Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ballet at 40 (a prelude)

I did it. I signed up for ballet.

Turning 40 this year (in October, to be exact) has got me thinking a lot about my body and what it can do. So far, I've been amazed. I can scale Half Dome solo. I am disciplined enough to earn a black belt. I have birthed two babies. And climbed to the top of a samurai castle in Japan with a 6-month-old strapped to my body. I do a beautiful cartwheel. I can achieve the 26 different positions required in Bikram yoga in a room heated at 104 degrees. I still do a perfect push up.

But the last time I stepped into a dance studio was almost 30 years ago. I am enamored of ballet. Those bodies. Those lines. The strength, agility and discipline it requires. Ballet is poetry of the body. And I secretly wish I was a ballet dancer.

Ballet at 40 is my new challenge. I will have my first lesson this fall. And I look forward to sharing my journey with you!

Dancer by Edgar Degas (c. 1877)

This week's obsession: yogurt drinks

It's hard to get my son to drink his milk. I don't know when it happened but one afternoon, I think when he was in preschool, he decided he didn't care for it anymore. Caden, who's now 8, has such a sensitive palate he can taste the difference between non-fat, 1%, 2% and my lactose-free milk. Admittedly, mealtimes can be a battle. 

But yogurt seems to be the neutral zone. He'll gladly have a small bowl at breakfast and even as a dessert after dinner. I recently discovered this wonderful concoction at Whole Foods and was immediately intrigued. I love Indian food and lassi, a traditional Indian-style yogurt smoothie, is heaven in a dairy drink. I brought two flavors home and presented them to Caden. In two minutes, he bottomed up the Mango Rosewater Lassi. 


p.s. yogurt drinks are loaded with sugar so I offer it up as an incentive in addition to milk. Caden's not off the hook with the regular stuff.    

Why kids should drink milk. (The Washington Post)

And on the flip side, re-thinking the importance of milk. (US News & World Report)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday selfie (sort of)

I say "sort of" because technically it's not a selfie (but who's keeping tabs?). My eternally adorable and charming gal pal Bess (my go-to girl for the goings-on in Cleveland) convinced me to pose for this Instagram pic. I must say, she made me look quite glamorous (note: I had just inhaled two pancakes the size of my face at the time this photo was captured).  

The outfit: Fire Los Angeles jumpsuit; Bordeaux Lauretta cardigan; chunky beaded necklace and aviator sunglasses @ Anthropologie; Penny Loves Kenny T-strap wedge heels; L.A.M.B leather clutch; Stranger Tides nail lacquer by OPI.       

The occasion: Brunch at Jack Flaps with some of my favorite gals in Cleveland.

Why I like this look: At the top of my fashion must-have list is the jumpsuit. I found this one at TJ Maxx for $20 and decided it needed a home in my closet. The wedge heels were purchased the same afternoon at TJ Maxx (also 20 buckeroos). The L.A.M.B clutch was one of those triumphant discoveries at Nordstrom Rack several years ago (I think I spent $40). Which proves my theory that you don't have to spend a million bucks to feel like a million bucks.    

Thank you @bessmihyun for taking such a fab photo. :) XOXO

Friday, April 25, 2014

Links apr25


  • Brilliance is NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams rapping "Gin and Juice." (The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon)
  • Call it for what it is, John. (The Daily Show with John Stewart)
  • A Jewish photographer sees life through the eyes of Arab Israeli teenagers. (Slate)
  • The Roots' Questlove waxes poetic about the decline of hip-hop. (Vulture)
  • The daily routines of famous writers. (Brain Pickings)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On love

If I had a girls night out and could invite anyone, living or deceased, Susan Sontag would be at the top of my Evite. I would spend the entire evening picking her brain about art and pop culture and compare notes on things we find "so bad it's good." 

I came across this wonderful collection of illustrations inspired by Sontag's second volume of journals and notebooks. This quote, from On Love, is my favorite. 

              "Being in love means being willing to 
                ruin yourself for the other person."
To love someone, to truly give yourself without expecting anything in return, to exchange selfish desire for sacrifice, to risk everything and all -- is to love. 

Illustration from "Susan Sontag on Love: Illustrated Diary Excerpts" by Maria Popova and Wendy MacNaughton. (Brain Pickings)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Whole world in our hands (Earth Day)

Imagine if you had to walk four miles to the nearest supply of clean water, then walk back home four miles balancing a 40-lb jerry can on your head. 

More than a billion people do it every day. 

Food (or water) for thought on this Earth Day. 

The Great Pacific garbage patch will motivate you to take recycling seriously. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

This week's obsession: South American prints

This blouse is gorgeous (and it's on sale!)

I'm obsessed with South American prints. The pop of color, the delicate embroidery -- what's not to love? Mixed prints and colorful textiles are trending this spring (although I think they are always in style). 

Here are a few of my favorites.

I bought these super comfy sandals over the weekend.
(Cheap and chic at $20 a pair.)

A modern take on traditional South American textiles.

Loving the bold pattern on this drop waist mini.

My favorite Nars color reminds me of the
pinks you see in traditional Peruvian textiles. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Jesus is important in 2014

God, coffee and soul-satisfying conversation.
(Original illustrations by Sunha Yoon for love, -j.)

Why is Jesus important, one thousand nine hundred and eighty one years after he changed the course of human history? I recently ruminated this and other topics (including American Christian culture, sex, art and the benefits of dirty language) with my dear friend and fellow blogger, Erika Abdelatif (The Trees Will Clap).

“You know why Jesus is relevant today?” Erika offered. “Because he brought all kinds of people to one table to teach us that it isn’t about who is right and who is wrong (which is one way Christians miss it all the time).”


With Easter fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about why, as a Christ follower, Jesus’ death and resurrection is important to me. His victory over death (and not just physical death but death in the metaphorical sense: fear, hopelessness, pain, suffering, strife) becomes my victory. And my freedom from death (again, both physical and metaphorical) gives me the power to act on the things that really matter: love, generosity, righteousness, humility, forgiveness.

Frankly, these are things I wish I saw more in the Christian community. Rather than wasting energy on the divide and conquer method, we ought to spend our time engaging and uniting the world (after all, it's not about winning the argument, it’s about winning the person). And the more genuine conversations we share (like the one below, for example), the more we will grow in our understanding (and hopefully, compassion) for one another. 

“Let me tell you why you are here,” Jesus says in the Book of Matthew. “You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.”

Easter 2014: A conversation between two Christians
By Erika Abdelatif and Jennifer Cho Salaff

Erika Abdelatif: The Church is a funny thing to me right now. I feel like Christians are generally afraid to have hard conversations or sit in tension, which is ironic. If Jesus is our truth, why are we so afraid?

Jennifer Cho Salaff: I totally know what you mean. I think it’s American Christian culture. It offers a very safe, very predictable, very sanitized version of Christianity.

 All too often the culture informs us: “Do this and you’ll live a prosperous life. Go to church on Sunday, check it off the to-do list and you’re set.” A lot of rules and A plus B equals C. But life doesn’t always work out that way. I mean, it does if you live in a bubble. But I think it's important for Christians to be in touch with the real world. To want to see things and experience things that are uncomfortable, messy-- how the real world is. And to not be afraid to engage it.

EA: No, that is exactly my frustration. I feel like my faith expands when I'm in the world, interacting with culture, wrestling with big questions. But the Church seems to look so negatively on that and when you try to suggest, "Let's talk about this!" it's not welcomed. That's a very big challenge for me.

For instance, I had this awesome work meeting recently about an idea for a book. My colleague told me he presented a manuscript about the LGBT community and one of the head people said, "This is an interesting proposal, but what is LGBT?"

 I was like, WHAT?! How can you live in this day and age and not know that?!

JCS: Oh my. See what I mean??!!

EA: Which is why Christians make terrible art when we should be making the BEST. We are afraid of EVERYTHING.

JCS: We talk about that ALL THE TIME!!

 OK, don't mean to be a hater, but I agree: Christians make the WORST art ever!!

 I remember going to a Christian conference in San Diego and walking through a convention hall filled with all these booths hawking merchandise. I just about died. It was like walking through a time machine to 1985. They were awful. The graphic design was terrible. Out of touch. And CHEESY!!  
EA: OMG. I know.

 I will never forget a particular booth that was selling a CD with one song (for children!) that said, "Stop, drop and roll... To quench the fires of hell."

JCS: Ah!!!! OMG. I'm dying.

EA: Speaking of being afraid of everything, I recently had a conversation with a friend where I got "in trouble" for saying, "That's f*cked up" when I found out friends of ours broke off their two-year engagement over something really sh*tty.

 To which I told my friend, LANGUAGE IS A TOOL. Right now, F*CKED UP is the only thing that adequately describes this situation.

JCS: For the record: I love that word. It's one of the best words ever invented. But it is powerful and should be used with responsibility.

EA: Seriously. If it's overused it loses its power. If it's underused it's given too much power. But in the right moments, it needs to be said.

 But that's just the thing. We shouldn't be afraid of language. Ugh. I've rolled my eyes so much during this talk that my eyes hurt.

JCS: Don't injure yourself.

EA: Ha!


JCS: Your experience about using the F word reminds me how so many Christians are spending their energy on all the wrong things. We are fighting against gays, we get all worked up over words like f*ck, we protest and picket and say awful things about people. And the worst part is, these horrible things are done in the name of Jesus.   
EA: When we should using our energy to make a difference in the world.

 And make good art, for Christ's sake!

JCS: Yes! The church used to commission the world's best art. Michelangelo, for instance.

EA: I was just thinking about that yesterday!! 

And don't get me started on how Christians treat the gay community.

 I always laugh about being in the closet about my support of marriage equality.

 It's pretty much open news now that I'm a supporter, though. Many hard conversations with people who didn't like that. I've got some gray opinions about homosexuality as a sin, to be honest. But I'm just a big heretic.

JCS: I’m totally out of the closet about marriage equality, too. I say, “Equal rights for all!” I still wrestle with whether or not homosexuality is a "sin." I mean, we all know what it says in Leviticus, but I really doubt Jesus would approve of his followers quoting Leviticus 18 as a reason to spew hate.

What I have a problem with, regarding sex, is promiscuity. And that goes both ways-- in the gay AND straight communities. Promiscuity is dangerous and destructive and harms the soul.


Girl, you're speaking my language right now.

JCS: OK, since we're on the topic of sex and sin, etc. Let’s talk about another topic that gets Christians hot and bothered (pun intended): pre-marital sex. Full disclosure: I don't think sex before marriage is a sin. I mean, where in the Bible does it say that? I've met so many Christians who quote that as Scripture and I'm like, "What?"

I’m not condoning premarital sex. I've just always been puzzled as to why the church is so preoccupied with this issue. Why are we not appalled by greed? Apathy? Jealousy? Wrath? Instead of talking about the “sinfulness” of sex before marriage, why are we not talking about the body as a temple of God? Why are we not having honest discussions about sex and relationships?

EA: Not to mention these are all things (language, sex, homosexuality) Jesus didn't explicitly talk about. 

And yet things that he did talk about--money, the poor, the marginalized—we tend to avoid.
JCS: It's much easier to judge others and tell them what they are doing wrong than to look in the mirror and say, "You know, I should help people more. I should go and talk to that person over there and LISTEN to him; I should share my money and my resources; I should fight for peace and not start a war.”
EA: Mmm, preach girl. Preach.

JCS: These things are HARD to do. Many times I ask God, "Really? You want me to love my enemy? You want me to put others before myself?" S

ometimes, I think I am not fit to be called a Christian. Because when I think about what it REALLY means to be a Christ follower, I feel totally overwhelmed and unequipped.

EA: It totally is hard. But you're not doing this all alone and you're not doing it over night. The whole point of walking with Christ is to constantly become more aware of yourself and others and to do something about it.

 And nine times out of ten, you might choose to be selfish. But on the tenth time, Jesus is like, “YEAH! You did it! Let's talk about THAT.” That's growth.

JCS: Totally. Jesus gives us the power to do that. The goal isn’t perfection. It never was. Why live an existence where you’re constantly setting yourself up for failure? I love that Jesus takes that burden from us, so we can live free. Free from fear, free from hate, free from hopelessness. Love is the goal, right?


JCS: Bada bing!

EA: Well, we just solved all of Christianity's problems. 

I think we should blog this transcript and title it, "Read this, and shut the f*ck up."

JCS: Haaaa!!! Ok, stop it. I'm dying!!!

 Seriously, we should post our conversation on our blogs.

EA: HAHA, really? I think people will lose their sh*t.

JCS: AWESOME!! People need to lose their sh*t. No, but seriously, bringing it back to Jesus. What are you meditating this Easter?

EA: Honestly, for me, it keeps going back to delving into relationships with people who are different than me--theologically, socially, etc. Realizing that Jesus unifies people, and that I always have something to learn from those who are most different than me -- even though it's tempting to push them away. I mean, that’s resurrection in a sense?

JCS: Oh I love that. It's totally resurrection. Bringing back to life the relationships you might have "put to death" because of differences (like the ones you mentioned: social, theological, etc.).

EA: I mean, you think about the followers of Jesus all huddled and hiding together in the house after his death. Imagine that gathering! Such diversity unified under one roof and one cause.

JCS: And then those followers leaving the "safety" of that roof to tell others -- people from all walks of life -- about Jesus' resurrection.

EA: Boom.

JCS: For me, this Easter is a meditation on faith. The kind of faith where you trust that even the impossible can be possible.

I just survived a cold, brutal, oppressive winter here in Cleveland. At times, it crushed my soul. I would wake up and look out my window and it would be another day of snow, another day of gray skies, another day of gloom. It was hard to trust that the sun would shine again. It was such a metaphor. Sometimes, life is a dark season. Sometimes things feel impossible.

But today the skies are blue and the birds are singing. The spring flowers are fighting for their spot in the sun. And I know, deep in my heart, things are going to be OK. Human beings live for a triumphant ending. We want to believe in purity and goodness and light. And Jesus' victory over death is proof that triumphant endings are indeed real.

EA: Aw, I love that. Hope. Take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world.

JCS: Yes, he is risen!


Thank you to my wonderful sister-in-law (and sister in Christ), Sunha Yoon Salaff, for her original illustrations for love, -j. XOXO, Sunha! 

I wanna sit down and have a cup of coffee with Stephen Colbert. (Relevant)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Links apr17


  • I love this -- a normal, everyday IT guy from Peoria tweeted his way to a writing job on Late Night. (Vulture)
  • Best selfie this week. (Twitter)
  • A drool-worthy house in Davis, California. (A Cup of Jo)
  • What you might have missed in culture this week. (Flavorwire)
  • If you wanna waste some time, browse through these embarrassing celebrity photo shoots. (Messy Nessy Chic)

Photo by Ashley Bruhn for A Cup of Jo.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to teach your kids about money

Teaching your kids about money can be (dare I say it) fun!
Illustrations by Phoebe Thomas for love, -j.

Benjamin Franklin, in his letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, wrote, "Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Sardonic as this proverb may be, it's probably on everyone's mind. Especially today.

Tax Day got me thinking about the concept of money. How hard it is to make. How we spend it. How important it is to save. In our house, we make it a point to be open with our children about money. All questions ("How much money do you make?") and issues ("Why should we give our money away?") are on the table.

But how do you start those conversations? I sought the advice of local expert Rodney Drake, VP of Consumer Segment Strategy at Cleveland-based KeyBank, and he offered these super simple, super helpful financial tips.    

Even as early as age 3, children can start thinking about how money is used to pay for things. And don't be surprised if your child displays his or her inner-bookkeeper. "Accountants are born, not made," says Drake. 

tip: Next time you're at the grocery store with your child, invite her to compare prices with you. Take fun items (like cereal or her favorite snacks) and ask which products are most expensive, least expensive, etc.    

Sort change with your child so he can learn the difference between pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

tip: Use small mason jars (like these) and have your child make labels for each type of coin. Hearing the plink, plink of the coins as he sorts change is sure to be an exciting activity! 

Consider providing an allowance at ages 5, 6 and 7. "This is a good time to help children set priorities and to reinforce personal family values," says Drake. "Encourage them to allocate their allowance to savings, spending and other -- such as charity or sharing."

tip: A $2 weekly allowance could be divided as follows: 80 cents for personal spending; 20 cents for charity/sharing; $1 for savings. "Parents can support savings by offering an incentive," Drake recommends. "[Have your child] set a savings goal and agree to match it when the goal is met." 

School-aged children can start learning the difference between spending money on something they want versus something they might need.

tip: Parents can reinforce wants vs. needs by watching TV/Internet commercials or looking through print advertisements with their children and talking about the products, how much they cost, how long it would take to save for that product, etc.    

Isn't the artwork just fantastic? A big THANK YOU to the lovely and talented Phoebe Thomas for her original illustrations for love, -j. Find out more about Phoebe's work here.

5 things to do for your kids. Every day.

Monday, April 14, 2014

First signs of spring

"Spring is like a perhaps hand...changing everything carefully."
-E.E. Cummings (Photos by Jeffrey Goodman)

We just enjoyed a glorious weekend here in Cleveland. Temperatures well above 75 degrees. Blue skies. Strong sun. Warm breeze. Every kid in our neighborhood was outside riding bikes, pushing scooters and playing kickball. I hadn't seen some of them all winter so I was shocked at how much they grew.

The flowers came out to play, too. 

Nevermind that it's going to be 34 degrees and snowing tomorrow. (The Weather Channel)

Thank you to Jeffrey Goodman for his gorgeous original photos for Find out more about Jeff's award-winning work here

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Like, it's just a word!

Sometimes I feel like a curmudgeony old lady who pooh-poohs every minor grammatical infraction I come across. Whether it be online or in print, I have an almost allergic reaction to the countless misuses of are vs. our, where vs. wear, and (my personal favorite) your vs. you're.

And what to do about the debauchery of our beloved English language? To my horror words like totes, adorkable and amazeballs (and its irksome cousin "awesome sauce") have made its way into our everyday dialogue. Is there no more good in this world?

Then I read this intriguing article by Columbia University English professor John McWhorter and my mind was put at ease. "Amid what often seems like the slack-jawed devolution of a once-mighty language, we can find evidence for, of all things, a growing sophistication," McWhorter writes. "Yes, sophistication."
Illustration by Tucker Nichols for the NYT.

Monday, April 7, 2014

This week's obsession: face oil

What kind of nut puts oil on her face? Apparently I've gone totally bonkers because now I swear by this face oil. For years I was hesitant (no, more like violently opposed) to attempt it even though my best friend -- who has gorgeous, flawless skin -- tried to convert me.

I'm one of those unlucky souls who, at 39, still breaks out like an angst-ridden teenager. Over the years I've tried everything to get my skin to behave: desperate visits to the dermatologist, prescription antibiotics, retinol creams, benzoyl peroxide lotions, salicylic acid cleansing gels, Proactiv and even Accutane. 

All of these things worked, but not forever. And my poor skin had had enough of the cleansing, scrubbing, rinsing, rubbing, prodding, kneading and fussing. Not to mention all the harsh chemicals I was using. My face felt beat up.

Then I stumbled upon this YouTube series and discovered London-based Pai organic skincare. Why not? I thought. Might as well stop being a baby and just try it. Plus, at 36 bucks a pop way more affordable than a $200 jar of La Mer.

I've been using it for two weeks (in tandem with this wonderful face serum) and my skin is in love.              

Photo by yours truly. No make-up. No re-touching.

My friend has her own organic skin care line (with face oils!). (Root Beauty)

Time goes faster, faster, faster

Looking at these photos (both taken in November of 2010) is yet another reminder of how quickly time passes. Seriously, does time travel at an exponential rate as one gets older? 

I remember these days with much fondness. 

I also miss the beach.

Three reasons why time goes faster as you get older. (Huffington Post)