December 29, 2014

Come sit with Vietnam

Come sit with me...

I recently received a message from a friend asking me to consider eight women who have touched my life, eight women that I would like to sit at my table. She asked me to forward the following message along, which I did. I then started thinking, why stop at just eight when there are so many people, men and women, who have touched my life. So here it is, I count YOU as one who as touched my life. You are reading these words, that in itself is the greatest compliment one could receive and for that I am truly grateful. 

December 21, 2014

There's glory in the garden....

Our English winter garden.

" Seeds for next year all ordered. 
Now what am I going to do for the rest of the winter?"

Chateau Mango, Vietnam
I had to laugh when I read Hilda's message on Facebook as I know she will most likely be in for a long winter...and then, when that first sniff of spring comes along..she will be out the door in a flash with spade in hand. Her comment brought back memories of our winters living in England. The photo above was a scene from our garden  These days, my winters are spent tending orchids and lotus blossoms in our garden in Vietnam. Visions of English snowy gardens are a distant memory. Although, even from Vietnam, I can sympathise with Hilda, with a long winter ahead, what comes next?

My Northern Hemisphere friends will wonder what I am doing talking about gardens just days before Southern Hemisphere friends will be right with me. There will be a point to this post for my New England friends...promise!

There is a Chinese proverb.. "life begins the day you start a garden". Having recently finished my second season with a veggie garden, I have to agree. Well, kind of. Agony and Ecstasy also comes to mind. Ecstasy when seedlings burst forth with pride...and agony when you realise you made a mess of things. The good news is that agony lasts about five minutes with me. There is always hope, there is always a garden to be appreciated and scrutinised. Tomorrow is another day.

Tahilla Farm Garden

When planning a veggie and herb garden I like to look further afield.
There were quite a few gardens I admired this past summer....

My gardening inspiration...the beauty of others.

When friends come calling...vegetables.

My only regret this past summer was that we could not eat all the veggies that grew in our garden fast enough. Timing is everything when your gardening season is short. I realised this year that I do not need to plant eight seedlings of hot chili pepper which arrived in abundance about three days before I left Tahilla Farm. If I want an August tomato crop I have to get onto the plants early on. I overdid it on the zucchini...and totally misjudged the "wildness" of lemongrass. A resident groundhog had a feeding frenzy on our lettuce and I was told by an avid gardener that I was "over zealous" in my mulch application...hence slow growing lettuce. Friends share and share alike in vegetables and gardening tips, I love that. I took notes and am ready to get back in and try six months.

Summer bounty...Tahilla Farm

If I lived at Tahilla Farm, I would have this covered. There is a wonderful lecture in the gardening circuit in Vermont next month. If you live in New England  ( New England friends take note) and want to know all there is to know about growing vegetables...check this out. 

Latchis Arts presents Garden Inspirations: 
Growing Vegetables
a day of interesting insights 
on growing vegetables from three local farmers, 
as well as acclaimed TV personality Roger Swain, 
knows to millions as the host of the popular 
PBS show, "The Victory Garden.".  
The event will be held 
on Saturday, January 24, 2015, 
from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., 
at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Only 100 tickets available, I wish I could go!
If you are interested or think perhaps 
that this would make a brilliant
last minute Christmas gift, click here 

Information on  "Garden Inspirations: Growing Vegetables" here

No matter which hemisphere you live in,
four seasons or one,
I am sure you will agree...

There is peace within a garden
A peace so deep and calm
That when the heart is troubled
It's like a soothing balm

There's life within a garden
A life that still goes on
filling the empty places
When older plants have gone

There's glory in the garden
at every time of year. 
Spring Summer Autumn Winter
to fill the heart with cheer

So ever tend your garden 
It's beauty to increase
For in it you'll find solace
And in it you'll find peace

English Poet
Lady Rosamund Langham



Jeanne xx

Christmas past, England

December 8, 2014

Adventures in New England....

I am not sure which I was more excited about,
visiting family and friends, 
seeing the latest developments at Tahilla Farm,
 or the anticipation of donning my winter gear 
after a three year hiatus.

Either way..
I was busting with joy,
all the way from Saigon to Hong Kong to 
Chicago to Manchester, New Hampshire. 

Never mind that Mr. H booked me on the LONGEST flight EVER..
(significant cost savings, says he) or that I was ill mid-flight with eight hours to go, 
or that I arrived in Chicago to realise I was a day early and as a result..
had to take the only rental car left in the lot...
a red four times the cost of what I had booked.

Never mind that within 20 hours of arrival I would be checking myself
into the Emergency Room at our local hospital feeling like I was at death's door.

I was in New England...
and that my friends was worth all that came before me 
(except the emergency room part).

It took a bit longer that anticipated to get back on my feet...but when I did,
I went running to the hills of Tahilla Farm where my winter gear awaited me.

and a whole lot of trucks. 

and more trucks.

and Mr. H's "Master and Commander" curved window
in progress and a whole lot more. 
Was I still excited? You betcha.

Ice covered winterberries...

and mossy covered icicles 

were as welcome a sight as the view peeping 
between our stone walls.

Even when the diggers arrived to lay the underground electrical wires, 
pulling apart our stone walls...I looked on in fascination.

There were many consultations 
with Sheldon the Architect and Tim the Builder
and then the serious dig began 
as I dragged a garden bucket around with me, 
unearthing remnants of the construction process. 
Forget that I looked like a half mad foolish woman...
I needed to connect.
And I did. 

 After all...I am a New Englander.
When the call comes to connect with the land, you have to go with it.
To this I say, to each her own. 

 I just simply took it all in...
in black and white

 and colour.

A stariing contest with the goats of Juniper Hill Farm, they won. 

 Before I knew it, my imaginings at Tahilla Farm were over 
and I was on the move again, heading north..
but not before the first snowflakes 
of a mighty storm started blowing in.

After the snow storm, Tahilla Farm by Tim the Builder

My anticipated two hour drive took six.
All the while, Miss Claire, my lovely daughter,
exclaimed what a beautiful sight it was to be driving in snow.

White knuckled from gripping the steering wheel
and cursing the snow gods..I felt otherwise.

With each passing Ford pickup truck, I wished that we owned one.
They glided effortlessly along the highway as my lighter weight
comrades in snow skidded and slid off the road.

It was steady as she goes for this driver
and my luck was with me for this is what greeted us.

White on white...with a flash of red, white and blue,
a beautiful sight in New England. 

I had died and gone to heaven (figuratively speaking).
We were in a New England winter wonderland with family for Thanksgiving.
From our last Thanksgiving in the USA in 1998 to our first since, in 2014.
I only wished that the rest of our clan could have been with us.

It is beautiful countryside...
what we (family) call the "Highlands" of New Hampshire.

On a clear day, you can see the mountains of Vermont.

Every experience is special...from the barn door...

to the welcoming fires that always burn bright in this hearthside.

On Thanksgiving day, we tucked into a 25 lb. turkey, 
cooked by my very talented sister-in-law 
and her sous chef in training, her son.
It was a day to remember...forver and ever.

My only regret was that it passed too quickly.

From the "Highlands" of New Hampshire 
we travelled to a little town by the sea in Massachusetts.
Two and a half hours of clear driving..a welcome relief.

If you have follow Collage of Life, 
you may recall that I hail from Cape Ann, north of Boston.
The days of my youth were spent by the sea, a place
where my family still lives.

Travel through the towns of Rockport, Gloucester, 
Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea
and you will think you have driven into a painting.

always comes to mind for me.

As much as I love a winter's day in the woods, 
there is something wonderful 
about winter winds whipping off the sea. 
It is one of the things I love about New England,
you can have it all.

Before I knew trip had ended. 
I spent my last night at an airport hotel struggling 
with the weight of my luggage
while taking in a winter sunset over Boston.

My flight to Vietnam was as eventful 
as my arrival into the USA two weeks earlier.
Mr. H heard all about it..
from Boston to Chicago to 
Tokyo to Saigon..on deaf ears.
When there is a savings to be had..he is all ears.

And there I sat these past days, in Saigon, 
in a jetlag stupor 
wishing I was wearing my winter gear and
feeling every inch 
of this Richard Diebenkorn painting when....

Richard Diebenkorn via

I received this photo from Tim the Builder with
three simple words..(always a man of few words).
"view family room"

Jetlag be gone!

"View Family Room" by Tim the Builder

Our imaginings are taking shape.
We have a room with a view..well almost.
This is where we hope to one day be sitting, 
in the "Lowlands" of New Hampshire,
with family from the "Highlands" of New Hampshire,
with the hearthside ablaze..and a turkey in the oven.
(assuming I survive the flight from Saigon).

And with that I say goodnight!
Wishing you happy days and good health!

Jeanne xx

Photos were taken by me, in my travels
with the exception of two by Tim the Builder,
Tahilla Farm snow and the "view family room".
More photos on my Instagram page here.
The painting by Richard Diebenkorn
can be found here.

November 13, 2014

Gathering the minutes of life...Sydney, Hong Kong, Saigon

I am setting you up, 
leading you gently down the blogging post path.
Inhale...slowly...deep breath..out..slowly
Gaze at the lovely orchids below, shimmering in the glow
of the morning sun in Saigon..with a Buddha
ushering in tranquility in the distance.
How are you feeling?

Hold onto that thought (if you are somewhat relaxed)
It is about to change.

But first...

October 22, 2014

Moving along….in more ways than one

I have been asked how things are moving along at Tahilla Farm…our home away from home in New Hampshire. So much has happened, so quickly, that I am not sure where to begin.

For the love of a little farmhouse…
For those of you who are new to Collage of Life…the Tahilla Farm story began in 2012 with a search for a house down a country road…somewhere in New England. I found it in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire. The property (35 acres) has a historic colonial house built in 1790, a barn and a carriage house. Once we bought the house we started thinking….and haven't stopped.

An eye to a meadow and a stone wall,  Tahilla Farm,  July, 2014

The land...
There was a time when our little house overlooked far distant fields, most likely for animal grazing. Since then, and we are not sure how long it has been, trees and more trees reclaimed the land.  In between the trees, we caught a glimpse of a mountain top. With the help of landscape designer, Gordon Hayward, a plan was developed to bring back the fields, meadows and a view to the mountain. Gordon then introduced us to forester, Swift Corwin and master stone craftsman, Dan Snow. Our luck was with us.  In 2013 and 2014 trees were cleared, the land was tilled and broken down fieldstone walls took their rightful place once again.

View to a mountain, before and after…Tahilla Farm,  2012 and 2014

The house...
If you refer to the picture below, you will see that there are three parts to our house. The original home, built in 1790 and two wings, left and right. The one on the left contained the master bedroom. The one on the right, the kitchen, dining, porch and guest room. The 1790 section has two bedroom with adjacent baths, a finished attic, and the original study and keeping room. Although it was well suited to the previous owner, an elderly woman living on her own, we knew it would not suit our big bustling extended family who frequently visit. We set the ideas in motion with the help of Sheldon Pennoyer, our insightful architect who takes all our crazy ideas in stride.

The "before" photo, taken August 2014

In the past six weeks, a team of industrious men and women have been hard at work taking it all apart and starting anew.  In the historic house, we are replacing the siding, insulating and replacing the roof, replacing windows, putting fireplaces back in working order and changing bathroom fixtures. The team recently finished building a new foundation, see photos below. Our little 1790 house will withstand the element for many years to come…holding back rain and wind, keeping the occupants inside comfy and cozy during the winter months.

Sheldon's plans for 1790 upgrade

What will be…
From the historic section of the house we will once again have a "family wing" which will contain an open plan kitchen/living space, extended day porch, entry porch, foyer, half bath and mudroom.  The operative word in this section will be "windows" there will be plenty of them. Our views will be to the west and the east, taking in mountain views to the east and a woodland setting to the west.

The "master wing" went back to the drawing board for a second time after the removal of our old and ailing maple tree, "Martha" in August When she came down and exposed views to the mountain, we scrapped our plans and decided to reconfigure the space to take advantage of the mountain views. Our views will extend to the east and south.

In addition to all of this, we are moving our barn back a few feet to allow for all the changes.

I thought it would take weeks to take down the two wings and just as long to dismantle the barn. Not so…I think it took three days…max.   BOOM..down and out.

View to "family wing" foundation, far left and the barn, above.

In just six weeks, two wings have come down, two foundations have been poured, with one more to go for the master wing. We are nearly there.

You might ask how I am keeping my sanity through it all. The answer: complete trust in the team we selected to do the job. We have every confidence in their ability and with just six weeks down and many more to go, we have not doubted our decision. I am sure there will be surprises along the way, we have already had a few. I will be back in a few weeks to check on the progress, in the meantime, I remain optimistic…and somewhat sane. 

Through the miles...

I mentioned that things were moving along in more ways than one...
I seem to be in a constant state of motion as well. I am writing this post from Hong Kong. Last week I was home in Saigon and the week before that in Laos. Next week I am back in Saigon and then off to Sydney…and then the USA. In fact over the next six months, I will be counting more air miles than ever before. Two trips to Australia, two trips to the USA, back to Hong Kong, a trip to Japan..and it goes on. I am not complaining but I admit it is challenging in the face of the travel risks we face today. All I can do is fly smart, consider where I am going and plan accordingly. The one things that keeps me going is that all these trips are connected to visiting with my children. I would go to any length to be with them…even travelling around the world and back again.

A busy year?…you betcha! Though all the miles I keep my sights set on my family and a little farmhouse down a country road. It's worth the miles!

Before I go…I always like to leave you with a little something that will hopefully brighten your day.

While working at Tahilla Farm this summer I created a playlist of my favourite songs. They suit the environment, a little bit folksy..and thoughtful. I am thinking you might like a few of them too. I hope you do!


Build Me Up From Bones by Sara Jarosz

With that I say farewell and send you best wishes..
wherever you are in this crazy world of ours.

Jeanne :)

I post regularly on Instagram.
You can find me here.
Hope to chat with you over there as well!