Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Black Flamingo

Have you ever taken a picture that you absolutely loved except for one minor detail that drove you batshit insane, and then proceeded to try to replicate the exact photo minus that one flaw only to have every attempt turn out to be a piece of crap?

That's exactly how I feel about this photo. The issue being I ONLY HAVE ONE FREAKING LEG.

I swear, I have two. See below for proof. Just the way I leaned against the wall and the length of the skirt conspired against me to make me appear to be doing my impression of a black flamingo, which is really just a way less glamorous version of the same colored swan.

Outfit Details
Shirt: Ann Taylor
Skirt: White House Black Market
Necklace: Vintage
Watch: Betsey Johnson
Belt: Forever 21
Shoes: Madden Girl 

Obviously, I gave up trying to replicate it. Just roll with me here.

Anywho, this is what I wore to work today. I just started a new job last week! Going well so far. I wanted to be comfortable but still a tad dressy, so I went with an all black ensemble featuring my favorite skirt, with a few gold and cream colored accessories as an accent.

I think cream colored shoes would have balanced it out better in retrospect, but I like how the black tights and black heels steamline my legs. What do you think?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kiss From a Rose

It's so nice to finally be done for the semester! So much has piled up on me and the last few weeks I found myself getting less and less sleep regardless of how hard I tried to get to bed early.

I didn't have a thing to wake up for today. I love the feeling of waking up naturally, where you gradually become aware of what's around you and how freaking comfortable your bed is. I remember in my half-awake stupor pulling my fleece blanket closer to me and thinking that I was a baby bird warm and cozy inside an egg.

Turned out I slept ten hours. I am okay with this. 

Unfortunately, I also had the bad luck of hitting a rough patch relationship-wise during finals as well. I think I've finally found the courage to move on though. When I'm with someone I care about, I noticed I have a tendency to be too willing to make excuses for them and let them take advantage of my eagerness to make them happy. I let them get away with treating me poorly because I want them to see me as understanding and willing to compromise. In the end, I'm the one doing all the work and feeling neglected.

I need to start focusing on my making myself happy first. It's a hard thing to come to terms with -- but it's necessary. Love is hard, man. 
Outfit Details
Cardigan: Target
Dress: Lace Affair
Belt: Forever 21
Earrings: Betsey Johnson

Anyway, any time I'm feeling  a little down I like to dress up in something gorgeous. I just got this dress a few weeks ago and I've been hoping for an excuse to wear it (someone take me on a date goddamit, it's a perfect date dress!) and I figured going to the mall with my friend for some Christmas shopping was as good a reason as any.

I guess it's not very Winter-y, but eff that I love me some floral printed dresses and I will wear them all year if I want.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The 5 Sparkliest Posts of 2012

I just recently hit my one year anniversary with Rhinestone Religion, so 2012 has been a huge year for me in finding my footing in the blogosphere. I've done a lot of learning by trial and error as well as just plain experimentation. After a year, I'm glad to say I've made several posts that I'm proud of -- posts that I think show off the personality and overall feel of my blog. 

Without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite posts from my first year of blogging!

I spent hours making the collages and writing the descriptions for this post, but it was well worth it. Not only was it a huge success with readers and new visitors, it also allowed me to show off some of my personality and incorporate some of my geekiness into my content, win-win for everyone! 

In this post you'll find outfits inspired by Daenerys Targaryen, Melisandre, Sansa Stark, Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister, as well as a brief description of the character and their style!

Sometimes simple posts can be just as rewarding as long projects. This post is a showcase of my favorite piece of jewelry -- a cream and gold colored rhinestone watch by Betsey Johnson. Just from looking at it, it shouldn't be too terribly hard to figure out why my blog might be named the way it is. This piece fits perfectly into my style and aesthetic taste, and it photographs beautifully to boot!

One of the best parts of 2012 for me personally was getting to see my friend Svanhvit for the first time in two years. I met Svanhvit when I was a senior in High School -- she was a foreign exchange student from Iceland. We bonded over our love of Pokemon and by the time of graduation we were practically inseparable. She came back to visit over the summer and we got to spend two weeks together.

Before she went back, I took some pictures of her style and did a mini-interview with her. It was a great opportunity to introduce some unique content and give my readers some fresh perspective on an international level. 

To my surprise, a post I wrote during an interim pit class last year ended up being my biggest source of pillar content; information that stays relevant and continues to draw in new readers. 

I've tried a bajillion LUSH products, and in this post I share my absolute favorites -- from facial cleansers to perfume, if you're feeling overwhelmed by LUSH's options, this post will start you in the right direction. 

I spent almost the entirety of my free time in September and October making my own Halloween costume -- I was a pin-up inspired version of Poison Ivy from Batman!

When I was a kid I used to watch the Batman animated series and Poison Ivy was always my favorite character. I've wanted to make a costume in tribute to her for years now, but this year I finally got around to doing it. I hand-sewed glitter sprayed leaves onto a corset and made eye masks out of craft foam... it was a lot of work but I was so glad to be able to share it!

I'm looking forward to continuing blogging in 2013, and all the inspiration it will bring!

This post was created as a submission to IFB's Project #75: Share Your Greatest Hits of 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

5 Things I've Learned From My First Year of Blogging

Today is Rhinestone Religion's birthday! 

Exactly one year ago today I published my first post called Winterizing a Summer Dress. I still remember making the post... I balanced my camera on my parent's picnic table because I didn't have a tripod yet and one of my dogs kept getting in the way (he's actually in the picture...) 

Since then, I've done a lot of reworking and revamping everything about my blog; from the layout to my content focus. I fully expect my blog to continue evolving in the coming years, and sometimes I can't believe the amount of growth that I've gone through as a person just by starting this personal project. 

I've learned so much just from taking initiative and beginning something all on my own, so in celebration of my first bloggiversary I'll share some of the tidbits of wisdom I've picked up on the way. 

1. Blogging Is Conversational 
Or at least it should be. You could treat it like a soapbox, or just sending words out into space. I certainly did when I first started, but eventually people will realize that you’re just talking at them rather than to them and lose interest -- if there's any interest at all. 

From my experience, blogging is more like a convention. You have your own booth where you get to display your own ideas and brand, and sure, some people will glance and it and move on. But others will stop by to chat, they’ll want to hear more of what you have to say and best of all they'll actually be interested. You’ll share your ideas with them, and together you’ll learn to build off each other’s input and resources.

You’ll wander from your booth and scope what else is out there, and eventually you’ll be the one coming by to check out something that piques your interest -- giving someone else that blissful feeling of actually reaching someone. 

The true beauty of blogging comes from sharing information and ideas with others, fellow bloggers or not. You're both the viewer and the presenter, the student and the teacher. And that's awesome.

2. The Best Followers are Interested Followers 
When I first joined IFB, I had barely any followers on my blog and it seemed like there was a huge culture of sending “follow for follow” messages. Which, I admittedly bought into because hey, finally I was starting to see the number on my GFC widget go up. It felt like all the work I was putting in was finally attracting attention.

But it wasn't; not really. Maybe a small percentage actually became interested in my content, but the majority of subscribers I had amassed in that manner passed over my posts as my traffic and comment count at the time could attest to. Even though I may have technically had more followers, I still wasn't necessarily getting any acknowledgement for my work. 

There is one thing to say for this though, and it’s that even starting off with a small amount of disinterested followers can provide a level of social proof for new readers -- getting the ball rolling, as it were. But it's really not a good way to build a meaningful readership and certainly shouldn't be a crutch for bringing in new visitors. 

The best reader relationships I've built have been with people who've found my blog organically, because we've had conversations on other sites or because I discovered their blog and took genuine interest in engaging with them.

3. Blogging Requires a Swiss Army Knife of Skill Sets
It’s amazing to think of all the things I've had to either teach myself from scratch or just plain become better at in order to improve my blogging. In fact, just thinking about it makes me a little dizzy. 

Photography, HTML and CSS, graphic design, writing and editing, new social media platforms, SEO… the list goes on and on, and all of them were skills I picked up along the way. Certainly not by plopping myself down and learning them all in one go, ain't nobody got time for that. 

And what may be even cooler is that with the nature of technology, there are constantly new tools being released every day to learn to utilize. 

Since I started blogging, I've constantly been learning new things and many of them are skills that carry over to the offline world as well.

4. Keeping an Agenda 
I only recently started using an editorial calendar to help plan my monthly posting schedule, and it’s made a huge difference in the frequency of my posts as well as the traffic I draw in.

Whenever you search for ways to improve blog productivity, editorial calenders will come up in virtually every guide you come across and for some reason I just chose to ignore that advice for the majority of my first year.

I guess I thought it wasn't really my "style," and instead I just jotted down a list of things I wanted to get around to writing eventually, maybe, some time, in the future, when I get around to it, I guess. That attitude sometimes lead to entire months without any updates, which is bad. Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad. Bad. 

Now I keep a dry-erase calender next to my desk. Being able to see the entire month, and figure out when would be a good time to post what (gift guides in December or holiday outfit ideas around Christmas and New Year's Eve, for example) allows me to plan out my day so I have time to sit and create a post, even when I have things like homework and exams on my mind.

Setting a personal deadline makes it much easier to actually follow through with your ideas. They don't do much good stuck in your head, afterall. 

5. I've Become a Better Writer 
Writing has actually always been something I've been pretty damned good at, but I never really did it for recreational purposes. It was always clinical, fact-based essays for class that generally gave little room for personal voice.

Blogging, especially in the context of a more personal topic, almost requires a more conversational tone or you'll bore your readers to death. Not to mention breaking up your ideas into very small, easily digestible chunks like I'm doing now is like pulling teeth at first.

I'm not going to lie, it's been a difficult adjustment to make when you're so used to being as objective and academic as possible and I still want to improve on finding my voice in regard to blogging quite a bit.

But, I think that's one of my favorite parts of blogging - it's an ongoing project. You're never really done, so there's always room to learn and experiment.

Thank you so much to everyone that's taken an interest in my blog! I put a lot of work and effort into making the best content that I possibly can, and your feedback and support means the world to me. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide: 7 Gift Ideas For the Beauty Addict

Have you started your Holiday shopping yet? Admittedly, I'm procrastinating just a teensey tinsey bit. Okay, I haven't even started. But that's only because I always make sure I get the absolute perfect gift for everyone on my list, alright?

To make your gift shopping a whole lot easier, I've compiled this gift guide aimed to help you find the perfect present for that friend who obsessively watches makeup tutorials on YouTube and has to keep an inventory on her lipstick; affectionately known as The Beauty Addict.

1. LUSH Each Peach Massage Bar, $10.95
LUSH massage bars make for a great and relatively inexpensive gift, especially for couples. They smell amazing, they're less mess than traditional massage oils, and they leave your skin silky smooth. What's there not to love?

2. Too Faced Love Sweet Love Set, $46
Sometimes, I buy Too Faced gift sets just for myself. Why? Because they're the definition of bang for your buck and you get to sample a variety of different products for a fraction of the cost of buying them separately. You may be tempted to keep this for yourself!

3. Sultra The Bombshell 1 Inch Curling Wand, $130
Curling wands are all the rage right now. They don't leave that gross crimp at the end of your hair like traditional curling irons. Show your appreciation for the diva in your life by giving the gift of gorgeous hair.

4. Sonia Kashuk Tile Soft Cosmetic Case, $6.99
Travel-sized makeup bags are a staple of any beauty addict. From blotting tissues to extra mascara, any makeup-minded lady is bound to need something to carry her touch-up tools in.

5. Urban Decay Naked Palette, $50
This is a hot gift this year, for beauty gurus and novices alike. If it's in your price range, it's almost guaranteed to be a successful present!

6. MAC All for Glamour Touch Up Kit, $39.50
MAC releases gorgeous holiday collections every year, and their 2012 set is no disappointment. I love the cushy cases that the kits come in this year! This cute little compact for mid-day touch ups would be perfect for the busiest women in your life.

7. Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte Lipstick, $34
"Saint Nick" actually brought me a YSL lipstick in Lingerie Pink this year. It has absolutely the most gorgeous packaging I've ever seen, and the color goes on smooth and creamy. Definitely a luxury item worth having.

What sort of beauty products are you lusting after this this holiday season? Tell me in the comments! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time to Relax...

It may technically be the week before finals week, but I actually find that to be the most stressful part of the semester. This is the point where professors are scrambling to cram in everything that they had planned on doing, but didn't get the chance to.

So two papers, a project and a third of a three-day exam down and I'm already burnt out.

Saint Nick sent me some goodies today. I'm assuming he had to send it in the mail because my apartment doesn't have a fireplace. Winkwink.

My Week with Marilyn, a stunningly gorgeous YSL lipstick and some chocolate truffles. It's almost like the universe is saying

"Hey Lexi, it's alright. You can take a break."

And take a break I shall. Going to pop in this movie, sip some tea out of my nice teacup, light some candles and cozy up under a big fluffy blanket. Perfect. 

Also, if you happen to enjoy pictures of pretty pink and/or sparkly things as much as I do, follow me on Instagram.

PS. Tell me what you do to unwind! Maybe I'll get some ideas. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sweet & Cozy

Believe it or not, one of my eyes is actually open in this picture. Try to figure out which one.

I have a confession to make -- I am terrible at styling hair. Literally, atrocious. Hair is something I have a lot of, and it never does what I want it to do. I just flat out do not have the patience to work with it. 

On Pinterest, I found a tutorial that seemed so simple even I could do it. You chop off the end of a sock and roll your hair into a bun with it. That sounds so easy!

Well, yes and no. Cutting off the toe of the sock was easy.

 Actually rolling my hair into said mutilated sock was more difficult, but after some futzing and cussing I managed. It looks alright, except for this one little pizza slice snippet that I could not fluff out no matter what I did. 

Outfit Details
Cardigan, belt: Forever 21
Skirt, tights: Target
Boots: Blowfish 
Accessories: Vintage, Betsey Johnson

Anyway, my friend and I went out to dinner at a new Japanese restaurant that opened up in town. We've been making a point of finding locally owned places to try, since our particular college town tends to be overrun by boring chain restaurants.

When I went to pick her up, she said "How did you get your hair to do that?"

"With a sock. There is literally a sock in my hair right now."

It was one of those moments where you realize how ridiculous some of the lengths you'll go to for fashion are. It's probably a secret I'd best keep to myself, now that I think about it. Like a good magician, a lady doesn't reveal her tricks. 

Except I just told the entire internet. The Alliance won't approve.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December Activity Ideas

As much as I can't stand the cold, I love the warm-fuzzy feeling of the Holiday season. There's nothing better than coming in from the cold to a cup of hot cocoa and soft glowing lights. Though honestly I'd be more than happy to skip over the majority of the Winter months, December is one of the few that I actually look forward to. Here are some ideas for ways you can enjoy your December to the fullest!

Decorate for the Holidays. It doesn't matter what you celebrate, adding lights and a few decorations makes your place feel cozy.
Bake cookies, pastries or other kinds of sweets. Share them with friends!
Make sure your closet is prepared for winter (coats, hats, boots, etc.) Go buy anything you're missing right away, before you get caught without it.
Paint your nails something sparkly. Last year I used some blue and silver nailpolish that reminded me of snow for my Winter manicure!
On that note, store anything that is strictly out of season like breezy summer dresses and sandals. Basically anything you know you won't need for a while, it'll free up space in your closet and you'll know exactly what you have to work with when getting dressed in the morning.
Get a cute welcome mat for your front door to save your carpet from slush.
If you don't know already, December 21st is allegedly the Mayan Apocalypse  The only correct way to handle this is to plan an End of the World party, of course. My friends and I already have one in the works.
 But just in case the world doesn't end, start planning your gift list...
...and wish list!
Send greeting cards to anyone you can't afford to buy presents for, but who you want to show your appreciation toward.
Do some hunting for cold Winter night reading material. If you have a fireplace, you are required to read in front of it. No excuses.
Volunteer your time or donate to a cause you believe in.
Once there's snow on the ground, get your friends together and build a snowman or go sledding.
Afterwards, watch cheesy Christmas/Holiday movies. Olive the Other Reindeer is one of my favorites.
Check out your local light displays. In Milwaukee, there's a neighborhood called Candy Cane Lane that collectively goes all-out on their displays to raise money for the MACC Fund. I visit with my family every year!

What's your favorite way to have fun in December? Tell me in the comments! 
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