Monday, August 31, 2015

Women and clothes: the Wood sisters

"For there is no friend like a sister in calm or stormy weather," poet Christina Rossetti once wrote. "To cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands." 

This sweet sentiment comes to mind when I think about Danielle and Anna Wood. Two fashionable sisters with confidence, sass and that unbreakable bond Rossetti writes about. These beautiful women almost look like twins to me, yet each has her own distinct style sensibilities. 

When the Hartville, Ohio natives aren't busy attending to their careers (older sister Danielle as a manager at Anthropologie and kid sister Anna as a stylist at Fringe Salon and Spa in Stow) you will find them spending quality time with their loves, enjoying the great outdoors and "parenting" their lovable fur babies.     


Jennifer Cho Salaff (JCS): You both work in the fashion industry, Danielle in retail/merchandising, and Anna in beauty. Does fashion matter?
Danielle Wood Bolin (DWB): Absolutely! Fashion is a way to express yourself. It's a way to be creative. It changes with you as you grow as a person.  
Anna Wood (AW): We want to feel good about ourselves and there are many ways to achieve that. We can eat healthy, work out and take care of our appearance. Fashion is one way to express ourselves. It's exciting and ever-changing. But more importantly, fashion makes us feel happy and confident.

JCS: What is one item of clothing or an accessory you carry with you or wear every day?
DWB: I cannot live without my NYX liquid eyeliner and Chanel Rouge Coco Shine #73 lip gloss.

AW: My nose ring, which I've had for so long that I forget it's there. But, if I don't have it in, I am fully aware of it and it feels strange. And lipstick. I love my Nars matte red lipstick called "Heat Wave."  

JCS: Whose style do you admire? Who is your fashion muse?
DWB: I have a few. Winona Ryder: she is just badass! She has worn every hairstyle from her pixie cut to long lock. I love that she is the epitome of 90s rocker chic. Nicole Richie: she has come a loooong way with her fashion. I love her boho style and ever-changing hair. She puts a glamorous spin on 60s-70s fashion. Audrey Hepburn: because she is a classic. She is the definition of chic. I love that she has forever been the fashion icon for the little black dress. I love her minimalist style.

AW: Anne Hathaway. She has a classic look but isn't afraid to be bold, either. I love following her hair trends!

JCS: Worst fashion trend (current or past)?
DWB: Birkenstocks! I know it's trending right now but I simply can't get behind it. They are not aesthetically pleasing. I don't like the cork sole. My husband loves to wear them all the time, especially because I don't like them.
AW: UGG boots. That trend spread like wildfire (most across college campuses) and I was never a fan. They are bulky and unflattering. Plus, I don't like that they are made from sheep skin.

JCS: Favorite fashion trend (current or past)?
DWB: The 90s slip dress. Especially the way Kate Moss wore them.
AW: Oversized stone-washed tees. They are lightweight, soft and versatile. They allow you to be creative with what bottoms and accessories you wear because of how simple they are.

JCS: Can you remember the first time you were conscious of a thing called "fashion?"
DWB: In fourth grade I begged my parents to buy me bell bottoms. I couldn't wait to wear them. My first pair was from the Limited Too. They were light denim chambray. They were perfect! I wore them with a white off-the-shoulder peasant top and platform Sketchers. I felt like the coolest girl because we used to dress up in a pair of my older cousin's bell bottoms. That cousin, Mary Scott, was my fashion idol.  
AW: When I first watched the movie, "Clueless." I wanted to dress just like them. I even had a feather pen like Cher!

JCS: As sisters how has your personality and style sensibilities affected each other? How would you describe each other's style and what do you admire about it?
DWB: Anna has always been free-spirited and artistic. She has that boho-rock n' roll aesthetic.  
AW: Growing up with two older sisters (Danielle and my stepsister Steff) I of course wanted to be just like them. It wasn't until I was 15 that my style changed from theirs. I got into thrift store tees and cardigans, and then into the emo scene. I wore studded belts, brightly colored eye shadows and crazy black hair. That was short-lived and soon after I made my way back to dressing more like my sisters. Danielle's style is feminine and sophisticated with a bit of rock and roll. I admire how her outfits are balanced and simple but never boring. She chooses just the right cut, fit and fabric, and then pairs it perfectly with her accessories.

JCS: What is your sister's best look?
DWB: Anna always looks great with her natural waves, cut-off jean shorts and a tank. She has the best selection of jewelry -- very Southwestern-inspired.

AW: I think Danielle's best look is skinny jeans, a top that is fitted but has some flow in the material (usually black or a neutral color), a bold necklace and her hair down with a loose curl.

JCS: Do you borrow each other's clothes? What is your favorite thing in your sister's closet?
DWB: Anna and I have always shared clothes. We always find different ways to style the same shirt. She also has the most amazing sweaters that I borrow all winter long!
AW: We have borrowed clothes from each other our whole lives, which I am very thankful for. Honestly, I could close my eyes and point, and love whatever I landed on. I have had a lightweight, dark green knit sweater of hers for a few months and I love it!

JCS: Danielle, you recently got married. Congrats! Tell me about your gorgeous dress, which made you look like a glamorous starlet from the 1920s. 
DWB: It was a Maggie Sottero dress, which I fell in love with instantly. I loved that it looked like it was from The Great Gatsby. I felt like I was going to an old Hollywood movie premiere. 

JCS: Since we're on the topic of your wedding, I had to bring up something a bit non sequitur: that series of HILARIOUS videos your sisters made as their maid-of-honor speeches (inspired by the Lonely Island digital shorts from Saturday Night Live). I loved the one featuring your beloved Boston Terrier, Dexter.
DWB: Oh my gosh I laughed so hard! Everyone at the wedding was in tears. 

JCS: OK, back to our conversation about clothing and style. Describe your figure.
DWB: I have a "column" shape. Very straight up and down. I have always been happy with my figure. Growing up, I was very athletic (I played soccer, swam on the swim team, and was a cheerleader). I feel like my body type works with that. But I have not-so-secretly always wanted boobs. :)
AW: Average height (5'6") and frame. Curvy but athletic. I am happy with my figure. It wasn't easy learning to accept my body. I used to really struggle with picking on myself and certain areas I didn't like (ex: "the pooch"). But now I feel fantastic about my body when I am in a good routine of eating healthy and practicing yoga. 

JCS: When do you feel most sexy?
DWB: I feel most sexy in a little black dress or jumpsuit.

AW: I feel sexy after I get out of the shower and have no makeup on, my hair is air drying, and I am wearing an oversized tee shirt.

JCS: What outfit makes you most happy?
DWB: My black BDG high-waisted skinnies, ankle boots and a tank.
AW: My high-waisted black skinny jeans, a loose v-neck and red lipstick. 

JCS: How has your background (where you grew up, your ethnicity, etc.) influenced your sense of style? 
DWB: I grew up in a small town. I looked to movies as well as family for inspiration. My Aunt Lizzie has always been a fashion icon of mine. She traveled the world and always wore new things but never strayed from her signature red lips and jet-black hair. She taught Anna and I the importance of having style. She encouraged us to try new trends but emphasized keeping it tasteful. I blame her for my makeup addiction (she took Anna and I to the Chanel counter for the first time when I was in 8th grade). 

JCS: Anna, as a stylist, how can hair affect one's look? How important is it to get a good haircut?
AW: Hair is so important to one's look. It's all about drawing attention or visually removing from an area. For example, if you have a pronounced forehead you can add bangs. Or, if you love your jawline or cheekbones you can try a bob, which draws the eye right to those features. I have loved playing around with different cuts. It's hard to name a favorite because I always think of them in such a sentimental way. For example, college Anna had long red wavy hair with bangs. 

Then post-college Anna got an awesome pixie cut. Which I needed to do. I can't emphasize how important it was for my self-esteem and where I was at that point in my life. Going from super long to pixie was so liberating!

JCS: What are you trying to do or achieve when you dress?
DWB: I want to wear something that I feel comfortable in, with an edgy twist.
AW: I want to be comfortable but still show my personality. I like to go for simplicity with an edge.

JCS: What is "you" and "not you?"
DWB: I am minimalist, a little boho and glam rock. I am not floral or preppy. 
AW: "Me" is button downs, stone/acid washed fabrics, knit sweaters, oversized tees and high-waisted pants. "Not me" is body conscious dresses, stilettos, sparkles/glitter, and low-cut shirts.

JCS: What do you admire about how other women present themselves? Name a few women in the public eye whose style you admire.
DWB: The Duchess of Cambridge because she is beautiful and always so poised. Alexa Chung because she has the best street style. And Rihanna because she is fearless. She doesn't care about what people think.  
AW: I admire when a woman is clearly confident and happy in her own style. When she does not search for acceptance and is unapologetically herself. Some examples these kinds of women include Rhianna, Emilia Clarke and Lady Gaga. I also love the Instagram accounts of Lora Arellano (@lora_arellano) and Alanna Durkovich (@xandervintage). 

JCS: What are three things every woman should have in her closet?
DWB: The always classic LBD, a basic white tee and ankle boots.
AW: Black skinny jeans, a classic white V-neck tee and an oversized tunic tee. 

Photos courtesy of Danielle Wood Bolin and Anna Wood.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Dream big

Never give up.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Portraits of a selfie

One evening this summer I let my daughter use my iPhone to watch movies. What I didn't realize was the delightful selfie binge ensuing upstairs while I enjoyed some grown-up time with friends in the living room. 

I was recently scrolling through my photo albums and found this collection of pictures. To which my heart exploded. Melting. From. Cuteness. Forget Selfish by Kim Kardashian. I wanna see THIS girl get a book deal.   

The greatest power in the world.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

This week's obsession: pointy-toe flats

Ballet flats are always on heavy rotation in my closet. There isn't a shoe that is more versatile. They look good on everyone and complement every outfit: jeans, skirts, shorts, maxi and midi dresses, a suit, even a ball gown.

Right now I'm loving the pointy-toe, lace-up ballet flat. The ones above from Aquazzura are a major splurge and if I had the cash I would definitely welcome these pretties on my feet. But something within reach, like these cobalt blue flats by Sam Edelman are more my speed.    

Happy feet, indeed.

12 lace-up ballet flats clogging your Instagram feed. (Career Girl Daily) 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Asphalt oil painting

I was in the Whole Foods parking lot yesterday morning, the asphalt below me smelling of sweet summer rain. As I was helping my daughter out of the back seat she noticed the ground below, "Wow, Mommy look! It's a rainbow!" 

The oil left behind by all of our cars mixed with fresh rainwater created this beautiful swirl of iridescent colors. Nature's painting. Right at my feet.

Do the jitterbug. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The good samaritan

David Sandler is at home in the world.

For more than a decade he's been jet-setting across time zones helping people around the world who are the most in need. Those hit hardest by natural disasters and war-torn landscapes. Those desperately seeking hope in spite of unbelievable suffering.

Though the Wisconsin native enjoyed a promising career as an aerospace engineer, designing satellites for Northrop Grumman and later working for the space shuttle program at Boeing, it was a volunteer mission to tsunami-ravaged Southeast Asia where he found his calling.

"I went in a different direction counting everything else as less important than loving my neighbor as myself," he once wrote in an Instagram post.

On this World Humanitarian Day I couldn't think of a more inspiring person to celebrate with than my friend Dave, who helps build a global sense of momentum every single day. From his beginnings in Banda Aceh, Indonesia to the devastating earthquake in Haiti to his current post in northern Iraq, Dave reminds me that one person can indeed change the world.  


Jennifer Cho Salaff (JCS): How did you know you wanted to devote your life to humanitarian work?
David Sandler (DS): I don't think I "knew" I wanted to take on a job like this. Even though I started off as an aerospace engineer, I found ways to volunteer and serve in my community. I'd say people matter to me most. 

JCS: When did you first get involved in overseas relief work?
DS: I went on a trip to help victims of the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia during Christmas of 2004. I came home [from that trip] and sat in meetings at my job wondering why I wasn't back there. Two months later I quit and returned to Indonesia for a 7-month opportunity that turned into two years. (That's me, in the photo below, working with the International Board of Indonesia.) 

JCS: You've worked in different places across the globe -- Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the Middle East. How do you get adjusted to a new part of the world, new cultures, new customs, etc?
DS: I embrace what I can (the food, the people, sometimes incorporating the dress code). I also don't assume that my way is better than someone else's. I say yes to opportunities to try to see something new. I do my best not to complain. Basically, I try to be where I'm at instead of compare to where I've been or what I've had. This is by no means easy (and I've certainly whined -- just ask my friends!).  

JCS: How are you received, as an American, working overseas?
DS: This has been different depending on the location. In Indonesia, people wanted to know me, talk to me and discover how long I had been friends with Shaquille O'Neal and Britney Spears (because I was from Los Angeles). I also found myself to be at the center of many random group selfies. As long as I didn't share an opinion along the lines of "everyone should be like an American," then it was OK.

In Haiti I was seen as rich. Ultimately, right or wrong, no matter how I lived or what I did, I was seen by a lot of people as an ATM. When I couldn't or wouldn't give money people became displeased and occasionally said some negative things. Haitians are a proud people suffering extreme hardships and how I was received didn't matter versus how I responded to those assumptions.

In the northern (Kurdistan) part of Iraq I've been received quite well. This region was under attack during the Saddam regime and now it has some autonomy (like Hong Kong in China). As I move south there is a little less security and a little more risk. Overall I have learned what to say and how to say it. But I think there is more to worry about the closer I get to Baghdad.

JCS: Let's talk about the relief work you did in Haiti following the devastating earthquake in 2010. More than a quarter of a million people died and some 1.5 million became displaced. You were there for four years. What were some of the most disheartening things you witnessed while working there?
DS: Children starving and unloved. Kids throwing stones at each other with menace. People living in tents falling apart, mud under their feet and no power and no hope for more than three years. An education system that is super expensive (private) and produces few qualified individuals with the capacity to think and manage and work to increase capacity. Millions of people counting on aid and no longer willing or able to pick themselves out of poverty. Thousands of orphanages taking care of kids who have parents but not being able to develop and raise them to be close to self-sufficiency by the time they are 18. Hundreds of international organizations, along with the United Nations, that haven't come close to solving the problems in 30 years, and seem to have made things worse since the earthquake. 

JCS: What were some of the most inspiring and life-changing things you experienced in Haiti?
DS: I witnessed some of the cutest kids just needing hugs and love. People need hugs and love. It matters. Haitians have such pride and generosity. I know that sounds strange with the other things I've mentioned. But deep down, people want and hope for a better life.

I also met two young men named Walgens and Junior at Child Hope's orphanage in Port-Au-Prince. They were the most hard working, willing-to-learn and striving individuals. They ran the silk screening program and went from just making t-shirts to managing, teaching, selling, accounting and running all aspects of the business. Since then, Junior has started college in Texarkansas and Walgens is working for a t-shirt/screening business in Haiti. I miss them greatly and pray for them. 

Haiti has such beauty throughout. For all the broken or unfinished buildings, garbage, dust and dismay, it has some of the most beautiful beaches, farming landscapes and tree-topped mountains I have ever seen.

JCS: Let's talk about your most recent work in northern Iraq. What's the best thing about your new job?
DS: Seeing results of practical needs (food, medicine, clean water, sanitation, cash) being met for those affected by crisis in a much shorter time frame. Also, I happen to get paid this time which helps me pretend to be a grown-up again.

JCS: Worst thing?
DS: More and more people fleeing for their lives and suddenly having nothing and living in tent camps with thousands of others in the extreme desert heat of summer (up to 122 degrees) and the frigid desert cold of winter (low as 35 degrees). 

JCS: Tell me more about Medair, the humanitarian organization you work for.
DS: Medair is an emergency relief and recovery humanitarian organization that helps people who are suffering in remote and devastated communities around the world. Our organization helps people survive crises, recover with dignity and develop skills to build a better future. Inspired by Christian faith, we bring emergency relief and recovery regardless or race, creed or nationality. (The photo below is a camp called Rwanga, near Zakho in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Medair supplied tools to this camp.)  

JCS: What does your typical day look like?
DS: Waking up to have a team devotion and prayer time at 8 a.m. A busy rush of financial and logistics planning and paperwork, and meetings and transportation requests met from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Followed by an hour or so of bigger-picture planning for medical, water sanitation, shelter/housing materials. Then lunch. Typically we have a rule that we can't talk about work at lunch. Otherwise we might never stop talking about work.

The afternoon is spent writing emails, communicating with vendors and suppliers, working out all the financial auditing paperwork -- making sure we have all our I's dotted and T's crossed so donors can see that their money is being spent properly. This is where I'll stop writing and just say integrity matters. And it matters a lot. People demand it, and by 5:30 p.m. when I'm tired and trying to finish up, it's our job to make sure these things are completed to perfection. By 6 or 6:30 I've arranged plans with friends or other things to make sure I leave the office instead of burning myself out. If something big comes up, I stay and take care of it because people are in need. And when I say "in need" I mean people are sick and dying, or in danger of sleeping without shelter or don't have clean water to drink.

JCS: I think most people in the US don't know much about Kurdistan (the region in northern Iraq where you work). Tell us more about this part of the world (the land, the history, the people).
DS: Kurdistan is full of mountains and farmland tucked into winding roads and rolling hills. In the springtime it is lush and vibrant with green grass and red poppies. It is full of history dating back to Babylon, and Assyrian reliefs and relics from the Roman era. 

Everything I never imagined growing up studying or hearing about Iraq is what I've discovered here. There are so many oases in this desert that I am left speechless at times. I had the opportunity to visit one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces on top of a nearby mountain and the view from up there was stunning: snow-capped peaks in one direction and in another, a majestic walled city on a hill, and then a vast flatland of grass and hills and desert surrounding me below. 

The people are a group that has seen significant trials and challenges in the last century and before. During the Saddam Hussein era the people were often attacked by helicopters and, reportedly, suffered from poison gas on occasion. The Kurds are a loving and generous people group, typically Muslim, who are very honest and moral. Friends of mine have left their wallet or phone in a taxi, with no hope of finding it, only for the driver to return it to their door. Nothing gets stolen. It's almost like American suburbs of the 1950s when everyone left their door unlocked. 

Kurdistan is beautiful. The people are dedicated to a thriving and promising future of family and education and peace. Its people -- who have suffered SO MUCH -- are loving and generous.

JCS: What are the greatest needs in Kurdistan?
DS: The number of people displaced by the Middle East crisis in Iraq is more than 3 million, and more than 8 million people are in need for humanitarian assistance. Money is the greatest need. With so many organizations and aid workers here the problem is not the planning but that there are not enough financial resources to provide the food, medicines, water sanitation, shelter and technical data for the local government. Imagine all of the people in a city the size of Chicago or Houston living in poverty. That's how desperate the situation is. And I fear that gets lost in the message of fighting and terror that more often gets highlighted in the media.

JCS: What are some of your favorite Iraqi foods?
DS: Well, you finally asked a question I really care about (haha, just kidding!). Seriously, I love the kabobs and hummus and baba ghanoush (made from eggplant). Grilled meat and vegetables will always have a place in my heart (and stomach)! Iraqis also do grilled fish where they split it open in half, sandwich it between a rack and stand it vertically against an open flame, seasoning it with salt and spices.  They serve it with loaves of large, fresh, hot flat bread and sliced and diced vegetables. DELICIOUS.

Oh! And dolma! Dolma is stuffed grape leaves (or peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes or zucchini) which consist of ground lamb and/or beef with rice and spices, baked to perfection. I will stop now or else we'll need a whole other Q&A for food.

JCS: Your job is intense, especially in an emotional sense. What do you do to unwind? What things do you incorporate into your everyday routine to help keep you centered?
DS: The first thing I try to do is get some alone time, primarily to pray, think, sleep or journal/write poetry. After I've quietly had the chance to express some of my most extreme emotions, I like to be with my friends -- hanging out, watching movies, eating together (I started hosting dinner parties again; I missed cooking so much!). I've also taken up running again and I do pilates/yoga. I even hike sometimes if only to get some new, beautiful pictures and spend time with people.  

JCS: Speaking of poetry, it's something I recently learned about you. You're a very good poet! One of my favorite poems of yours, which you posted on your Instagram, is called "Etched & Shaded" (below). When did you start writing poetry?

DS: My senior of high school, which was many years ago (OK, 20 years ago!). 

JCS: What kinds of themes do you explore in your poetry? Who are your favorite poets?
DS: Love, hurt, God, spirituality, poverty and frustration, nature and beauty. My favorite poets: Paulo Coelho because his short stories are more like poems to me; Maya Angelou simply because; Emily Dickinson because she was a foundation of my American Literature classes in high school; Robert Frost because while in nature he wrote about deep themes that (still) matter to society; David and Solomon for their Psalms in the Bible because they are real, raw and pure, crying out to a known God while facing reality. And me, because ;). 

JCS: Do you ever miss home? Do you ever get lonely?
DS: I often miss home. I miss my friends and their families tremendously. It's hard to only have phone and video calls with some of them, especially with an 8 to 10 hour time difference. I definitely get lonely, not having people that know me deeply and intimately on a daily or weekly basis. But I try to develop those kinds of friendships and relationships here, too, and work hard to make that happen because it matters to me.  

JCS: You've talked about having "Oh crap! What am I doing here?" moments. What keeps you going every day? What's the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning?
DS: There is a quote an old mentor gave to me: "Begin with the end in mind." It comes from a variety of places including, "The Making of a Leader" by Robert Clinton and "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey. I came here to do a job and love and serve people because my heart and prayers led me here. If I give up and just walk away, then I'm abandoning a principle that matters. My word and vows and promises matter. 

JCS: Will you ever come back to the US? Or is the world your home?
DS: The world, including the US, is my home. I have no idea what is next, but I love visiting my friends and family anywhere and everywhere in the world! 

Photos courtesy of David Sandler.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Words of wisdom from Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling's guide to killer confidence. (Glamour)