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.

 

24 Hours in Bozeman, MT

Anytime of the year is a perfect time to visit Bozeman, MT.  A one hour drive from Big Sky and just a short distance from the airport.  A pretty perfect scenario.  Bozeman is a college town located in a valley surrounded by mountains.  No matter where you stand in this city you will have stunning views of the mountains.   Main St. is lined with old Art Deco buildings and neon lights that transform this city at night to hip and happening.  Enjoy strolling Main Street while taking breaks for a bite to eat, a drink, and to explore boutiques.  The vibe is nothing short of cool with an old western charm.  You immediately know that 24 hours will not be enough!

Stay:

The Lark, formerly a run down Old Imperial Inn from the 60’s has been transformed into a modern hip motel with attention to design, efficiency, and style.  The Lark collaborated with local artists for wall installations that tell the story of the area.  The rooms are charming, cozy, and equipped with all your needs to recharge yourself and your tech gadgets.  Each room has built-in wall units made of steel and wood perfect to tuck your gear away.  There are two common areas that are extensions to the rooms.  Enjoy the spacious outdoor patio with bright orange Eames chairs, wooden benches, and an outdoor fireplace.  Relax on the large leather sectional with your feet up or take a seat at the communal wooden table.  Sip some local coffee from the beverage cart.  It is a hip hotel/motel and you want to hang out longer than you should but there is too much to explore. At the end of your day, you will be happy to return to your base camp to sit by the outdoor wood burning fire with a cocktail in hand.

A Few Stand Outs:

Bozeman downtown offers an eclectic mix of shops to explore.  Standouts are Cactus, a funky record shop with the low down on the music scene, Hey Day, a lifestyle boutique that is big and airy, and dawn Josephine collective, a beautifully curated shop with local artists being represented.

A stand out is the Montana Honey Bee Co.  This shop is half artisanal honey and the other half showcasing all your needs to become a bee keeper.  You are educated about bees while sampling the wide varieties of honey.  It is a wonderful store bringing your awareness back to nature.  You will walk away contemplating the idea of designing your own bee farm at home.  It is so sweet! (no pun intended)

Places to Eat:

Bozeman does not lack character.  It is a place that gives you an idea of how life has been.  The city has done a beautiful job combining the old charm through restoration, preservation, and combining their history with modern updates.  Restaurants, bars, cafes, and coffees shops are lively, youthful, and inviting. Sure winners are:  Wild Joe’s coffee spot,  Jam for an over the top breakfast, Copper for a cocktail, and Montana Ale Works for dinner.

If you are thinking about Bozeman for this summer or any other time of year then check out this Bozeman blog.  Great resource!

Put This On Your Bucket List, Montana

A week in Montana just makes you desire more time and more exploring. Winter time is the only time that I have experienced this beautiful state but summer is now on my bucket list while driving an airstream.  Big Sky has a blue sky that is indescribable.  It has an ever-changing light that draws your attention back to the natural landscape that is truly majestic.  Mother Nature has been very kind to Montana.  Experiencing the magic from an elevation of 7,500 feet at the base to over 11,000 feet at the top of the mountain you are quickly made aware that one can not tackle this mountain at Big Sky in one week.  You feel small in comparison to the grandeur of the mountains and the wildlife that make it their home.  We did are best with the spring like temperatures and fresh pow pow that delivered.  Here are some highlights from a week of skiing in Big Sky!

We rented a home for the week through Big Sky Vacation Rentals.  A perfect solution for two families.  The house was fully equipped with all the amenities including an outdoor fireplace for s’mores, hot tub, and a foosball table for some tournaments.  Every morning started with a fresh coffee sipped over the first rays of sunlight awakening Lone Peak.

Skiing was the goal! 6 days straight of rising and taking hold of the day was achieved.  Bluebird days and some fresh powder to keep it fresh.  A week filled with fresh air, beautiful landscape, and family fun.

Big Sky has a fun and growing downtown center.  Everything one needs is a short drive from the ski area.  One can grocery shop at Hungry Moose, sip a coffee at Compass Cafe or Caliber Coffee, pizza at Ousel & Spur Pizza Co. or take in a movie at Lone Peak Cinema.  All your skiing requirements including rentals and gear can be taken care of at Grizzly Outfitters.  My favorite shop to buy souvenirs and other Montana inspired merchandise can be found at Montana Supply.  They have expanded into a new larger space shared with Compass Cafe.  What a nice concept (shopping and sipping coffee, perfect!).  Montana Supply is offering even more crafted accessories and clothing from local artists.  The space is industrial and rugged.  It complements the outdoor nature of the store.  It is one stop shopping offering stylish garments and accessories for men and woman.  The shop is so well curated that you want to make a lifestyle change and move to Montana!

One of the most surprising events that was happening in Big Sky’s town center on way out-of-town was the National Skijoring Event.  Skijoring is a winter sport that combines skiing and horseback riding.  A horse and rider pair up to pull a skier or snowboarder at a fast speed around a track with obstacles and jumps along their path.  A team can take home a purse of up to $2,000 and the champion takes home a belt buckle as a trophy.  This is a highly respected sport and professional athletes come from all over the country.   It is a spectacular event that draws crowds from all over Montana.  There was a special guest supporting the event, Miss Kayla Seaman, Northwest Montana Miss Rodeo Queen.  While I was snapping pictures of the event, my isostilo partner met Kayla.  Kayla is your all American sweetheart with a big smile and proudly wearing her NWMT Miss Rodeo hat.  She is equally sweet, smart, engaging and in a brief interaction a young woman who is a role model.  You can find Kayla on instagram or Facebook.  This event was the icing on the cake.

I can’t end the post without mentioning two other eating establishments to check out. The Horn & Cantle delivers an authentic inspired Montana menu in a beautiful ranch setting.  They also offer a saloon with live music and an outdoor wood burning fireplace for the full ranch effect. The other restaurant is the Gallatin River House Grill.  It is your down and dirty barbecue filled with large tables, a bar, arcade games, a stage for live music, and incredible view of the mountains.  The best in Montana!

Vacationing in Jupiter, FL

I’m a fan of Jupiter.  Not just because it is convenient as heck with a three-hour direct flight from Boston to West Palm on Jet Blue.  Jupiter is a small beachy town with bike paths, nesting turtles, and lovely beaches.  It is active and vibrant with an easy-going mind-set.  The vibe is low-key with a slow tempo.  This is something I am appreciating more and more these days.  My parents are snow birds and have been making the migration to Jupiter for the past seven years or so.  My son and I are the fortunate ones to visit a warm sunny place each winter with the absolute gift of grandparent time.  Jupiter is becoming more familiar to me with each visit which has me returning to my favorite spots and discovering new ones as well.  Life is simple with the motto of taking each day as it comes.  Waking up to blue skies and warmer temperatures than what New England tends to deliver this time of year is not a bad way to start your day.  It always feels like a Friday!

Jupiter Inlet
Shades of green and old banyan trees

Jupiter Inlet
Boat show ready

Jupiter Inlet
Homes of the Inlet

Jupiter Inlet
Layers of beauty

Jupiter Inlet
Boat house, dock, or yacht, not sure which is more impressive

Jupiter Inlet
A view that is in my memory bank to draw from the next New England snow storm

Jupiter Inlet
Happiness is priceless

A cocktail sunset cruise along the Jupiter Inlet is a perfect end to a day.  It is like a Sunday drive with no where to be and no schedule.  One marvels at the rich and famous homes tucked along the waters edge as you cruise at cocktail speed.  At times you just get a sneak peek to the homes through the beautiful banyan trees and colorful tropical landscapes.   Each home is different with its own stamp of style.  I love the low crawling style homes that blend into the environment but they are far from subtle.  The sun setting makes everything glisten and a calmness is present.  I enjoy every opportunity to take this cruise! Jupiter offers many options for taking cruises and tours of the Inlet if you do not have access to a boat.

Sailfish Marina
Sailfish Marina

Sailfish Marina
Fishing haven

Sailfish Marina
Sit and take in the sunset

Sailfish Marina
Waterfront dining with no complaints

Sailfish Marina
Tables of creativity

Sailfish
I love this hat! I wish I would have bought it! Regrets!

Sailfish Marina
Fish and Pelicans

Sailfish Marina, a tropical setting located in Palm Beach Shores is a lovely spot to enjoy waterfront dining.  It is a fisherman’s destination but it is also certainly a place for families to enjoy the coastal scenery.  Kids can feed the fish off the docks and parents can stroll the eclectic mix of craft tables set up by local artists selling their wares.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center
Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Loggerhead Marinelife Center
Sea Turtles have a safe place here

Loggerhead Marinelife Center
Learning about Guy Harvey

The Loggerhead Marinelife Center strictly focuses on ocean and turtle conservation.  It is a wonderful place educating, researching, and rehabilitating sea turtles eventually returning them back to their habitat in good health.  The center has an annual celebration called the Turtlefest.  A festival we don’t miss if our timing is right.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for children and adults to learn about marine life, conservation, and everything about turtles.  We enjoy at least one if not two trips to the center when we are visiting Jupiter.  The center is about to undergo a large renovation.  I can’t wait to see the changes!

Fishing
One for the memory bank!

Fishing
A bent rod means one thing

Fishing
Damn they got me!

Fishing
Learning from the master

Fishing is an art.  One must know the rules and the subtleties in fishing to play the game.  My father is a true salty man of the sea.  I have had plenty of childhood memories filled with fishing, scrubbing boats, and wondering when we will head home.  We would wake before sunrise and return after sunset.  Fishing teaches you patience, appreciation, and respect for the ocean.  This week my son fished and had the taste of the chase.  He had time learning from one of the best.  Life lessons from your grandpa are worth the weight of gold!

Jonathon Dickinson State Park
Explore

Jonathon Dickinson State Park
Warning! Gulp

Jonathon Dickinson State Park
Paddlers

Jonathon Dickinson State Park
Choose your water vessel and head out for an adventure

Something new and a day to remember.  We headed to Jonathon Dickinson State Park for an outdoor activity.  Jonathan Dickinson State Park is a 11,000 acre park offering land and water activities.  We decided on canoeing by default since the kayaks were all taken by the time we arrived.  $26 for a three person canoe for two hours of water exploring seems reasonable.  We set off for our adventure but not before noticing the crocodile warning sign.  This set a tone of nervousness but we were assured by the trusting staff that the crocodiles were well fed (really?!) and are accustomed to the activity.  We canoed for 45 minutes in a small circle just beyond the loading dock.  We saw two crocodiles and rowed to safety!  We canoed, we conquered and can tell the story.  Next time we may opt for a land activity.

Leftovers Cafe
Here’s The Vibe

Leftovers Cafe
Cold Draft

Leftovers Cafe
Belly Up (Sriracha ready)

Leftovers Cafe
First impressions and I’m digging it

Leftovers Cafe
Vibe of the week

I have a list of great places to eat here in Jupiter and I tend to want to return to those favorites.  Not this time.  Leftovers Cafe is the sister restaurant to the Food Shack (awesome!).  They had me at the front door with the sticker covered entry way creating a skate/surf kind of vibe.  The interior wall space is wrapped with street art graffiti.  The food is fresh, creative, and generously portioned which allows for sharing.  I highly recommend the sweet potato encrusted tilefish.  I’m on the hunt for the recipe!

Loods 5 , Amsterdam

Take a short drive out of Amsterdam to explore Loods 5, a massive furniture store located in a warehouse setting.  You can find everything you need for your home.  It has a similar feel to an Ikea with its grand space but with a pop up esque feel offering everything from Eames to local designers.  Loods 5 is a place to draw inspiration.  I love how they create themed spaces.  Have a coffee and a bite then stroll along to explore everything from furniture, home accessories, to your everyday lifestyle needs.  You will find something to walk away with and you will leave with fun ideas to spruce up your space!  One stop shopping baby at it’s best.

Here are a few examples of larger furnishings that speaks to the Dutch shoppers (me included!) and what is currently trending.  Loods 5 showcases many lines but here are a few recognizable designers that I explored: Eames, Hay, Muuto, Vitra, Fermob and their own in-house line, Design 5.

 

Spent hours just strolling the endless home accessories.  Why is it that when one travels you marvel at others offerings?  I always find myself saying “we just don’t have this at home!)  The truth is I really do hunt out places and stores to experience when I travel.  I welcome the opportunity to actually touch and see those finds that I have admired from a far (online).  I also like to understand the aesthetic that speaks to that culture.  I get inspired by other people and the way of life that can be so different from my day-to-day.  So I was snapping away while in Loods 5.  It doesn’t mean I have to buy or replicate it.  It just means I appreciate another lens to look through when comes style.

Having experienced Amsterdam with a new-born, I had immediately fell in love with the Dutch aesthetics for children.  I grew an appreciation for their parenting styles, family Sunday rituals of spending time in a park, to only needing the necessary gadgets to survive those young years.  I still have a soft spot for the lovely, sweet, and well designed children’s furniture, toys, and accessories that are found in Holland.  I have held on to all the Dutch treasure that I collected for my son.  They hold memories of a time and place for me.  So exploring the curated pieces of Loods 5 for children made me smile!

Check out Loods 5!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rise and Conquer The Day

Staying active and staying outdoors is the theme here in Montana.  Yesterday’s activity was a five hour snowshoe hike in the northwest tip of Yellowstone National Park led led by our fearless leader, Ken from Yellowstone Safari Company.  An amazing day trekking through snow enjoying the natural beauty of a constant changing landscape.

Montana
Peaceful and untouched

Montana
Ken led us with enthusiasm and an abundance of local knowledge

Montana
Bear claw sightings

Montana

One learns how vast this land is when you put on snowshoes and think you are going to just take a hike to explore Yellowstone.  Yellowstone is so large that five hours of adventure trekking just gave me a taste of the majestic environment.  Although no wildlife was spotted on this outing, a distant grizzly sighting would have been amazing.   I did feel like a humble trespasser in their vast home of unspoiled wilderness.  It is breathtakingly beautiful and nature is meant to be respected and enjoyed.

Montana

Montana
Untouched

Montana
Coffee, snowshoeing, and mountains is pretty spectacular!

Montana
Found a lovely spot for lunch under the trees with the sun keeping us warm

The day started off chilly but by the end I was peeling off layers of clothing.  It was a bluebird day.  I have a few more wrinkles from the sun but they will be a constant reminder of this beautiful day!

m

Montana

Montana

Montana

Yellowstone Safari Company

Montana

This week I am enjoying a family vacation with our dear friends in Big Sky, Montana.  Land in Bozeman and drive 1.5 hours.  Easy!  One goes from the big flat land of traveling 70 miles per hour on a main road with the big boy trucks just hauling to a landscape of trees that sneak up on you.  There are no scary, twisting mountain roads that you endure.  Arriving late at night did not allow for us to take in the beauty of what we would be waking up to.  But upon waking to the sun rising and a window view of the mountains of Big Sky I can share that mother nature is stunning.  My morning coffee routine for this week will be sitting at a small round table perched on a baby blue Eames chair watching the sunrise and the mountain waking up.

There is something special about Montana.  It doesn’t take long to forget about the city life and welcome the calmness of the mountains.  I love the vast landscape and the bright clear sky at night that makes me feel like the stars are reachable.  As I have shared, I have resisted skiing for many years and did not grow up with this activity in my life.  But over the years I have been flirting with it.  Last year was a turning point for me.  It was here at Big Sky that I embraced it a bit more and took lessons.  I have nothing to prove on the slopes because I have proven to myself that it is never too late to give something a go.  Believe me at times like yesterday that I felt I was way over my head with no alternative way down.  But I am perfecting the art of the side slide.  I enjoy the wide open terrain and the long rolling trails that Big Sky offers as well as the apre scene at Madison (eye on the prize!).  This mountain has something to offer for everyone.  It is massive!  Big Sky is laid back with a chill vibe.  A vibe that is contagious.

This year I am fortunate to be here again.  I will be embracing all the fun this mountain offers.  The spring like temperatures have my arms wide open to all the adventures!  THANKFULLY  my family and friends are beyond patient  and encouraging when I click into the skis.  But today I am trading in the skis for a full day snowshoe adventure.  Fingers crossed that it doesn’t have me meeting a grizzly!  Stay tuned.  xo

Montana
Mornings

Montana
Sipping and blogging with a beautiful mountain view.

Montana
Good morning