couldn't be further from the truth. It's actually quite dark and every episode is very graphic with both language, subject matter and sexual content. Honestly I don't normally watch TV shows with content like this, but there's something about Star that's keeping me hooked week after week! This show features original music performed by the cast which I love, and I've even been listening to some of the music between episodes on Spotify. 
  • The Big Bang Theory (CBS): This show is on it's 10th season so it's definitely not new, but it remains one of my favorites! I fell in love with this show in college,  and The Big Bang Theory still never ceases to make me laugh. The cast has grown up a lot since the beginning of the show, and this season brings on parenthood for Howard and Bernadette, life as newlyweds for Leonard and Penny, and most shockingly of all, Sheldon and Amy are living together! And of course Raj is still doing alright too. I've seen every season and episode of this show, and I'm so happy that it's still doing well into season 10. 


     Are you loving the off-the-shoulder trend for winter? And what TV shows are you hooked on this winter?


     Also- instead of a Midweek Ramblings post this week, my first-ever reader survey will be up in Wednesday's post!! I'm really excited about this and can't wait to see the feedback that y'all leave for me! 



     xoxo Annaliese 

January 27, 2017

The Cutest Bow Top.








Photography by Deeana Kourtney Photography 






     Happy Friday, friends! This outfit is definitely a tribute to the incredible weather that Charlotte has been experiencing during this January. We have had quite an interesting winter season so far. Typically Decembers are a mild month (I remember many Decembers in college where I would be sunbathing on a beach towel outside during Finals week!), but this year the holiday season was extremely cold. Most mornings I would wake up to my car being completely iced over, and midday temperatures weren't that much better. But the warmth and sunshine has returned after the holidays! This month has had lots of days seeing temperatures into the 60s, and even a few 70+ degree days. I can't ever remember a January like this as along as I've lived in NC, and as a warm-weather lover I'm not complaining a bit!


     This top was one of my Black Friday purchases a couple of months ago, and I couldn't love it more. It was such a chic addition to my closet, and I love the beautiful floral pattern and the bow detail at the neckline! I adored this top so much that I actually had to get it in another color as well (styled in this post). It's currently on sale for an extra 60% off, so check it out while you can!



     Wishing all of you a fantastic weekend ahead!






     xoxo Annaliese



   

January 25, 2017

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases + Current Wishlist.




{Follow me on social media @miss_alk!}


Ramblings:


  • Best inauguration memes: While I have no problem discussing faith on my blog, politics is something that I don't enjoy writing about (or even discussing that much to be quite honest). I think a person's political views is a very personal matter, and I'm happy to say that I have friends and family whose views fall on all ends of the political spectrum. The inauguration last week was a day for some Americans to celebrate and some to mourn. HOWEVER: something that we all should be able to rejoice over, no matter our political affiliations, is this round-up of the most hilarious inauguration day memes! I'm always down for a good meme, and you have to admit that all of the election/inauguration ones were pretty spectacular. 
  • My photographer: Last May, I started working with the fabulous Deeana Kourtney Photography for my photo needs on Southern Belle in Training. Deeana has been an absolute joy to work with, and many of our photoshoots were some of my highlights of 2016. She has her own photography blog as apart of her website, and yesterday she wrote the sweetest post all about how she began wanting to photograph bloggers. Check it out, and you'll also get to see some images from the very first shoot we did together! 
  • Once a sister, always a sister: This past weekend, I went back to my alma mater for the day and attended an alumni social event for my sorority! Despite being very involved in Greek life in college, ADPi is something that I've taken a bit of a break from since graduation college (for various reasons in my life). But I was indeed reminded this weekend that sisterhood isn't just a college commitment, but instead truly a lifetime bond! It was really nice to see some of my sisters and catch up, and also fun to be back on my college campus for a bit. Despite still living in Charlotte, I can count on one hand the number of times that I've been back to my university since graduation.



Recent Purchases:

  • This retailer is having free shipping all week, so I couldn't resist the chance to pick up these pretty earrings! I've had my eye on these for months, my preference just goes back and forth between different colors. I eventually settled on black- partly because it will match so much of my winter wardrobe during the rest of this month and next, and partly because it coordinates well with a dress that I'm wearing to a rehearsal dinner this spring. Win-win! 



Current Wishlist: 
  • I went to the mall this week to try on something that I saw online (this dress!) - but I'm glad that I did as it ended up not fitting as well on me in person as I thought. ANYWAYS- while in store, I fell in love with these heels. They're so simple but so chic, and really a closet staple! (The color I want isn't currently on sale but I think I'm going to buy them as soon as they are.)
  • I think this pretty set would be so cute for attending a bridal shower, tea party, Galentine's celebration, or other upcoming spring events! And you can't beat the fact that it's currently on sale for under $40. 
  • This chic blouse would go from work to weekend outfits so effortlessly. 
  • I love warm weather so much that I always start browsing swimwear online as soon as the holidays are over. Even though I don't have any warm weather vacation plans coming up, I'm crushing on this bikini hardcore!



     I hope that y'all are having a great week! No special question for y'all this week... but thanks as always for reading. 




     xoxo Annaliese 

January 23, 2017

Why I Think Church Attendance Is So Important.




     I still have yet to officially define my blogging goals for 2017 (I really need to get on that, as the first month of the year is almost halfway done!), but I know that one of them will be to get back to some of my "core content." When I first started this blog as a freshman in college, I wanted it to be a place for faith and fashion to come together. While the fashion side of my blog has really started to flourish, the faith posts have gotten to be less and less each year. I'm hoping to bring back at the very minimum, one faith/Christianity related post a month in 2017! I hope that y'all will hold me accountable to that to. I don't claim by any means to be an "expert" on faith, or to live a "perfect" Christian lifestyle. But what I can say for certain is that the foundation of my faith is what has kept me grounded, hopeful, and confident in Christ since my middle school years, when I first accepted Jesus as my savior. And for something to be such a big part of my life, I think it deserves a little bit more of a place on my blog. :-)

     I will also say that this post has taken me a really long time to put together! Normally writing on my blog comes to easily to me... but I've been drafting and editing this post since the beginning of January. Anything faith related can definitely be tougher topics to write about.


     Today's topic is something that I actually guest posted about on a different blog a few years ago, but I'm not sure that I've ever shared my thoughts on here at Southern Belle in Training. But it's a faith related issue that has really been a personal conviction in my own life, during my college years and in 2016 especially. It's the topic of church attendance.


      What is the purpose of church, and why is attendance so important? First and foremost, it's not my views that really matter on this subject... but what comes from God's Word itself! Let's look a few verses together:


     *Ephesians 2:19: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens of God's people and also members of His household (NIV)
      Once someone becomes a Christian, they enter into fellowship not only with the Lord, but also with other believers. As this verse says, once you have Christ in your heart, you aren't a "stranger" anymore, but a "citizen" in God's household! God's representation of his household on earth is His church. A household doesn't function properly if each member lives their own separate life- a household is built on the foundation of community. The church should be the same way with believers.


   *Colossians 3:16: Let the message of Christ dwell among you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (NIV)
     God's word commands His followers to praise him through music, reading His word, and of course prayer. And this is all supposed to be done together, with encouragement and fellowship!


   So the concept of church is something that is clearly biblically rooted. The body of Christ finds its strength in numbers, and church is often the best place to begin that!


    To avoid this post from getting too long and too much about me, I'm going to save my personal background on church (churches I've attended past and present, and my own faith journey through church) for a separate blog post about my testimony, which I've already started working on. But instead, I'll just share a few reasons in addition to those verses why I think church attendance is so important:


     *God will speak through the messages and worship at church: It can be extremely hard to hear the voice of God. I've only heard His voice distinctly commanding me to do something a couple of times in my life. With all of the business and distractions of our everyday lives, He is often the first thing that we tune out. By coming to church each week, and dedicating an hour or two out of our time just to praise God and focus on Him, you will be amazed by how He can speak to you. Sometimes it's through the sermon... the topic might be exactly what your heart needed to hear. Or sometimes you might have a very personal God moment during the worship music, or a time of silent prayer. But coming into a place of worship amongst other believers and dedicating that time to Him- so important!


     *For the community aspect: As the verses above reiterated, God loves when His people come together to worship Him. Part of a relationship with God is the individual relationship, but another large component is sharing that relationship with us. Spending time with other like-minded believers helps you to stay on track morally and spiritually, can provide immense encouragement, and also can help you to grow in your knowledge of faith. Plus- who says that a church community can't be fun every once in awhile?! (If your church isn't providing these things- it might be time to find a new church home. Not every church is the right fit for everyone... that's the beauty of having different denominations and types of churches!)


      *Personal enrichment: This kind of relates back to the first point about hearing God's voice, but I always feel like I get something out of a church service. Certainly there are some weeks where I relate more to the worship and others where I get more out of the sermon itself, but there's always something about going that either makes me feel better about a situation that I'm going through, I learn something new about God or the bible that I didn't before, or I leave with a feeling of just plain joy and gratitude! And who can ever complain about that? In the culture that we live in today, it can be so easy to let negative influences or people into our lives, and let these things drift us further and further away from Jesus. Attending regular church services is a great way to stay grounded and remind yourself of your principles.



     These are my reasons behind wanting to attend church. God doesn't love you any more or any less depending on how often you're in church... but those who love Him should want to have that special time each week to worship and learn more about Him. I have not always been great at church attendance- in 2016 it was definitely getting more sporadic for me. Again I'll talk more about that in another faith-related blog post... but for this year, I decided to make church attendance an absolute priority in my life again, and already I'm so happy that I did!



     And for those wondering, I attend one of the campuses of  Forest Hill Church, a large non-denominational church here in Charlotte. I have been going there since my sophomore year of college.



     Do share with me your thoughts on this post! I just ask that you're respectful in your comments. :-) I hope that you enjoyed this faith-based post- I really do look forward to more faith posts to come this year!



    xoxo Annaliese

January 18, 2017

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases + Current Wishlist.



{Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat! @miss_alk}



Ramblings:
  • Riding the Funny Bus: This past weekend was the first meet-up of 2017 for my regional group for the InfluenceHer Collective Blogger Network! (I'm the Charlotte area regional chair for the IHC group, which means that I get to plan fun blogger meet-ups a few times a year!) We kicked off our first 2017 meet-up by taking a ride on Charlotte's Funny Bus. This is a comedy bus tour which takes you through Uptown Charlotte, and some surrounding notable neighborhoods. I've been wanting to do this for the last several months, and thought it would make a really fun blogger meet-up event. Well- this completely exceeded my expectations! Our comedian tour of Charlotte was absolutely hilarious, and he had me laughing during the whole experience. Even though I've lived in Charlotte for a few years now, the bus went down streets that I didn't know were there, and I learned so many new fun facts about the city! I would definitely recommend this as a fun weekend activity for anyone who is both a Charlotte local, or any out-of-town visitors. 
  •  Bridesmaid Humor: I'm going to be a bridesmaid for the first time this spring, in my sorority sister Perrin's wedding. This week the bride-to-be sent all of us bridesmaids this hilarious Buzzfeed article... if any of you have been in a wedding or are also preparing to be in one, I think you will enjoy this!! 
  • Faith posts! At least once a month this year, I'm hoping to share more personal/relatable content here on the blog. By this, I mean blog posts that are on topics about faith, relationships, or some other topics that might be a bit heavier than my normal fashion posts. These are the types of posts that I used to write a lot in the early days of my blog, but with each year that goes by they seem to be phased out more and more. Hopefully this year they can come back. Stay tuned for the first one on Friday! 


Purchases:
  • Super lame for a fashion blogger... but I didn't do any shopping this week! Unless you count filling up my gas tank and a couple of chai latte runs. ;-) Where I am still on a student budget, there are some weeks where other not-so-fun expenses do have to come before the fun ones. #honesty


Wishlist:
  • This top is so cute, I can't get over the sleeve details! And it's on SALE right now! :-) (It reminds me a lot of the top which I wore in this blog post last month.)
  • How pretty is this pink dress? It's amazingly under $20, and would be a perfect Valentine's Day look. 
  • In last Wednesday's post, I shared the laptop case that I'm currently crushing on. Sharing that got me thinking how I'm actually in dire need of a new iPhone case! I haven't upgraded my case since I got my most recent phone in May... and every day more and more of the decoration on my case peels off- ha! How cute is this pretty iPhone case? Would be so perfect with spring coming soon! 


     My question for y'all this week: what was something fun that you did this weekend? Share with me in the comments!



     xoxo Annaliese 

January 16, 2017

Athletic Goals for the New Year.

















Photography by Deeana Kourtney Photography






     Ah- New Year's resolutions. Now that we're a few weeks into 2017, let's take a minute and re-visit this idea. As I shared with y'all in December, I impressed myself by following through very well with my resolution for 2016.  I genuinely hoped that I could go into this new year tackling my new resolution with the same type of determination and enthusiasm that I had for last year's.

     As you could probably guess from what I am wearing in these photos, my 2017 New Year's resolution involves prioritizing fitness. To give a little backstory, despite growing up as an athlete (I'm a former competitive figure skater from childhood, and I also played two team sports in high school), I fell out of the routine of making fitness a priority during my first few years in college. By senior year, I had finally found some workout classes offered by my campus gym that I really enjoyed attending, and had also figured out my own gym routine that I loved. Working out was finally a big part of my life, and it was great! But after having a serious concussion this past spring and not being able to do much physical activity for about 6-8 weeks, I completely fell out of my routine. And I'm a little bit embarrassed to say that I never got it back. Part of it might have been that because around the time this summer that I was finally feeling 100% physically myself again, I was also into the thick of my broadcasting school program, was working in retail, and was also beginning my social media job. Plus blogging! I had a lot on my plate in an ever-changing schedule, and I didn't know how fitness could play a part. 


     But it's a new year now, and I'm ready to stop making excuses. I finished my retail job in December, and for the first time in a long time, I finally have a set weekday schedule. It might be an insane one since I'm interning for a morning radio show, but it is a schedule! And that's huge for me. Now that I can plan out my weeks more in advance, I'm ready to make fitness a priority again, which is how it became my 2017 resolution.


     I looked into joining ClassPass or my local Y so that I could do fitness classes, but I am on a pretty tight budget until finishing broadcasting school in the spring. My plan is to make the most of the fitness center at my apartment complex, and utilize it as much as I can for my workouts. Since I'm just getting back into a regular fitness routine, I don't have any huge goals as of now. But here are the two things that I am holding myself accountable to for this year:

  • Going to gym or doing some sort of physical activity twice a week
  • Working my way up to running a 5k distance by the end of 2017

     On workout days in my apartment gym so far, I am enjoying running on the treadmill, and using the elliptical and bikes. As the year progresses, I'm hoping to find some Youtube videos or shorter workouts to do as well that will help with buildings abs or upper body strength (send any suggestions for these my way!). I'm also hoping this year to make physical activity that isn't just going to the gym a priority. I do love being outside, so I hope to do more nature walks and hikes, or maybe even get into running outside! And I love playing tennis, so I'm hoping that's a sport that I can rediscover this year.


      Of course my New Year's resolution means that I needed to invest in some new workout clothes. I was so excited to learn about all of the amazing workout options from Marks & Spencer. Where making fitness a priority again is still a newer part of my routine (and I'm also definitely on a budget right now!), I'm not quite ready to invest in super expensive workout clothing. But- I definitely did still want some new things to wear! Marks & Spencer came to my rescue. Almost all of their workout clothes are under $50, and many are under $25. Everything can be mixed and match to make lots of cute athletic outfits. The leggings that I'm wearing in both of these outfits are both very lightweight and breathable (but not see-through at all). I especially love the performance graphite print leggings - how fun are the colors in those?! Wearing a  supportive sports bra is also so crucial in helping to have a good workout, and both this one and this one that I'm wearing are supportive, and also super cute! 



     Do any of your New Year's resolutions involve fitness? How are you planning to meet your fitness goals in 2017? 



     xoxo Annaliese



      This blog post was written in collaboration with Shopping Links and Marks & Spencer. All opinions are honest and my own. Thank-you for supporting the brands that support Southern Belle in Training! 

     










January 13, 2017

Coziest Sweater Dress.







Photography by Deeana Kourtney Photography





      
     Deeana and I shot this outfit this same day that we also did this look.... and as I wrote about in the previous blog post, it was 29 degrees while we were out shooting! Brrrrr! Amazingly though, this sweater dress is comfy and cozy enough that it was able to keep me (semi) warm while we were out and about. I own several sweater dresses, and I enjoy wearing them a lot in the winter months. Dresses are what I live in during the spring and summer, so sweater dresses are still a way to keep a feminine and girly look even in the cold. But out of all the sweater dresses that I have, I've never had one that's so comfortable to wear! This dress literally feels like it's made of pajama material, but it's also so flattering and form-fitting on- can we talk about a win-win? And best of all, it's under $35 right now! 


     The weather has been quite strange in Charlotte this week. Last weekend, it snowed throughout the Carolinas. The part of Charlotte that I lived in barely had any snow, but there was a significant amount of ice. However snowfall was significant enough in other parts of the county to cancel local public schools on Monday (and my broadcasting school was closed as well). All week though temperatures have been warming up... and tomorrow the high is 70 degrees! What the heck. I would much rather take 70 over snow any day, but but my body is having trouble keeping up with these weird weather changes! Has the weather been weird where you live as well?






     xoxo Annaliese 



January 11, 2017

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases + Current Wishlist.



{Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @miss_alk}


Ramblings:
  • Popbar in Charlotte: Last week I had the opportunity to go and check out North Carolina's first location of Popbar, which just opened in Charlotte's NoDa neighborhood. Popbar is a fun dessert franchise whose signature item is gelato on a stick. They also sell different sorbets pops as well, and a few different hot chocolate varieties. All of their ingredients are all natural, and the flavors of the gelato and sorbet pops are always changing. I got to try the Gianduia gelato pop (pictured, a combo of chocolate hazelnut), and also a vanilla gelato pop. Both were absolutely delicious! I would definitely recommend for all of my Charlotte reader friends to check out Popbar, and if you're not from NC don't worry- they have locations both in other US states and internationally as well! 
  • Reader survey: I've never done a reader survey here on Southern Belle in Training before, but after seeing a lot of other bloggers do them around New Year's, I'm thinking that it might be time to give one a go. I definitely want to keep creating content that y'all want to read! Do you guys like it when bloggers make readers surveys, or if you area a blogger, have you seen success with making a reader survey?
  • Yummy muffin recipe: Y'all know that I absolutely adore cooking and baking, and trying new recipes is one of my favorite things to do in my free time! This weekend was the first one in awhile that I got to spend a good chunk of time at home, and of course I used a lot of that time in the kitchen. I snapchatted/put on my Insta-story a picture of these banana-cinnamon muffins that I tried my hand at and some of you wanted the recipe, so there it is! They came out delicious and I think I'll be making them again soon.
  • The funniest thing I've seen on the internet this week: This Buzzfeed article had me laughing so hard!! I totally could relate to many of these things... how about y'all? 


Purchases:
  • Last week was Lilly Pulitzer After Party Sale week, one of my favorite times of the year! In the last two sales, I've been on the hunt for Elsa tops, but this time around I was searching for dresses. I bought the cutest swing dress, and I cannot wait to wear it lots this spring! It sold out in the sale, but this one is very similar
  • I also bought a gorgeous shift dress! This purchase was really interesting- it wasn't actually from the Lilly website, but from a signature store with an online shop that was also honoring the sale prices. I'm thinking that it will be my graduation dress from broadcasting school! This shift dress is very similar to the one I purchased. 


Wishlist:
  • I have an activewear collaboration coming up this month, and planning the looks for it has me thinking about how my workout sneakers might be in need of updating soon! I've had my eye on these classic sneakers for quite some time... I think I first just need to justify actually following through with my 2017 resolution and working out multiple times a week before getting them! (But last week I did go to the gym twice- progress!)
  • I've had a white marble Macbook case since I got this most recent laptop- about a year and a half ago. But the bottom of the case is now cracked in several places, so I'm thinking it's time for an upgrade. How gorgeous is this Macbook case?! It's similar to what I have now, but oh so pretty! 



     And my question for all of you this week: are you sticking with your New Year's Resolutions? Mine was to workout/go to the gym regularly again this year.... so far I've been doing okay, but I think it could still be improved! 



     xoxo Annaliese


January 9, 2017

Travel Guide: Visiting the Kennebunks in the Winter.




     This is a post that is probably much overdue (as in, by several years) on Southern Belle in Training! It was my most recent trip home a few weeks ago that finally inspired me to write it, and I'm so glad that I finally was able to put something together.


     If you're a newer reader friend around the blog, let me fill you in a little bit. I've called North Carolina home since I moved here for college in Fall 2012, but whether I like to admit it or not- I'm a native Mainer! This is how my blog got its name- "Southern Belle" is for me living in NC now and having an affinity for all things Southern, and "in Training" comes from the fact that I'm from Maine. My parents and most of my mom's side of the family still live in Maine, as do my friends from high school.

     I'm from Kennebunk, Maine, which is a coastal town in the Southern part of the state. Kennebunk is often considered the same thing as Kennebunkport, which is a big New England tourist destination. Fun fact: they are actually two separate (but neighboring towns) towns! Kennebunkport is the bigger vacation destination, and has more of the hotels and bed and breakfasts. It's also the summer home to former President George Bush and his wife Barbara. Kennebunk is the more residential town, and something surprising is that more of the public beaches are located in Kennebunk as well! Although I'm from Kennebunk, I've spent my fair share of time in Kennebunkport as well. I worked in retail at a small store in Kennebunkport for the three summers that I went home in college. (I'm actually still close with many of my older coworkers from there!).


On the rock jetty at Colony Beach in Kennebunkport {Coat // similar beanie}


   In Summer 2015, the last full summer that I spent in Maine, I did a post series here on the blog called "Southern Belle in the 'Bunk." I took my outfit pictures over May and June of that summer at really unique and what I thought were naturally beautiful locations around my hometown, as a way to celebrate what where I'm from meant to me. Plus- it allowed me to get out of my comfort zone a bit in picking locations for blog photos! (You can find all of the posts by clicking the Southern Belle in the 'Bunk label on my blog's sidebar.) But surprisingly, I've never actually done an actual "travel guide" blog post for my hometown area.

     I realized in 2016 how many bloggers were taking vacations to the area that I call home. I had so much fun seeing Instagram photos and reading blog posts and recognizing all of the locations in different people's photos! It made me realize though that it was much overdue to write more about where I'm from, and not just shoot outfit photos there. ;-)

    While Maine is more traditionally thought of as a summer vacation destination, it can be a great place to take a little trip to if you're looking for a little taste of a New England winter experience. Without further ado, my travel guide:





{Dock Square Christmas Tree, Kennebunkport}


To Do: 

My number one tip for visiting Maine in the winter season is below:

    Visit the Kennebunks during Christmas Prelude: Christmas Prelude is a special celebration that runs for two weekends each year in early December. All of the hotels, shops and restaurants in Kennebunkport all get completely decked out the celebrate the beginning of the holiday season, and it really is a magical time to be in the area! The main event is the lighting of the Dock Square tree (pictured above - it stays up into January). There is caroling in the streets with local choirs, special events open to the public at many of the hotels, and just a feeling of holiday magic throughout the town. I only made it home for Prelude once in my four years of college - usually my final exams ended too late in December for me to make it home. I wasn't able to make it this year either- but I'm hoping that I can in a future year soon! 


And if you're interested in visiting Maine in other parts of the winter (of which you still have many months to choose from), here are some other activities: 


     Walk on the beach: There is nothing quite like Maine beaches. While my heart will still always long for beaches with tropical ocean temperatures and palm trees, Maine beaches are truly one of a kind and I do love them as well. They're naturally beautiful and have a rugged feel to them, and very few of them are built up. Many are more rocky than sandy, but Southern Maine especially does have it's share of sandy beaches also. 
In the summer, most of Maine's beaches have permitted parking, and they're also often overcrowded between both locals and tourists who are trying to make the most of the short summer season. Winter really is the time to enjoy the beach for all that it is! While it is way too cold for any sort of summer activities, there is really nothing like a long winter beach walk. And parking (at least in the Kennebunk beaches) is free from mid-September through I believe mid-June, so that definitely covers the winter months. My favorite beach Kennebunk beach is Gooches Beach, and my favorite Kennebunkport beach is Colony Beach. Both beaches have a rock jetty that visitors can walk out on - it's a great way to really experience the ocean and waves.

     Shop in Kennebunkport: Kennebunkport has the most charming area of little shops, called Dock Square. While the area certainly hits its peak in the summer months, most of the stores do stay open year round (or at least through Christmas Prelude - see above!). You can find just about anything in Kennebunkport: typical touristy items,  coffee shops, art galleries, jewelry and clothing stores, and plenty of made-in-Maine gift shops, with unique items that you won't find anywhere else! One of my favorite discount jewelry stores called The Best of Everything, which is kind of like a local version of Charming Charlie, is located just over the bridge from Dock Square on the Kennebunk side (there is a river and bridge separating the two towns). Some of the Dock Square stores do close during weekdays in the winter, but a good amount of them do stay open during weekday weekends, even into January and February. 

     Cross Country Skiing at Harris Farms: This activity is actually located about 30 mins away from Kennebunk, but if you're in Maine when there is enough snow on the ground then I promise that this is something you won't regret trying your hand at! This was one of my favorite winter activities growing up, and I have so many fond memories of my mom and I going to do this each year. Sadly I haven't made it out to do this on any recent winter trips home to Maine, but I know it will happen again one of these years.
Harris Farms is dairy farm that's located in the nearby town of Dayton, and they offer cross country skiing (and ski rentals) all over their beautiful trails and acreage in the winter months. A lot of Mainers are big down-hill skiiers- my family and I aren't, but I do very much love cross country skiing. The trails and Harris Farms are so beautiful, and it's a great workout! 



{The Kennebunkport Inn}


Stay:

     I have to preface this part of the travel guide by saying that I personally have never stayed at any of these hotels! Since I am from this area, I've never actually stayed at any of the hotels in the Kennebunks. But I have attended many functions at some of these hotels over the years,  eaten in their restaurants, and know people who work for them. And know people who have stayed at them! So hopefully that is almost as good? ;-)


     If you're visiting for Christmas Prelude: Kennebunkport's two largest hotels, The Colony and The Nonantum, are both great choices for visiting the area. They're both historic properties and have great restaurants. The Nonantum is located right on the river and is less than a mile from the ocean, and The Colony has ocean views. Both of high school proms were held at The Nonantum, and one of my cousin's weddings! And one of my best friends from Maine works for The Colony. Both of these hotels do close after the Christmas Prelude season though, so they aren't open for the whole season.

     If you're visiting later in the winter: I would recommend the Kennebunkport Inn (pictured above)! This beautiful and quaint inn is located right in the center of Dock Square, so it is in walking distance to most shopping and restaurants. They also have a great restaurant in the inn called One Dock. They're open year-round. 



{Colony Beach in Kennebunkport}


Eat:

     Pedro's: This is my FAVORITE Mexican restaurant of all-time. I have yet to find better tacos than at Pedro's. I swear. You probably wouldn't expect to visit the coast of Maine and find great Mexican food, but I promise that it's here! Fun fact: Pedro's doesn't always have the best service. I've actually had to call and complain to their management before about some really bad service that I've had while eating there. Normally I don't return to restaurants where I receive bad service.... BUT THESE TACOS. Y'ALL. Order a large plate of Mexican Street tacos and you will not be disappointed.

     Federal Jack's: This is a restaurant and brewery, and it's a continued favorite spot for my high school friends to meet up at every now and then. They have a pretty extensive menu, and their restaurant is located right on the river, so the views aren't anything to complain about. In the summer their parking is a nightmare, but in the off-season it isn't usually that bad. They serve freshly brewed Shipyard beers, and one of my favorite beers of all time is a blueberry ale. I learned last year that you can actually find it at Trader Joe's stores nationwide- so sometimes I treat myself to that here in Charlotte for a little taste of home!

     Mornings in Paris: This is a little French bakery that opened in Kennebunk (very close to Kennebunkport) about four or five years ago. It's a great spot to meet up with friends at when I am home for visits now. The pastries are decent, but the best things to get there are beverages. They have several types of specialty coffee drinks and lattes, but my two favorites are the Mexican hot chocolate in the winter months, and the lavender iced tea in the summer months.




    And there you go! My guide to visiting my little neck of the (Northern) woods in the winter months. Have you visited Maine or the Kennebunks before? Are you planning any cold-weather winter vacations for this year?



     xoxo Annaliese 

January 6, 2017

Lilly Pulitzer After Party Sale Still Happening!

     Yesterday was quite a day for Lilly Pulitzer lovers! The semi-annual After Party Sale began yesterday morning, and Lilly's website took an unfortunate crash for the beginning part of the sale.  I have classes at broadcasting school on Thursdays, and I showed up to school a full hour early, hoping to get my shopping and browsing all completed before class (Hahaha!) Despite trying to get on with two computers, I didn't get on for almost four hours! But of course, it was worth it.


      If you haven't shopped an After Party Sale before, know that this is the BEST time of the year to buy your Lilly Pulitzer! Tons of merchandise, including best-sellers like Elsa tops and shift dresses, are marked down between 50-75% off. Today is day two of the sale, and despite yesterday's website issues, tons of items are still in stock!! I went back on early this morning and scooped up something else that I hadn't even seen yesterday.


     Here are my favorite picks! Want to guess what I purchased?






     My hometown travel guide post will be up on Monday! I'm sorry that I keep pushing the post back, but this sale just had to take priority. ;-)


      In other news, we're getting snow here in Charlotte this weekend! Despite the fact that I've lived here for a few years now, I still get amazed at how Southerners react to snow each time that it happens. You would think it was an apocalypse! I'm always just thankful that it's less snow than I was used to growing up in New England.



     Have a great weekend! May the Lilly forces be in your favor!


     xoxo Annaliese

January 5, 2017

Lilly Pulitzer After Party Sale HAPPENING NOW!




{Wearing an Elsa top that I purchased in the Summer 2016 After Party Sale! Full blog post for this outfit here}


     Rise and shine, fellow Lilly lovers! The holidays may be over, but that just means that it's AFTER PARTY time!! At exactly 8 am EST today, the sale went live to the public.

      If this is your first time shopping an After Party Sale and you're shopping this morning especially, you might notice there will be a virtual line and queue. You might be given a queue waiting number that is in the high thousands, but don't be alarmed if so! Lilly does this process to monitor the traffic that's on their website at one time, and to try to prevent anything from crashing. Just take your number, wait your turn, and then be prepared to shop until you drop as soon as the website opens for you!


    I'll be updating this post between 8:30-10 am after I've been able to browse the sale, and I'll link my favorite items for y'all! For now, linked below are items that I'm *hoping* will be in the sale. :-)


UPDATE: (The website crashed this morning and I couldn't get on to shop as planned- so I'm not able to update this post today! :-( I'm hoping to shop later this afternoon/evening after I am out of school and work for the day. I'll have a big sale round-up post tomorrow for y'all, and my Maine winter travel guide will be up next Monday instead!)







      Also- just like I did with some Cyber Monday deals, I'll be scheduling tweets today and tomorrow and tweeting out my favorite sale items throughout the day! Be sure that you're following me on Twitter (my Twitter name has changed - it's now @miss_alk just like Instagram) for updates.


      Shop away, y'all!


      xoxo Annaliese

January 4, 2017

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases + Current Wishlist.




{A snap from the radio studios at my broadcasting school campus, in honor of my radio internship starting this week!}



     I started these Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases posts quite awhile ago now, and wasn't as consistent with them through the end of last year. But y'all seem to love them, and always ask me where they are if I miss a few weeks! To mix things up for the new year, I'm adding on a "current wishlist" category now as well. 


Ramblings:

  • New year, new internship: Yesterday I began a radio show internship! To graduate from my program at broadcasting school, all students have to complete an off-campus internship in their field of choice. I've known that I've wanted to work in radio for many years (really since I began college!), but it was being in broadcasting school over that last several months that has solidified it for me, and made me realize that it's 100% radio that I want to do, and not TV or production work. Anyways- I'm having a very good first week at my new internship. I am interning for  morning show, so the 3:30 AM wakeup time will still be an adjustment this month. But so far I am really enjoying being in the radio station, and I love the fast-paced work environment. It isn't an on-air internship, but getting to do a lot of work behind-the-scenes right now will only prepare me for the future! 
  • Getting back to fitness: Something that I really fell away from for the better part of 2016 was working out. I did pretty well with fitness throughout college, but after graduation I was focussing mainly on adjusting to broadcasting school and my new post-grad schedule, and fitness kept getting pushed to the back burner. It's my main New Year's resolution for 2017 to make working out a priority again, and I'm trying to hold myself very accountable! I have my radio internship three mornings a week, and I'm still waking up early on the other two mornings and using those as gym days. It's a win-win: I'm able to get a workout in, and still stick to my new weekday schedule! I'm currently very rusty as I get back into running, but I hope to be able to run a 5k distance later this year.
  • A new/old music favorite: If you like dance-pop music with an amazing beat, you should check out Romanian singer Inna. I first discovered her music in high school, but I rediscovered my love for her about a month ago, thanks to Spotify.  She's released a lot of new music in the last couple of years, and it's all so fun and upbeat! Great workout music especially (or motivating music for long days at work). 
  • Ain't no party like the AFTER PARTY: Talking more about this in the new "current wishlist" section of this post- but there is a big sale happening tomorrow! Read my last recap blog post of the Summer 2016 After Party Sale here


Recent Purchases:
  • I exchanged a couple of Christmas gifts while I was home, and ended up getting my very first cashmere scarf instead! The exact scarf that I picked isn't online, but this one is from the same retailer and has a similar pattern/colors. 
  • This sweater just arrived to me (c/o) and I can't wait to style it for the blog soon! It's my first off-the-shoulder sweater- I was intrigued that this trend stuck around for the winter months, but it's grown on me.
  • I received one of the main items on my Christmas list this year!! I haven't gotten a chance to use it yet, but I can't wait to soon. 


Current Wishlist:
  • My current wishlist is looking a little pink and green.... because if you haven't heard the "spilled juice" (in true Lilly terms), the winter After Party Sale kicks off TOMORROW!! 8 AM EST - be there or be square. Now is the time to update your shipping and billing information on Lilly's website, if you've shopped an After Party Sale before, then you know that the website will be utter madness tomorrow. 
  • In the last two After Party Sales, I've purchased an Elsa top. I love Elsas, but they are a bit on the costly side at full price. You can get AMAZING deals on them in After Party Sales- but you need to be able to shop right when the sale goes live! These are often the first items to go. I currently have my eye on this one and this one- hoping that these might be in the sale!
  • I wore Lilly for my college graduation in May, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. To me, a Lilly dress is the epitome of Southern spring style. Fortunately for me, I have another graduation coming up this May! I finish my broadcasting school program about exactly a year after I graduated college. I plan to wear Lilly again for my next graduation. I'm thinking that I'm on the hunt for a Lilly dress that would look something like this bright shift or this colorful embroidered one.



     My weekly question for you: are you planning to shop the After Party Sale tomorrow? If so, which pieces are you hoping to score? 



    xoxo Annaliese 

January 3, 2017

Southern Skyline Grand Ball 2017: Ringing in the New Year!




     More than ever before, I was so very excited for this new year. While 2016 did hold many sweet memories and accomplishments, it also brought some of the lowest lows of my life. I have never been more than ready for a new beginning and a fresh slate. Last year was actually the first year that I ever had New Year's Eve plans- it's never been a holiday that I really grew up making a big deal over. But I knew that this year I needed to give the start of 2017 a celebration that it was worthy of.


      I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to attend the 4th annual Southern Skyline Grand Ball at one of my favorite places in Uptown: Le Meridien Hotel. My companions for the evening's festivities were two dear friends from college: Caroline, my senior year suitemate, and Mary, one of my sorority sisters. The night began with them arriving at my apartment and all of us getting ready together. It definitely brought back memories of sorority formals and other college events. After an interesting Uber experience to the event (our driver{s} was an elderly couple who were blasting classical music), it was finally time to party!


     The Southern Skyline Grand Ball is held annually in both Charlotte and Greenville, SC, but my friends and I attended the Charlotte event at Le Meridien. All tickets, both General Admission and VIP, included an open bar. I'm not a big drinker myself, but I will say that my friends and I did enjoy this feature of the ticket at the event. You gotta celebrate for the New Year, right?! ;-) We all had the VIP tickets, which meant we had access to each room and bar at the event.


     The event spanned over all of the ballrooms at the hotel (which is a lot of space!). The main ballroom held the largest performers of the evening. The Charlotte Southern Skyline Grand Ball was headlined this year by UK electronic duo Gorgon City. They started performing after midnight, and before them there were other DJs and live acts in the largest ballroom.





     Since we were VIP ticket holders, we enjoyed visiting the main VIP lounge a few times throughout the night. There was food for all ticket holders in the main foyer, but the VIP lounge had a few additional food options. (I was by far most excited about the giant cheese board buffet in the lounge... if you know me, you know that if I'm eating at a restaurant that offers a cheese plate on the menu, I am 99% likely to order it.) Below is a picture of the VIP lounge before it got busy- there was also live music in there throughout the night!




     My friends and I had a great time ringing in 2017 at the Southern Skyline Grand Ball. We ate, drank, danced, and laughed our way into the new year! The dress code for the event was Black Tie Optional, and I of course loved the chance to wear a formal dress to an event! If you're looking for more info about the dress that I wore- see this blog post.







     If I'm still living in Charlotte at this time next year, then I'm already excited for next year's Southern Skyline Grand Ball!



     xoxo Annaliese



     Thank-you to Le Meridien and Southern Skyline Grand Ball for partnering with Southern Belle in Training. I received a complimentary VIP ticket to the event. All opinions are honest and my own.