Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stepping Out…Stepping In…Smile.

Stepping up..Oudong Mountain, Cambodia

 Ever feel like you need to step out before you can step in?

You know that feeling when you get itchy feet, the mind can't quite settle and you need to 'step out', whether it be in body or mind. The remedy is often straightforward… it might be a heavy day of weed whacking in your garden, cycling along your favourite roads, kayaking to that special place that makes you hum as you glide along, having a time out at a cafe, museum wandering or sitting on a bench, watching the world go by. Wherever you go, physically or mentally…it can make all the difference. 

I have been stepping out, or rather, stepping up, in Cambodia these past few days, trying my hand at 'tag along wife' again. I think after a few attempts at this gig, I finally got it right. Ok..Mr. H will remind me that I did get in the wrong car…AGAIN…and was about embark onto adventures unknown before I realised that the whole scene had an all to familiar feeling to it. Let's just say that in my later years I have a habit of taking' happy wanderer' to the extreme. But I am ok with that...

I have been stepping out and up in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with my camera this week…before stepping back Vietnam.

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I have been getting around a bit. I will post more once I have all my thoughts together. For today, I just want to share those few photos that made me smile. That's all it took for me…a few smiles and I am ready to step back in.

Buddha. Smile.

Orange flowing monks. Smile.

Lotus love. Smile.

Old people. Smile.

Love Mother Nature. Smile.

Embrace. Smile. 

Love life. Smile.

That's all it took for me…how about you? 
Do you need to step out before you can step back in?

What does it for you?
Museum wandering
Cafe time
Watching the world go by

  Would love to know…  

Jeanne xx

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hip Hop Happening Mama and a Paleo Priest

 Hip Hop Happening Mama

A few years ago, I wrote a post about my friend Z.....and our quest to become Hip Hop Happening Mama's. We were approaching 50 and we had a plan. We aimed to be Hip Hop Happening Mama's forever more. Complaining about age was not allowed, one had to get on with it. We had guidelines..

HHHM Guidelines
What is a Hip Hop Happening Mama? 
It goes with the adage that you look as young 
as you feel.
To be a Hip Hop Happening Mama 
requires an extra pep in your step 
and a 'can do' attitude.
It is a state of mind with a little of that
 'I am woman, hear me roar' 
kind of thinking.
If you feel good, you look good. 
The aim is to keep 
the spirit going as long as you can. 
Trying is believing.

(note: 'mama' includes all women)


And here we are, a few years shy of 60 and we still believe. We admit in the four years since I wrote that that post we have had challenges... as most women do. We both had a visit from the WMF (wild menopausal fairy) , that mischievous imp, who tends to seeks out women in the  'mid-years' of life and cast a spell that lures them into blind compliance. When they awake from the spell, they barely recognise themselves and so begins the journey..again...for the quest for a Hip Hop Happening Mama.

Shannon Martin Card

Facebook: Health Kick- Around the World

I recently wrote a post  about my experiences with a personal trainer. I am happy to note that since starting a few weeks ago, things are looking up. I am taking it slowly and healthily and feel myself getting back on track. 

Knowing that I am not alone in this quest, I asked my Facebook friends if anyone would like to join me and form a support group to encourage each other in diet, exercise and mental health. I thought maybe two or three would reply and was delighted when thirty women said yes. I set up a private page and the rest is as follows...

We are spread out between Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, USA, England and Ireland..and are all chatting away. A wealth of great information has transpired these past few days. Too good not to share....

Want the Sugar Scoop: Whole vs. Processed foods?  
Watch this

Can hormonal imbalance cause weight gain? 
Read here

Interested in high protein, low carb foods? 
Read here

Want to know which cheeses are highest in protein
Read here

Interested in morning rituals to supercharge your metabolism?
 Read here

Ever wonder what to eat before and after a workout?
Read here

Want to know about Michael Mosley 5:2 diet?
Read here.

Want to know how many calories to eat to lose weight?
Read here

Interested in the Paleo diet 
and the anti-aging benefits?
Read here and here 

Have you wondered what NUTRiBULLET is?
Read here

Walking for health? 
Read here

Interested in how to get your body-
caftan ready for summer?
Read here

Do you know about the Lose it! App?
If not, read here

Are you familiar with Fitness Pal?
If not, read here

Looking to Map Your Walk?
Read here

Want your phone to count your steps?
Read here

Need a good heart rate monitor? 
I like this one

Thinking about diet and Alzheimer's
Read here

Thinking about Life and Love and Creating the Dream?
Read here

Have you read The Moral Bucket List
by David Brooks?
Read here

I enjoyed it so much that I bought his book
The Road to Character
Read here

Which brings me to Instagram and the Paleo Priest

I am one of those people who enjoys social media...I blog, so it makes sense that I would. I tell my kids that if they want to know what their mother is up to day to day, they should follow me on Instagram. I call Instagram my 'window to the world'. I love it for the glimpses it gives me to others who enjoy travel and photography the way I do. I enjoy the social connection to people who also enjoy art, style, food, architecture, gardening and the list goes on. It makes the curious...curiouser. 

It is on Instagram that I met Anita @letshavelunch who also happens to be the owner/chef  of Vue at Jindivick  Eco Bed and Breakfast in West Gippsland, Australia. Anita and I have been chatting off and on for a few months, sharing many of the same interests in life. I secretly want to be her...running an ECO B&B in the beautiful countryside of  Victoria, Australia.  It would be a great spot for a Hip Hop Happening Mama retreat!

If you are asking yourself the same question I did, "Where in the world is West Gippsland?" You will want to watch this, it is beautiful. You can also find Anita here.  

Anita asked the group...

"My local parish priest is on a vegetarian Paleo diet and looks amazing..he's 75!! I would love to make him some Paleo bread, would like to make a tried and true recipe, do you have one?"  

How sweet is that! 

I admit it...the curiouser. I had to ask about her local parish priest.

When I asked Anita if I could share the story behind her parish priest, she happily said yes.

Anita said... her parish priest has a PhD in Eastern Philosophy, shares his home with a Buddhist monk, a Yogi master and a Hindu. He is about to retire and establish his home as an interfaith ashram. 

The first thing that came to mind was Father Tim of the Jan Karon's book series the Mitford Years and Father Tim novels. I love the stories and imagine the Paleo priest would have an interesting one too..  Someone needs to write a book about the local parish priest, who follows the Paleo diet, retires and starts an interfaith Australia. I think it would make for a fascinating read!

And there you have it....Hip Hop Happening Mamas who chat on Facebook, by way of Instagram, and Collage of Life...who are looking to stay healthy and fit. How the world turns!

I wonder if our friends, the Franciscan Friars would
enjoy meeting the Paleo Priest.
I am guessing they would!

So...can I ask?

Does anyone have a tried and true 
Paleo bread recipe for the parish priest?

Do you have anything you would like to add to the list above,
 food, diet, prevention, exercise, mental health, Apps?
You can write to me at

Any health experiences you would like to share?
Something tried and true for you?


Are you a Hip Hop Happening Mama or Papa? 

Best wishes for a wonderful week!!

Jeanne xx

PS.. Many thanks for your comments on Tahilla Farm

Beep Beep from Saigon

For those of you who follow me at Expat Diary: Vietnam
...a new post here

Friday, May 08, 2015

Nine months and counting...Tahilla Farm

Greatest the most unlikely places

Conversing with the world..

Those of you who have been with me these past five plus years will know that I started Collage of Life in the midst of a move from New Zealand to England (2009) and that I continued writing through our move to Vietnam (2012). No one is more surprised than me that I am still writing in 2015.

I thought blogging would be a passing fancy, one of the many project I start and not quite finish. Instead, it has been my rock, one I sit upon, wide eyed and amazed, while conversing with the world. I am sure other bloggers would say the same. When writing friends come calling, it feels like home. 

I never in a million years would have thought it would translate to the purchase of an actual home. 

And above all, watch with glittering eyes 
the whole world around you because 
the greatest secrets are are always hidden 
in the most unlikely places. 

Roald Dahl

It started with a blog...

When people ask me how we found Tahilla Farm my answer is always the same.  I tell them it developed through the friendships created in the pages of my blog, Collage of Life.

I tell the story of Lisa, the story of Joe...and then the story of Joe and Paula and then more stories and more people... Gary, Gordon, Maude, Dan, Swift, Sheldon, Renee, TimPhyllis..and so the pages turn, in friendship and design, each earmarked for return.

On some occasions, when I am too tired to talk, which does not happen often, I tell people that I found Tahilla through a friend, end of story. My daughter Claire, always breathes a sigh of relief when I give that answer. She often reminds me that I "do not have to tell every living soul our entire life story". To which I reply, "where is the fun in that?".

 I do not see blogging in her future. ;)

All of the people mentioned above have had a hand in the transformation of Tahilla Farm.  Acres of trees were cut, a mountain was discovered and old pasture stone wall were rebuilt before we started on the house.  Last September, the trucks rolled in and it all came tumbling down ... a beloved 200 year old ailing tree, a barn and two wings connected to the original house. 

We started by raising the old house built in 1790 for much needed TLC. Shortly after, from the dust...came a new barn, two new wings to the house and a warm embrace around the original old house.

I have written often about Tahilla Farm...sharing stories and  motivations for some of our design ideas. One story in particular, Tarzan Meets Tahilla, talks about Mr. H's inspiration for our master bedroom windows. We each had our own ideas, I was thinking of the windows in the movie Something's Gotta Give and he was thinking of the windows in the sea faring vessel from the movie, Master and Commander. We compromised...the window in the photo below, top right, is in the master bedroom, with a complementary window in our dining bay (top left). The windows in the bottom left corner of the photo are within the 'great room' containing our kitchen, family room and dining space. The bottom right photo is the window view from the reading nook which connects one section of the old house to the new. Needless to say, we have a lot of windows...we started this project with three words in mind..."let there be light". I think we covered it. 

I would have thought the hardest part of this project was deciding on the architectural plans. I am going to put myself out there and say that it was a piece of cake compared to trying to sort out the interior. From my office in Vietnam, I sometimes want to bang my head against the wall and ask myself what I have done.

But like all wild passes and I get on with the project at hand. Sort of.

And then the emotions come back and I decide there is only one person who can bring sanity into my life again...and she does, every time. Our decorator, Phyllis, didn't seem to mind when I emailed her twenty shades of white PMS colours for the interior walls and asked if she could find the perfect white. I threw in one proviso...that it not be too yellow, green, blue or grey. I wanted the perfect 'calm' warm white that would compliment the artifacts and paintings from our travels and sit well with our furnishings. 

I also asked if she could help select the wood floors and stain for the new sections of the house with the request that whatever is chosen compliment the wood floors in the old house. Just a little pressure...

Mission accomplished, just as I expected. HUGE sigh of relief..until the next decision. 

I am hoping the next round of decisions can wait until my 38 days. The house will not be in 'move in condition' for several more months. I planned ahead on this one and found a little cabin in the woods to rent, not far from our house. I hope to spend the summer 'hanging' around Tahilla, finalising plans and tending to our garden...and when the floor is laid on this porch, I hope to sit in a chair with my feet up and feel the 38 days.

Porch Rising

Lastly...a special thank you to Susanne, the realtor who acted on the behalf of the previous owners of Tahilla Farm. As I was packing the house last summer, she stopped by to say hello and wish us well with the construction. In her spare time, she made the wonderful tote bag below for me. It was such a sweet gesture and so very thoughtful of her, a memory of the old and the new Tahilla Farm...where it waits for my return in 38 days...nearly 37. :)

For those of you celebrating 
Mother's Day this weekend
I wish you the happiest of days,
 filled with love and joy!

Jeanne xx

 With thanks to Sheldon, Renee and Tim 
for supplying the construction pics of Tahilla Farm

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Down the garden a plant lover's paradise

Rex Whistler illustration

What type of gardener are you? 

Are you a dirt gardener, one who loves 
the earthy scent of freshly tilled soil,
one who can't wait to dig in?

Do you don the gardening gloves or
do you like to go "au naturel"?

When fresh compost is laid on your garden
beds are you quite happy to pull up a chair
and chant "grow, baby, grow?"


Are you happy to direct and admire
and then chant "grow, baby, grow?"

Do you have a few gardening books
or could you fill an adjunct to your local library
with your collection?

Me? I love the soil, prefer to work with my hands, DO NOT love the scent of compost, and my chant is more in line with "where did I put those clippers?" I have thirty years worth of gardening spread between two countries and if you asked me to name an ordinary house plant I would look at you in dismay and whip out my IPhone to consult Google. 

In Vietnam I direct and admire. I tried to dig in the garden long ago but language and looks of exasperation from our gardener quickly put an end to my attempts. I also preferred not to touch and feel the local snakes weaving their way around our garden. In Vietnam, I definitely prefer to direct and admire.

Andre Jordan illustration via

In New Hampshire, at Tahilla Farm, I relish the thought of getting back into the garden (54 days and counting). Sure I make mistakes, plenty of them, but who cares? We live in the woods. Who is going to see?  I know that one day...I will get there. 

Am I a keen gardener? 
Do I know what I am doing? 
Do I wish I knew what I was doing? 
If only...

Under their Kousa dogwood and 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple in the front garden, Joe Valentine and Paula Hunter planted nepeta 'Walker's Low', ferns, hosts, coneflowers, boxwood and miscanthus 'Morning Light'.
Photo by Joe Valentine

Last summer, I offered to help friends, Joe Valentine and Paula Hunter of Juniper Hill Farm, with their beautiful garden in preparation of the Garden Conservancy Open Day program. I was delighted when they said yes.  Over the few days that I clipped, weeded, raked and hauled..I realised there is A LOT of work to maintaining a garden. Gardening is a true calling, it is a passion, it is a labour of love...or it can be the biggest pain in the back and neck you ever had. Sweat, dirt, flies, worms, thorns and more have to ask yourself (and I did, frequently) if this is the stuff that life is made of.  Did I really want to live in a farmhouse, in the country with all these flies and chant "grow, baby, grow" to the whiff of compost in my own garden?  

Andre Jordan illustration via

Why would I ask myself such a silly question, of course I do! I have two extremely talented gardening friends in Joe and Paula.  Joe advised me to have patience and Paula suggested that if it does not work, I can always start again. I like the way they think....I  am all for learning by example. ;)

A Garden is a grand teacher. 
It teaches patience and careful watchfuless:
 it teaches industry and thrift; 
above all it teaches entire trust.  
Gertrude Jekyll

Clipped boxwood balls on the right and dwarf Thuja occidentallis 'Hetz Midget' on the left in front of 'the great wall' line with the peastone path that leads to the terrace at teh rear of the house.
Photo by Joe Valentine

I am also thrilled for Joe and Paula and the wonderful feature of their gardens in this months issue of New Hampshire Home magazine. The article,  CREATING A PLANT-LOVER'S PARADISE is a must read for gardening enthusiasts! I can tell you from experience as both a happy wanderer and willing weed puller that this is a garden to love. I love the notion of garden rooms and there are plenty to enjoy in their two acres of gardens... a lilac garden, shade garden, zen garden, faun garden, Japanese garden, hedged garden, sitting garden, wildflower garden, a stumpery garden and even a garden for the garden shed. Oh...and a beautiful frog pond and more and more. It is a marvel, truly.  The article will fill you in on the details, it is a delight to read. Be sure to have a pen and notebook handy. 

This swath of blue flag iris came with the farm. Growing naturally in a low spot,
they marked the perfect location for the new frog pond.
Photo by Joe Valentine

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, 
everything that sets us back 
into the slow circles of nature is a help. 
Gardening is an instrument of grace. 
May Sarton

A few of Joe and Paula's
recommended garden links 
more links 

Collage of Life

One for the gardening book shelf...

by Beverley Nichols 

For more on Beverley Nichols, read here

How about you?
Are you a gardener?
A dirt gardener or do you prefer to direct and admire?
Do you have any gardening links you would like to share?
Favouite gardening books?
Would love to know!

Andre Jordan illustration via 

Jeanne xx


Monday, April 20, 2015

It started and ended with a boathouse in Maine..

E. B White in a boathouse, Allen Cove, Maine 1976
Photograph by Jill Krementz

Do you ever wonder how you get through the day..when you haven't even left the house? You might call me the Queen of Distraction. Are you that person too? You start doing one thing and before you know it you have started an endless number of tasks...and haven't finished a single one. Then you wonder what  possessed you and who is going to clean up the mess you just made? Why you of course.

If had not woken up thinking of E. B. White and your favourite photo of him typing away in a boathouse in Maine. You want to find the photo and start by scrolling through your 19,606 photos on your Pinterest boards thinking..."where did I put that photo?". You realise that it is really stupid to have so many Pinterest boards (125), you should delete some of them. But which ones? Do you really need a board devoted to Bears? You think...YES and then wonder when you had time to pin 19, 606 photos???

You never do find the photo and have to resort to Google. You wonder what the point is of having Pinterest if you can not find a simple photo. Always best to blame it on Pinterest, could not possibly have anything to do with your organizational skills. find it (above), even better that you found this one because you love the words of E. B. White..

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire 
to improve the world and a desire 
to enjoy the world, this makes it hard to plan the day."

You share the photo with friends because you know they will "get it" and you move on with your day. 

You start the day by searching for a book you can no longer remember the name of (mistake #1). If you hadn't gone looking for the book you would not have started dusting all the books on the bookshelf (mistake #2) and then taking all the books out of the bookcase (mistake #3) and categorizing them by country (mistake #4). 

You then think...while you are at might as well take out the gazillions of magazines, stacked and stuffed into the bottom shelf of the bookcase (mistake #5). It is time to let go.

You forget that there is a reason why you stacked and stuffed them all into the abyss of that bottom shelf. Before you know it, you have divided and conquered the magazines (mistake #6) and then you think...maybe I will keep them. Exhausted, you now realise you need a break.

Over lunch you start reading the book of books, Wandering Through Vietnamese Culture, all 1023 pages of it  (mistake #7). You think it will be at least ten years before you finish it. You then start to wonder where all your books on Vietnam are hiding (mistake #8)..which sends you on a mad search until they are all found and neatly stacked, close at hand by your reading chair..with all the magazines and coffee table books you left scattered on the floor before lunch. Did you even finish lunch??

Before you know it you are sitting on the floor, the world around you, in books and magazines, reading an October 2012 issue of Down East magazine (no mistake)...wondering what it would be like to live in a boathouse in Maine. You flip through and there it is, Memorandum written in October 1941..."A list of the things the writer ought to do on his own farm along the coast of Maine". by E.B.WHITE! You  are totally beside yourself and being a New Englander...appreciate that Maine charm, so you can not help giggling along. He listed all the things he ought to do...and before he knows it, the day is done and he has not accomplished anything. I get that.

Excerpts from One Man's Meat by E. B. White

I ought to find out who it is that is shooting coot down in the cove today, just to satisfy my own curiosity. 

And I should stop in and pay the Reverend Mr. Smith for the gravel I got a month or two ago and ask him if he has seen a bear. 

I ought to fix up the pigpen down there in the barn cellar and sweeten it up with a coat of whitening, so that I can get the pig indoors.

I also should take the green chair to Eliot Sweet so that he an put in some little buttons that keep coming out all the time. 

He finishes...

"I've been spending a lot of time here typing, and I see it is four o'clock already and almost dark, so I had better get going. Specially since I ought to get a haircut while I am at it."

Still laughing, because the exact same thing has happened to you (it's four o'clock) you turn to Amazon Kindle (knowing the chance of finding E.B. White books in Vietnam is next to nil) because you want to read more.

Along the way you discover Martha White, granddaughter of E. B. White, who is on a "literary mission to attract a new audience to the delights of her grandfather's witticisms, aphorisms, and notable wisdom especially about the state he loved: Maine."  Reading that reminds you that Mr. H always wanted to live in Maine and you chose New Hampshire. You wonder what E. B. White would have to say about that. You still love New Hampshire. 

Your day is ending just as it started, but even better because you have purchased the book, Essays of E. B. White. No matter that you can not remember the book that started you on this folly. You have ended the day as you began it, thinking of E. B. White..and now you know why. You were meant to buy a new book. 

You just wish he was here to help put away all the other books and magazines still sitting on your floor! But one thing is for certain, you are not tossing that Down East magazine!

Written by E. B. White

with William Strunk Jr.  1920 
4th edition, 1999
One Man's Meat (1944) 
Edited by Martha White 
Edited by Rebecca M Dale

And now onto you...
how do you fare with this list?

Me..#1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10
Might have to throw in #9 after writing this post!

Have a great day/evening everyone!!!

Jeanne xx


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