Friday, April 10, 2015

Once I was and now I am..

Lauren Tamaki

To be an athlete...or not to be
If I were to tell you I am a crazed fitness junkie who jumps out of bed, throws on the running gear and pounds the city streets every morning..I would be lying. I can think of nothing worse.

Mr. H laughs at the thought, saying that I was never an athlete. I snicker at that remark for there are plenty of activities I enjoy but I will be honest and say I have never been a serious athlete, social athlete is more like it. But it has been years and my exercise routine in Vietnam has taken the shape of walking and visits to the gym...when I feel like it. Which is not often. It's really hot here. Did I mention I am good at making excuses too?

So, I decided to make the call a few weeks back to start up with a personal trainer...again. It has been a hit and miss proposition since moving to Vietnam but I think I finally found "the one".

I am fussy about trainers, in the same way I am about tour guides, dentists and a good masseuse. I know, crazy, but that's me.

In a personal trainer, I need a good listener, one who gets my strengths and weaknesses and most importantly one who won't let me find an easy way out. I am clever at that. I usually start by laughing, hysterically, which means "you have got to be kidding me, let's stop". 

My new trainer is Vietnamese and with that comes a reality check. I find that the Vietnamese are quick to call it and say it as they see it. I should qualify all this by saying, he is kind, sincere and genuine in wanting to put his all into helping me with my goals. I like him, a lot! I just have to learn to stop laughing.

When I started laughing today..he added ten more repetitions to my workout. Say what?

When I missed the mark on where he wanted me to bounce the medicine ball today (heavy and difficult, made me laugh) he did not count that try and made me do it again. I stopped laughing..immediately.

That which shall not be named...until now
He frequently mentions my "belly fat" which I have never actually said out loud nor has anyone else for that matter. But..true to his culture, he calls it as he sees it. I laugh every time he says it which results in more repetitions. I hope to one day say goodbye to a good portion of the "belly fat". I might have to laugh my way all the way through it but I shall persevere.

You must have been....
Every session there is something new for me to ponder. Today he asked how many children I have. I said four, told him the ages and he exclaimed that "you must have been a beautiful women when you were younger". He said it with an open smile and in all sincerity, thinking he gave me the highest compliment. I know some of you are gasping...HE SAID WHAT? But you know what, it's OK. I get it and if it was anyone else, I would have reacted differently.

Countess de Castiglione (1837-1899)

A gifted writer with an eye for style, Leslie Harris @ Gwen Moss Blog recently wrote about the art of aging, how to feel beautiful and relevant to matter what your age... part 1 and how to feel beautiful...part 2. I like Leslie's style of writing, she writes from the heart and on this subject, I totally get it.

"Aging can be a process of peeling away the layers 
to our deeper self, it takes us along a path 
that is continual lesson on letting go."

"But there are gifts that come with aging well. 
An intangible wisdom and that mysterious feeling 
of being comfortable in your own skin. "

by Beth Carver

I like to think I am comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes I have to convince myself but most times I just get on with it... EXCEPT...when it comes to having my photo taken. Always happy to be behind the camera but never in front. The only exception is for my mother-in-law who I swear has magic powers. Her camera appears out of nowhere and before I have a chance to wangle myself out of view, she has gone and snapped it. In fact, I think, if it were not for her, very few photos of me would exist. 

At the end of the day, at any age, I think the real beauty is in our smiles, yours and mine. Is there anything better than someone sharing a smile with you or bringing you to the heart of laughter? I love it...and will take it any way I can get it. Even if it means a few extra repetitions in the gym. For once I was and now I am...just me and I am OK with that.  :)


On that note, I want to thank you all for the many 
wonderful wedding wishes you sent our way. 
Absolutely, positively and stupendously appreciated!! 
You make me smile...always.

Sending you warm wishes 
for a wonderful weekend!!

Jeanne xx  :)

A must read...from Leslie

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

And then it Australia

In Australia...
Something special happened last weekend...we gained a new member to our family. Actually, not just one member, but in fact, I think we gained a good portion of a least that is what it felt like by the time we all departed the wedding and it felt wonderful. 

But let me back up a few hours. We arrived, to the wedding...the mother, the father, the brother and one of the sisters (the other one is studying in Cameroon) and wondered how this would work. We were four of 80+ guests and we did not know a single person other than the bride, the groom and the maid of honor who we met the night before. And then it happened, we were met by the warm embrace of the other guests who as it turned out were one big extended family. They mostly hailed from Canberra...I now love Canberra. Canberrians are people to love!

If you know Aussies, you will know that they are some of the most genuine, fun loving and outgoing people on the face of the planet. I thought Americans and Canadians had this covered but I think the Australians might have one up on us. Being a dual citizen, both American and Australian, I feel honoured...but I digress.

I knew from the first heartwarming welcome that I was going to kick myself for forgetting to bring along a case of tissues to hold back the tears...for they did flow.

They started flowing
when I looked up at my smiling son, 
in his military whites,
waiting for his bride-to-be...Cherie.
(tissue alert)

Patrick...the wait.

And then they started again when
Cherie turned the corner,
looking joyfully radiant.
(tissue alert)

A beautiful bride...Cherie

and the tears flowed again
when they tied the knot
and then another knot...
the Celtic knot, a symbol of unity,
and their pledge to 
spend their lives together.
(tissue alert)

The Mother and Father of the Groom
can not begin to describe how happy 
we are for both of them.
(tissue alert)

Captain and Mrs. black, white and a touch of red
on their wedding day.

The new Mrs. H is a very talented woman.
An artist and fellow Virgo, she designed 
and produced nearly everything herself, 
including many of the details
 on her wedding gown.

The wedding reflected their personalities
 in an exicting way with a "Burtonesque" theme 
that was playful and enchanting. 

I know for a fact that everyone in attendance
absolutely loved the candy bar..complete with 
black and white striped candy bags.
If you are planning a wedding...think candy bar!

 The American Welcome...
Next up is the American family reunion at Tahilla Farm in December 2015. Our first Christmas at Tahilla Farm and the first chance for everyone to meet Cherie on home territory. We are all so so excited...and I have so so so much to do! Finish building a house is first on the list... ;)

About the MOG dress...
Some of you may be wondering about the mother of the groom dress. I arrived with three dresses and a floral jacket. A menagerie of colour, one each in midnight blue, teal, lavender and pink.   Not to confuse myself or anything. It all fell together in the eldest daughter said no, no and yes. Lavender and pink for me. 

As for photos...we have to wait for those. is just about the bride and the groom and the many many happy wedding wishes you have sent their way over the past few blog posts. 

Thank you all!!!

Jeanne xx

Patrick, Cherie and a sunset over the Yarra Valley in Australia
(tissue alert)

Wedding photographs
with exception of my photos 
(Patrick and Sourstraps)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Happy Australia

It started when I was looking looking at photos..that feeling you get when tears starts to roll in from distant places and you blink to say it can't be so and then you suddenly catch your breath, take a deep breath and you realise there is no stopping it...the flood gates have opened. Tears..happy tears.

Saying that, I  have to tell not a pretty sight. I am the one who goes all puffy and splotchy and needs to be gently guided into a dark room, so as not to scare the others.  The only upside on my appearance is that my eyes become bright blue.  I think it is the red splotchy part that highlights them. Never seems to work together.

What's all the fuss about? The little guy below is my eldest son Patrick..who is getting married on Saturday, in Australia. Patrick and I sat in a photo booth together, 24 years ago...and I am feeling mother's do.

When Patrick was little
I used to read
(kind of how I felt last Thursday). 


We used to laugh about Alexander 
wanting to move to Australia...
and then we did, 
when Patrick was nine years old. 
He has been there ever since. 


And now Patrick is marrying an Aussie girl, Cherie.
How the world goes round! 

Patrick and Cherie

Speaking of horrible, no good, very bad days (last Thursday)...I am happy to report that my hair colour has been sorted and my mother of the groom dress came back from the dry cleaner in top shape. No more tears! I am still wavering on which dress to wear to the wedding, I will pack it all up and decide on the day. I like options. 

Thinking of Alexander and his Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day started me on a book trail of all the children's books we used to love to read. I have to admit, that even today, with my oldest, now 25 and the youngest of my four, 15...I still pop into the children's section at bookstores, just to see what is new. It's always a happy place. 

Do you have a favourite children's book? One that you read as a child or some that you read to your children and grandchildren? Would love to know if you do...


Here are a few of ours...

by Judith Viorst

because we do have 
a touch of the Irish in us,
a book I bought just for Patrick
all those years ago.

by Tommie dePaola


Celebating St. Patrick's Day
and a wedding in one week.
It's a sign!
A great one!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Jeanne ;)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Charm of Mystery....

Gecko our front door, Chateau Mango


The evening air sits heavy outside our doorstep, dense in the sweet scent of jasmine. Not a bad way to end the week. In retrospect, it did not seem that crazy a week..until Thursday rolled around and I had a feeling I may have gone to far.

But first, Monday...

ON MONDAY..the expat book club

The week started easily enough...with an expat book club meeting. We meet on the second Monday of each month in a local cafe in Saigon. It's been months since my last meeting and I finally made it..but I nearly missed it.  With two days to go, I still had not read the book, so I sat myself down last Saturday morning and read and read and read until I finished the book a few hours later. Have you read the ethereal and compelling book, The Shack, by William P. Young? All I can say is WOW! If you are looking for a book that is sure to get people talking, read this one. 

We decided on the following books for the upcoming months, have you read any of them?

by Karen Joy Fowler

by Anthony Doerr 

by Mavis Cheek

by Daniel Mason 

Book Club done...easy.

ON TUESDAY...all that is Chateau Mango and Persian Melons

Left side of house, new colour..right side, old colour. 

The consensus on the house colour was unanimous...stay true to Chateau Mango. Mr. H was very happy with your vote. Minor glitch on that one, I only had two colours to choose from. Our original colour was no longer available so I had to quickly decide between Orange Julius and Persian Melon. The closest match was Persian Melon. I told Mr. H not to worry, he would hardly notice the difference. Done, decided...let the paint cans roll in. 

Top to bottom...melon to mango. 
Well, they is probably a better colour... softer, lighter and all the other things you try and tell yourself when you are not sure if you made the right choice. At the end of the day, it is not mango, at least not a ripe mango. It is more like a green mango. Change the house name to Chateau Green Mango? I think not. Chateau Melon, Chateau Limoncello? No and No. 

Newly painted Chateau Mango, 2012

Newly painted Chateau Mango come limoncello, 2015

Really, it is all how you look at it in the light. In the early morning and later afternoon hours, when the sun casts a warm glow over the house, it is perfect. At noon, when the sun is it's is best to go shopping. 

Mr. H has been travelling all week and has not seen it yet. I may have to go with the "you must be colour blind" you think he will notice the difference? 

Chateau Mango forever and spirit.

ON WEDNESDAY...back at the farm

I have been pouring over gardening books and photographs this week as we tweak our landscape plans, more specifically, as we contemplate the shape and size of the stone retaining walls that will one day, pull everything together. 

Who knew a stone wall could be so is that 'curve' again, to curve or not to curve, that is the question. 

Gertrude Jekyll helped put it into perspective when she described a garden..

'the garden to the west of the house 
abounds in charming surprises. 
It's various subdivisions are linked together 
in a simple general design. 
Each section shows some distinct way 
of making a garden picture, 
and each entices onwards 
to the next by the charm of mystery 
and the stimulus of pleasant anticipation 
of something still better to follow.'

by Gertrude Jekyll (with Sir Lawrence Weaver)
Published, 1912

A garden picture,

Once upon a garden...Tahilla Farm

enticing onwards,

by the charm of mystery,

pleasant anticipation,

of something still better to follow. 

 Words to feed the gardening soul.
I say we find the 'curve' in the charm of mystery.

ON THURSDAY...I should have skipped Thursday all together

via Etsy

I will just say it once.

If ever you feel the need to change your hair colour  a week before you son's wedding, as in go from light to dark...semi-blonde to brunette...don't. Stick with reading a book, painting your house and planning a garden... it so much easier.


Update on the Mother of the Groom dress..we are getting there. I am happy with the two outfits I had made with one minor hiccup ( at least I hope it is minor). The dressmaker left a large chalk stain smack in the middle of the dress. Not a good look. They are sending it to the dry cleaner and assure me it will be fine. Dry cleaning and silk...not sure about that one. Worst case, they start from scratch and make it again...I still have time.

IT IS FRIDAY EVENING...and the air is dense in the sweet scent of jasmine.

I am wondering.... if I should have added an extra week to my writing challenge. I  probably would have stayed out of trouble if I had...I am sure my hairdresser thinks so. ;)

On that are you???  Thank you SO much for your comments on my recent posts. They are truly inspiring. I have been meaning to get back and respond to them all...and to answer those lingering questions about life in Saigon and travel tips for Vietnam. A few things got in the way this week, but I will get to them, promise!


Sending wishes, heavy on the scent of jasmine,
for a wonderful weekend!

Jeanne xx

Blooming at Chateau Mango this week,
a peachy-pink bougainvillea.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

A Recipe for Friendship...#28

28 Day Writing Challenge...a recipe for friendship
Click on photo to view

This is the final post of my 28 Day Writing Challenge..
which turned out to be a 36 Day Challenge. 
Not perfect but close enough.

If I had to sum it all up...
I would say it was a wonderful recipe for friendship. 
A perfect blend..of friends, old, new and shared...
from around the globe. 
The photo collage above and list below 
is a testimony to all.


Talked about

Made decisions

Travelled to
and snow

with a 

Would I do it again?
Yes...but I would choose my timing wisely.

What did I learn?
Writing every day is one thing, writing and publishing a blog post every day is another. I picked 28 because the idea came to pass on February 1st. Seemed simple enough, shortest day of the month. In hindsight, perhaps I should have picked a month when I was not travelling back and forth across the International Date Line...maybe one horizon too many?  But it did make for interesting blog least for me. Shangri-La one day, waist high in snow the next...what's life without a little adventure?

As I mentioned in my last post, it was your thoughts rather than mine that I found most intriguing. This past year I found it difficult enough to keep up with Collage of Life...let alone a second blog. But through the writing challenge, I realised, like my blog about life in England, one day my story about life in Vietnam will end. I have experienced so much living in Vietnam and seeing that I love to is the time. I am back to Expat Diary: Viet Nam with fresh ideas and a new focus.

How often will I write?
I have always had the sense that once a week is a good fit for me and you.  I have some big decisions coming up and seeing that you all are so good in helping me make may hear from me more than once a week.

I had to put my photography class on the back burner. There is only so much one can do. I have a bit of catching up, eight weeks worth...wish me luck!

There were several topics that I planned for this writing challenge that are still sitting in my idea file. I long to share my travel experiences and offer travel tips. I thought the writing challenge would be an ideal time to pull it together. I need more time...and thankfully, now I have it.

As to those questions about life in Vietnam, your answers are coming. I promise!

I know I have said it over and over and over again but I feel I need to say it one more time. THANK YOU for reading along and sharing your thoughts and just for being you. The comments coming in from my last post have kept Mr. H and I totally enthralled. You are amazing!

With that I send you wishes for a Happy Women's Day
We hold the universe together..
in a warm embrace of support and friendship. 



and to the men reading along


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