How to Take a Vacation

posted on: August 29, 2014

(Psst – We’re changing things up a bit here at madeleine|blogs! In lieu of weekly High Five for Friday posts, I’ll be doing a monthly roundup at the beginning of every new month about the previous month’s activities that may not have made it onto the blog. Check out next week’s August roundup on Friday, 9/05!)

For now, please enjoy this travel post…

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Everyone wants to go on vacation. Show me one person who doesn’t, and I’ll immediately break down that wall of fear and denial. I am a lawyer, you guys! Anyway, let’s just assume, everyone wants to go on vacation. You want time off from the hustle and bustle of work, to see things that are new and different from your everyday life, to relax on a beach with a mai tai. Regardless of your motivation, travel can be for everyone.

The problems start cropping up right around the time that you actually plan that travel. How will you get the time off from work? What will you bring? Will you be able to speak the language?

I present to you: Maddy’s (Very Introductory) Guide to Taking a Vacation.

1. What you want to see

The first step in taking any trip or vacation is deciding what your goal will be of the overall trip. Is it to relax and decompress? Do you want to pack as much sightseeing into your schedule as possible? Figure out whether you want to rest or explore (or a combination of the two) and then determine the location that fits the bill. See if you can get a great fare to Hawaii for several days, and just spend your time out on the beach. Or, alternatively, take a quick trip to New York City, and see a show after walking around Soho or the West Village for the afternoon. If you’re going international, make sure you plan out which sightseeing spots are most important to you – or would you rather sit back and enjoy Italy like a native, relaxing at cafes and listening to the chatter around you?

Keep in mind that you can sightsee anywhere, and you can relax anywhere. It’s all up to you.

Regardless of your plans, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on the language and local customs. You don’t want to offend anyone unintentionally, and though many places speak English, it’s nice to be able to say at least a few phrases in the native tongue. I’ve found the Duolingo app is great for practicing basic grammar in different languages, and the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides series are great for traveler’s tips!

Of course, sometimes you have to go on vacations that are planned for you – family trips, a friend’s wedding, etc. If that is the case, problem solved! You already know what you’ll be seeing and doing! Skip ahead to number 2…

 

2. Where to Stay

This step relates heavily to number one in that, if your goal is to sightsee, it might make more sense to stay in an area that is closer to the museums and parks and restaurants you intend to visit. If you already know you’ll spend much of your time in the historical section of a city (as my family and I did in Montréal recently), then it would make more sense to stay there and be able to walk out your door every morning already in the area you want to explore!

If, on the other hand, you want to relax and occasionally go out for a walk or two, maybe stay in a less bustling neighborhood, or rent a house or apartment from someone in a more residential area. Most cities have pretty good public transit (and there are always cabs) so you aren’t locked into an area once you check in to the hotel or hostel or apartment. It’s all a matter of perspective, and planning.

Of course, sometimes financial constraints can come into play, but you can find great deals nowadays on the internet for lots of places that you wouldn’t ordinarily think were very affordable. Give it a try! (Also, sign up for Airfare Watchdog alerts if you want to travel somewhere but don’t have a set time in mind… they’re great!)

 

3. How to Pack

Once you know where you’re going, and what your activities will likely be, you can begin packing. It sounds obsessive, but making a list of every thing you’re going to bring can be truly helpful. Once it’s all written down and checked off, you can stuff the list in a suitcase pocket and double-check it before leaving your vacay destination – no forgetting shirts in drawers or cell phone chargers in the socket for you! I also tend to cross things off the list that I end up not bringing, so I don’t have a panic attack over a black shirt that never even made it into my luggage.

The key to packing is “editing.” Edit edit edit. Unless you are an expert packer (in which case, congrats!) most of us don’t wear some of the things that we bring on our travels, and those items are only taking up extra space that could be filled with souvenirs, or could turn your checked bag into a lighter (cheaper!) carry on bag.

Take a good look at what you’ll be doing. Will you be walking around? Pack one pair of comfortable walking shoes, maybe sandals or flats. Will you be going to dinners? That same pair of comfortable flats can sometimes double with a dress for a nicer look. If not, pack only one pair of heels that can match most of the things you’re bringing. Will you need pants? Pack one pair of jeans and some different tops to alternate – the key here is to mix and match. You can create so many different outfits from the simplest pieces, instead of bringing your entire closet. I love this post from A Cup of Jo on this very subject.

Once you think you’ve figured out your suitcase situation, go back through and be real with yourself. You probably won’t wear that lime green blazer while you’re in New York in November – put it back. It’ll be there when you come home.

 

4. Get your ducks in a row

Finally, you have to handle your business. You can’t just peace out of your office with a smile and a wave – besides just letting your boss know that you’re going to be out, let anyone else with whom you work closely know of your plans. Tell the team whose project you’re managing who else they can reach out to with questions. Set up a vacation response on your office email.

Be professional, and remember to organize things so that your workplace will still be running smoothly in your absence. They won’t replace you while you’re gone, and they’ll be happy to receive you back when you return.

Obviously the tricky part of going away on a vacation is the nitty gritty details: finding those cheap airfares; booking a hotel on discount that satisfies your brother, your mother, and your cousin’s needs; figuring out whether you can squeeze that last maxi dress into your already stuffed valise. But if you keep these maxims in mind, you can get through it just fine.

And finally…don’t forget to send me a postcard!

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Have any helpful travel tips? Leave them in the comments!

NOLA & The Flamingos | HOT SPOT

posted on: August 28, 2014

Dear Bloggees, I have been so blessed to stay in touch with lots of different friends from different periods of my life.

That sounds braggy, but what I really mean is this: I feel so lucky that these friends are such good people that, for example, even after being out of regular contact for a long time, four of our five middle school “best friends FOREVERRRRR” group were able to get together and catch up. We went to different high schools and different colleges and, besides a couple of accidental run-ins with Evanne in San Francisco, I hadn’t seen any of them in literally years. It was long overdue and it was so much fun.

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Evanne, Michelle, Megan, and I decided the best place to do this reunion would be a long-standing Palo Alto haunt, NOLA.

NOLA is the place I remember going in high school for birthday dinners; the place where, in college, my high school friends and I would re-congregate on holiday breaks (especially after turning 21); a place I frequented in law school. If this place goes out of business, I don’t know what I’d do – where would I get my fill of Creole cuisine and oversized drinks?

No, I take that back. They’re just the right size.

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For any inquiring minds, I got the Ginger Julep. It was delicious, and obviously very photogenic.

What’s that? That’s not a qualification for a drink? Then you’re not a blogger, my friend! Or, you have more discerning taste than I do. Let’s move along…

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We got the crab guacamole (“crabamole”), which was exactly as good as you’d think it was. I am a sucker for fresh crab and anything with avocado on it, so put the two together and your mouth is in California heaven!

We also got the chicken andouille sausage gumbo with cornbread. I don’t usually care for gumbo, so the fact that I lapped this up is astounding.

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I’ll be honest, the fried green tomatoes were not the best…but we ate them anyway. Even the things that are less than stellar at Nola are still pretty darn good and worth your while. Or your mouth’s while.

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These “black and blue” ahi fish tacos more than made up for any fried green let downs! They were delectably spicy and perfectly sized. We cut them each in half because there were four of us (math) and they were still big enough to satisfy our cravings when combined with all the other apps we got.

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Of course, we couldn’t leave without some grits. These BBQ shrimp and grits (with garlic bread to, as the menu says, “mop up”) were fantastic. Subtle, but flavorful, and definitely enough to share and still get your fill.

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And, finally, who doesn’t want macaroni and cheese?

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We finished our evening by making the waiter and then the hostess take a multitude of pictures of us…and then comparing it to a very unflattering (of me, at least) photo of us from 8th grade graduation. Maybe someday I’ll share that with you guys, but, today is not that day. Let’s just say, I’ve come a long way in the art of makeup…

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(Michelle, Evanne, me, and Megan)

For now you’ll have to wait in suspense as to why we called ourselves the Flamingos…!

…Alright, I’ll tell you. I have no earthly idea. All I remember is that I was the red flamingo (duh, hair) and the rest of us were similarly attributed with pink, yellow, blue, and green titles. We were The Flamingos and we were BFFs and we had a grand old middle school time. I’m not being sarcastic! There are some things about your younger years that just make you so happy to remember, that amidst all of the craziness of growing up and finding yourself, you had great friends and inside jokes and you could create this connection with other people that lasted into adulthood.

It was like our very own Now & Then! Aw.

Guys, help me out – why were we flamingos? Did we just like the animal? I need to know! You can tell me at our next club meeting.

Acacia, Valencia Street

posted on: August 27, 2014

When I met Lily Chau — owner of new home furnishings shop Acacia, lawyer-turned-entrepreneur-and-dream-follower — I knew this was a sign from the Universe. A sign that someday, I could pursue my passions. That I could take risks. That I could trod off the beaten path of lawyerly duty somewhere down the line, and indulge my creative desires.

Or, that I just needed to know about a really great home furnishings shop, and try not to spend all of my money there. That could have also been what The Universe was trying to tell me. It’s hard to interpret silent air sometimes, you know?

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Either way, I am completely infatuated with this perfectly curated shop.

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Lily has paired up with the folks at Heliotrope to provide not only great things for your apartment, but also your bod. Their line of skincare using organic, locally-supplied (ya heard!) ingredients provides the perfect sophisticated accent to a shop full of colorful, well-crafted pieces. The two brands work really well together in the space and it’s really refreshing to see artisans coming together like this!

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I popped in just before departing for my Montréal adventure (which you will all hear about next week), so it took a bit of reminding from my friend Rachel (a lawyer and fellow small business-er) to save my money and not buy one of these adorable bear-turned-travel-pillows. That’s not to say I won’t go back on that someday… I have several trips coming up, and sometimes mama needs a bear neck pillow.

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Most of what I loved best about this shop is the arrangement of these beautifully chosen products – you can tell everything has a place, but it’s not so stark as to make you feel uncomfortable looking around and touching things. On the other hand, it’s not so cluttered as to make you feel like an archaeologist wading through generations of goods.

I think Acacia has just the right balance – enough to offer variety without overwhelming the customer. This is harder to achieve than you’d think!

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You know I was impressed when they had my favorite water bottles! I’m so happy to be seeing these bottles take off in so many stores – I bought one the other day for my mom at our local Marin café!

(Ok, I asked Big T to buy it for mom. I didn’t have my wallet.)

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These Pantone coffee makers and mugs were another thing that immediately caught my eye. Such a great mix of modern style and warm, homey goods here! See e.g.: all of those blankets above.

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Sadly, time (and money – or lack thereof) dictated that Rachel and I bid adieu to Lily and Acacia… but I’ll be back. Don’t you worry, I’ll be back! Someday when I can take one of those bears home with me. And maybe a necklace. And a bright wool blanket. And some stationery…

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All jokes aside, this is the perfect place to come to spruce up an apartment, or try Heliotrope‘s great skincare line, or pick up a small goodie or two for a friend’s birthday. I am a big fan of Acacia and I hope it stays in the neighborhood for a good, long time!

Details:

Acacia (and Heliotrope)
415 Valencia Street (near 15th)
San Francisco, CA
acaciasf.com

Carrots with Ginger and Black Sesame | THE COOKBOOK CHALLENGE

posted on: August 26, 2014

This recipe is so easy that I almost shouldn’t be able to count it for the challenge, but I posted about salad dressing for god’s sake, so I think this makes the cut.

The flavors in this dish are… tangy. Crisp. Noticeable? Yes. But also delicious! This is a fun, super simple side dish that can accompany the turkey meatballs I’ve already posted, or a good salmon fillet, or even just a sandwich. This can be the thing you bring to a potluck or a dinner party; the thing you whip up when you really want to eat a serving (or seven) of fettuccini alfredo but you feel like you should be a little healthier. This is that thing!

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Just don’t do that thing where you eat this and only this and then you turn yellow like you have jaundice. That’s just weird.

Ingredients
- 4 large carrots
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- sea salt
- hot toasted sesame oil
- soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds

Enter, IF YOU DARE… Read More

Clogs are coming back… aren’t they? | Wearables

posted on: August 25, 2014

I’m trying to do this thing called “shopping my own closet.” Have you heard of it? It’s where, instead of buying clothes every weekend for new outfits, you just…wear things that you already own. Revolutionary, I know. I don’t know how I keep up with these newest trends, but I just manage somehow!

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(This is me, laughing at my own little joke.)

These clogs were purchased when I worked in retail between taking the Bar and finding out whether I’d passed (and, therefore, which big girl jobs I could feasibly apply for.) At the time, I thought I would wear them all the time… and then they lived in my closet for a few years. They were just resting up for the big clog comeback!

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I’m happy to say, I think they’ll see a lot more action from now on, especially to casual brunches and days in the park. They give a little bit of lift while still looking nice, and the cushion means I can wear them standing all day! You know how chefs and nurses wear clogs because of all the standing? That’s me! Except, at a standing desk. And only until I get tired and sit in the chair that goes with my desk. Hm.

Maybe it’s not the same at all, but either way, all of the country’s necessary employees are wearing clogs. This is the lesson to take away today.

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Zara yellow and white scarf (similar, similar)
Gap 1969 denim
Ariat clogs (similar)
J.Crew Panama hat
J.Crew linen tee (similar)
Foley + Corinna bag (on sale)
ASOS sunglasses (similar)

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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

posted on: August 24, 2014

As you may know, I’m all about trends. This subject, however, is a trend I hope we will someday not have a need for: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

If you’ve been out of the country for the past month, the Ice Bucket Challenge involves receiving a challenge from someone, and either pouring ice water on your head + donating $10 to ALS research, or skipping the cold bath and donating $100. So far, this challenge has raised $53 million dollars since July 29 (in comparison to raising $19 million in all of 2012…) and there are some hilarious celeb videos.

According to the ALS Association, “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease,’ is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost.”

…that means, patients of ALS may eventually lose total motor function in their bodies, becoming completely paralyzed. While statistically the disease only affects 2 out of 100,000 people, there is no cure, and anyone can develop ALS.  I fully support giving more money to research the causes and treatments of ALS, and I hope you’ll consider donating to this cause as well.

I decided to participate in the challenge AND donate funds to ALS research because I think passing along the videos, as obnoxious as it may seem to some (which is a fine stand to take!), does draw increased attention to the cause.

And if you disagree, that is completely your prerogative. You can just enjoy this video of me pouring water on myself. Happy Sunday!

(Thank you to Leslie for the video assist!)

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PS – I found this post by Alex in Wanderland really inspirational, and I hope to make my charitable giving a more regular occurrence!

PPS – I donated to charity:water as well.

 

High Five for Friday | 08/22

posted on: August 22, 2014

Ready for a little weekly round up? Have you been reading Lauren Elizabeth‘s blog? (She hosts the HFFF link ups!) I love her down to earth (but chic) style, and her pictures of cats. Just because I’m allergic doesn’t mean I can’t partake!

Lots of double negatives there. You know what I mean.

Untitled1. I got my haircut this weekend! For those who don’t know, I love love love my guy Dan at Joseph Cozza Salon downtown. I probably shouldn’t say that, because now he’ll get all booked up and famous. Ok, I take it back! Nevermind!

 

Untitled2. I saw these adorable mohair bunny slippers at one of my favorite knitting shops (Blue Bird Yarn in Sausalito) this weekend and it just got me so excited for the knitting “season.” Making something out of almost nothing is really satisfying.

 

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3. I’m so obsessed with these BKR water bottles that when Big T and I were picking up pastries for the family breakfast, I made him buy one for mom. I told him I would pay him back but that hasn’t happened yet, so I’ll just give him the purchasing credit for now.

 

Untitled4. I went to Nectar Wine Lounge in the Marina last night with some girlfriends from college to catch up, and eat amazing food. The catching up was great, but the burrata itself was worth the trip. Yummmmm.

 

Untitled5. On Wednesday night (I know, I’m out of order! Oh well!) a few of us went out to dinner and ended up going to Absinthe for drinks since Lily had never been there, and she’s leaving town soon for grad school. Let’s just say, I was hydrating myself a LOT yesterday… and I would definitely go there again.

 

This weekend, I’m:

- attending Lily’s going away picnic
- doing the ALS ice bucket challenge (I just got called out by my friends at Dearest Darling!)
- helping a friend take portrait pics for her firm’s website
- and, saying goodbye to Lil the Pill as she moves out! She’s going to LA, so we’ll miss her, but at least LA isn’t Antarctica.

Small Screen Style | Carrie Bradshaw

posted on: August 21, 2014

This sad day has finally arrived – the last look from our Small Screen Style challenge! Have you been having fun? Have you been following along? Not only was this a great way to get to know some other awesome bloggers, but it has been really fun for me to see everyone’s interpretations of each “style.” You think you can pin down an iconic TV character super easily but unless you’re wearing the exact piece she wore on screen, there’s always room to play around – and that’s where true style comes in!

Small Screen Style Carrie 800Check out Dearest Darling, A Sparkle Factor, The Peach Bellini, and The Rachel Ross for their full looks!

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I chose this outfit based on Carrie’s crazy color combinations, her love of jewelry (but just enough!) and her addiction to sky-high heels. It was really fun dressing up in character this week, and forced me to make some outfit moves that I ordinarily wouldn’t try. Maybe I should have a self-imposed style challenge next month? I’ll see if y’all can guess when I’m doing it!

Sad as I am to see this challenge go (it’s been fun sharing more outfits this week than normal!),  it’s only fitting (har har) that we end on such a supreme style icon. In the words of Carrie Bradshaw herself,

“I like my money right where I can see it - hanging in my closet.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this style challenge! Don’t forget to check out our last two pieces of jewelry below, generously donated by Roman & Sunstone for this giveaway. And, most importantly, don’t forget to enter!

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Target neon dress (similar)
Zara salmon coat (similar, similar)
Zara mustard shoes (similar, similar)
J.Crew wicker clutch (similar)
Bauble Bar gold chain necklace (similar)
Costume jewelry pearl necklace (similar)
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carrie bradshaw giveaway
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Small Screen Style | Olivia Pope

posted on: August 20, 2014

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or on the moon, or under a moonrock, you know what it means when I say, “It’s handled.”

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Yes, Bloggees, that means it’s Olivia Pope day! The woman who singlehandedly made a Crate & Barrel wine glass trendy (think about that – when have the masses ever lusted after a particular wine glass?) is our next character in the Small Screen Style challenge, and I’m so impressed by everyone’s interpretations! Check out A Sparkle Factor, The Rachel Ross, Dearest Darling, and The Peach Bellini to see all of our looks, up close and personal.

Mine is based more on the “Olivia at home” scenes – comfy, oversized sweater (but in a neutral color scheme and great fabric), boots, and a classic bag. I’m having trouble fitting these pants into the boots, but, we all make mistakes sometimes.

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I need Olivia to come in and HANDLE (har har) my wardrobe. She would toss things left and right. It would be like one of those makeover montages. I need an Olivia Pope montage! That’s it. Who can hook a sister up?

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Banana Republic sweater coat, out of season (similar, similar)
Gap stretch black pants (similar)
J.Crew linen tee (similar)
Rag & Bone Newbury bootie (similar)
Burberry tote (similar, similar)
Necklace by Maripat Designs (similar, similar)
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We’re also revealing TWO MORE pieces of jewelry in the huge, huge, gimungous giveaway this week, inspired by Olivia’s classic style. Don’t forget to enter below!
olivia pope giveaway
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Small Screen Style | Rachel Green, FRIENDS

posted on: August 19, 2014

So, by general consensus, today’s theme was difficult. Rachel Green is so iconic, but because of that, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in those shoes! It would be like if a man tried to dress up like Chandler… in some ways, it would just be a guy wearing 90s clothes, since Matthew Perry is really what makes the part come to life. I mean, literally, since he was the actor… anyway. Jennifer Aniston was Rachel, and without any of us being Jen, it’s a little difficult to replicate Ms. Green.

I think we all tried our best, however, and reignited some love for the 90s in the process!

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I decided to emulate her Ralph Lauren years, when she was all about sleek lines and solid color palettes (at the very end… not that unfortunate patterned era.) …And, boots! She rocked some great boots in the later seasons. These boots have been biding their time in my closet, alongside this dress I wore to an office party years ago, waiting to show off what they’ve got! The jacket is from a suit I wore while working in law school, and I think it adds a bit of that “90s structured blazer” look.

Turns out, I didn’t need to buy anything extra for this challenge – it was all in my closet! I need to wear a lot more of the clothes I own. This “jeans and sweaters and maybe a pair of earrings” uniform just isn’t cutting it in adulthood.

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I wore my hair curly à la Season 1 Rachel because I had originally planned on wearing a different outfit…but, c’est la vie, I liked this one a bit better, and didn’t have time to go stick-straight like her. Plus, how could anyone really replicate the iconic Rachel hairdo? I didn’t even want to go there.

So, what do you think?
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There are plenty of reasons why Rachel is my favorite character on Friends (her style, her spunk, her wit, her ability to be charming even when being totally stupid, and how she always ended up making the right choice in the end) but there’s one line that still gets me:

“I got off the plane.”

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Blue Dress from Ruti (similar)
Ann Taylor suit jacket (similar)
J.Crew wicker clutch (similar)
Rebecca Minkoff boots (similar, similar)
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Psst – Don’t forget to enter the giveaway again today! These great pieces by Roman & Sunstone are part of the $600+ jewelry package we’re giving away all week. We’ve selected these items based on Rachel’s simple, elegant style – and they could be yours!

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