Thursday, September 27, 2012

From Maine to New Hampshire....


From the seashore..




to the rivers...



to the country...






Maine and New Hampshire are beautiful this time of year.
I am in the midst of my travels...stopping in to say 
congratulations to Cate for winning my Vietnamese cookbook giveaway. :)

Apologies for the delay!

Jeanne xx



Friday, September 21, 2012

A giveaway, blog talk, jet planes and 'pot city'




From Vietnam...with love.. a Giveaway

Rather than saving the best for last, I am going to start with it...for those of you in a rush, I don't want you to miss this wonderful Vietnamese cookbook which I am delighted to give away. Secrets of the Red Lantern was written by Pauline Nguyen with her brother Luke's helping hand and Mark Jensen. This is more than just a cookbook, it is a journey, one that is rich in history, one that takes you from war torn Vietnam to Australia and back to present day Vietnam. I keep this book and two others written by Luke close at hand. They wander with me from kitchen, to living room to porch to bedroom and back to the kitchen again. It is that kind of story...it sweeps you up and offers wonderful recipes, all beautifully photographed.  If you win this cookbook, or are so tempted you want to run out and buy it...I promise you that your house will smell as wonderful as ours...and the taste (if you like Vietnamese food) will be sumptuous and memorable.

What do you have to do to enter? Just leave a comment... or write to me, jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com and I will gladly enter your name into the pot. I will draw the winner
on Monday, September 24 at 6:00pm.



Speaking of comments.... 'capcha free'

I would like to take a brief moment for a bit of blog talk...the technical kind. I don't know about you...but I groan, sigh and dramatically fall off my chair every time I see this...'CAPTCHA' codes. Actually, it is more like a shriek, when I am reading and commenting via my iPhone...something I regularly do. You can imagine my surprise when a kind reader, Shirley, wrote to ask if I could turn them off on my blog. I had no idea I was also putting other poor readers through the same agony. I am now 'captcha' free ( I hope) and am still able to screen my comments before they are published. I may pick up an occasional spam comment now and again but it is worth it if it makes it easier for people to leave a few words at the end of a post. Especially for those of you who do not have a blog and find the whole process daunting. If you still find it difficult to comment, please let me know! I am a great believer in keeping it simple...
Want to turn off you 'captcha' codes? It is simple...Teri will tell you how... here






Leaving on a jet plane...again...

I am heading back to the USA on Thursday to see my daughter, Miss Claire, who recently started her first year of college. Parent's Weekend is calling and I am answering...by way of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut. I had this brilliant idea, months ago, to start house hunting for property in Maine and New Hampshire and tie it into this trip to see Miss Claire. You may wonder...didn't I just move to Vietnam? Yes...but...well...life has a way of taking many interesting twists and turns, as we all know too well. One day, that fork in the road will come again... if only for part of the year, I want to be ready when it does. It may be a dream...but they do have a way of becoming reality, especially when you have a determined woman at the helm. I have 980 miles to drive in 10 days...solo...in peak autumn weather. Timing is everything. :)


Before I leave you.....

I have to share a little excursion I took recently in search of garden pots. If only it was as simple as the ones above...I may not still be nursing the headache that started last week if it were. I was told the place to buy pots was outside of Ho Chi Minh City, that it was better to go to the source than buy from the local shops. It all sounded good in theory until I arrived...


 I can handle the odd few...



but put them all together...




and my head starts to throb.


I looked one way and then the other in the opposite direction, 



and thought..surely some little imps were playing tricks on me.




I want to meet the person who can walk into this sort of atmosphere
and say 'that one, that one, that one and that one. Done!'
It sure wasn't me on this occasion.


I do have my favourites and some that I will happily leave for another.




You might wonder if I purchased any pots that day? The answer is no.
I obviously took a lot of photos...and since then I have been
observing each one and working on a plan. What I don't need is 'pot city' 
happening in my garden, what I do need is a selective few 
and maybe just a few more than that.

With that, I leave you with the biggest thank you ever 
for the lovely comments and birthday wishes
you left on my last post. I wish I could meet you all in person, 
you have to be some of the most genuine, warm and lovely people on this earth.

You know, if and when you are ready for an adventure, 
of the Asian kind, you know where to find me.
Chasing bicycles in Vietnam, per usual....

My favourite picture of the day, streetside... in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Don't forget to leave a comment for the giveaway..
as many as you like. :)

Jeanne xxx



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In her 'fiftyish' year...she thinks...



Vietnamese persimmons

If my daughters were here, they would raise an eyebrow and head for the hills. They would say..."Here she goes again". Perhaps it is the change of seasons (or in my case, lack of) or perhaps it is because today is my birthday (shhh) or perhaps it was the generous gift of a luscious bag of persimmons, fresh from the hills of Dalat, Vietnam.

I am having one of those deep introspective moments which I am sure many can relate too.

Here is what I am thinking.....

More and more, as the days pass in Vietnam, I look through my camera lens and see extraordinary things. Some photos are not necessarily what one person would call beautiful but then again...we all have our own thoughts and perceptions of beauty.

As I review the photos I have taken recently, I admit I hesitate. I am looking at the world with an entirely different perspective. I started blogging nearly three years ago to talk about our life and experience in England. It was not difficult to find wonderful shots in England. I had National Trust properties around me, London a short distance away...it was as rich in material as you could possibly imagine. But life is different, I am seeing life like I have never seen it before and I am finding it fascinating...but will you?

I know exactly which readers are throwing up their arms in exasperation...my intrepid travellers...I know what you are thinking. But still I wonder, should I leave my Vietnam explorations for another blog and focus on other things or just carry on...at the end of the day does it really matter? Some will say yes, some will say no...I think it is probably crazy that I am thinking this way but the fact of the matter is that I am.

This is where blogging gets tricky. After a time many of us reach a stage where we look back and think... now what? Whatever a blogger's passion is, writing, photography, fashion, home decorating, travelling, cooking, reading...the list goes on....I think there comes a time when we stop, look back and think whether we want to stay on the same track or switch gears. For some, that means putting their blog to rest for a while. For others it will be a tweak here and there and perhaps a focus on a new interest. Blogger or not, I imagine many of us feel the same.

This is what I ponder these days...I am restless. It is not for lack of ideas...just lack of direction. There I said it...I need to pull it all in and focus. I will ponder that thought...for it needs time to settle.

Where are all these thoughts coming from? This may give you a clue....

Life at Chateau Mango...

Chateau Mango at noon.

As you can see, life at Chateau Mango is much the same. I thought with time and the weather, the colour might fade. If anything it seems to get brighter and I for some strange reason grow fonder. Go figure.

As we approached our driveway Sunday morning, I screeched...'Stop the Car!'. Someone would have thought we were about to run over our dog, Tika. Um...no. I happened to see this little creature making headway into our mailbox and wanted to take a pic.




My little Gecko friend is making our mail box his humble home..we have to knock loudly before entering to give him time to hide. 


Off to guard our mail.


Speaking of home, we have made a few recent acquisitions...some may recall the Buddha wood carving below. I spotted it in a shop a few weeks back and have been tossing and turning on this one ever since. Toss no more. The store was having a hefty sale and yours truly was first in line. At 8'/ 2.5 meters tall and weighing a small ton, I was very happy to see these three men arrive to hang it up for me.  I am still having a bit of a play with it all. There is a small matter of a very large fuse box just to the right of it. A friend has come up with a very clever idea which involves bamboo fishing rods. When it is complete...I will show you more.

Thinking calm thoughts in the entryway.

What happens when you move from a house with room after room of built in cupboards and storage space to one with none? Panic. This is not the first time we have been faced with this...the last was about 20 years ago. Let's just say I have collected a few books since then. 

Panic over, I picked up three Asian style book cases and put them together. They are in the upstairs landing, tucked away from view but have since become my secret little haven. I have categorised all the books, as a good Virgo mind would have it and regularly wander by just to reminisce on life. It is still a work in progress...at least that is what I keep telling myself. :)

My humble hodge podge of books.


Life is sweet...often when we least expect it. The other day, Mr. Thuan (gardener) and Mr. Khai (driver) beckoned me over to a corner of the garden. As I approached they pointed and smiled at a small bonsai tree....knowing my appreciation for these lovely specimens, they had been training a plant...quietly and with great patience. Chateau Mango has it's first bonsai plant, at it's doorstep, a daily reminder that life is precious and we should enjoy each and every moment.





I mentioned the gift of persimmons which was kindly given to me by a recent Vietnamese acquaintance. She wrote this lovely note...

Dear Jeanne

We are very very happy if you and your family like persimmon.   In Vietnam, there are lots of good fruits but each province is famous for some of the fruits, not all of them.  Such as mango, it is called "Queen of the fruit" , it will be delicious if it is grown in Hoa Loc commume,  Ben Tre and Dong Thap provinces. The other famous fruit is mangosteen.   The name and the shape of this fruit do not look attractive to those who first see it. A mangosteen is as big as a tennis ball and has the dark violet and rough skin. Yet, when peeling off the upper part of the fruit with a small sharp knife and lifting the upper part off, you can see the transparent white pulp inside arranged in equal segments. Just lifting segment by segment of such transparent white pulp to the mouth, you can imagine of having a light and pure refreshment with an easily acceptable little sour taste lingering in your mouth. My mother will be happy if you like it.  My mother is a doctor, she joins the organisation charity and usually go around Vietnam to treat the poor patients.  She usually buy a lots of fruits in each province wherever she goes. I myself is happy if you like Vietnam fruits.  Fantastic! 


I will treasure this note. It is another example of the kindness and generosity of the people of Vietnam.
I love the sweet, soft delicacy of this fruit. I have gently worked through the many persimmons, saving the pulp for a recipe for Persimmon Bread. Are you a fan of persimmons? If you are, how do you eat them...would love to know.

One for the memory book, I will most certainly, never forget this bouquet of flowers...it's a keeper!



Before I go...I promised a recipe. This is one of my all time favourite recipes...I have become a huge fan of this Vietnamese soup, Pho Bo (Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup)...it is delicious and healthy. If the ingredients appeal, enjoy. I should warn you, it has a bit of a kick...just the way I like it!

Photo by Edmond Ho and Stryke

Pho Bo
(Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup)
Serves 6 to 8
About 30 mins to prepare
1 1/2 hours to cook

10 oz. (300g) dried rice stick noodles or rice vermicelli
3 tbsp. fish sauce
1 lb. (500g) beef sirloin or flank steak, sliced into very thin pieces
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 cups ( 7 oz/200g) bean sprouts, seed coats and tails removed, blanched until cooked
2 to 3 finger-length chilies, deseeded and sliced
Ground white pepper
Sprigs of coriander leaves (cilantro), to garnish
Sprigs of basil or mint, to garnish
2 lemons or limes, cut into sections, to serve

For the broth..
2 medium onions, peeled and bruised
2 in (5cm) fresh ginger root, peeled and bruised
3 shallots
10 cups (2 1/2 liters) beef stock or 4 to 5 stock cubes, dissolved in
10 cups (2 1/2 liters) hot water
1 lb (500g) beef shank or brisket
2 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns
1 tbsp salt

Prepare the broth by browning the onions, shallots and ginger under a broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, turning several times or dry-frying them in a skillet over low heat until slightly burnt on all sides. Remove and transfer to stockpot. Add all the other broth ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming off the foam and fat that floats to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for one hour, until the beef is tender.

Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Add the dried noodles and blanch until soft, about 5 minutes for rice stick noodles or 2 minutes for rice vermicelli. Remove and rinse with cold water, then drain.

Remove the beef form the broth and set aside to cool. Strain the broth to remove all the solids and return the clear broth to the pot. Season with the fish sauce (see below) and keep the broth hot over very low heat. Slice the beef into thins slices and set aside.

To serve, place rice noodles in individual serving bowls and top with the cooked and raw beef slices, onion slices, bean sprouts and chilies. Ladle the hot broth into each bowl (the raw beef will partially cook in the boiling soup), sprinkle with pepper and garnish with coriander (cilantro) and basil or mint leaves. Serve hot with lemon or lime sections, and dipping bowls of the Fish Sauce Dip on the side.

Fish Sauce Dip
2 to 3 finger-length chilies, deseeded and sliced
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
3 tbsp fleshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp vinegar
3 tbsp fish sauce
12 cup (125ml) water
1/2 tsp salt

Grind the chilies and garlic to a coarse paste in a mortar or blender, then combine with all the other ingredients and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Yields 1 cup (250ml). Prep 10 minutes

Recipe from a great little cookbook that I found in my travels around Ho Chi Minh City, 'Vietnamese Cooking Made Easy' by Nongkran Daks, Alexandra Greeley and Wendy Hutton a 

Thinking pink...at Chateau Mango.
With that I sign off from Chateau Mango...thank you for staying with me through this longish post.
My daughters would be most impressed that you did....they also might say that we probably think alike...you and I. My guess is that they are probably right! 

Best wishes for a glorious day...evening

Jeanne xx

All photos by me with exception of Pho Bo soup (noted above)







Thursday, September 06, 2012

Jungle Jeanne of Chateau Mango and the Tropics


Bike love around the corner from Chateau Mango...

Good afternoon my travelling friends...how are we all today? May I first say...you were all so thoughtful to bolster my spirits in my last post. An avalanche of boxes has a way of making one feel a bit down trodden. I thank you kindly for your encouragement, it worked!

Yours truly has managed to get her head out of the boxes and is starting to feel a calm aura about her. Well..kind of...it might be the heat and humidity. My family would most likely giggle at the thought of me having a calm aura. Mr. H referred to me as 'Jungle Jeanne of Chateau Mango' this morning. I am still thinking on that one. Perhaps this tropical life is affecting me, it has a way of making you think and move differently...

I have come to several conclusions in the five weeks that I have been living in Vietnam...basic ones.

What to wear in the tropics? One thing is for sure, it is not the clothes I wore for an English summer. Tried that here...and nearly died. I have one rule... I do not wear shorts and I won't budge on that one. I look tragic and a woman has her standards...even in the tropics! I  have grown partial to linen and more linen... pants, loose tops, dresses, skirts...all the things I did not wear in England. I am still working on this one with a bit of trial and error. Today I am wearing a silk top I bought in Beijing ten years ago. I have had only one occasion to wear it over that time and now I am thinking it will be a regular in my wardrobe...light and breezy. I have a feeling silk and I will get along just fine in Vietnam. I have decided to think summer, think Eileen Fisher...all year long.

via

How to catch a breeze... Don't move...sit still and think about it. If you are lucky, it will magically appear. The other alternative is to whip out your trusty handheld battery operated fan ( and embarrass your family)...I just love this little device. Thank you Marks and Spencer!




Make-up...no, no, no. Unless you plan to fly from one air conditioned environment to another...I say good luck. I have learned to leave the primers, foundations etc...for another climate and now keep it simple. In the mornings I manage a whish of Guerlain bronzing powder, a dab of Laura Mercier lip gloss, a whizz of the Bobbie Brown Eyebrow Shaper and a light touch of the best product going...Laura Mericer Tightline Eye Liner...followed by Bobbie Brown Extreme Party Mascara on the top lashes only. Laura and Bobbie are smart women in my books. Less is more in the tropics...I am sure Meryl would agree...

via


Hair...up, up and away. There was a time when I thought I would have my hair cut into layers for Vietnam and now I think I must have been delusional. I would look like Little Miss Muffet who stuck her finger in a socket if I had. I find may hair going up on most days just to escape the heat. It is not my first choice of looks but in the tropics...a woman has to do what a woman has to do. I have a feeling Katharine would say the same...

via

Food....now we are talking. This has to be one of the best things about moving to Vietnam. The choice of fresh fruit, fish and vegetables with the delicate flavours to compliment, just keeps me in awe day in, day out. Ok...having someone cook all of this for us is pretty special too. We have started taking note of our favourite Vietnamese recipes and I plan to share them all. Many are from books that I bought before leaving England. I thought of Julia Child and her search for French recipes written in English and decided I would do the same. So glad that I did as it makes life so much easier. If you are interested in Vietnamese cooking...

Start with Luke Nguyen here and here....and Bill Granger here....





Sample fruit plate from the southern region of Vietnam
with a lime and chili salt dip.
It's all in the flavours and it was delicious!

That's a quick update from my side of the world. The basics...beauty and food. One has to start somewhere. :)

I am still thinking on Jungle Jeanne...I fear Tarzan is swinging on a vine not far off from Chateau Mango and there is no way I am going to start calling Mr. H 'Tarzan'!

Until next time my friends....keep smiling, make every day count and do what you love!

Jeanne xx




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