Simple Joy

Flowers are happiness. Instant sunshine in my book. Fresh flowers have always been a weekly indulgence for me. Sometimes it is simple grassy greens in a vase. Other times, it’s a colorful assortment. Flowers have the power to make you smile. I have no problem buying them for myself. In fact I love it! A gift from someone I know, well that makes my heart sing.

Recently on a walk with friends, we saw a neighbor offering their fresh cut flowers from their garden to whom ever walked by. What a lovely, simple symbol of neighborly love. A few days later, I received on my doorstep a pitcher filled with fresh cut flowers from my friend. The idea of someone thinking about you instantly lifts your mood. Small gestures really do make people smile at the end of the day. Genuine acts of kindness is always trending.

My Amsterdam Heart!

I was recently speaking with a friend about isostilo.  What sparked the idea?A very convincing and supportive Dutch friend  encouraged me to start isostilo with the intention to define it as it evolves.  Part style, fashion, travel, lifestyle, and everything in between.  What I know is that I needed a push to just begin something and to see where it goes.  A large part of my inspiration draws from my four years living in Amsterdam and the many return visits. 

Amsterdam is a chapter in my life that opened my eyes.  The wonderful part of my relationship with this city is that every return visit my connection becomes deeper.  Spending time in Amsterdam gives me a gift that continues to grace me with love, appreciation, and curiosity.  It continues to shape my thoughts, perspective, and personal style.

In a nutshell.  My husband and I, along with our sweet dog Senna, moved to Amsterdam as expats three weeks after we married in 2004.  Working for me was not option since I was not sponsored for a work visa.  I explored every day by foot, by bike, made friends, took cooking classes, failed miserably at Dutch lessons (except for befriending the most amazing girl friends), joined a Bikram studio, spotted interesting designers, soaked up the culture, and drank up the city one coffee at a time.  Two years into our stay, I became pregnant and gave birth to our son.  I had a home birth and embraced the norm of not going to the hospital.  It was magical.  If you want to know more about this then you can read about my birth in Ricki Lake’s book, Your Best Birth.  We built friendships that became our family.  It was four amazing years before returning back to Boston.  I have managed to visit once a year since our return in 2008.

It is the friendships that we cultivated during those years that I hold so dear to my heart.  These friendships draw us back.  Friendships that make me tick in a way I can’t fully explain but will try.  I feel more grounded, more connected, and my life becomes simpler in a way.  There is honesty and truthfulness from these friends (which is what led me to lobbing off my hair and bleaching it blonde a year ago).  I can laugh at myself.  My beat is smoother.

I have a true appreciation for the qualities that I admire from my Dutchies.  What I see are non-followers who have a true sense of themselves.  There is a sense of strength and confidence while being kind-hearted.  They are not over thinkers.  Straight forwardness is admirable.  You want to do something, you just do it (I am trying to practice this) and not worry about what anybody else thinks.  Hence isostilo!  Beating to your own drum is a good thing.  Traveling and experiencing the world around you is a given for them.  Your perspective shifts when you leave your comfort zone.  Mine certainly have.  

For me there is something comforting about leaving my Cambridge life that is also full of wonderful friends and family.  Flying across the pond to slide into another life that is equally familiar but completely different.  Catching up with friends, embracing a different environment, and conversations helps me gain a fresh perspective that is so good for my soul.  I can walk Amsterdam all day and never get bored.  This recent visit, I walked over 150 city miles during the month of August (crazy indeed but I also didn’t do any other exercise).   I love the cobbled streets, the bikes, the lifestyle, the charming homes, the history, and the apple cake.  It is easy.  I also love the personal style of this city.  It feels like anything is possible with no restrictions.  It is all accepting.  Be who you are.  A denim and kicks kinda crowd.  I find it all inspiring.  Sneaking in a little shopping where I score a few lifers for my closet is an added bonus.

Secretly (well at times I am pretty outspoken about this) I have always hoped that my family and I would return just for a year or two.  If you think I love Amsterdam then you should talk with my son.  His love runs just as deep.  He is building his own connection through friendships and memories.  In the mean time, I am thankful for all the time I have been able to spend in this city.  For the gifts it has graced me with and the new friendships it inspires.  The most precious gift being my son.  I am so appreciative of my husband who understands my deep connection and encourages me to visit as long as I return!  Hugs and kisses to those friends that have moved on from Amsterdam to other exciting places for me to visit.  The world is full of beautiful places but it is the people you meet along the way that truly make it so special and so memorable. 

isostilo is not just about fashion.  Sharing new finds, designers, ways to wear your closet is part of it.  Trends are fun but come and go.  I’m really not into big labels.  They are not terribly interesting to me but I do appreciate them and have a few pieces that I have collected over the years.  I love classic, timeless pieces that go the distance.  I respect craftsmanship.  I tend to hunt for designers with a clean modern aesthetic.  Denim, t shirt, blazer and sneakers is my uniform of choice.  At the moment there is so much stuff out there, that it is difficult to know what you like.  It feels excessive and not very special.  The art of buying to just buy is very off putting to me.  Buy it because it means something to you not because everyone else is wearing it.  I don’t practice retail therapy but would rather go for a walk or catch up with a friend.  

When you find your own personal style, now that is interesting, label or no label.  Style to me encompasses it all.  When it is not a focus and it’s your own look and it doesn’t wear you, that is far more intriguing.  I love when authentic and personality is what you notice.  I believe you are shaped by exposure, life, exploring, and the people you meet.  This is where isostilo lives. 

Practicing to be healthy and respecting your body is so very important.  Over all fitness is a focus of mine.  Now in my forties, I feel stronger and more committed than ever to keep embracing the changes that come with age.  I have found a very healthy balance for myself.  When you shift from just focusing on your external that is when the magic happens.  To feel good in a pair of jeans and tee, I am happy.  Keeping up with my 12 year old keeps me motivated.  Health is everything.  So, yes, isostilo goes beyond clothing.  But rather just trying to keep everything in balance.  Not being afraid to change the course when needed as life evolves.  Sometimes it is messy and sometimes it is great.  

Who knows where isostilo will go but for now it is a journey.  It is an outlet that I enjoy and hope you take something away from what I share.  I will say that the past year and half plus has taught me a lot about myself.  At the beginning the writing, grammar, technology, and self-doubt really challenged me.  The question “what is your goal” really annoyed me.  Not anymore.  You like it or you don’t.  I am ok with either.  When I don’t feel inspired, I simply don’t post.  I have nothing to lose and a ton to gain.  I am finding my way around all this and I am forever thankful to my husband and son who give every long post a glance over.  I love the fact they are both encouraging and curious about what I am interested in or questioning my latest read.  Grammar will forever challenge me (bear with me)!  I am ok with not being perfect. Hopefully we all are.

Forever in my heart, Amsterdam

A side note:  This most recent trip has me looking at my life and the influence of my friendships.  How fortunate I am to have wonderful friendships near and far.  Each friend is so very different from the next.  Put everyone in one space, well it is a bit like the United Nations.  They all have one trait in common, genuine and honest with a whole lot of humor.  There is always a different way to look at something and you can agree to disagree but understanding where they are coming from is so very important.  A diverse group of friends is pure gold!  Forever evolving is key.  Taking the time to chill is important.  Having fun is a must.  Being yourself is beyond cool.  Sitting still in comfort needs to be shaken up a bit.  I’m in my forties with something to do is the new goal.  I hope to make a difference, small or big.

 

Celebrations!

Life should be celebrated! I truly have been spoiled. Over the course of one week, I had a birthday and an anniversary with the bonus of summer as the backdrop. My friends on both sides of the pond showered me with endless love, many cheers, and tasty cakes. I am forever grateful. The gift of spending time with friends keeps me balanced and happy. I hope in return they all feel my appreciation. Life, friends, and family need to be celebrated. You don’t need to have an excuse. Why not just get together because…it’s fun and healthy for your mind!

isostilo will be organizing more women get togethers with a fun element to the gathering. The surf clinic was all this and more. Women need to take more time for themselves. Carving out a couple of hours a week is a must although it can be a challenge. A walk and a coffee with a friend is pretty perfect. Fun times!

Surf Clinic With Gal Pals

A day at the beach with a group of women that all said yes to joining a surf clinic. Experiences are gifts. Bad or good, they shape you, challenge you, and teach you something about yourself. I am an over thinker (totally reaffirmed during the surf clinic). Sometimes we create reasons and obstacles that prevent us from participating in something that may test ourselves. When you have the support of friends, all those reasons tend to fade away.

This surf clinic was a first for all us. We laughed, used our bodies, and survived to talk about it. Yeah, we are all over 40 but does that really matter?! Age shouldn’t prevent you from having fun. Perhaps a little soar the next day. Which I think is a positive side effect.

Love these women for jumping on board. We finished the clinic feeling stronger and more confident although tired. We are no worse for the wear. New friendships have been formed while some have reconnected. Check out all the beautiful smiles!

Living Water Surf is located in Little Compton, Rhode Island. They offer private lessons, clinics, and camps for kids. Lessons are taught on South Shore Beach. Arrive before 8am to park for free.

Good friendships motivate and encourage you to try something new. Happy Summer!

Little Friendships

Buddies
Aleisi on the left & Hashim on the right. The smiles say it all!

One of the best gifts in life is friendship.  These two boys pictured above have been friends since birth and have the Atlantic Ocean that separates them.  A friendship that doesn’t skip a beat. They have a true connection and time apart doesn’t change a thing.  We were truly given a special Christmas gift this year.  Aleisi’s friend, Hashim came for a three week visit.

Hashim is eleven and traveled alone from Amsterdam to be reunited with his mate, my son, Aleisi.  The laughter, banter, creativity, and adventures were endless.  They chatted till the wee hours and slept in like high school boys.  Two boys just being true to themselves.  Lego creations were literally out of this world.  Xbox playing was loud and explosive.  Sneaking peppermint bark for breakfast was the norm. Star Wars movie marathon was a must and lots of Red Hot Chili Peppers became the soundtrack.

Saying goodbye can be bittersweet and can hurt your heart like nothing else!  How can this be?  A true friendship without rules, all accepting and full of laughs is hard to not have in your everyday life.  But the gift of creating memories that one can look back at and smile is all worth that moment of sadness when you have to say “till we meet again”.  As you may have read from an early post from me, I can truly relate to this feeling when a dear friend whisks in for a visit and departs in the blink of an eye.  Donna is also from Amsterdam.  What is in the Dutch water or is it all the milk they drink?  They know the meaning of friendship! It has been a couple of weeks since Hashim’s departure but the warm thoughts are still going strong.  xo

 

MFA Outing

Something to keep in mind when one is looking for an indoor activity this winter in Boston.  Being a tourist in your own city is exciting and fresh when a friend is visiting.  Exploring the Museum of Fine Arts with your pal definitely becomes more appealing.   Especially with the Takashi Murakami exhibit that is currently showing now through April 1st.  A huge hit for all ages and playfulness is encouraged!

The MFA offers wonderful programs for children.  Their website is loaded with fun and creative ways to take advantage of your visit.  I highly suggest taking a peek at it.  The Family Art Cart is certainly  worth checking out and is free with admission!

Snowy Weekend

Pop
A bit of pop for the black

Funny how a snowstorm can stop you in your tracks.  Over the weekend much of the East coast was recovering from a massive snowstorm followed by ridiculously chilly temperatures.  The city of Boston and surrounding areas came to a halt and schools were canceled after just coming off the holiday break.  Parents very much welcoming the reunion with routine.

Mother nature had a different agenda.  What came from this was sort of magical.  A flashback to my childhood.  I remember winters filled with snow days.  Days that kept me outside like it or not playing in the snow, pond skating, making snow angels and building snow forts.  My brother and I had the rosy cheeks, frozen toes, and dressed like Ralphie’s little brother in  A Christmas Story.  All to be followed by Nestle hot chocolate with all the good stuff.

This weekend my son, Aleisi, and his visiting buddy, Hashim, relished in winning the lottery of a school cancellation for two consecutive snow days.  They played outdoors for endless hours despite the frigid temps.  It took no convincing.  They were drawn to the fluffy, white, fresh snowfall that came to cover their knees.  They shoveled sidewalks for cold hard cash, built snow forts, and enjoyed snowball fights.  It was so fun to watch from the window.  Kids being kids and enjoying the magic of a snowstorm and the bonus of an extra long weekend.  Hot cocoa was enjoyed throughout the weekend and we even took in some ice skating.  That was unexpected fun!  Many laughs at myself (and I admit at others) but in the best ways!  It has been some time since lacing up skates and pretending to be Dorothy Hamill.  Still working on that:)  I relived my childhood though the eyes of a ten and an eleven year old but from the comfort of inside while sipping hot coffee.  It was fun to slow down and embrace the weather.  But now I would love the snow to melt.  We have things to do!  xo