Happy 2018! Before we get too far into the New Year, I wanted to take time to reflect on 2017 in my annual Year in Review post.

I know most of you are not bloggers, but I highly suggest opening a Google Doc/Microsoft Word document and writing your own Year in Review! It was SO therapeutic to go back and think about highs and lows from the year and think about the top moments or highlights from each month. I looked through ALL my photos on my phone/Instagram/computer/Facebook and realized how much I had forgotten! So block off some time this weekend and write out your year and SAVE it, so you will have it for yourself! If you’re not into journaling or blogging, it could be a really good way to remember your best times!

2017 Southern Flair Year In Review by Leslie Presnall

The other day I asked on Instastory if you’d be interested in seeing a year in review and 99% of you said YES! So I was really thinking about what parts of my year you’d be most interested in, but once I really got into writing, I realized how much I was writing this post more for myself and to remember/write down my own favorite moments of the year.

SO fair warning: This post is LONG! I start off with pros + cons of the year, then break it into the highlights from each month! And even include my favorite blog post from each month!

Pros of the Year

Finding My Passion/Business Growth

This was the year I really got serious about my social media consulting/content creation/freelancing business for local small businesses. Before 2017, I didn’t realize just how much I KNEW about social media/marketing/content creation/etc from blogging for so many years… I just always kind of did it without thinking. And there’s A LOT I know but don’t always put into practice (hello, procrastination). But more and more people started asking me for help, then those people told their friends, and as a result this little business as evolved! And it’s really my TOP pro of the year — although I won’t talk about it much in the monthly breakdown below, but there’s SO much I’ve been able to do with local businesses behind-the-scenes that I’m so proud of and excited about! I can’t wait to see how it continues in 2018.

Lots of Travel

Each year, planning bucket-list trips are always a top priority. Basically, I know if a big doesn’t get planned or saved for, it will never happen — and there’s lots I gotta see! I’ll share more below, but in 2017, we traveled to Italy and I visited like 15+ states!

Fitness (aka gym life + running)

Fitness randomly became a HUGE part of my life this year. It was totally unexpected (before I had really only done spin & pilates), but this year I went super hardcore at the gym (hardcore for me, at least! lol)! I consistently made it to the gym 4-5 times a week doing strength training, cardio, etc. And I started training for my first Half Marathon — with zero prior running experience. Somehow working out became my favorite part of the day and I really do look forward to it!

More Confidence/Saying No/Knowing My Worth

Well this one is a doozy. But when I first started blogging almost 8 years ago, I said yes to every opportunity that came my way and would work hours on a blog post for a measly free product from a brand (stupid) and I was always too afraid to reach out to brands or people I wanted to work with. I’m still battling with the confidence issue to some degree (cold calling/emailing people can still be scary!), but I’ve definitely gotten over my fear somewhat. I think after years of blogging, I’m finally comfortable with knowing my worth as a writer and content creator… knowing what’s worth my time and knowing who truly values my work. And the biggest thing is learning that it’s OK to say no to opportunities. And to not say yes to a blog collaboration or a social media client because I’m scared of NOT making that money. Plus, knowing how much my TIME is worth has been the biggest pro of the year. Slowly realizing I am ONLY one person and can’t do everything and that it’s OK to say no and take time for my self when I need it. Livin’ by the motto if it’s not a HELL YES then it’s a HELL NO.

Cons of the Year:

Stress

So going off that last pro, one of the biggest cons of this year was definitely the stress level and losing my sanity at times for all the work I gave myself. Putting myself under too much pressure, trying to wear too many hats and be too many things, and end the end spreading myself too thin. Turns out, there are only 24 hours a day. And when you’re a teacher from 6:30AM – 2:30PM, write a blog, run an organization, and manage social media for other small businesses — things can get overwhelming very quickly.

Procrastination

My procrastination habit was in full swing this year — often times not always following through with my monthly blog schedule and in the end letting A LOT of blog post ideas fall through the cracks due to my lack of time management.

Toxic Relationships / Work Drama

I guess I’ve been lucky thus far in life to not have to deal with too many negative people in the work place, but 2017 seemed to be the year of bad working relationships and me ultimately having to make decisions to get myself out of toxic relationships.

I listened to a podcast recently that talked about the INSANE amount of hours that are wasted daily on work drama and I hate to look back on this year and realize how much energy and time I wasted on bad working relationships. The pro of this is I’ve really learned a lot about myself in the process — I’ve learned I definitely have flaws, I’ve learned I can be incredibly selfish at times, I learned sometimes my actions are the reason for said drama, and I’ve learned that some of the hardest decisions can come from owning your own business and unfortunately relationships can’t always stay positive and professional. And sometimes the best thing you can do is remove yourself from that situation.

More Competition

Don’t get me wrong competition is definitely a good thing. But during 2017 more local-themed bloggers and Instagrammers started popping up. Lucky for me, when I narrowed my niche down to more Louisiana lifestyle in 2015, there wasn’t anyone really doing this besides your typical local media and magazines. But I guess it was only a matter of time! My goal for this new year will be to keep my head down, do what works for ME and try so hard not to worry about the other people who are doing this very similar to me. I’m a TRUE believer that there’s room for everyone — but that’s only the case if people are their TRUE selves and actually authentic.

If you follow me on Instastory, then you know the whole “copying one another” has been weighing on my mind A LOT lately as I see more and more things that I’m like… Didn’t I do that already?! Or didn’t I JUST post that?! Lol — but it is what it is and I know people can only TRULY be successful if they are unique, and their authentic selves… and not trying to be someone else or writing/doing just what  they think their audience WANTS to see them do. I’ll continue working on my Southern Flair brand and being your local go-to friend and help you live your best life right here in the South — if others wanna hop on that bandwagon, sure. The more DIFFERENT ideas the better!! #communityovercompetition

Finally, I didn’t make a million bucks or win the lottery. I didn’t eat tacos every day. And I wasn’t blessed with unlimited puppies to play with. But it was a pretty OK year!

Here’s What Went On in 2017

January

January was a BLAST! Mostly because it’s Louisiana and that’s when Mardi Gras season kicks off. My “Let’s Flamingle” and “Flock Yea” DIY tees ended up being one of my most popular posts ever! In fact, I realized very quickly how much you guys enjoy the Mardi Gras content from looking at last year’s stats, so I’m excited to say I’ve amped it up a notch for 2018!

TWO DIY Flamingo T-shirt, perfect for Mardi Gras and Spanish town in Baton Rouge! Flock Yea + Let's Flamingle Iron-on letters. See more at Southern Flair!

Favorite Posts: 30 Day King Cake Challenge | The BEST Local Instagram Hashtags | 5 Things To Do If You’re Not Running the Louisiana Marathon

February

February 2017 was the month I decided to become a runner. I never ran (like ever) before then, but seeing Conrad run all the time, I hopped on that bandwagon. I signed up for my first 5K ever in February! Although it would be April before I ran it, I started my running journey this month!

I also upped my workout routine around this time. It wasn’t really expected —  basically, I was walking through the gym one day and a trainer stopped me and invited me to his class. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into — but next thing I know I’m bear-crawling across the gym, jumping an excessive amount, doing an absurd amount of squats and lunges, dying over all kinds of push ups — but I freaking LOVED it.

I’m super competitive by nature, so being around other people in workout class makes me work 10x harder than if I was doing a workout by myself. Going to the gym has 100% become my happy place/escape/brain break this past year. It’s a way for me to disconnect, turn my “work brain” off, challenge myself and mostly just focus on nothing else but not dying.

Oh, and also in real life this month, we hosted the Baton Rouge Fashion Council Galentine’s event at Blend AND had lots of Mardi Gras to celebrate, duh.

What to wear to a Mardi Gras Parade by Southern Flair | Louisiana Stripe Tee by SFT
 

Favorite Posts: The Anatomy of a Mardi Gras Outfit | ‘I Love You More Than Mardi Gras’ Valentine Card Printable

March

March 2017 marked SEVEN years of blogging! To celebrate and hear from you guys, I sent out my annual reader survey which lead to ideas for some of my best blog posts, events and products of the year. (So THANK YOU!!!)

The perfect white floral dress from Nordstrom. Perfect for the Louisiana spring weather!
March 2017 was also the month I launched my monthly 30 Things To Do in Baton Rouge list! I had NO idea this would take off the way it did — and each month it continues to be my most read post! As my blog’s niche has continued to narrow down into Louisiana + Baton Rouge lifestyle, I wanted bring a monthly list of everything going on around town to help you make the MOST out of your month and ultimately have the most FUN and live your BEST life right here in South Louisiana!

Favorite Posts: An Afternoon with Merry Floral | 5 Cheap Spring Date Ideas in Baton Rouge

April

We kicked off April with our Spring Style Brunch at The Pelican House. This is a fun little event I host each year with the Baton Rouge Fashion Council. Josh Martin serenaded us while we sipped mimosas… and I got to hang out with some of my favorite local lady biz owners like Becca of Rebl Creative, Katie of Kat Noel Designs, Nimia of Elohim + Nim, Rachel of Southern Sophisticate and Devin with Stella & Dot.

Baton Rouge Fashion Council Spring Style Brunch
Also, this month I finally ran my first full 5k! You can read the entire story here. Now that I’m running my first Half Marathon next weekend, a 5K seems like nothing, but this was my BIGGEST challenge of the year — as crazy as that sounds. Getting to that 3.1 mark was everything — mostly because I thought it was impossible. But once I got there, I realized how much FURTHER I could go. I think that was the best part of reaching this goal — realizing you can always push yourself further once you DO reach your goals. And then you set new and bigger goals.

Conrad and I also took a trip to Vegas to see Backstreet Boys! (Ok, so I wanted to see the Backstreet Boys and just dragged C-rad along with me, but it was EVERYTHING 12-year-old Leslie could DREAM OF! And Conrad was a good sport). We also won like $0.14 on roulette!

Favorite Posts: DIY Yard Flamingo Planters | Tips To Get You To The Gym

May

May was SO fun because I launched The Happy Hour Club and FINALLY got to meet some of you in REAL LIFE! It was a major goal for 2017 to connect more with my readers OFFline and actually create a sense of local community. And we did it! You can read more about the Happy Hour Club here and join our Facebook group! I’ll be announcing 2018 meet-ups SOOOON!

The Southern Flair Happy Hour Club is a Baton Rouge-based club for young women and professionals to meet, network and mingle over happy hour drinks!
Later in May, Conrad and I partnered with The Northshore tourism office and spent a fun little weekend in Covington. I wanted to discover more fun little places to visit around the state vs only New Orleans all the time. I was pleasantly surprised by everything Covington had to offer! A good balance of breweries, outdoorsy things, and good food! You can see what we did here — spoiler: we ate A LOT!

Stop for breakfast and coffee at Abita Roasting Co, located in downtown Covington, Louisiana | A Weekend Travel Guide
I also did the absolute UNTHINKABLE in May — I went on a field trip with 30 middle schoolers to NEW YORK CITY. Somehow we made it all back alive and in one piece — but I wasn’t sure we would have such a positive outcome while we were there haha. Talk about STRESSFUL! Managing middle school students on a daily basis is hard enough — without plopping them in the middle of Manhattan!

But if you are ever in such an unfortunate, terrifying situation just bring them to the M&M Store. Seriously — that’s ALL they wanna see. Don’t bother with the Statue of Liberty, World Trade Centers, none of that… just Times Square and M&M Store. You’re welcome.

Favorite Post: Best Patios in Baton Rouge

June

June started off with the BEST trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I partered with their tourism office and spent the weekend at the CUTEST bed & breakfast called The Roost. We mostly visited museums, ate really good local bbq & seafood, went to a minor league baseball game, toured a brewery and hit up the casinos. You can see my full guide here — if you’re looking for a quick little weekend getaway!

The Roost Hotel in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
I FINALLY started the renovation process of my home office too! Basically, my original downstairs office became too small for all my photo equipment, props, random blog junk, etc. So I moved upstairs to a bigger spare bedroom.

My house was built in the 1970s, so there was still an original built-in desk and it looked AWFUL! So Conrad ripped it out of the wall and fixed the sheetrock. Since then, I’ve painted one wall yellow (not entirely thrilled with the outcome, but it will do for now), bought a pink couch, set up a new desk area and set up a photo studio space. I still haven’t decorated AT ALL because I’m indecisive but hopefully I can get a tour done for you this year! Here’s a BEFORE picture of the ugly desk before it got ripped out….

 

I also took a VERY last-minute trip to BlogHer17 in Orlando! Long story short, I got a VIP ticket to the conference and booked a one-way flight to Orlando. Conrad is from a town not too far from there and he needed to go visit his parents anyway. So I flew in solo for the conference — while he took the long way in the car haha. Then, we rode back together with some Taylor Swift Dance Party “bonding time.” :)

I LOVE the BlogHer conference though! You come out of it on SUCH a high of girl-power and just feeling so inspired to create change. It’s not really a conference that you “learn” anything new with blogging (although there were a couple good sessions on Facebook video and defining your personal brand that I enjoyed), but to me this conference is all about giving you the inspiration and feeling of you CAN do it.

This year’s conference speakers included Serena Williams, Chelsea Clinton, Cat Cora and Maria Bello — so some pretty cool/inspiring ladies, right?!

BlogHer17 Orlando
I think I’m a conference junkie, because I also went to the Digital Summit in Denver this month, which is a HUGE digital marketing conference! Although everything I do on a daily basis with blogging and social media includes marketing, I don’t have a degree in marketing. Basically, everything I know about digital marketing and social media has been self-taught through observations, Google and podcasts. So I was a little nervous going to this conference in fear that I would be WAY out of my league with all these marketing professionals. But I was oddly surprised by how much I knew and how much I could keep up with all these folks who DID have marketing degrees! It definitely made me feel like I was on the right track.

I think this conference (or this type of conference) is going to be a yearly thing for me. It’s a quick way to catch up on the current trends — since digital marketing/social media changes CONSTANTLY and can seem impossible to keep up with at times.

Plus, my BFF Maggie also works in social media/digital marketing SO we made a besties trip out of it!

Denver Digital Summit 2017

Favorite Post: Travel Hack – Why You Need One-Piece Travel Outfits

July

July was A LOT of travel starting with Conrad and I’s 10 Day Italy Trip!! I have a FULL 4-post series recapping our trip and I go REALLY in-depth with everything and how we planned it to help you organize your own trip. But in a nutshell, we walked 10 miles a day in Rome being super tourists (and ate gelato twice a day, duh), experienced our first forest fire on Mt. Vesuvius (we thought the volcano was erupting lol), ate pizza in Naples (where pizza originated!), snorkeled in Capri, sipped on limoncello in Sorrento, partied in Venice for Festa del Redentore (and rode in a gondola), drove Vespas through Tuscany (amazing, beautiful and super terrifying going 60+ mph through the Tuscan hills/vineyards), and segwayed through Florence (super nerdy but a must-do!)

Full Recaps: Rome | Sorrento + Capri + Pompeii | Venice | Florence + Tuscany

A Travel Guide - How To Spend Two Days in Florence Italy and Tuscany

Then, my mom retired from the school system after 40+ years, so I wrapped up summer with a roadtrip with my parents to celebrate! We drove through 10 states, including Louisiana (obvs), Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Their bucket list consists of visiting ALL the Major League Baseball stadiums, so we checked a few more off the list — like the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, and St. Louis Cardinals.

We also made stops at the Miller Brewery, Churchill Downs, The Gateway Arch, and the Bean in Chicago!

August

August was back to teacher life and planning TWO major Baton Rouge Fashion Council events including our third annual Fall Fashion Fest. This is my favorite event of the year, but also one that takes the MOST planning on my part. Luckily, it gets a little easier each year… we just have to hope and pray for no rain. This year we almost made it the entire event with no rain, but then the bottom fell out!

If you’re not familiar, Fall Fashion Fest is our LSU-tailgating themed event that serves as your one-stop-shop for purple & gold/football season looks. We held a fashion show with looks that boutiques put together, had food trucks and a barre class with Barre3. It’s super HOT for this event, but I consider it real life tailgate-prep!

Tailgating Trends from this year's Fall Fashion Fest in Baton Rouge! Your one-stop-shop for all your purple and gold game day attire!
I also launched my VERY FIRST product line here on Southern Flair — The Tailgate Collection! I’ve dreamed of products/clothing lines forEVER, so I’m so excited I finally did this. It was so long overdue — it only took me 7 years lol. But man, it was a LEARNING PROCESS! Just to make sure I had all the tax/legal/shipping/money/business side of everything squared away took a while. So while product launches + lines are super fun, they’re a lot of work and planning. But now that I have one under my belt, I think I’ll do better the second time around. Any ideas on what I should do next??!

Tie Dye Purple & Gold Dress - Perfect for LSU Game Day and Tailgating for football season

Favorite Posts: Shop The Tailgate Collection | 10 Things To Do at LSU After You Graduate | DIY Clear Game Day Purse

September

Conrad and I both turned 29 at the end of September (our birthdays are 4 days apart), so as the last year in my 20s, I came up with my 30 Things To Do Before I’m 30 list. I put A LOT of thought into this and I’m figuring ways to plan in each of these in the New Year to make sure I can check them all off! (#13 is gonna be a challenge…) See my full list here.

September was also full of lots of football + tailgates, hosting another Happy Hour Club at BRQ and hosting our annual Baton Rouge Boutique Blowout Sale!

Baton Rouge Happy Hour Club at BRQ hosted by Southern Flair

Favorite Posts: How To Survive LSU Tailgating Season | DIY LSU Emoji Cupcake Toppers

October

October was full of more football, getting settled into the school year and really nothing too exciting lol. I did take one trip to Houston as part of a Fashion Panel for a department store (sorry I can’t say who). But that’s been a lot of fun the past year — getting to meet people in various departments of the retail chain from marketing, buying, etc and giving them feedback on my shopping experiences and observations. Plus, there are 15 other ladies on the panel with me and they are SO fun and we’ve all become really good friends over the year. We have one more final session planned in Feb. 2018!

October also marked when I had to get a little bit more serious about my running. I had a 10K scheduled for December and the Half Marathon in January, so Conrad and I ran in the Tough Pumpkin Pi Race downtown on the levee. Conrad placed first in his age group, so that seems worth mentioning! My boyfriend is such a WINNER!

Pumpkin Pi Race Baton Rouge

Favorite Post: How To Discover The Best Local Instagram Accounts

November

November 2017 was a BIG month — mostly because Taylor Swift released her new album. FINALLY!! (By the way.. who else is going to see her in September in New Orleans??!)

Banana Republic Factory at Tanger Outlet also invited me to host an in-store Friendsgiving Sale where I helped style families for photoshoots and Chrsitmas shop!

Favorite Post: Baton Rouge Dogs You Should Follow On Instagram

December

I ran my first 10K that ended on the 50 yard line of Tiger Stadium so THAT was cool! There were SO many people out there and the medal is my favorite! I think the Tiger10K will definitely be a yearly race for me!

Tiger 10K Race Baton Rouge
And I can’t wrap up 2017 without mentioning the EPIC SNOW DAY we had in Baton Rouge!! It only happens once a decade so gotta make note of that. We cooked gumbo, made a snowman and someone in my neighborhood even made an real life HUGE igloo!

What’s To Come in 2018:

Honestly, I have no idea lol. But I’m working on launching an official website for my social media/content creation, brainstorming new events for the Baton Rouge Fashion Council, planning our Happy Hour Club meet-ups, working on fresh, unique content for you guys and planning some fun trips! Thank you SO much for being on this journey with me and for your support! YOU. ARE. THE. BEST!


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