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 are 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) 

Friday, March 20, 2015

I see spring

I walked outside and spotted flowers! Ah, the first signs of life and on the very first day of spring. How fitting. These yellow peonies make me so happy. The perfect burst of color for my winter-weary soul.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. 

A solar eclipse and supermoon makes today a Freaky Friday. (USA Today) 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Women and clothes: Kristin Davidson

Something happens to Kristin Davidson when she talks about fashion. Her sentences become more emphatic. The rhythm of her speech gets quicker. She comes alive. She gets philosophical. I love gabbing about clothes, style and trends with this girl. She's so passionate!

I first met Kristin at Anthropologie. She and I started our first week together. I remember her being soft-spoken, kind and knowledgable. In the almost-two years she's been a manager, Kristin has become an integral part of the leadership team and to all of us she's simply "KDav."

When she's not working at the store, you can find the Rochester, New York native waxing poetic on her blog, Sheerchalk. And rocking brimmed hats like no one's business.  


Jennifer Cho Salaff (JCS): What is one item or accessory you carry with you or wear every day?
Kristin Davidson (KD): Within the past year I became a total hat person. It's the one accessory I wear or carry with me every single day. My love for wide-brimmed hats developed when I began my career with Anthropologie. As someone who aspires to always feel "put together" whenever I go out, adding brimmed hats to my wardrobe helps me with that.

When I was a little girl, my mom was a beautician and her "salon" was in our basement. So I was exposed to beauty and hair at a very young age. I think over the years I put a lot of pressure on myself to always have beautiful hair and to sort of be known for it. I think hats have allowed me to eliminate this pressure, making it nearly impossible for me to have a bad hair day.

JCS: Does fashion matter? Why or why not?
KD: Fashion totally matters. Well, it matters to those it matters to. It matters to me. It gives me a feeling that I matter. Fashion is such an ambiguous word though, and for this reason alone it matters.

JCS: Your fashion muse?
KD: Diana Vreeland is my fashion muse. I discovered her about three or four years ago. I admire her for her individuality, which in my eyes is the foundation for why her influence is so special, admirable and strong. She became a fashion icon out of pure love for beautiful garments and her entire lifestyle was a reflection of that. 

Diana, as I know her, is a woman I feel relatable to. As someone who finds it challenging to find a common position about the impact of fashion on my life, she is the one person that helps me to feel connected. Her career represents exactly what I'd like to accomplish in fashion. Being a stylist sounds dreamy, but I'm not sure if that's where my heart is because I love design. I love the magic of fibers and fabrics and the beauty of the end product. Maybe I should end up working at a museum. The Met perhaps.

JCS: Worst fashion crime (past or current)?
KD: I don't know that I believe in the idea of fashion crimes. If anything, the "crimes" keep things interesting. I have this one book called "The End of Fashion" by Teri Agins which pretty much concludes how fashion, in its most organic form, has come to an end. And while I remain neutral, there are some key elements (social media, design, culture, New York, the economy, technology, travel, etc.) that continue to fuel this industry and fashion crimes are definitely one of them. That being said, the only fashion crime I can identify is not believing in the value of its existence.

JCS: Can you remember the first time you were conscious of a thing called "fashion?"  
KD: I thought about this question a few years ago. I always thought of fashion as the same thing as style but I've come to realize that this is not really a valid thought process. Even as a very young child, clothing, style and what I wore was always uber-important to me. It wasn't until I studied Fashion Fundamentals (the introductory course at Kent State's Fashion School) that I truly understood fashion. I think this is because I looked at fashion as culture or art before seeing it as an industry. 

Looking at fashion as an industry helped me gain consciousness of what "this thing called fashion" was really about. Fashion impacts our economy and even how we operate as a nation and as a world. I began to understand all of the dynamics of how and why fashion exists and realized that it's about so much more than style.  

JCS: Describe your figure.
KD: It's sort of hard for me to describe my figure because I feel like I don't have one. Another one of my insecurities. I'm definitely proportioned, but I don't have many curves. My thighs are larger. That's a genetic thing. All the women in my family have larger thighs! My shoulders are a bit broad and I have a smaller chest. My chest is so small that most days I don't even bother wearing a bra.

JCS: What outfit makes you most happy?
KD: Layers -- the fundamental things of an outfit -- make me most happy. Because of this, I usually stick to neutral colors. In warm climates I love flowy, basic cotton dresses that have no structure and a soft silhouette. I also like to layer with a maxi necklace and a scarf to elongate my body. Sometimes I'll add a denim vest. When it's cold, I essentially do the same thing, but the base becomes something heavier like a thick legging or a fine gauge, flowy sweater. The layers become heavier, consisting of knit scarves, oversized sweaters, boots, socks and structured coats. 

JCS: What is the first "investment" piece you ever bought? Why did you purchase it?
KD: I don't really own any investment pieces. I have some really special pieces that were great bargains. My leather Michael by Michael Kors moto jacket is probably the most expensive piece I own. I had to have it. My wardrobe couldn't function without it.  

JCS: What are you trying to do or achieve when you dress?
KD: When I dress I am trying to achieve a feeling. There are all kinds of factors that come with each day, such as my mood, my destination, the weather, etc. that impacts my ability to achieve the feeling. But mostly, I just want to feel comfortable, fun and strong at all times.

JCS: When do feel most sexy?
KD: I feel most sexy in a red lip or over-the-knee boots. Wearing an extremely high-heel shoe (like five inches!) is probably when I reach a peak of feeling sexy. I prefer a thick heel. When you add this idea to an over-the-knee boot, my feeling of sexy grows even more!

JCS: How has your background affected the way you dress?
KD: My background has totally influenced the way I dress. Ultimately it's about the freedom to express myself. And choosing what to wear is one of the coolest ways to do that. I fell in love with clothes at a young age. Any time I earned money, I went shopping. I remember being a third grader and purchasing a pair of patchwork denim shorts and wearing them out! I can remember getting yelled at by my mom for wearing these shorts, but they were so cool. As a New Yorker, even though it was upstate, I grew up in a culture of boldness, which is reflected in the things I choose to wear. 

JCS: What would you say is "you" and "not you?" 
KD: "Not me" is anything safe or normal. But perception is important to me, too. I care, to a reasonable extent, what others think of me. So I go to the line, but I never cross it. I guess I try to embody a "when in Rome" mindset when it comes to "what is me." Others could probably answer this question better than I can. I'm not sure what's me and what's not me. I don't like setting boundaries for myself.

JCS: OK, last question. What do you admire about how other women present themselves?
KD: Women who are exactly who they need and want to be!

Opening and closing photos by Jennifer Cho Salaff. 
All other photos courtesy of Kristin Davidson.
Photo of Diana Vreeland by Richard Avedon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

This dress, right now (part 2)

As many of you know, I work part-time at Anthropologie -- my absolute favorite store on the planet. When I'm not freelancing or running my blog or being mom to my kids, you can find me in this magical place.

Truly, at Anthro I'm a kid in a candy shop (but in place of sweets it's dresses). Where else can a girl find delicious-smelling soaps and candles, gorgeous frocks and beautiful housewares and home furnishings all in one stop?

Last week I walked into the store and saw this lovely tie dye maxi dress. I didn't even try it on before I bought it because I just knew it had to be mine. My friend and co-worker Shauna got a chance to photograph it yesterday and here it is! I paired it with this necklace and denim tote (both of which I borrowed for the photo). 

Three more days 'til spring and I'm ready!     

Photo by Shauna Davis.
Fashion prodigy is an Anthro girl, too.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Quote for Monday

Illustration from

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday selfie

Derek Zoolander isn't the only one who rocks Blue Steel. My friends and family (even my kids!) make fun of my "camera face" but the secret is... it's quite empowering. Yes pouty selfies come off as self-indulgent but kinda like the power pose putting your best face forward -- pout and all -- feels pretty good.

(Just don't take yourself too seriously.)

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

love, -j.  

I took that selfie in this gorgeous home.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

On clothing (one woman's opinion)

What is the purpose of clothing? Is it to express? To empower? To reinvent? Perhaps all of the above, depending on the day and your mood. 
I read this lovely essay yesterday and it stuck with me. In "I Do Care About Your Party," Umm Adam, homemaker and mother of four, shares why she chooses to cover her body. "I believe the purpose of clothing, as defined by God in the Quran, is to cover your body and for beautification," she writes in Women in Clothes. "As long as my body is covered properly, I am fine."

My favorite part:

"When I cover myself, I am passing on a message to to others, saying: I respect myself, my body is precious and beautiful, I know that, but it is none of your business. It is my private business and I respect my privacy and will allow only those whom I please to allow into that private space... My interaction with you is not physical. I have a brain and a soul and am an intelligent individual, and that's what you need to interact with." 

It's a long read, but worth it. You may agree with Adam. You may not. But I think it's important to see things from different perspectives. There's always something new we can learn from each other.

Knowledge is power.

love, -j.


Adam's essay originally appears in Women in Clothes.
Opening illustration by Georges Pilotelle.
Images from,, Vanity Fair and "Girl Before A Mirror" by Pablo Picasso.