Christmas, Coconuts and Operation Xin Chao

'Room At The Top'
Mason Maloof Designs


People often ask me what I enjoy most about living in Vietnam. It's a long list but right there at the top has to be spa treatments. Massage, scrubs, facials, reflexology, mani, pedi...I am all for it. I am not afraid to admit it...I am a spa junkie.

So...the other day, there I was, ready to move into relax mode with a coconut scrub massage to the tunes of that all relaxing spa music where Tibetan bells ring and birds sing. It was perfect, until the music suddenly switched to...O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree. 

I lost the spa like trance on the first verse. I started to count how many days till Christmas and how many days before I leave Vietnam to return to Tahilla Farm in New Hampshire (25). Which started me thinking about the flurry of activity happening at the house and the flurry of snow that will someday embrace our little house in the woods. When I started mentally counting how many pairs of snowshoes we had ordered in August in anticipation of these snowy white flurries I knew I was doomed.

If I wasn't covered in coconut oil I would have been off the massage table leaving a trail of coconut essence behind me. But I was only into 15 of my 75 minute massage with a 60 minute facial to follow (120 minutes of Christmas music).  All I could do was plan as I went along. Christmas trees, lights, presents, food, wreath, decorations..all were considered and reconsidered. I think I fell asleep somewhere in the process..waking up to O Little Town of Bethlehem. Is it me, or is it a bit early to be playing Christmas music?

When I finally slipped out of the treatment room, I was greeted by my eldest daughter Christine who was also humming a holiday tune. We were sharing a mother and daughter spa day as a result of Operation Xin Chao.

Our family loves surprises and even better when they can pull one over on me. Mr. H is the master of surprises...and takes great pride in his stealth like surprise abilities. You name it, my wedding ring, our honeymoon and my 40th birthday party are just a few of his surprises of pride. He had willing partners in surprise with my son, Connor, and my eldest daughter, Christine. They planned it all a few months back and I was totally clueless. No surprises there.

Last week, I had my head in the refrigerator while taking stock of how many eggs we had (as you do) and suddenly felt someone grab me from behind. I was talking to Huyen, our woman about the house, and could not for the life of me understand why she was grabbing me. Was I about to unlock some mystery in our egg box? Shocked, I turned and there was Christine yelling 'SURPRISE!" They were all beaming, knowing that OPERATION XIN CHAO (as they all affectionately termed it) came off without a hitch. They got me...again. I love surprises...which might be why they go to such extremes to surprise me. ;)
*(xin chao translates to "hello" in Vietnamese)

THE DRIFT- Philippines and Vietnam 
Christmas, Coconuts and Operation Xin are probably getting the drift of the past few weeks. Since my last post, Connor returned home for a two week school holiday and we packed and unpacked our bags as we all travelled to Manila, Hue and Hoi An. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that we have been on the move. Christine and Connor have since returned to Australia. Christine went by way of Hong Kong and a typhoon that kept here there for an extra 24 hours. We managed to divert Connor out of typhoons way and sent him directly back to Sydney from Vietnam. And here I sit, tapping away, with Tika by my side and  Mr. H in Cambodia. We are packing our bags again for a 29th wedding anniversary celebration. And then... it will be 19 days until I return to Tahilla Farm.

There is more. It's all happening, the hustling and bustling and last minute decision making.  I am returning to prepare for the much talked about CHRISTMAS FAMILY REUNION. Am I excited? Yes! Nervous? Yes! The house should be 'move in' ready when I return (25 days). Moving day (27 days) has been scheduled and the rest will happen as it happens. I am debating whether I should unpack by myself, taking it box by box as a means of celebrating the end. I have a feeling I may regret that decision by box three. I am still deciding on that one. Any advice?

While I am counting days, in case you are wondering... there are only 77 days until Christmas!

If you are a 'visual' person like me, and often skip the text to look at the photographs, this is what I have been doing since my last post.  For me, travel is in the moments...and these were pretty special to me. I tried to keep it to ten photos...but I couldn't. ;)

Along a mountain road, a view to Long Co Bay
between Hue and Danang, Vietnam
Photo taken by Christine Henriques

Afternoon Light
Imperial City
Hue, Vietnam

The beauty of San Agustin Church
Manila, Philippines.

Embracing Spanish Colonial history
Casa Manila.
Manila, Philippines.

Resting flower
Thien Mu Pagoda
Hue, Vietnam

 Imperial City
Hue, Vietnam flight
Hue, Vietnam

Burst of color
Imperial City,
Hue, Vietnam

White on White
La Residence Hue
Hue, Vietnam

Golden Splendor
Tomb of Khai Dinh
Hue, Vietnam

Evening Stroll
Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunset on the Thu Bon River
Hoi An, Vietnam

Lantern Love
Hoi An, Vietnam

Past and present along the Perfume River
Hue, Vietnam


 We finally have lift off on our entrance, 
no more ladders!
Stone Steps Rising
Tahilla Farm, New Hampshire

As always, thank you so much
for stopping by and reading along. 
I am forever grateful 
that you take the time to do so. 
I am coming up to six years of blogging 
and many of you are still with me. 
You are a blessing. 
Thank you!

Jeanne xx

More travel photos 
on Instagram, here


  1. Jeanne,

    It sounds as if you have had a fabulous and busy few months! I laughed out loud about the Christmas music because I was watching the news a few minutes ago and they just mentioned that a radio statio in Va. Just started playing Christmas music!

    It is a it early I think but it guess I will go with the flow.

    You have an exciting few weeks coming up with your anniversary and the move culminating with the first family Christmas! I think we/your readers are as excited as you are.

    I am looking forward to seeing all og the beautiful fabrics, paints and finished that you picked out. I think they will be beautiful.

    Have a wonderful time Jeanne, enjoy it all, even when you are knee deep in boxes.

    Happy 6 blogging years! I for one and happy I found you in the big world of blogging.

    Take care my friend,


    1. Thank you Elizabeth, it means a lot to me that you are still reading. xx

  2. I love your blog postings. Blessings and love and smiles across the miles

  3. Thank you for the smiles, laughs, dream nourishment, and another spectacular post!
    Hoi An looks simply gorgeous. "Evening Stroll,"...photographs like that feel like they come with a sound and scent app.

    1. Thank you Maywyn! I wish there was a sound and scent app...who knows maybe someday! ;)

  4. Lovely photos. I can't believe there are only 77 days until Christmas. It still feels like summer here. It happens to me every year. I think it's still August because it's so warm and before I know it, it's Christmas eve and I am in a panic.

    1. Like me Loree...Christmas Eve and a panic. I know it well! ;)

  5. Those photos are magnificent and Tahilla Farm looks majestic!!

  6. Are you telling me in 27 Days you depart Vietnam?!!!
    That went SO fast!
    A beautiful Post.
    That Mister H and his surprises!!!Bravo!!I knew I liked this GUY from the Get Go!

    1. Just back at Tahilla for a few months Elizabeth and then back to Vietnam in January. Each trip is a little bit longer..thanks so much for stopping by, I will pop over! :)

  7. What a cheerful post sharing your lovely family and life as an expat! I SO enjoy following along vicariously on your travels, Jeanne! Have a beautiful weekend! xoxo

    1. Thank you Sandy...I soooo appreciate you following along! xxx

  8. Jeanne
    Those photos are ALL stunning! Such talent and what views and travels. I do so enjoy your posts and watching you live such a varied and exciting life -- although I sometimes suspect you must be like a swan and only show us the serenity and not the frantic organisation going on behind the scenes which keeps all the family and Tahilla wheels oiled and fully functioning in the right direction. Wishing you the same joy and happiness as you countdown to Christmas as your blog and photos give to all your followers.
    Ceri x

    1. Thank you Ceri...I get pretty close to showing anything but serenity on the blog, at least I think I do. Nice to know I am keeping it in check. I certainly have my moments...and could write about it at length! I truly apprecaite your comments... xxx

  9. All the wonderful family surprises and travel. Philippines offerings and Vietnam’s complement each other .My wife, Cheri, understand very well how relaxing and pampering the effect of complete spa treatment.

    Preparing for winter in New Hampshire at the Tahilla Farm sounds exciting.
    I love all the photos.

    Happy weekend.

    1. Thank you so much Edgar...I am glad Cheri shares the same appreciation for spa treatments! All the best to you both. :)

  10. I didn't just start at the pictures, I read every word and love all of your surprises! It sounds like it's been a wonderful time and a whirlwind - seems so fast that you will be departing in 27 days! Tahilla Farms looks beautiful and adore the stacked stone! Off to do a little Christmas shopping now...

    1. very kind, thank you! I agree, there is something about stone..I love it too! Happy Shopping! :)


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