January 22, 2018

Best Casual Sweater Under $40 + 2018 Resolutions Check-In.

     One of my resolutions for 2018 is to actually stick to most of my resolutions for this year! I haven't formally shared all of my goals for the new year yet, so I thought as January comes to a close, today would be the perfect time to share some of my resolutions, and have I've been working towards them in the first few weeks of this year. I'm also sharing one of my new favorite casual sweaters for today's outfit. Pull up a chai latte with me, and let's have a virtual coffee or tea date and get to it!

Blue Leopard Print Sweater - Winter Style

Best Casual Sweater Under $40

Pink Hunter Boots Preppy Outfit

Photography by Melissa Lynn Studios. Thanks to Black Cap Coffee in Stowe, VT for letting us shoot these pictures inside! 

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

     I picked up this sweater on my trip to Indiana for New Year's (the mall I visited there had much better store options than anywhere in Vermont!). As soon as I felt this sweater, I was amazed at how warm and thick it was for the price point. I knew it was a must-have with the bitter cold temperatures that Vermont has been having this winter. Anything to stay cozy while fashionable gets an enthusiastic "YES!" from me right now! These pink Hunter boots (my first pair!) finally made it to me via my parents over Christmas. I ordered them as this year's big Black Friday splurge to myself when they were on sale... but silly me sent them to my home address in Maine instead of Vermont. Hey- at least I didn't send them to one of my former addresses in Charlotte! My parents brought them to me at Christmas and now that I have them I'm kind of obsessed! You'll be seeing more of them soon. 

     So let's talk resolutions! I'll be sharing some of my 2018 ones below, and a check-in for each as to how it's been going so far in January:

     1. Complete 52 Week Savings Plan again (previously completed as 2016 resolution): So far so good! I recently wrote a blog post explaining this financial resolution and breaking it down for anyone who wants to join me in building their savings account this year. I have set phone alert reminders for every Friday to remind myself to make the deposits for that week's amount from my checking account to savings, and so far that's helping! 

     2. Do a minimum of two workouts a week, with goal of running a 5k in 2018: So far so good with this one too! It's been a goal of mine for years to run a 5K. I am not a runner, and have always struggled with running (running the mile in high school gym class was a nightmare). I want to stop making excuses and finally overcome that in 2018, and develop a hopeful love for running by working my way up to a 5k! I'm hoping to be hitting the gym or doing other types of exercise 3-4 times a week, by my minimum is twice a week. There's little to no physical activity in my job, so I really have to push myself to workout and make those healthy decisions. I have worked out or done some sort of physical activity at least twice a week since the start of the year. Hoping in February to really increase that to more times a week, but for now I'm happy to meet my minimum goal! 

     3. Spend quiet time each weekday morning in uninterrupted prayer: YES! Probably most proud of myself for doing so well at this one so far. I've always been very good at communicating with God throughout my day, both verbally and silently, but I've known for awhile I've needed to get better about "quiet time." Time where I can just focus on deep prayer and my relationship with the Lord. I've started doing this every weekday morning, before I eat breakfast. I set a timer on my phone to make sure that I actually have quiet time for enough time, and that's been working well and helping me from getting distracted! I haven't done this every weekend morning since my weekend schedules vary, but I've been able to get into a great weekday morning routine and it's already helping my faith! 

     I'm really quite happy with my progress on these three resolutions so far. I have a few other resolutions for 2018 as well (I'm telling y'all- this was MY YEAR for goals!) that were more personal, but I'm not quite ready to share all of those on the blog right now. Hopefully the time will come to share all of them with y'all later this year! 

      How are your New Year's resolutions coming so far? Have you stuck with them, or are you adjusting them going in February? 

     I'm really excited for two lifestyle blog posts that I have coming this week- I hope y'all will enjoy! It'll be a great week here on Southern Belle in Training.

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese

January 19, 2018

Winter 2018 Reader Q&A.

     I love doing Q&A posts here on the blog! Y'all always ask me the best questions, and I think this is such a fun way for me to share more about myself. I also love reading Q&A posts when other bloggers do them! They're just fun all around. My last one was in September so you can catch up on that here if you missed it! Thanks to everyone who DMd and emailed me these awesome questions!

Photo by Amanda Rose Photography

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

My coat in the photo above is found here! 

      What is your favorite type of cheese? My girl Amy from Pastel n Pink always asking the TOUGH questions- haha! I had a huge sweet tooth growing up, and while I still have a fairly large one, I'd say my biggest food weakness is my CHEESE tooth. It's only gotten worse since I moved to Vermont, the dairy capital of the Northeast. I always know it's time to head to the grocery store if I've run out of cheese, true story. I love so many cheese and for different reasons (some area better to cook with, some are best to snack on), but I'll answer this question from a snacking perspective. My three favorite snacking cheeses that I generally rotate between are any type of sharp Cheddar, Havarti, and Muenster.

      What suggestions do you have for new bloggers to help gain followers and grow? This is a great question! It's funny, when I first read this I was like "I'm in no position to give advice about this!", and then the more I thought about it, I remembered I've been doing this whole blogging thing for 5+ years now. Wow! I guess I'm not a newbie anymore. While I'm definitely not the biggest or best blogger and I never will be, I've definitely learned some important things regarding the business of blogging in the last few years, and maybe now is the time to start sharing! I think this question would actually best be answered in a separate post or maybe even series about blogging, but to still answer it in some capacity: here's my number one tip to grow your blog and social following as a newer blogger. Be an active member of the blogging community! Befriend other bloggers, both those local in your community and also those online. Become active in blogger Facebook groups. Join some comment/like pods (yes, I'm a fan of these!). Network with other creatives like photographers too, I've learned so much from my photographer friends. The best benefit of this are the amazing relationships that you'll make, but the second plus is that you'll gain more followers and readers, and also learn a lot about blogging from networking with other bloggers!
      Again- this is my short answer. I think I'd like to write more about blogging tips in the coming months!

      How has your blog helped with being on-air in radio? Another great question! Y'all are killing it this time. The really short answer: SO MANY WAYS! Social media and blogging are becoming very integrated with the radio world, especially as radio continues to move into the digital space. Having an extensive prior knowledge of these things from Southern Belle in Training made it easy to write blog posts for our station website or do IG lives at radio events for example, as I've already had experience doing things like that. This is another question that I could write a more detailed blog post on- I might save it for my Radio 101 series, which will be back soon!

     What are your favorite TV shows? I am a huge TV buff and much prefer TV to movies. (And when I do watch a movie, it's usually a Lifetime or Hallmark channel one, haha!) I wrote a detailed blog post early this fall all about my picks for the Fall TV season, which you can check out here. I've still been watching all of the shows I wrote about in this post for the most part!! To answer your question more specifically:
     Favorite shows on TV now: The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Jane the Virgin, Great News, 9JKL, Star, The Mayor, The Bachelor(ette)
    Favorite shows off-air: 7th Heaven, That 70s Show, How I Met Your Mother, Hart of Dixie, Parks and Rec
     My all-time favorite show is That 70s Show, it's the only show I've seen more times than I can count on reruns and Netflix, and I still laugh hysterically at every episode and every joke. Kelso is my favorite character for comedic purposes, and I love how he and Jackie ended up together in real life. 😉

     Name a few places on your travel bucket list: I actually just blogged about this yesterday coincidentally! Check out my post here. (Spoiler alert: it's a lot of places!)

     When and how did you start your blog? I talk a bit about this on the About Me page of my blog! I'll give you the brief version of the story here. 😊 I actually started blogging in January 2011, during my junior year of high school. I had a personal writing blog called "Confessions of a Maine Teenager." (I cringe typing that name here now- lol!) My parents were really concerned back then about my privacy as a minor in the online world, so I didn't share photos of myself or blog under my name. I would sign my posts as "Miss ALK" - ALK is my initials, which is how my Instagram and later other social media handles were born! (I still signed my blog posts here on SBIT as Miss ALK for the first few years in tribute to my former blog!) Anyways, I stopped posting on my Confessions blog around the time that I graduated from high school, and took that summer between high school and college off to focus on my summer job and preparing to move to North Carolina. After I began college, I realized that I really missed the creative writing outlet that blogging brought, and since I'd always loved fashion, I thought it would be fun to start sharing pictures of the outfits that I put together each day for college classes on a new blog. So- I launched Southern Belle in Training on my birthday in 2012! The name honestly just came naturally to me, it seemed so fitting since I had just moved from Maine. I didn't start to monetize my blog until about a year after I started it. So I spent a long time just blogging in college solely because I enjoyed blogging! I've left up most of my old blog posts in the archives- sometimes I like to go back and read them just to see how far this blog has come!

     What are your go-to's for self-care? What a great question! While self-care is definitely important, I think the culture today has almost an unhealthy obsession with it. The premise of "self-care" can sometimes be used I think as an excuse for spending unnecessary money on things we don't really need or have the funds for. Sometimes it is also about spending too much of your time on mindless activities to divert from an actual problem in your life which needs to be addressed and is causing you stress. (See this article for more on that.) So anyways- while I think self-care is necessary and for sure has a place in our busy lives, it is a bit blown out of proportion in the culture today, with the whole #TreatYourself mentality. Just wanted to get that out there!
    With that said, since moving to Vermont, my favorite form of self-care is one that's super easy and costs nothing at all: SLEEP. I've started making it an absolute necessity that I get 8+ hours of sleep a night, and some weeknights I go to bed really early and get closer to 10 hours. Back in college and broadcasting school, many nights I was lucky to just have 6 hours of sleep! I'm really starting to reap the benefits of all of the extra sleep that I've been getting over the last several months. The chronic migraines that I've dealt with for the last few years have faded to becoming rare occurrences, rather than something to deal with weekly. I find that I'm very alert in the mornings, and also stay alert at work throughout my workday. (Knock on wood) I also haven't been sick once since I moved to Vermont! Not even a common cold. Every time some sort of sickness has gone around the radio station, I've avoided it. I seriously attribute that 100% to the fact that I sleep a lot and sleep helps your body better fight against illness!
      I also have one form of #TreatYourself self-care that I do partake in. My rant above wasn't to say that spending money on self-care is bad, it just shouldn't become an obsession. 😊 Around this time last year, I decided I wanted to quit nail biting once and for all, and I started getting acrylic nails and regular nail appointments. I ditched the acrylics after moving and now get gel manicures, which I like better (and they're cheaper!). It definitely has helped to curbed my bad nail biting habit, and I feel more prepared at work and with blogging to have nice nails. So this is my bi-weekly self-care splurge!

     Thanks again to everyone who sent these wonderful questions!! I hope to make my Q&A posts a seasonal thing in 2018, so look for another one in the springtime.

    Have a great start to your weekend! Friday- we made it! This is the first weekend in awhile where it's going to be warmer than negative temperatures here in Vermont. 30s and 40s... I'll take it!

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese


January 18, 2018

Italy Travel Vlog + My Travel Destinations Bucket List!

     Well part one of today's blog post is about nine months overdue! I'm finally sharing my first vlog from my trip to Italy with my mom in March 2017, right before I moved to Vermont! In the spirt of wanderlust (and a little bit of winter cabin fever that's starting to hit), I'm also sharing my travel bucket lists!

     Despite the fact that I've taken a good few video editing classes between my major in undergrad and broadcasting school last year, video editing still isn't something that comes naturally to me. In broadcasting school especially, I had to work doubly hard on any video or TV assignments then I did on radio ones. That's honestly the main reason why I don't do more to grow my Youtube channel or incorporate more video stuff onto the blog! It's just something that really doesn't come naturally to me (unlike writing and photography). But it's always good to push yourself out of your creative comfort zone, so I'm hoping to challenge myself and make a few more videos for the blog in 2018. Youtube will never be a weekly (or maybe even monthly) component to Southern Belle in Training, but I'm hoping you'll be seeing more video content in the future! Anyways, I did decide last year though that I wanted to vlog the Italy trip, and I made the commitment to myself that I WOULD finish the vlogs- no matter how long it took! I wasn't quite expecting it to take nine months... but here we are, lol! Anyways, I loved the end product of this vlog and I think I would like to make more travel vlogs in the future for more "big trips" that I go on. Today's vlog is actually part one, and it covers Rome and Florence. Venice was my favorite part of the trip- and this winter I'll be working on a second vlog for that. (Hopefully it won't take me nine months! 😉)

     Check out my first Italy vlog below, and follow my Youtube channel here!

     Now let's talk travel bucket lists! Travel is one of the things that I'm most passionate about in life. There is so much to gain from visiting new places and exposing yourself to different cultures, both domestically with different states, and of course internationally with various countries and continents! I feel very thankful that I grew up with two parents who also love to travel and made it a priority during the years I was younger. They also supported my decision to study abroad for a summer in college, and although that actually didn't end up being the most positive experience, it definitely put me outside of my comfort zone and I'm still glad I did it!

     I've been blessed with the opportunity to go on some amazing trips during the last five years, last year's Italy trip being just one of them! Since I'm on my own in the working world now, I'm currently focused on paying off all of my school debts in the next couple years before going on any "big" trips. But I'm always dreaming about places around the globe that I'd like to visit, and my wanderlust list keeps growing and growing! I know that after I've finished paying off school it will be SO HARD for me to decide where to take my next international trip to. And who knows, it might also be a big domestic trip!

     *US Travel Bucket List:

  • Every single state, and especially all 48 continental states. Seriously!! Want to see all 50! It's actually on my bucket list to do a cross-country road trip someday, and integrate it into both my blog and whatever radio show I'm working on at the time. I literally want to see every major US city, re-visit all the places I visited with my parents when I was little now that I'm an adult, and also see many of the national parks. That would be way too long to list all of my US bucket list destinations out, so let's jump into the international ones:

     *International Travel Bucket List:

  • Panama (There's just something about the country of Panama, it's been on my bucket list for a few years now! It's fairly affordable to visit, there's minimal jet lag, Panama City has an incredible skyline, and I'd love to see the Panama Canal!)
  • Saint Lucia (It looks like one of the Caribbean's most incredible islands, I'd love to see it for myself!)
  • Mexico (I'd love to finally visit Cancun or Cabo, these destinations look like they'd be perfect to visit with a group of friends for a besties trip.) 
  • Paris, France (Yes... I studied abroad in France for a whole month and never made it to Paris, outside of layovers in the airport!!) 
  • Thailand (I think it would be so romantic to honeymoon here someday on a resort on one of Thailand's amazing beaches!)
  • Singapore (One of Asia's cultural gems!)
  • Japan (Such amazing culture and so many cool things to do! I also had a Japanese exchange student friend in high school so it would be fun to reunite as adults.) 
  • India (I have been long obsessed with Bollywood movies and Indian food, and I would love to finally see this amazing country for myself. One of my favorite Bollywood movies is set in the beach state of Goa, so visiting there would be especially high on the bucket list!)
  • Spain (My mom and I had a layover there en route to Italy, and it made me sad I wasn't able to explore this beautiful country too!)
  • Greece (Some of the most gorgeous architecture and islands on earth- enough said!)
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia (This city in Eastern Canada is another one that's been on my travel bucket list for years. It just seems like such a charming place to visit!)

     These countries are just my top travel bucket list destinations, but I'm not joking when I say that there are so many more places that I'd love to visit! My wanderlust is so real. 

     Do we share any of the same travel destinations on our bucket lists? Are your travel goals more international or domestically focused? (Or both, like mine?)

      God Bless,

      xoxo Annaliese


January 17, 2018

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases + Current Wishlist.

{Last weekend brought some snow day selfies! Follow me on social media @miss_alk}

  • Productive day off: I wrote in last Friday's blog post that last Saturday was my first Saturday off from my job... ever!! (As in a Saturday off that I didn't have to use my PTO for.) I was so excited about this... until I saw the weather. It was very snowy and icy on Saturday, and since winter weather driving isn't my specialty, I ended up staying in all day. At first I was kind of bummed that my rare Saturday off was being used in such a boring way, but it ended up being the most productive day! I finally finished unpacking from my holiday travels, put away the rest of my holiday decor and organized it, tried a new muffin recipe, and spent most of the day deep cleaning and organizing my kitchen! Now I have a nice clean apartment, so it wasn't a day wasted! 
  • Hitting the slopes: This upcoming weekend should be a bit more exciting though than last- I am crossing another item off of my Vermont bucket list! (Note: I feel like I refer to my "Vermont bucket list a lot" but I've never publicly shared it, maybe I should do that soon, lol!) I'm going downhill SKIING!!! Growing up in Maine, I went skiing a couple times growing up, but my parents didn't ski nor did any of my closet friends, so I never owned skis myself or went frequently. It's now been 10 years since I last went skiing (writing that makes me feel really old, lol!), but I'm excited to finally get out on the slopes in what is probably New England's premiere state for winter sports! And by "get out on the slopes," I mean the bunny hills obviously. 😉 But it should still be a memorable and fun day. I'm hoping to have the chance to do some cross country skiing at least once this winter also. #WhenInVermont
  • Party planning: I feel like in the last few post-move updates that I've written about life in Vermont, the goal that I keep listing (and failing to achieve) is doing more hosting/entertaining at my apartment. Minus having guests from out of town, I've rarely been able to have people over, as in new friends that I've met in Vermont! I'm so excited that as of like *this month*, this is finally changing. I wasn't able to host a Christmas party this holiday season, but I do have a really fun party in the works for the next couple weeks right now! Party planning is one of my favorite things ever, and I think this will be a fun one. I can't wait to blog all about it after it happens of course! 

  • I decided to do a month-long shopping fast! I started it the second week of January. I last did one shortly after moving to Vermont, and it had so many great benefits! The biggest of course was being able to get ahead with saving money, and the start of the year is a great time to get a jump start on that. What motivated me to do this one is the fact that I bought so many winter clothes in the fall, and spring is still such a long time away in Vermont, so I don't really have anything fashion-wise I *need* to be buying this month! So it seemed like an ideal time to do one. 
  • Right before I started my shopping fast, I did place an Amazon order for some tech related things that I needed. The first was a new case for my phone! My older Otterbox still works great, but the rubber is starting to peel and become discolored, so it was time for an upgrade. I'm loving the color of my new case!
  • Of course I had to buy a new PopSocket as well. Amazon has an amazing selection of these- and this was one of the cutest ones I've seen!  
  • I also bought this much needed accessory for my iPhone! This would've come in handy for the long road trip when I moved from NC to Vermont last year. 
  • And lastly.... I treated myself to new headphones for work! If you're looking for really nice headphones or also in radio, these are the ones that I got! They're under $100 which isn't a bad price as far as professional headphones go. 

  • I really wish I was still in college and had a warm weather type spring break to look forward to... if I did I'd be buying this adorable bikini in a heartbeat! I can't believe it's under $20.
  • This cute and casual peplum top is marked down to $20 right now (full price is still under $40 which isn't bad), this would be a great winter to spring transitional top, and it comes in a few colors. If it's still in stock when my shopping fast is done I might have to order it!
  • If you're starting to make some fun Galentine's plans with your BFFs, these photobooth props are adorable!! 
  • I love keeping random tote bags in my apartment, and I'm always using them for transporting stuff (especially on blog shoot days!). If you're a fellow blogger, I'm sure you can relate to the funny saying on this cute tote! 
  • This puff sleeve dress comes in such a bold shade of yellow- if your mood is lagging during the rest of winter, wearing something sunny like this would cheer you right up!

Recipe of the Week: Raspberry Coconut Muffins from Taste of Lizzy T.  I tried a bunch of new recipes this week and they were all total DUDS. I was actually kind of panicked for writing today's post and thought I'd have to pull an old recipe favorite! But then this past Saturday I made these muffins and oh my gosh- so good! The coconut milk in them made them extra moist. I didn't have any desiccated coconut in my pantry as that's a speciality item, so I substituted and used regular shredded coconut instead and they still turned out delicious. 

Song of the Week: Finesse (Remix) by Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B: For someone that works in Top 40 radio... I'm actually not really a big Cardi B or Bruno Mars fan (which I probably shouldn't admit!) But stick the two of them together on a remix of a song and MAGIC happens. Seriously- this song is pure gold! Every time it comes on at work I want to start dancing. 

On the blog this week: 

     Thanks so much for reading! It's Wednesday... halfway through the work week!

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese 

January 15, 2018

Guide To My Favorite Fashion Brands: What I Buy From Different Stores.

     One of the best parts about blogging is that it's pushed me as a consumer to be aware of so many more fashion retailers and brands. In middle and high school, I was definitely guilty for a few years of shopping exclusively at the "cool" mall stores like American Eagle Outfitters, Hollister, and Victoria's Secret PINK. Heaven forbid I even consider shopping somewhere else during that time in my life - ha! Nowadays, I can say that it's actually really hard for me to pick a favorite store or brand! Keeping up with fashion trends so often now, I've quite honestly discovered things that I like and dislike about almost every retailer. Of course, there are a few that I do generally prefer over others (which you'll read more about in this post), but overall I think we're living in an era when fast fashion is easy to come by from many different places, which makes blogging really fun and creative!

      I thought today's post would be fun to write though to share which retailers I turn to when shopping for certain things specifically. Such as- what's my favorite store for tights? My go-to place for sports bras? What store comes to mind when I think work appropriate blouses? You'll learn all of these things today! It doesn't mean that I won't buy my tights, sports bras, or business casual tops at multiple places of course, but there are some brands that are "tried and true" for me for some winning items, so that's what I'll be focusing on today! 

What to buy from the best stores

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

     *Ann Taylor - To me, the essence of the Ann Taylor brand is fashion that is feminine, classic, understated and timeless. It's a more expensive brand/store, but everything Ann Taylor that I own I keep in my closet for years, so I see purchases there as investments instead of fast fashion. I would probably shop at Ann Taylor at lot more if there was a store in Vermont (it's one store I prefer to shop at in person), and also if I worked in a business casual work environment, but either way, it still remains a favorite of mine!
     *Ann Taylor favorites - Business casual blouses and tops

     *Anthropologie - Many of my girlfriends claim Anthropologie as their favorite store. While it isn't my top retail destination, my heart does have a soft spot for Anthro! I actually don't own any clothing items from here (surprisingly?), but I adore the home items and other accessories. Remember that gold initial mug that when viral on Instagram and Pinterest circa 2014? I still have mine and proudly use it as decoration on my blogging desk/office area! Like Ann Taylor, this is another store that I prefer to shop at in-store versus online.
      *Anthropologie favorites - Mugs

     *Belk - My favorite Southern department store!! Ah- how I miss Belk! Yet another store where I'm not a big fan of the website, so I haven't shopped there since I moved to Vermont. The SouthPark Mall location in Charlotte is one of their flagship stores, and it carried lots of high-end and premiere brands, so Belk SouthPark was always one of my favorite places to go in SouthPark. Belk's annual Belk Days sale is an amazing time to get great deals on so many items in store. There are few departments stores where I can truly say I like every department, but Belk is one of those, at least for the Charlotte locations! My favorite thing to purchase at Belk though is shoes. So many of my favorite shoe purchases are from there, and they often have great sales in the shoe department.
      *Belk favorites - Shoes at all locations, and for the SouthPark location, their Lilly Pulitzer department!

     *Banana Republic - I view Banana Republic as a three-way fusion of Gap, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor. I like Banana and have some pieces from there that I love, but it's not a store that I specifically go to when shopping for something, if that makes sense. Most of their items are pretty high quality and investment pieces, also kind of like Ann Taylor. I will say that Banana will always have a special spot in my heart as it's one of the first major fashion brands that I partnered with on my blog for a few campaigns!
      *Banana Republic favorites - Sweaters and shoes

     *Charming Charlie - During my first two years of college, Charming Charlie was 100% my favorite store in the world. It's still a retailer that I love, but my obsession might have calmed a little bit now, haha! Anyways, before my junior year of college, there actually weren't any CC locations in Charlotte! They did have some in a two-hour radius in other parts of the Carolinas, like Winston-Salem and Greenville, SC. You bet that I made trips to shop there at least once or twice a semester! I'm telling you- my devotion was strong! I've tried just about everything that Charming Charlie sells, and in the last year I've also gotten some fun PR mailers from them with blogging. There are a few stand-out products that I love though, and it's also a great store to find gifts at for girlfriends!
     *Charming Charlie favorites - Statement earrings and these hair elastics (The only ones I buy now)

     *Chicwish - This is an online retailer that was new-to-me in 2017, and I was lucky enough to start partnering with them on my blog! Sometimes as a consumer it's easy to be wary of online-only retailers, especially since I really do love the in-person shopping experience so much! I can say now that I'm definitely a fan of Chicwish though! Most of their items fit very TTS, and I've really liked just about everything I've received from them! I like Chicwish because while they sell trendy items, their clothing usually has a unique look about it that's a little different than what you see in mall stores.
     *Chicwish favorites - Skirts and sweaters (I wrote a separate blog post here about how much I love their sweaters!)

     *Dillard's - Ah - another department store that I miss dearly! Nordstrom is really the only department store that I make regular orders from online, the rest I prefer to shop at in-store. I will say, I used to be more into Dillard's a few years ago for two reasons. Their SouthPark Mall locations in Charlotte had an excellent Juniors section, and also a decently sized Vera Bradley selection in the Handbags department - which are two departments I used to shop in a lot more a few years ago! But with that said, I still really like Dillard's for other things too!
      *Dillard's favorites - Shoes and formalwear

     *DSW - Obviously this is a shoe store, so *shocker* when I say that I come here for.... shoes! What sets DSW apart from other places that I buy shoes at is that if I have a certain specific shoe style in mind that I'm looking for, whether it's a type of black heel, a certain workout sneaker, or a type of fall boot.... there's a 99% chance DSW has it, or has something very similar to what I want. They just have such an extensive selection of shoes since it's what they specialize in! Sometimes when I'm shoe shopping I check other stores first, but if I'm coming up blank, DSW usually comes to my rescue.
     *DSW favorites - Specific shoes I'm shopping for

     *Express - Express isn't one of my favorites of the mall brands, however it's one of the few stores we have here at the mall in Vermont that I actually shop at (lol but true!). I think they tend to be pretty overpriced for the quality of their clothing. With that said, during their large sale days (like Black Friday or other holidays) you can sometimes get great deals on already reduced clearance. I have some things from Express I've found on sale that I really do like. Their ExpressNEXT rewards program also isn't bad- you don't need to store credit card to sign up for it, and it's easy to get rewards.
     *Express favorites - various clothing finds on-sale

     *Forever 21 - Weird fun fact: one of my favorite Forever 21 locations EVER is in Maine!! Isn't that random? But seriously, there's a great location in the mall where I'm from. Anyways, I've been a loyal F21 shopper since high school. Since I've gotten more into online shopping with blogging, I now prefer retailers like Chicwish and Shein to Forever 21's clothing. However, I still love F21 for accessories, pajamas, and workout apparel! Their sports bra are so cheap and are my favorite!
     *Forever 21 favorites - "Going out clothes," fall hats, pajamas, and sports bras

     *Francesca's - I love the vibe and design of Francesca's stores. It really is like stepping into a cute girly boutique inside of the mall! This is yet another retailer that I really don't like shopping at online, I prefer the in-store experience. Similarly to Express, I think a lot of Francesca's clothing is very overpriced for what it is. However, this is a great store for accessories and little home trinkets. It's one of my favorite places to shop at for gifting for my girlfriends! Most years for Christmas I've bought at least a few friends presents and stocking stuffers from here!
     *Francesca's favorites - Home trinkets and accessories

     *H&M - This is a very hit or miss store with me! Another one that I prefer to shop at in-store, but my affection for H&M totally depends on the location. There were some in the Charlotte area that carried much better merchandise than others for example. I think some of their clothing is extremely cheaply made (and looks it), but other things are a great bargain for the price, and hold up very well! For example- one of my favorite coats is four years old and from H&M and I still love it, but sometimes I see other coats there that I wouldn't be caught dead in, as they look so cheaply made. I have the same views on their accessories.
      *H&M favorites - "Going out clothes" and accessories

     *J. Crew - A rare brand where I prefer its outlet version to the real thing! With that said, nothing compares to J. Crew's gorgeous line-up of winter coats. I received one for Christmas a few years ago, and it's one of my most prized possessions. Their line of statement jewelry is also gorgeous!
     *J. Crew favorites - The Lady Day coat

     *J. Crew Factory - So I totally prefer Factory to regular J. Crew! Anyone else? I've shopped there for long enough and have enough of a grasp on their sizing and styles that I shop there equally online and in-store. They're my go-to destination for preppy basics! Everything from solid colored shorts to cardigans to jewelry staples... and sometimes fun things too like cute dresses and tops!
      *J. Crew Factory favorites - Shorts and cardigans

    *Kendra Scott - Definitely one of the main brands that I fell in love with during my years in the South! Kendra Scott's jewelry is so bold and colorful, and I think it wears well with many of my wardrobe favorites. I will say that I think some of their pieces are a bit overpriced for what they are, but on the other hand some of their other jewelry I think is very fairly priced and remains some of my favorite jewelry to wear! It just depends on the pieces. When I buy Kendra online, I usually do so through Nordstrom so that I can use my Nordstrom card. Otherwise I love having the in-store experience!
     *Kendra Scott favorites - Stud earrings and cuff bracelets

     *Lauren James - Probably the preppiest place I shop at! Predominantly an online retailer, although boutiques across the country do carry Lauren James (none near Vermont though). I am obsessed with their Sweet Tee t-shirts (I just featured them in my Best Purchases of 2017 post), but I also love Lauren James's vests, shorts, and other clothing items! And they have the cutest preppy stickers.
      *Lauren James favorites - Sweet Tees

     *Lilly Pulitzer - Out of every store/brand on this list... this is the one where if asked, I'd say, "Yep, I'd like everything please!" I am 110% a Lilly girl, and so proud of it. 😊 I have a plethora Lilly accessories, had a Lilly agenda every year of college, have a rapidly growing collection of Lilly dresses, and own many other Lilly clothing items as well. And you know what? I LOVE IT ALL!!! (I'm sure that's not a shock to you if you read my After Party Sale posts!)
     *Lilly Pulitzer favorites - Dresses and Lilly drinkware (mugs especially)

     *LOFT - Probably an odd favorite thing to have about such a popular store... but I love LOFT's tights! Especially their sweater tights, they've made it possible for me to keep wearing dresses and skirts during the awful New England winter! I asked for some more for Christmas and was thrilled when my mom bought me several more pairs! This is another store, like J. Crew, where I really like their outlet! Sometimes I like the stuff LOFT outlet gets better than regular LOFT. I also like LOFT for other things, like blouses and sweaters, but I will say that I don't shop there anymore as much as I did a couple years ago, as I feel like right now with blogging LOFT is almost a little *too* popular and it seems like on Instagram every night there's at least 25 bloggers in the same LOFT outfit. No thanks!!
     *LOFT favorites - Tights

     *Nordstrom - The mother of all department stores, at least in the blogging world! Being a blogger and reaping the benefits of NSale commissions each summer (#transparency) has definitely made me start shopping more at Nordstrom, but I will say I appreciate the fact how they carry a range of high and low end brands. And I love the free shipping! Even when I lived in Charlotte where there was a large store, this is a rare store that I prefer online shopping at to the in-store experience. And now in Vermont I don't have a choice, so online it is!
     *Nordstrom favorites - Large Tory Burch selection (I purchase most of my Tory stuff here so I can get card points), the BP exclusive line

     *Nordstrom Rack - I'm also a big fan of Nordstrom's budget friendly sister store! While Rack is a much better shopping experience in-store, I'm very spoiled as there's an awesome Rack in Maine, and my broadcasting school wasn't far from the Charlotte one. Nordstrom Rack visits are always surprising- you could do amazingly and end up with a penny deal, you might not find anything, or you could find lots of things!
      *Nordstrom Rack favorites - Shoes and jewelry

     *Ross - I don't actually know too many bloggers who admit to liking shop at Ross. There aren't any Ross stores in New England, so I was unfamiliar with it until I moved to NC for college. It didn't take me long to fall in love though! You can't get lower deals on clothing than Ross. Except maybe Walmart.... but let's avoid that. 😉 Ross is an extremely no-frills shopping experience, and selection varies of course from store to store, but I've had many Ross trips where I have STRUCK GOLD, and found things like the cutest sweaters, skirts, and tops! Seriously- one basic striped top that I wear almost weekly to work was a Ross find last year for under $10. Also- they have a huge two-story store on the Las Vegas strip that I've visited on both of my Vegas trips and will probably visit on future trips too! Can you tell I'm a Ross enthusiast? #noshame
     *Ross favorites - Dresses

    *Shein - This is an online exclusive retailer that I was very wary of before I first ordered from there. All of their prices are insanely cheap (think $15 and under for most things), and they're China based, so I didn't know if it was legit. I'm here to report that Shein is one of those rare things in life that is too good to be true! I've now placed tons of orders through them over the last couple years and also worked with them on my blog. There's been some items that were of low quality or didn't fit well, but for the most part, I love everything! If it's taken care of well, it holds up pretty well. You can also read the customer reviews before purchasing! The items that have the most reviews are usually the best bets.
     *Shein favorites - Workout leggings and swimwear

     *Talbots - This is actually my mom's favorite store! She started shopping there more often when I was in high school, and buying me things from there. Then I started shopping there too! While some things from Talbots have a bit of a mature look to them (more suited for women my mom's age), there are lots of things in the store that look great on 20 somethings as well. The word that comes to mind when I think of Talbots is "classic." If you bought something from Talbots five years ago, you can still wear it now without question! While I have lots of clothing from there, the items that I actually own the most of are their accessories. If Charming Charlie is my favorite place for statement jewelry, it would be Talbots for  simple and understated costume jewelry.
     *Talbots favorites - Jewelry and Scarves

     *Target - I go through weird phases with Target's clothing. Some seasons I love everything and I buy tons of it, and other times I go months without buying a thing. I loved their Lilly for Target collection in 2015, and I've also liked some of the other limited edition lines. Two things that I've always bought at Target and will probably continue to buy there though are swimwear and basic t-shirts.
      *Target favorites - Swimwear, t-shirts, and the Sugarfix by Baublebar exclusive jewelry line

     *TJ Maxx / Marshall's - Alright y'all don't hate me for saying this.... I'm actually not too big of a Maxxinista! (Or whatever the equivalent is for Marshall's.) I think despite the fact their prices are lower than department stores, they're often still too high for the quality of what they're selling. That's why I prefer Ross- pretty much everything is $20 and under there! I rarely buy clothing now at TJ Maxx or Marshall's. I do like both stores though for home items, gifting supplies (like gift bags), and shoes. TJ Maxx does have some good shoe finds, but it's hit or miss depending on location and the season.
     *TJ Maxx / Marshall's favorites - Home accessories and shoes

     *Zara - One of my newer favorite stores, but I'm oh so in love with it! I especially love shopping there when I travel. Montreal, just over the border from Burlington, has tons of great Zara locations which is been fun to discover! Zara carries such modern and different twists on basic items. Everything they sell has a city-chic feel to it. I recently discovered their denim and I LOVE it, but besides for that I don't really have a favorite thing here! I honestly like everything.
     *Zara favorites - Jeans and blanket scarves

     I hope that you enjoyed today's blog post!! Do we share any favorite stores?

     Have a wonderful start to your week!

      God Bless,

       xoxo Annaliese   


January 12, 2018

2017's Best Blog Blooper Photos.

     Today it's time to show off the less staged and put-together side of blogging! Let's laugh together and take a look back at the best photography bloopers from 2017 on Southern Belle in Training. In my earlier years of blogging, I used to try and share blooper photos every few months. There's no reason really why I stopped doing it (I guess as my blog grew and I got busier with sponsored content, that took first priority!), but I still love looking at the funny outtake photos from time to time, so let's do that again today! 😉 The original blog post that each photo appeared in will be linked by each picture.

     June 2017: "One Maxi Dress Two Ways: Breezy Daytime Look"

     I titled this blog post "Breezy Daytime Look" for a reason! This dress was super fun to let blow in the summer breeze (Melissa and I shot these photos lakeside in Burlington), but at the same time, there were also a lot of fun outtakes, like this one. What even is going on with my hair?! Between the dress and hair... too much to keep hold of!

      October 2017 at Vermont Country Store (never blogged this outfit)

     One thing that happens a lot with blogging photography is that the camera is still clicking away even as I'm adjusting poses or moving to a new spot! That's exactly what happened in the photo above! I think I was already over the poses I had done in this spot - ha!

     December 2017: "Vermont Holiday Look"

     This was one of the coldest days that I've ever been outside doing blog photos in! Serious props to Amanda for toughing the cold with me and shooting four outfits that day. We did manage to get some cute shots for this outfit despite it being 10 degrees outside, but of course in between pictures I let my distaste for the weather show... which was captured so well in the picture above! (At least my eye makeup looks cool in this shot?)

     September 2017: "Late Summer PR Packages Review."

     My parents kindly help out with my photography needs for Southern Belle in Training when I'm visiting home in Maine, we're traveling together, or they're here in Vermont and I need a quick Instagram photo or have something come up. I love the fact they're able to help with this! My mom is an artist and photographer (for her job) so her images are usually beautiful. My dad on the other hand.... photographer in training. 🙂 The picture above is one of his outtakes, and the ones following are as well. We sure do have fun when he helps with my blog photos, but let me just say it takes a LOT of effort to get the photos with him that you'll actually see featured in a blog post!

     July 2017: "I Tried LipSense - My Honest Review!"

     I shot the photos for this post at home in Maine this summer with my dad... this was a favorite outtake. Man oh man.... haha!!

     August 2017: "Nautical Lilly Pulitzer Look"

     During my dad's summer visit to Vermont, we took a sunset lake cruise one night on Lake Champlain. It provided the perfect backdrop for some blog photos! We did end up getting some that I loved, but with the crazy wind on the boat there were also tons of funny ones of me trying to tame my hair.

     November 2017: "New Must Have Cardigan"

     On my dad's fall visit to see me, we ventured across the lake to Plattsburgh, NY. I'd always wanted to do blog photos in their downtown so that was kind of fun. This picture though was my favorite outtake, it reminds me of the iconic scene in Princess Diaries where Princess Mia is being taught how to wave!

     And lastly... as I mentioned my parents help me out from time to time with photography on the blog... they also enjoy trying their hand at imitating my blog poses from time to time as well. 😉

     Hope that you enjoyed my 2017 edition of blogger bloopers!! Wishing you a wonderful start to you weekend as well. TGIF- we made it!! I'm very excited about this weekend for two reasons. One: today it is 50 degrees! Granted it's raining all day... but STILL, that is 60 degrees warmer than it was last weekend in Vermont! (Yes... -10 last weekend.) Secondly, I have tomorrow off! I haven't had any Saturdays off from work since starting my job, minus the couple that I've used PTO for when I've been traveling out-of-state. But I actually have tomorrow off to enjoy to myself. Ahhhh!! I forgot what having a Saturday off looks like. This won't be a weekly happening, but I'm planning to try and really enjoy this weekend.

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese

January 11, 2018

It's Not Too Late for a Resolution... Here's How to Save Almost $1,400 This Year!

      Today's post might be a Southern Belle in Training first! I'm bringing back old blog content, I think the technical term is "repurposing." I've seen other bloggers do this time and time again with their most popular posts, and I'm all about trying new things, so I figured it's time I finally give this a try in 2018! One of my most popular blog posts of all time was one that I wrote in December 2016, entitled "How I Saved Almost $1,400 in 2016." As I wrote in that post, at the time that was one of the only New Year's resolutions in my life that I'd ever successfully kept! I'm doing the same savings plan again for 2018, so I thought I would revisit this popular blog post again, because at only 10 days into January it's not too late to add on another resolution for the year, especially one that's so easy and financially beneficial!

      To recap: in December 2015 (when I was a senior in college), I knew that my savings account needed some work. In order to keep more money in my checking account, I had kept pulling money out of my savings for "fun" expenses during fall semester of my senior year, like weekend trips, nights out, sorority expenses, etc. Nothing that qualified as an emergency expense or a good reason to pull money out of savings. I knew I need to start revaluing the difference between my checking and savings accounts, and starting building my savings again. I wanted to find a savings plan that I could complete in 2016. My goal was to have at minimum $1,000 in savings by the end of the year, but hopefully more.

     I was so excited when I found the 52-Week Savings plan! I decided to complete it in 2016, and can tell y'all now that I was SUCCESSFUL that year in doing so! 😊 I was seriously so excited when I wrote my first blog post about this savings plan in 2016- prior to this, I had never had much luck with completing a New Year's resolution! It is the easiest thing in the world to do if you commit to it- are you ready for this?

      You transfer the dollar amount from your checking to your savings account that matches up to the week of the year that it is, and do this every week for 52 weeks. So last week, the first week in January, transfer $1! This week is the second week of the year, so it's $2. The first week in March is the 10th week of the year, so $10 goes into savings. And so on and so forth. Amounts do get higher as the year goes on, and they're highest in November and December, as those are later weeks of the year. (That is something to be aware of and prepare for, as holiday expenses need to be factored into a budget during the end of the year, but you don't want to lose sight of the savings plan either.) Trust me though- you will feel AMAZING when you deposit that $52 and complete the plan during the last week of December.

      All in all, if you complete the plan for all 52 weeks, you'll have $1,378 in your savings account at the end of the year. WOW! That's a whole emergency savings account right there. If you already do have money in savings, you can still do this plan and could use the money to make a significant payment on your student loans, or put it towards an amazing vacation for the following year. If you think you're not able to commit to doing this- let me convince you otherwise! I was a full-time student with minimal income from babysitting and blogging during the year that I did this, and I was still able to complete it. This year I'm excited to tackle it with both my primary bank account (where my job paychecks go) and also my blogging bank account. Double the savings, double the benefits at the end of the year!

     When I did this savings plan the first time in 2016 I was still regularly using a Lilly Pulitzer agenda for school, so I went through at the start of the year and wrote down how much I'd be depositing into savings on each Monday, so that I wouldn't forget to do it! Now I use iCal on my phone and computer to manage my life instead of an agenda, so I went through and already set deposit reminders for every week for the next few months. Be sure to either write down or set electronic deposit reminders- whatever works best for you!

     Last week's deposit amount was only $1, so it's not too late if you still want to join me in this challenge!! You would simply make a $3 deposit this week. I promise you won't regret doing this... your savings account will thank you, and at the end of the year you'll have a lot of financial peace of mind!

     To check out the original blog post that I wrote about doing this- click here!

     Become more educated about personal finance is a goal of mine for this year and next. The first book that I'm reading in 2018 is actually about financial literacy for millennials and so far I'm loving it! Please let me know if you'd like to see more blog posts/content on these topics as I continue to educate myself!!

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese