February 23, 2018

5 Easy Tips for Maintaining Long Distance Friendships.

     Hello and happy Friday! We've made it to the end of another week... and that also means another week closer to being done with WINTER in Vermont! Now that is something to be smiling about. ๐Ÿ˜ŠSomething that I've been reflecting about throughout this whole winter season this year is how thankful I am for my best girlfriends. I am feeling blessed to have finally met some sweet girls here in Vermont, but even more thankful for my best friends out-of-state who have continued to be an active and involved part of my life, despite the distance. 


      One thing that I was really nervous about when I moved to Vermont was losing many of my close friendships from college, broadcasting school, and bloggers in Charlotte, or having things become really different. A close friendship is similar in some ways to a romantic relationship in that distance can make an impact, and I was so nervous. After 10 months- I'm here to report that while some aspects of friendships do change with significant distance, your true friendships will be able to withstand any type of distance and evolve into something even stronger. They might be a bit different than what they used to be, but they will still be there. Those that aren't still apart of your life probably weren't right in the first place, or meant to be in your life for a long period of time.


     Anyways- I thought for today's post I'd share my five top tips for how I maintain all of my out-of-state friendships and keep them strengthened and strong despite the distance!! I'd love to know if you've used any of these tips with your BFFs:



5 Tips for Long Distance Friendships




     1. Figure out the communication style that works best for each friendship (no two are alike): Modern technology is GREAT in that it allows so many various outlets for staying in touch with people who aren't physically close-by, but it can also be a bit overwhelming given all the different options. Something that I think I've gotten well at here in Vermont is figuring out which communication style works best for each of my long-distance friends, and going forward with that. For example: with my best guy friends from broadcasting school (they're all like my "brothers" in the industry) I don't talk to them as regularly as I do my girlfriends, as I think guy friendships are different that way. When we do catch up, it's over 1-2 hour Facetime chats, and that's what works best for us! I have some close girlfriends that like me, are big texters. That's what works for us, so we text throughout the week, and a couple friends who I talk to non-stop throughout the day. I have one girlfriend from Charlotte who I keep in touch with via snail mail- it's unique and old fashioned, but I so look forward to getting her letters in the mail (and I can always text her if need be too!). Then I have other friends who I DM daily on Twitter by sending them funny memes I come across... these friends and I might not have the chacne with our schedules for calls or Facetime chats often, but our DMs are a quick and simple way to let each other know we still care! (And who doesn't love getting a meme during their day?!)



     2. Remember birthdays and other important days in your friends' lives: I am a BIG birthday person. I love to celebrate birthdays with my friends in person especially! One thing that made me sad about my move was knowing it would probably be a long time again before I'd have the chance to celebrate birthdays in person with some of my favorite people. Even if you can't be there physically, don't forget about your friends on their day! Send a gift if your personal budget allows, and if it doesn't, try to at least mail a card. It's easy to find cheap cards (the dollar store has tons!), and it's more about the personal message you write in the card anyways then buying a fancy expensive card. I love to put up pictures of my besties on their birthday on my Instagram Stories and Snapchat, and I'm still big into Facebook timeline posts for birthdays too!
     Along the same lines of birthdays, if your friend has an important anniversary in their life, it will mean the world if you remember it from long distance. In October 2017, it was the one-year anniversary of the conclusion of the painful legal situation I was involved with the year before. Some of my closest friends texted me kind words as they remembered the anniversary, and that meant so much to me on a day filled with many emotions.



     3. Try not to create unrealistic expectations about future visits: THIS is something I definitely need to work on in terms of my long-distance friendships and am still figuring out. #honesty When I first moved from Charlotte and during my early months in Vermont, I promised tons of friends that as soon as time-off kicked in for my job, I'd go visit them. Literally, tons of people- in locations all over the country. While it's great that I have so many wonderful people in my life in different areas that miss me and want to have a visit, it is simply not realistic during a stage of my life when I'm starting my career and have limited PTO to make lots of promises about how I'll be using vacation days. This winter I've had to finally start telling friends that right now I have some things to figure out first and foremost in my life before I can make promises about when visits will be happening. Not being able to promise a visit doesn't mean that you don't love or care about your friends any less, it just means that you're trying to be realistic with them about your current stage of life and that's always best.
      (Of course- by all means DO GET EXCITED if you are able to plan a visit with your long distance friends!! How exciting will that be!)



     4. Fill them in about all the details about your current life: During the times when you do get to catch up in greater detail with long distance friends, whether over a long text conversation, phone call, or Facetime, use those opportunities to really get caught up with each others life. If this person is a close friend, you need to keep the emotional intimacy there even if they aren't physically nearby anymore. I've been very honest with my long distance friends when we do catch up about all aspects of my new life in Vermont: the highs and the lows. I've shared with them about exciting moments on my radio show and new experiences I've had at work, and kept them updated about my personal life here as well (like the church I'm going to and friends I'm making here). I also get honest with my friends and share with them about the struggles I've had since the move, like my homesickness, and other things. My friends do the same with me and keep me updated about their highs and lows. Catching up about serious issues and not just superficial topics really helps to still feel like you're an active part of this person's life!



     5. Never underestimate the power of a SURPRISE: I am a big advocate of surprises. Especially surprise parties... but surprises can come in all shapes and sizes! If you can find ways to occasionally surprise your long distance friends, I promise it'll mean so much to them. Whether it's a surprise care package in the mail, or actually showing up and surprising them in person! One of my favorite friendship memories ever is when I surprised one of my childhood best friends from Maine, Katie, by coming home for an Easter break long weekend one year when I was in college. She had no idea I was coming home, and our other friend Jules and I tricked Katie into picking me up from the bus station after my plane arrived!! (Read about that in this blog post!)



    These are the things that I've found work the best for me here in Vermont to keep in touch with my friends out-of-state! As an absolute a bottom line, I try and Facetime at minimum once every two months with everyone, and more frequently with my closest friends. That has definitely helped me to feel at least somewhat connected and updated with those dear to me.



     I'd love to hear your best long distance friendship tips below in the comments!!




     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese












   

February 22, 2018

Easter Dresses Under $50!

     My favorite holiday is on its way soon! I absolutely adore Easter and I'm so excited that it's coming up on April 1st. I love it mostly for the religious significance in the Christian faith, but I also love a lot of the commercial aspects of Easter, and it really symbolizes the start of spring, which is my favorite season! Yay Easter all around. Anyways, today I'm sharing a round-up of some fun dress picks for this Easter- the best part is they're all under $50!



Easter Spring Dresses under $50



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     Can you believe that there are so many different dress options perfect for Easter available for under $50? Some of these are as cheap as under $20, which is even better!! Easter is such an important holiday that I love dressing up extra nice (with a new dress if possible!) for church every year, but I totally understand that you might not want to spend big bucks for an Easter dress. All of these dresses will keep you in budget, and you'll still look absolutely gorgeous! If you don't celebrate Easter, all of these would be perfect for a number of spring occasions like showers, recitals, or attending graduations. 


     My two favorites out of all the ones above are probably the floral dress with the black bow and the polka dot dress! I actually already have the dress that I'm planning to wear for Easter in Vermont... it will still be cold here the first weekend in April so mine for this year is still spring appropriate fashion wise but is a good transition dress. I'll be styling it in a blog post next week, but you can check it out here now if you like! 



     If you'd like to see some of my Easter blog posts from years past- check out these posts from 2014  and from 2015. I didn't do an Easter outfit post for the past two years on the blog- in 2016 I was consumed with final exams and preparing to graduate college (Easter was late that year), and last year I moved to Vermont on Easter weekend!! So I'm happy to finally be acknowledging my favorite holiday on the blog again this year. ๐Ÿ˜Š







      God Bless,



      xoxo Annaliese













     

February 21, 2018

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases + Current Wishlist.

Church Street Marketplace Vermont



{Church Street Marketplace in Burlington looking so peaceful on a winter morning! Follow me on Instagram @miss_alk}


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




Ramblings: 
  • Finally watching Friends: I feel like I am always the last person ever to watch well-known TV shows. I didn't finish Gossip Girl until my junior year of college, I finally finished watching The Office consecutively around this time last year... and just a couple weeks ago I began watching Friends! I had seen episodes sporadically when I was growing up and it was airing live with my parents, but of course I don't remember that very well. I had tried to watch a little bit of the first season when it first went on Netflix, but I couldn't get into it then. I needed a new Netflix show to start a couple weeks ago (all of my current TV shows are on hiatus for the Olympics!!), so I decided to give Friends another go. So very glad I did- it's hilarious! I finally understand the hype! I'm a huge How I Met Your Mother fan and I also see now how there is a lot of Friends influence in HIMYM.
  • Warm in Vermont! This update probably isn't relevant to most of you reading but I am sure am happy about it. The high temperature here in Vermont today is SIXTY degrees and the snow is just about all melted!!! We had record-breaking cold temperatures around the holidays that were absolutely miserable to deal with, so having weather this warm and rare in late February is such a blessing. It will get cold again this weekend but as long as the snow doesn't return I'm happy!
  • Reader survey finished! I want to thank each one of you who took a few minutes out of your day last week to answer my blog's annual reader survey! I am looking forward to recapping those results and sharing some insights here on the blog next week or the week after. I received so much incredible feedback and I'm feeling very motivated for the rest of 2018 with blog content! Great things are to come all around. ๐Ÿ˜Š



Purchases:
  • This week I purchased the cutest little vest! It has gold pineapple motifs all over it and reminds me so much of the South. It was from a boutique so I can't link it for y'all sadly, but it is really cute and will be a fun transition piece! 



Wishlist:
  • These adorable hot pink sandals have me dreaming of summer days! I love their vibrant color.
  • I'm really liking these sunny yellow pants, they would add such a fun twist to spring business casual outfits. 
  • I think mugs always make the cutest gifts, so if you know a girlfriend with a spring birthday this mug is too cute!
  • Lilly Pulitzer released their much-awaited swimwear collection... it's all perfect but I'm dying over the style of this one-piece
  • This blouse would have been idea for Galentine's / Valentine's... but it'd still be cute to wear into spring! 


Recipe of the week: Oatmeal Maple Cookies from Genius Kitchen. When in Vermont you just have to bake some maple treats from time to time! These cookies were great and came out really soft and chewy- my favorite! I'm not a fan of citrus so I omitted the orange zest from the recipe, but if you like orange I'm sure that would be tasty in them.



Song of the week: Get to You by Michael Ray.  I've been listening to a lot of country music this week and this song is just so good. Can't get enough! That's really all there is to it on this one. 



On the blog this week:


     Thanks for reading and have a fantastic rest of the week!



     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese 









February 20, 2018

#IHaveThisThingWithPink: Winter Edition

     Confession time: my favorite color is blue, and if we're getting specific it's the gorgeous aqua hue that is Tiffany Blue. However- you'd probably never know that based on how much I enjoy incorporating pink in my wardrobe! Last summer, one of my favorite outfit posts that I shared I entitled #IHaveThisThingWithPink. Today's outfit reminds me of a winterized version of that look! 


#IHaveThisThingWithPink

Pink Sweater Dress Outfit

Winter Hot Pink Outfit

Hot Pink Sweater

Hot Pink Hunter Boots in Snow


Photography by Melissa Lynn Studios 


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








     I found this sweater dress during my New Year's trip to Indiana, marked down for just $10!! I didn't even think twice before snatching it up. I'm all about adding color into my Vermont winter wardrobe, and if I can do it for just $10 that's even better. My exact sweater dress sadly isn't online, but this one is and it's pretty similar! My new Hunter boots are a shade darker than the sweater dress, but I love styling different coordinating shades of pink together. This was such a fun winter way to wear a bright hue, and it sure brightened my day to wear this outfit! For photography purposes I didn't wear tights or leg warmers with this outfit, but for wearing an outfit like this to work in the winter I probably wouldn't have bare legs! ๐Ÿ˜‰


     I hope that you enjoyed your President's Day weekend! My company does observe the holiday, so since I had the day off yesterday I decided to take the day off from the blog as well. I also want to give a reminder that today is your last opportunity to take my blog's annual reader survey if you haven't yet! You can take it here.







     God Bless,


  
     xoxo Annaliese













      

February 16, 2018

Southern Belle in Vermont: 10 Months Post-Move Update.

      10 months in Vermont! Double digits. Almost a full year of life in the Green Mountain State! Wow wow wow. It seems like so long ago since my last post-move update, and I feel like I have a lot to update y'all on today.


What it's like to live in Vermont




December 2017-February 2018 - Months 8-10 in Burlington, VT



     SUMMARY: You might remember that "homesickness for North Carolina" was the theme of my 8 Months Post-Move Update that I wrote in December. Those feelings definitely hit an all-time high around the holiday season this year. I still struggle frequently with missing my friends and life in Charlotte... but I will say that I think I have gotten better in the last two months at managing my homesickness, and also identifying and being able to avoid some specific triggers. It's definitely not a "solved problem" by any means and something that I'm still working through every single day, but in 2018 I'm really making an effort to not let it control me.
     How have I been doing this? I've made a lot of little changes, but I'll touch briefly on the two bigger things I've been doing. First, my fitness New Year's resolution has been not only great for my physical health, but even better for my mental health. The gym is a great place to work through my feelings of homesickness and anxiety, which is why I've been trying to increase the amount of times per week that I go! Secondly, I started seeing a counselor weekly around New Year's. I'm not going to go into too much depth about that in today's blog post (I'm sure there will be a time down the road on the blog where it'll be more appropriate to talk more about this), but I will say that I wish I had taken my mom's advice and started doing this last fall, and hadn't waited so long to begin. It's been great to have a safe space each week to talk about things.



     HOME: Things are still going well living in my apartment. My parents surprised me for Christmas and generously bought me a brand new TV (much bigger then the little one from my college dorm room that I'd been using as my living room TV before), and it's been really nice to be watching my shows every week on that. It was a sad day in January when I finally put my Christmas tree and decorations away.... but I had the chance to do a little bit of Valentine's decorating, and I'm REALLY excited that Easter is on the way soon, my favorite holiday! Now that I've really settled into living in my own place, I'm starting to realize how much I enjoy cleaning sometimes? 10-years ago Annaliese never would have believed that would ever happen... I was so messy growing up and for most of college!
     I also have finally been getting better about being a hostess and inviting friends over to my apartment, which has been a goal of mine in these post-move updates since like, forever! I hosted my very first party in late January for Galentine's, and have just overall been doing better with inviting people over a couple times a month for dinner or to hang out on weekends.



     WORK: Winter in Vermont is the "slow season" for radio! I should explain... not slow as in being on-air and doing radio shows, there's no season for that and there's always on-air shows to be done! However, things here do really slow down in the winter as far as our community events go. For a lot of this summer, I had at least one (if not 2-3) events per week outside of work, so I was super busy! I haven't had an event now since the fall, so my schedule has just been very normal, which has honestly been nice since Vermont winter weather is no walk in the park.
     Something on a personal note is I have been really proud about how my voice is improving with voicing commercials for our stations. I listened this week to some of the ads that I did when I started my job last spring versus the ones I've done recently, and I can definitely hear improvements!



     FAITH: Here's an exciting update! In January, I started attending a College and Career (20 Somethings) church group that meets at another local church. I've made some wonderful friends through this church, and it was so kind of them to invite me to their meetings, even though I attend a different church for Sunday services. The College and Career group has a lot more young people than attend my church, so it's been a great social outlet, and I've also felt very motivated and challenged in my faith after every meeting that I've gone to. I'm looking forward to continuing to attend this! I also still volunteer with the Hospitality ministry at my church once a month with my friend Anna (we've been doing this since October), and I really look forward to our Sundays that we are in charge of the Sunday service food and refreshments.
      On more of a personal note about faith, I feel like God has been challenging me a lot in my personal walk with Him. Prayer time has definitely been very vocal and interesting lately! My friend Rachel from Something Delightful and I were having a text conversation about faith a couple weeks ago, and she told me to remember the phrase "Be Still." Since then, I feel like I keep hearing or seeing "Be Still" everywhere, so that might be one of my faith mantras for 2018!



     SOCIAL: This is so weird... in the two coldest months since I moved to Vermont, I've been the most social. I finally feel like I have made some solid girlfriends up here which has been such a blessing to me! Most weekends now I do something with a friend, whether it's going to dinner, a church event, or something else in the community. My social life right now is still nothing like the life I lived for the last few years in Charlotte.... but these last two months in Vermont have brought some changes and new opportunities for me as far as socializing, and I sure am thankful for it. ๐Ÿ™‚I'm also proud of myself for still doing a great job staying connected with my college, broadcasting school, and blogging friends who are all out-of-state!



     DATING: No dates or dating so far in 2018, and honestly I couldn't be more content with that! I've been single for a very long time, but this might be the first time ever in my life that I am single and content with this season of life... and that makes a big difference! I am 100% focused on my relationship with God and my career right now.



      ACTIVITIES: I finally took the time to write out my Vermont Bucket List (into a blog post!), and hold myself accountable to completing the things that I want to do while I live in Vermont. The biggest item off the list that I checked off in the last two months was finally going downhill skiing! Skiing is one of the things that Vermont is famous for, and now that I've experienced it here I'll say that their ski resorts know how to make it a great experience. I hadn't been skiing in over 10 years, but I was happy I was able to pick it up easily again! I'm hoping to check cross-country skiing off my bucket list before winter ends. If "surviving coping with winter" is also an activity I can list here, I've definitely been doing my best at attempting an A+ job with that- haha!



     5 NEW VERMONT THINGS I DID:

  • Went downhill skiing at Smuggler's Notch.
  • Threw my first party in my Vermont apartment!
  • Went to my first semi-formal event in Vermont.
  • Survived the record-breaking cold-snap that hit Vermont during the holidays.
  • Shopped the Macy's store closing sale in downtown Burlington.



      The next update post in April will mark ONE YEAR!!! It's gone by both so slowly and also so quickly- funny how life can be like that. Thanks to all of you who read these updates and have been so supportive to me since I moved! 



      Unrelated- but my blog's annual reader survey went up in Tuesday's post! If you haven't taken the survey yet, it's only 10 questions and all of the answers will help me so much! You can take it here




      No blog post this Monday as I'm off work for President's Day and will be enjoying my day off, (keep up with me on Instagram!)- but talk to you Tuesday! 



     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese 




   






   



   

February 15, 2018

Midweek Ramblings + Recent Purchases + Current Wishlist (on a Thursday!).





{Sharing this week's Midweek Ramblings on a Thursday due to yesterday's Valentine's Day outfit post! Better late than never, right? ๐Ÿ™‚Follow me on social media @miss_alk}

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






Ramblings: 
  • Fitness goals: I mentioned in my New Year's Resolutions blog post that I'm really focusing on fitness in 2018. I finally went to the gym 3x last week (up from 2x), and that was a great feeling! I'm also working hard on slowly running longer distances to make my goal of running a 5k this year. I know this doesn't sound like much but I have never been a runner so that's a big goal for me to work up to. When I started running on the treadmill around New Year's I could barely run a quarter of a mile before having to walk (so pathetic I know!), now I'm almost running a mile and doing so pretty quickly! It's been fun and motivating for me to have this goal to work towards. If you also had fitness goals for this year, how are they coming? 
  • New TV show: There's a new show that I've been watching and enjoying! LA to Vegas on Fox premiered in January, and I am loving it so far. It's a comedy about a fictional budget airline (think like Allegiant Airlines) that operates a weekly flight from LAX to Las Vegas, and it follows the flight crew and a few of the "regulars" that fly to Vegas each week on the same flight. I love Las Vegas (it's one of my top US vacation destinations) and I love most things that have to do with Vegas, so I think this show is super cute!! I hope it gets picked up for a second season in the fall. 


Purchases:
  • I successfully completed the four week shopping fast I did between mid-January - mid-February! It was a great way to save money, and also get more use out of things I already had in my closet. I finished the end of the shopping fast with a trip to Macy's in Burlington, which is closing in a few weeks so the store closing sale is in full effect. Fun fact about me: I love shopping store closing sales.
  • I was able to score a great deal on a new pair of my favorite flats! These are pricier at full price (around $100) but my last pair lasted me a few years, and since I got this new pair at a discount with the store closing sale I knew I couldn't resist! 
  • I also scored a pair of suede lace-up heeled sandals for spring/summer (whenever that arrives in Vermont... lol!). With all of the store closing discounts they were under $25! Mine aren't online, but these are really similar. 
  • I also was able to find a really cute crocheted black bikini for $40! Such a great deal for a versatile swimsuit. The one I purchased isn't online, but this one is similar



Wishlist:
  • A cute long sleeved top for transitioning to spring. 
  • Such a classy dress that's perfect for the workplace. It would look great layered with tights and a blazer for the rest of the cooler months!
  • This utensil kind of looks too pretty to use on any food... but it would be a dream to have something this gorgeous in my future kitchen! 
  • Disclaimer that this is way too expensive to be anything more than a wishlist item, but this chic spring purse is so beautiful! I'm always drawn to anything with a bold floral pattern.
  • Easter is on the way and it's my favorite holiday. This wreath is kinda tacky... but also soooo Annaliese. ๐Ÿ˜Š



Recipe of the week: Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas (or Soft Tacos). My best friend from high school, Jules, gave me the America's Test Kitchen official cookbook for Christmas this year, and lately I've been digging into it and trying recipes from it. Last week I made the Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas  recipe, except I made them into soft tacos with corn tortillas instead. I have linked the recipe online, however since it's from their cookbook you have to be a member of the website and sign up for a free trial to access it online. 



Song of the week: Good Life by The Young Escape. This week in the car I've been listening to a lot of Air1, a nationally syndicated Christian radio station. Honestly for the last few years I haven't been a big fain of most mainstream Christian music, but lately I've been craving listening to it for some reason (I'll dive more into that in tomorrow's blog post!). Anyways, I discovered a new Christian song that I really like from the band The Young Escape - check it out! 



On the blog this week: 

     Thanks so much as always for reading! I hope you're having a great week.



     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese








February 14, 2018

Red and Pink Outfit - Happy Valentine's!

     What's the best way to celebrate Valentine's Day when you're single?! By wearing the brightest and girliest red and pink outfit you can come up with of course! This was the outfit that I wore for the Galentine's Day party that I hosted a few weeks ago. I received some DMs about it after posting a couple pictures on Instagram Stories, so I knew I had to do a full blog post on the look.


Red and Pink Outfit

Girly Valentine's Day Style

Red + Hot Pink Valentine's Day Outfit

Styling a hot pink skirt

Fancy Red Pink Valentine's Day Look





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     I've had a lot of favorite color combinations when it comes to fashion... but I think red and hot pink might officially be my favorite now! These two hues together make such a bold statement, and I love it! I decided to accessorize with pops of pale pink to bring in a third shade, and also add a lighter feminine touch to these two bright colors. I love how this whole outfit turned out, and it was so fun to wear it for my Galentine's Day party a few weeks back. Trust me- if I could wear outfits like this everyday for work- I 100% would! This is a true "Southern Belle in Training" outfit. 


     I bought this hot pink midi skirt a couple years ago when a local store in Charlotte was changing locations, and they were having a moving sale. I purchased a bunch of unique fashion pieces that I didn't think I could find at other stores, and to this day many of the things I bought then have remained favorites in my closet! You can also see how I styled this skirt back in Charlotte in this blog post and this one as well. Here is a really similar pink midi skirt I found online that's still in stock! 


     
     In yesterday's blog post I shared my annual Southern Belle in Training reader survey! It would mean so much to me if you took the time to take it. This year's questions are slightly more detailed than last year's, but I still tried to make it quite brief and able to be taken in about 5 minutes, 10 minutes at the absolute most! The more people that take it, the more I can work towards making the content on Southern Belle in Training even better for the rest of 2018. (If you'd like the see the results of the 2017 survey, check out this post!)



     Midweek Ramblings will be on a Thursday this week in honor of today's post, so be sure to check that out tomorrow!








     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese 
     



      



February 13, 2018

Southern Belle in Training 2018 Annual Reader Survey!

     Today's blog post is very short and sweet for an important reason: it's officially a certain time of the year - annual reader survey time that is!








  
      Last year, I officially designated February as annual reader survey month on the blog. This is the time of year when winter really starts to drag on, and it can be hard around this time to sometimes continually be inspired with blog content, so I think it's the perfect time to reflect on the past year and prepare for the year ahead! Today I'm sharing my annual reader survey. It would mean so much to me if you took a few minutes out of your day to take it! Just like last year's, there are only 10 questions, so it doesn't take too long at all to complete. All answers are anonymous too! I really do read and review each and every completed survey and use all of the data to plan out my content and how I run this blog for the next year, so if you fill it out it really does help me! I'll also be sharing a post in a couple weeks recapping the results of the survey so everyone can see. ๐Ÿ˜Š (Here's last year's annual survey results blog post if you'd like to see!)



    Without further ado- the survey! You can take it right here in this blog post (or via this link if you prefer!):



Create your own user feedback survey





      Thanks SO much again to everyone who is taking this! It will be open until next week. A fun Valentine's Day outfit will be on the blog tomorrow, and Midweek Ramblings will be up on Thursday this week. 




     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese








February 12, 2018

Relationship Monday: Valentine's Day Prayers for you Future Spouse.

     Happy Monday and Happy Valentine's week! Today's Relationship Monday post is taking a more faith-based route than some of the past posts in this series. After this post topic popped into my head last week, I did a poll on Instagram Stories to see if y'all would be interested in reading. Surprisingly, most of you answered "yes!" - so here's today's blog post. I always feel like my faith posts here on the blog give you more of an insight into the real me, and I hope you enjoy my thoughts on this topic, as it is one that is quite meaningful to me and has been for many years now!


Praying for you Future Spouse




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     It's no secret that my Christian faith is a big part of my life, and has been for most of my life. This obviously impacts the way that I view dating and romantic relationships. Something that I have been doing on almost a daily basis for well over a decade now is praying daily for my future husband. Usually it's quick silent prayers, sometimes it's longer, more detailed verbal prayers, and occasionally I even write my prayers down into personal letters. I've been doing this for a such a long time now that it's just apart of how I live my life, and not something that I really think twice about. You'd probably think that since I spend a lot of time praying over my future husband that I'm very obsessed about the fact that I'm not currently in a relationship. That's actually not true at all! I'm quite content being single right now for a variety of reasons, and I'm also holding true to the fact that God will bring the right guy into my life at the right time (and now isn't the right time!). But even though I'm living out my season of singleness currently, I still continue to make these prayers apart of my life. And I thought Valentine's week was the perfect time to share more about that with y'all on the blog!


     I can't remember the exact moment or thing that first lead me to start praying for my future husband. Maybe it was a devotional I read in middle school, or a message I heard one week at my church youth group. Honestly- I really can't remember! But I know that whenever I did first hear of this idea, it definitely stuck with me. I was so comforted by the idea of God writing my love story and already knowing the person I'd someday marry, and I wanted to pray for this person and that he was growing into the best man that he could be. And I've continued to do exactly that, regularly. Seriously probably for over a decade now! These prayers were especially comforting to me during certain moments in my life: like when I went solo to my junior prom and was one of the only people in the group I went with who didn't have a date, or after every time in college that I unmatched from someone on a dating app after realizing we weren't compatible (usually based on differences in faith). The prayers are still comforting to me right now at age 23, during a very single season of my life where I'm not dating at all right now, due to figuring out adulthood and my career and putting that all first. Loneliness and playing the comparison game with other girls I know who are in serious relationships can still hit sometimes, but reminding myself why I'm choosing to be single right now and who it is I'm waiting and praying for always helps me refocus.


     I also quickly want to share with you this bit of encouragement from a blog post that I read several years ago. This blogger was married, and was reflecting about how she also used to pray for her future husband during her younger, single years. She still continued doing this when she began her relationship with a boyfriend (who would be her future husband!), but she never prayed that this man would be her husband... she still prayed for an anonymous future husband and for God's hand and will in all her relationships. She wrote on her blog that she knew her boyfriend was the One and her future husband when her prayers finally began to change and she started praying all the things she'd pray for an anonymous future husband but for him specifically instead!! I thought that was the sweetest thing and hope to see that in my own life someday.


     So now that I've told you a bit why I choose to regularly pray for my future husband and why it means a lot to me, I'll share with you some of the specific things that I pray about for him! If you've never prayed for a future spouse before, it's never too late to begin:



I pray for my future husband's:



     *Relationship with the Lord. The biggest one! I pray that he is using his unmarried years to deepen his faith in Christ and that he will be a strong spiritual leader in our marriage someday.



     *Current romantic relationships. I pray that with the girls he's dating before we meet that he doesn't have horrible heartbreaks (no one wants a painful break-up!), and I also pray that he is respecting me in his dating life with the same values about purity that I have for him. 



     *Education. (I used to pray for this one more when I was still a student myself, but who knows- he could still be in school!) I pray that he values education and takes it seriously, and strives to do his best in school. I pray that he is at a school (or an alumni of a school) that is (was) a great fit for his career goals and ambitions. 



     *Family. I pray for his relationships with his immediate and extended family, and for my future relationship with them! (We've all heard in-law horror stories... I definitely don't want that someday!)



     *Friendships. I pray that he surrounds himself with godly, mature, and solid people - the types that are friends for life. I've had a lot of toxic friendships in the past in my own life, and I pray he doesn't have to go through a lot of the friendship hurts I've been through! Friendships are an important part of my own life, and quote that I really like is "Friendships are the family you choose for yourself." I hope he chooses well! 



     *Finances. I pray that he is making smart financial decisions early in his life, and if he has debts that he is prioritizing eliminating those as soon as possible.



     *Safety. I pray over his safety and that the Lord would protect him - both in terms of physical safety and also emotionally! 




     Those are the main things that I pray for regarding my future husband, but of course there are more things as well. You will notice though that I don't pray for certain things about him. Like I don't ask God that this guy has a certain hair or eye color, that he's not a big football fan just like I'm not, or that we enjoy watching the same types of shows on Netflix. Those are all such small things in the scheme of life, and it's the deeper things about a person that will make a relationship last the test of time.



    I'd love to hear any feedback that you have about this topic! Do you also pray for your future spouse? And if you are married - did you do this during your single years?



     Enjoy your Valentine's week! I have a fun red and pink outfit coming to the blog on Monday. My outfit details for what I'm wearing in this post are below:





     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese








February 9, 2018

Winter PR Packages Review.

     It's time to share some more reviews of PR packages, aka blogger mail! This is my chance to share unbiased and honest reviews of the products that I'm gifted by brands as a blogger. As always, here's my disclaimer that I'm not currently in a sponsored relationship with any of these companies, so I'm not being paid to post these opinions or reviews. ๐Ÿ™‚January was a bit of a slower month all around with blogging, including receiving blog related packages, so I only have a few things to share today. Things are definitely already picking up in February though so next time I write one of these posts there will be a lot more things to share!


Blogger Mail Unboxing - winter PR package reviews


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


     I typically review beauty items in these posts, but today we're starting out with a beverage! I was given the opportunity to test out Phocus, which is a sugar-free, all-natural sparkling caffeinated water beverage. These are caffeinated completely naturally from tea leaves, and there also aren't any artificial sweeteners. My disclaimer with my review on this is that I'm pretty picky about beverages and really only drink plain ice water, almond milk, and hot tea, so I wasn't sure how I'd like these based off of my taste palette for drinks.
     I thought they were okay! I definitely reacted to the caffeine in them, and it's always great to discover new caffeinated beverages for days you need that extra boost. The taste and sparkling water effect wasn't really my thing... but then again I don't love carbonated beverages to begin with. I'm not a fan of La Croix, but I bet anyone who loves La Croix would love Phocus!! I think this would be a healthier alternative to soda for college students! So I think it's a good product, I just personally didn't love the taste based on my own preferences.

Drink Phocus Review




     This next product is one of my favorite items that I've gotten in a PR package in a long time! I will definitely be repurchasing this for myself once it runs out, as I use it everyday! I am very picky when it comes to lotions and I have sensitive skin, and on top of that I don't like the smells or texture of many. This one is great on all counts! I am obsessed with the Vaseline Soothing Body Butter with Cocoa and Shea. It has a thick, luxurious texture, and it smells just like a chocolate bar. It's some of the best smelling lotion I've ever used! I use it on my legs every night after showering.

Vaseline Cocoa Butter Review




     Lastly, a few items from a brand new line! It is always really fun to get to test out items from new beauty lines. Love Beauty and Planet is a brand new hair and skincare brand which is now available at drugstores nationwide. This line focuses on eco sustainability and being both good for the planet and consumer, which is a great concept! I was sent some shampoo, conditioner and body wash from their Smooth and Serene line to test and review. I really liked the shampoo and conditioner! I've always been pretty loyal to certain hair products so the fact that I've liked them so much surprised me. The body wash I personally wasn't as crazy about (it made my back breakout a bit), but I can have sensitive skin when it comes to body washes so that wasn't too surprising to me.

Love Beauty Planet Review




     That's all for today- short and sweet as promised! I hope that you're having a great start to your weekend. This weekend is my monthly Saturday off work so I get to enjoy a real weekend. Last time this happened I was snowed in all weekend, so hopefully that won't happen again!






     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese








February 8, 2018

Working With a Blog Photographer: Everything You Need to Know!

     There's one question that I've been asked more than others from reader friends over the last year and a half-ish... and that is is anything related to the photography aspect of running my blog! The specific wording of the question itself varies person to person, but I've had a lot of inquiries as to when I first made the decision to hire a blog photographer, how I've found my photographers (in both NC and VT), and other questions related to blog photographers. After being asked some of these questions again when I did my Winter 2018 Reader Q&A post last month, I decided to save any photography related questions and finally just write a whole separate blog post about it all! ๐Ÿ˜ŠI hope this is helpful to you, and if there's anything related to this topic that I didn't touch on, please feel free to email me.


How to Work With a Blog Photographer: Q&A



{My first hired blog photographer Deeana and I shooting in Rock Hill, SC in February 2017! Blog post from this outfit here.}




When to Start Using a Blog Photographer: 


     *When did I start working with blog photographers? There are actually two answers to that question! In my first couple years of blogging, I had the chance to do a few random shoots with photographers that I met through a Facebook group. I didn't pay for any of these shoots, and they were all kind of to help these girls build their photography portfolios for fashion imagery. (The cool thing is most of these photographers have gone on to be super successful full-time wedding photographers now, hard work pays off!) So technically speaking, I did work with a few photographers early on. But during my first three years of blogging, it was 95% of the time my college roommates and friends who would take my blog photos and Instagram pictures, and I'd edit them myself. 
      As I neared college graduation in 2016 and 4.5 years of blogging, I was ready to take the plunge and hire my first photographer for a more permanent relationship. Part of that was because I'd soon be parting ways for living with my current college suitemate, who at that time had been doing most of my photos. I didn't want every time that we saw each other after my graduation to only be due to my blog! I was also finally at a place where I was making a small but steady monthly income from blogging, and I knew that I could afford to pay for a blog photographer with my earnings. This is an important one! And lastly, I consider myself to be a self-proclaimed blog photography snob and I wanted to take Southern Belle in Training's images to the next level. There was only so much I could do with friends who didn't have photography background taking my pictures and my minimal editing skills. I knew with better consistent images, I'd land more sponsored campaigns (and that's totally what happened!). 



     *How do you know whether to use someone you know (boyfriend/husband, family member, friend) for photography needs, or hire a photographer? Long answer- I apologize in advance! This decision is different for everyone! My process was using my Kodak digital camera and iPhone for the first two years (lol- but true!), my new DSLR for years three and four, and then I started working with photographers for about 80% of my blog content in 2016, after 4.5 years of blogging. I still use my DSLR when I travel, and for some last minute blog posts or the occasional outfit posts that I shoot in between sessions with photographers. (I also enjoy photography as a hobby, so now I have the chance to use my DSLR more for fun photography than just my blog!) Most newer bloggers take a faster path to monetizing their blogs than I did, so chances are you might not be using a crappy digital camera for your first two years. My best advice, which I kind of mentioned above, is to not hire a blog photographer regularly until you can pay for that 100% with money from your blog. Trust me- I could not afford to work with my photographers regularly right now on my salary from my day job, especially with high rents in Vermont and student loan payments! But I am proud to work hard enough on the blog since 2016 to pay for it with business earnings and write it off for taxes each year as a business expense. Once you're at that point with your earnings, I highly recommend a photographer! 
     If you are earning enough with your blog to afford a photographer, I personally advise to do that over using someone you know. It is great to have a person in your life who is willing to help out with your blog- trust me, I am so thankful for everyone I knew in college who took my photos for me on that digital camera way back when, haha! But I think there comes a point with blogging, especially when you're doing more regular sponsored work and starting to have a lot of deadlines, that the photography aspect of blogging becomes less casual and more like "work," and you don't want that to affect your relationship with this person. 
      My Vermont blogging friend Nicholle helps me occasionally with sponsored blog post photos if I have deadlines that don't correspond with my photoshoots, and I've written before that my parents help me with blog photos when I'm home in Maine or traveling with them, and other friends will still snap occasional Instagram pictures for me, but other then that I really try and keep things to working with my photographers! If I were to get in a relationship anytime soon, I can't even imagine having a "blogger boyfriend" - lol!!



     *How to know what type of photographer to work with? To some people, the term "photographer" conjures up childhood memories of very staged studio shoots in the mall in the JC Penney or Sears portrait studio.... eek! That's definitely not what it's like to work with someone for fashion imagery a blog. I personally prefer to work with natural light wedding photographers (all of my photographers have worked primarily doing weddings). I love bright and airy photos, and working with photographers who understand how to maximize using natural light. I've found that typically wedding photographers understand that well! However, your aesthetic on your blog might be very different than mine, so you might prefer to work with a different type of photographer. Browse lots of portfolios and see whose images you connect with.




Where to find blogger photographers: 


     *How did I find my blog photographers? I've had three photographers that I've officially "hired:" meaning I've signed a contract with them and have used them longterm. One in Charlotte, Deeana Kourtney Photography, and two here in Vermont, Melissa Lynn Studios and Amanda Rose Photography.
     I found Deeana and Amanda through the same way, a great community-building organization for creatives and entrepreneurs called Rising Tide Society. Rising Tide Society has meet-up groups for creatives in all industries called Tuesdays Together groups in almost every city across the country, and I found both Deeana and Amanda through local Tuesdays Together groups in Charlotte and Burlington! I've found in both states that I've lived in that Rising Tide Society has a majority of photographer members as compared to other creative fields, but anyone that's a creative entrepreneur is welcomed (so as a fashion blogger and content creator, I was eligible to join Tuesdays Together groups in both places I've lived!). Once I was added to each region's Facebook group, I put out a post describing a bit about my blog, and what I was looking for in a photographer. I found Deeana that way in the Charlotte group, and Amanda in the Burlington group! Here in Vermont this summer I also got to attend a few of the meet-ups for Tuesdays Together, and it was a fun way to meet other photographers and creatives in the Vermont area when I was brand new here.
     I found Melissa through The Knot- the popular wedding website! The Knot has a section where local vendors can list themselves, and while I was still living in North Carolina I used this to search for Burlington area wedding photographers, so that I'd have one lined up before I moved. Deeana was primarily a wedding photographer at the time we worked together, so I figured that using another wedding photographer would be the way to go in Vermont. I browsed several portfolios that were listed for Burlington on The Knot, and made a few email and phone inquiries. Some were too expensive and some weren't interested in working with a blogger, but Melissa ended up being a great fit!



     *What are some additional ways to connect with blog photographers?  While I haven't personally used these ways myself to find a photographer, I might try them in the future and I've heard of other bloggers using them!
      If you don't have as big of a budget to work with a photographer, try reaching out to the dean or a professor of a local art school or university with a photography major, and ask if any students would be interested in working with you on a trade basis to build their portfolios.
     And if Rising Tide Society or The Knot aren't working for you to connect with anyone in your area, try searching #(YourCityorState)Photographer on Instagram, or other local creative related hashtags!! Instagram can be such a great place to make connections.
     Lastly, if you're traveling and need a blog photographer only for a short time, try and find bloggers who already live in or have visited the area, and ask them who they've worked with previously and enjoyed! I'm always happy to recommend my Charlotte and Vermont photographers to those visiting these areas.




Helpful Tips:



     *How do you send an inquiry to a photographer? Similarly to pitching a brand- send a professional email! If you've found the photographer via Instagram and they don't have an email listed on their bio or website, you can always send them a brief but professional DM asking for their best contact email. Here are some things to include in your email:

  • A couple lines about your blog (the focus of your content, how long you've been blogging, how frequently you post, etc).
  • Why you're looking to hire a photographer for your blog and what you envision the relationship to look like.
  • What drew you to this photographer's portfolio and why you're interested in working with them.
  • Conclude the email by suggesting a phone conversation or meeting for coffee if they're interested in working together, and end on a professional and upbeat note! 




     *What things do you include in your contract? It is EXTREMELY important to sign a contract with your blog photographer, just like signing one with a brand! This protects both you and the photographer. The most important thing in all of my contracts are the timeline that I will receive photos from my photographers. Oftentimes when I shoot with them it's for a sponsored campaign, and I need the photos by a certain date. While most photographers can't always get your images done in a day, having some sort of a timeline of expectation for delivery in writing is so important. (FYI: from what I've seen in blogger discussion groups 5-7 days seems to be about the standard on this). The contract is also the place to agree upon the rate you'll be working with per shoot! Get this all agreed upon before you begin working together.



     *How does pricing work for blog photography? Every photographer will charge differently for working with a blogger- different factors play in like average costs of photography in that city, years of experience for that photographer, the types of shoots you'll be requesting as a blogger and how much editing they will entail, etc. On average, what I've seen in blogging groups to be the standard nationwide is between $100-200 per hour long shoot. Some cities have photographers charging more, and some places have photographers charging less. These rates seem to be the average. Work with someone who fits your blog income budget!   



     *How do you prepare for a blog photoshoot? Since I work full-time, I usually schedule my photoshoots about two weeks in advance. I closely monitor the weather as it gets closer, and do that especially so since it's winter right now! When I schedule a shoot, I usually ask my photographer for a back-up date in case we have to postpone the original date for inclement weather. I generally have an idea of where I want to shoot at the time that I book, but sometimes I don't, and I ask my photographer for recommendations! Since everyone I work with is a wedding photographer, they know lots of great local spots for pictures. ๐Ÿ˜Š
     In the week leading up to the shoot, I hang and set aside all of the outfits I'll be wearing on the clothing rack in my living room. The night before, I usually pack jewelry and lipsticks. The morning of, I load everything into a big tote bag or rolling suitcase and I'm off! (Using a rolling suitcase is a new trick that I picked up after shooting blog photos with a suitcase in this post- I can't believe I didn't do that before!)
     My current hours at my day job here in Vermont are 11:30-7 weekdays, so that is very convenient for blog photos and natural light. I usually shoot Monday or Tuesday mornings right now, and sometimes Sunday afternoons after church! When I was in broadcasting school, Deeana and I used to meet weekday evenings in the warmer months, and then we did a lot of early weekend mornings last winter.




     *How often should you shoot with a photographer? Base this around your budget, and the amount of collaborations that you're getting! A full-time blogger will need to shoot more often then someone who both blogs and works full-time like I do. I currently shoot at minimum once a month, and sometimes twice a month if I have extra collaborations or outfits to share. I've heard though of some full-time bloggers meeting their photographers as much as 2-3 times weekly!!



     *Do you need to hire multiple photographers? This is a very personal decision! I probably never would have considered hiring multiple photographers until I realized how busy I'd be with my full-time job in radio, and taking on more sponsored work last year blogging. My first Vermont photographer, Melissa, had a very busy wedding season last summer, and there were some weeks our schedules were just not meshing. I knew that it was the best decision for my business to hire a second photographer, and Amanda came around at the perfect time! I love both of their work so I've continued to work with both ladies, and it's been so great. However, back when I was in Charlotte and had a different lifestyle, working just with Deeana was more than enough for my blog needs at that time!
     I will say that if you decide to hire more than one photographer, be transparent with your original one! (I love Melissa's photography and wanted her to know when I hired Amanda that it was for scheduling reasons mainly due to my own weird schedule with work, and didn't have anything to do with me not liking her pictures!) It's always better to be upfront about your needs in a business relationship then to leave someone wondering.



     *I'm a photographer and I want to work with fashion bloggers! How should I do that? Join your local chapter of Tuesdays Together through Rising Tide Society, and see if there are any bloggers in the group that you can connect with! Or, search #(YourCityorStateName)Blogger on Instagram, and if you find a local fashion blogger, send them a professional DM or email and offer to collaborate! They might already have a photographer they work with, so perhaps offer a free mini session or discounted session to build your fashion portfolio. Trust me- once a few bloggers see your beautiful images, they will be contacting you like crazy!! Just ask Deeana, when I started working with her in 2016 she told me she wanted to build relationships with Charlotte bloggers... and now in under two years I'd say she's one of the top Charlotte photographers for working with influencers! ๐Ÿ™‚
   




      Alright..... this post is now probably longer than some essays I wrote in college! Hopefully it covers everything and more that you've ever wondered about blogging photography. Thanks so much for reading!!



     God Bless,



     xoxo Annaliese










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