a blog by jennifer cho salaff

Monday, March 30, 2015

Ballet at 40 (the body)

Taking ballet gives you a heightened awareness of your body. This is both good and bad. Because nothing goes unnoticed. 

During class, there is careful (and sometimes brutal) examination of the physique. When moving from first to second to fifth positions I often wonder, "Are my toes pointed enough?" "How do my fingertips look right now?" "Do my arms and legs move to the music?" "How's my turnout?"

On good days, I see my reflection in the mirror and the woman looking back feels deeply connected to her body. She loves every minute of every relevĂ©, tendu and retirĂ© devant -- pretty French words that make her feel pretty. She lands those pirouettes. Her lines are elegant.

On not-so-good days, I look in the mirror and the woman hates me for making her look awkward. Instead of enjoying what her 40-year-old body is capable of, she's dissatisfied with how she looks in a leotard ("My back fat! Oh the horror!"). Her pirouettes don't stick. Her lines are all over the place.

Thankfully, the lows don't hang around for very long.

One night, as I tucked myself into bed, I got the greatest compliment a wanna-be ballerina could ask for. "Wow hon, is that your leg?" my sweet husband asked as he touched my thigh. "It feels like a rock!"

I looked in the full-length mirror the next morning. "Wow is right," I thought as I looked at my inner thighs. "I'll be damned. I can actually see my muscles under there!"

It's been seven months since I first started taking ballet and encouraging things are happening to my body. I feel stronger. Centered. Balanced. I see muscle definition ("Hello, quadriceps! Glad to see you're back!"). Good posture has become everything. 

Other things happening beyond the physical.

Ballet is pushing me. It demands that I do the work and give my best. It's also become my oasis during busy, often hectic, weeks. Once I walk through that studio door I leave everything behind -- my to-do lists, my responsibilities, my worries. It's just me and ballet. 

I once read that you should do something every day that scares you. For me, that "scary place" is walking into ballet class as a 40-year-old mother of two. It's putting on a leotard and tights. It's asking my body to turn, spin, leap and jump when there's no guarantee I won't twist my ankle or hurt my pride. 

As long as my body keeps up, I will face my fears and conquer them on the dance floor. 

It's exactly the place I want to be.

love, -j. 

Photos by Carlos Salaff.
Balancing ballet and motherhood. (Slate)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Toodaloo Mutha... (Ken Jeong's story)

I had no idea comedian Ken Jeong's role as Mr. Chow in The Hangover was fueled by his wife's fight against breast cancer. This short video, part of a series of films for WETA and the Ken Burns cancer project, tells a moving story about love, comedy and triumph. Watch it and be inspired.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

love, -j. 

Cancer changed Ken Jeong's comedy. (Death, Sex & Money)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


FOUNT's Jackie and Phillip Wachter (and pup D'wayne) inside their
Cleveland-based design studio. (Photos © Hilary Bovay)  

For Phillip and Jackie Wachter, it was romance that made FOUNT happen. It all started two Christmases ago. Rather than buying presents, the couple opted for homemade gifts. Phillip carved Jackie a wooden cutting board and took an old jacket to make her mittens. Jackie sewed a Christmas stocking for Phillip and made him a pencil case because he liked to sketch furniture.

Creating beautiful objects reignited something inside them.

Jackie and Phillip had always been crafty. She learned at a young age how to sew and made one-of-a-kind bracelets and sold them from her locker. He once got busted by his grade school principal for selling hand-sewn stuffed animals to his classmates. "Kids were using their lunch money to buy my beanie babies," Phillip recalls. 

"We both wanted to start companies when we were kids," says Jackie. "I think we were very entrepreneurial from an early age."

Though they both had day jobs (she was a kindergarten teacher and he was directing and producing commercial work), Jackie and Phillip took a leap of faith, invested in an industrial sewing machine and started FOUNT from a tiny bedroom in their Cleveland Heights apartment. 

They made leather wallets and sold them at flea markets. Four months later, at the suggestion of friends, they moved to hand-sewn leather handbags. "We had six totes at the Cleveland Flea," Phillip says. "We were nervous because we thought no one would buy them. We were shocked when we sold out. It was really encouraging and we went home and made more bags."

They were on to something. 

Last May, FOUNT launched its online store. Soon after, Phillip and Jackie outgrew their apartment and moved the business to the ArtCraft Building downtown. "We knew going into this that social media was so important in getting the brand out there," Phillip says. "When Folk Magazine regrammed one of our photos we got like 1,000 new followers in a 20-hour period." 

Then an editor at Country Living Magazine reached out. They wanted to feature FOUNT in the October 2014 issue. Business continued to boom. Jackie and Phillip quit their day jobs, bought a couple more sewing machines, hired staff and expanded into a sprawling loft space inside the ArtCraft building. 

When you hold a FOUNT product in your hands, you understand why so many people are catching on. It has nothing to do with being trendy and everything to do with craftsmanship. Premium Italian leather. Solid brass hardware. Sewn by hand. Each piece, whether it be a handbag, a wallet or a keychain, is a work of art.  

"We want it to feel a little bit on the luxurious side," says Jackie. "We want people to feel that they bought something of high quality and something that you would pass on to your kid if you wanted. Something timeless."

In an age of mass production, where consumer goods are made overseas and sold cheap in stores, the response is a revival of artisans and quality goods. From bicycles and 3D printed coffee carafes to chocolate and artisanal cheese, the maker movement in America is growing strong. 

"I think right now is a phenomenal time to start your own business," Phillip says. "You can almost fake it 'til you make it. Like some of these small companies that have made really amazing websites and you would never know they don't have a whole design team."

Advice for aspiring makers? 

"Work hard and don't stop," says Jackie. "When we started, I was teaching full-time. I'd come home and sew 'til 2, 3 or 4 in the morning. But you gotta have faith that it could work."

Ultimately passion defeated exhaustion.

"We definitely had moments where we were like, 'Argh! We should quit! This is just too hard!'" Phillip says. "But we really, really love it."

If you're in the Cleveland area this weekend, be sure to check out FOUNT's Trunk Show and Studio Tour on Saturday. Jackie and Phillip and the FOUNT staff will be running tours, demonstrations and will offer a sneak preview of up-and-coming designs. Plus, they will be selling handbags and accessories of discontinued color or slight imperfection for 10-50% off.

See you there!


Photos by Hilary Bovay for love, -j.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

This week's obsession: berry-stained nails

This pretty nail color from Maybelline is the latest beauty find I wanted to share with you. It's got this beautiful pinkish purple hue (makes me think about juicy berries at my fingertips). The first coat goes on like a lovely wash of fuchsia watercolor. The more layers you apply, the darker and more opaque it gets.

The best part? 

It's only three buckaroos at your local drugstore! 

Galaxy nails. (A Cup of Jo)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring makeover with Dior

Spring is here and so are all the pretty colors! 

The wonderful folks at Christian Dior Cosmetics at Nordstrom Beachwood Place invited me to their Spring Trend Event last week. I had so much fun learning about cosmeceutical skincare and getting a beautiful makeover. I mean, look at the naked face of the girl on the left (yikes!) and compare it with the girl on the right (that's more like it).**
Here's what beauty expert Gia Iarussi used to prep my skin: first she cleaned my face with Dior's Instant Cleansing Water and followed up with this gentle toning lotion. Then my face got the luxury treatment. "Feel your skin," Gia said after applying the One Essential and Hydra Life line of products to my face. Soft as silk.

To even out my skin, Gia used Diorskin Nude Air. I've never used serum foundation before and I loved it. It feels lightweight and gives great coverage without feeling like you've got a lot of gunk on your face.

Next, Dior National Makeup Artist Garrett Clabaut gave me a ready-for-spring makeover. I asked for a natural look. Nothing overly made up. First he used a waterproof liner to tightline my eyes. Then he applied a pearly silver eyeshadow with this pencil, cleaned up my brows and used this mascara on my lashes.      

My hands-down favorite product was Dior's Cheek & Lip Glow. I'm a sucker for packaging and I admit, the tiny square bottle with sheer pink liquid inside gave me that girly, happy feeling. Garrett put a few dabs on the apples of my cheeks and my lips. The finishing touch was a swipe of the prettiest pink lipgloss

Thank you, Gia and Garrett (and Dior Cosmetics business manager Lisa Callow) for making this girl feel like a million bucks! 

Spring 2015 makeup trends. (Harper's Bazaar)