09 December 2016

Hong Kong, London, Tahilla and a Christmas Book List

Birds of a feather flock together and guard the Christmas trees in New Hampshire, USA

There is no other way to start this blog post other than jumping in and saying HELLO!  Some of you may have thought I had travelled off into the midnight blogging sky never to return...again. My great attempt to complete a 30 post writing quest by the end of 2016 has gone awry...as life often does. I have decided to postpone it for another year....when life settles down a bit. (cough, cough, if ever) ;)

If I told you what I have been up to in the past month you would think I was nuts. As I know many of you already do...I won't add to that number!

I finished off my last post with a word game, a clue to our next expat posting.  Clever me, I thought you would find it tricky.  HA! I was wrong. Many of you picked right up on it and yes, HONG KONG is our next posting. It's all happening. Mr. H recently closed the doors of Chateau Mango in Saigon and drove off into the sunset...our wonderful mango coloured home nestled under a swaying travelling palm will soon be a distant memory and a different colour. Sadly, I could not be there to say farewell, something that pulls on my heart strings.

The search is on...Hong Kong

A hunting he will go...
Mr. H is pulling double duty, and doing so admirably. He is stepping into my shoes and undertaking the task of finding an apartment for us in Hong Kong. I can hear the collective gasp from here! ;) Fortunately for him (and me), I was well immersed into the task before I left for Sydney in October and managed to determine location and apartment specifics with our relocation consultant. I am keeping a close watch from Tahilla Farm. Fingers crossed! 

I am touched by your kind comments on my 'Hello..It's Me' post and have been blushing every since. Thank you so much!

Henrietta Hippo...and the Three Franciscan Friars
I had a few questions regarding the travel plans for Henrietta Hippo. Alas, she had to stay behind in Vietnam but we did manage to find a great home for her. Our friends, the Three Franciscan Friars found the perfect spot in their Seminary library. I understand she will be taking up location in the entrance, greeting seminarians as they pass while offering a comfortable spot to sit and reflect. We couldn't think of a better home for her!

Sloane Square, Chelsea, London

The London meet cute.....
Mr. H and I met up in London last week to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. It was a whirlwind of a trip and well worth the countless hours to get there from Sydney. It was surreal to end our time in Vietnam with a trip to London, just as I had done four years ago in reverse, saying farewell to our life in England to start anew in Vietnam. I have lots to share on all of the above...stay tuned.

The welcome sign, Tahilla Farm

Tahilla Farm..and Tika
I recently returned to Tahilla Farm to get the house ready for family and friends but not before picking up Tika from her home away from home for the past two months. She has been by my side ever since, slowly following me into the woods to clip fresh greens, watching me hang wreaths and shovel snow. Yes...snow! We have been teased...a inch or two here, a dusting over there. I contacted Pete the plow man to discuss the driveway...you can never be too ready when it comes to snow.

Snowy Tahilla Farm, December 2016

And YOU?
Enough about me...how are you?? Will you be home for the holidays? Laying low or on the move?  How are you going with your holiday shopping? Done? I have a few thoughts for you if you are still looking for ideas...

The Garden Writers....Hatchards, London

I had a long 'must visit' list for my trip to London. Like so many of you, I absolutely love getting lost in bookstores and especially at Hatchards book shop on Piccadilly. Even better when the Christmas Catalogue is available. I quickly noted all the books that I could happily stack in our reading nook. I thought you might enjoy them too...they are all so delightfully English!

for the book details







Wishing you a wonderful weekend
filled with cheer and good reading!

Jeanne xx

14 November 2016

Hello...it's me

Just checking in to say...
I did something out of the ordinary recently
and booked myself a photo session.
It was time to be me.

Say what?
Yes, time to be me.

Simply said..
I hate having my picture taken.
The art of dodging an eager photographer 
is a specialty of mine. 

The only one who always 
seems to be one step ahead of me 
is my mother-in-law.
Clever woman.

I decided to 'just do it'
and where better than Sydney.

I called GM Photographics,
 a photography firm we used over the years 
while our children were growing up in Sydney.

I explained what I was looking for..
a casual photo, just me, not too fussy,
not too precious, just me...
and a touch of Photoshop.

It's high time my family had a current photo 
and after seven years, it would be nice
 to have an updated blog photo.

was the photographer for me and that was that.

Simona made it painless. 
I like painless.
She said to bring along a few outfits 
and she would take care of hair, makeup
and all the rest.

And then we got started..
in pink and then black
 and a few other colours in between.

Simona caught onto my chatty ways from the get go.
It was clear I was not going to stop talking or laughing
so she went with it.

and then she said smile with your eyes..
which put me into a fit of laughter
because I had no idea what that meant.

I tired hard to focus on the smiling eye thing
but couldn't help myself.
Laughing is me.

Simona sent me 41 photos in four different outfits.
I had to pick three and couldn't.
 Family and friends were then bombarded with photos,
more 'me' than they ever care to see again.
They narrowed them down to the four photos above.

They are 'me' and I reckon they
will do it for at least another ten years.

I am hoping my mother-in-law
feels the same way too.

Before I go...seeing that it's just me,
I have some news,
our next move is imminent..
as in our last days in Chateau Mango are over
and Henrietta has found a new home.
(weep weep)

Henrietta Hippo on the move

Farewell Henrietta...we will miss you!

Onto the next move.
Are you ready?
How good are you at word games?
This is where we are moving to next.


Answer: ?

If word games are not your thing..
stay tuned.

Jeanne xx

#4 A Quickie Giveaway

07 November 2016

What's with the Happy?


What's with the Happy?
My youngest son and I have been spending quality time together these past weeks. He is embarking on his senior year of high school, prepping for a long year in anticipation of the HSC (High School Certificate) in New South Wales, Australia.

Come study time he sits at the kitchen table working on essays for legal studies while I write and type away at a desk in the corner of the room. I like being close at hand for any questions that might come up and they often do. 

Last night he asked if I would like to read the legal essay he was working on. I always say yes...even though I know it will be far more arduous than reading and writing one of my blog posts. I read his essay, commented and then returned to my corner, slipping back into my world..usually laughing as I go. 

This begged the question... 

Mom, what's with the happy? Why do you always write about happy things? I know your life isn't always happy...why don't you write about the difficult times as well?

Well..he asked...so I told him. I figure if I can read one of his legal essays he can hear my story.

I explained to him that I write to release the conversations in my head, good and bad. There is a sense of freedom when I write...when I am feeling sad, it allows me to take the angst and turn it into something positive. Writing and blogging takes me places where I want and need to go...in the end, it always feels good. I only wish I had time to write more often.

He then asked...

Who reads your blog? Are they old...er like you?
I explained how fortunate I have been to meet like minds along the way, minds of all ages, ones with a creative spirit who embrace life and look to live it to it's fullest. Expats, travellers, gardeners, artists, writers...men and women...and the list goes on. They travel with me from country to country, year to year and often times along the way we find a way to meet. I reminded him about Lisa, Joe, Paula and the blind blogging date...a reminder that Tahilla Farm would still be a distant dream if it had not been for that date. 

I can't say that he fully grasped what I was saying (except the Tahilla part)...but it gave him pause to think about it. I asked if he would like to subscribe to my blog. He looked at the books overflowing before him and said.. maybe later...and then asked if I would like to read another legal essay. 

Happy Mother. 
Happy Place. 
Collage of Life. 

"A sense of freedom is something that, 
happily, comes from age and experience."
Diane Keaton

Let's hear it for age and experience! 

Jeanne xx

#4 A Quickie Giveaway

03 November 2016

Walking on Sunshine with Lucy, Ethel and a Winner...

Good Afternoon!

I am signing back in from Sydney 
with a view to the Harbour Bridge.
I snapped this pic on my morning walk.

I love this time of year...
when the Jacaranda trees start to burst 
with beautiful lavender blooms.

Springtime in Sydney is beautiful..
especially when you have a chance to 
chat with the local bird life. 
I am starting to see a pattern 
from our apartment window.
with two lorikeets who check in
 on a regular basis. 
They aren't quiet about it either.

It seems to be a case of which one 
can out squawk the other.
They remind me of two beloved characters 
from days gone by.
If you were a fan of I Love Lucy...
you will appreciate why I call them 

You can view Lucy and Ethel on my windowsill here

I just love watching both sets of Lucy and Ethel in action! 

And they were ever so curious when they
saw me writing, cutting, folding and looking behind
 me as I chose the winner for my

My handiwork..
picking a winner the old fashioned way.

Lucy, Ethel and I are happy to report
that Susan S is the winner!

Congratulations Susan!
Please drop me a line with your details
and I will send the book off to you.


For those who missed out, stay tuned,
there are sure to be more surprises in store.

For I so love shopping for me...and you!

Here is something fun for all you with
 a special mischief making friend in your life..
I love seeing my friends in this clip.


Best wishes for an absolutely wonderful day,
I hope it is filled with sunshine!!

Jeanne xx

#4 A Quickie Giveaway

30 October 2016

A Quickie Giveaway....


I am jumping right in here to say I am offering a quickie giveaway and am delighted to do. I just want to do it...to say thank you for your readership in my own special way. It's been a while since I have had a giveaway.  For me, it has to be something I am loving at the moment and this week I am loving a book by one of my favourite Aussie magazines, COUNTRY STYLE.

I started reading this magazine back in the day when the thought of a country home was a mere twinkle in my eye. I found myself pouring over it as I planned the renovation of Tahilla Farm. It's that good.

In this book you will find dream worthy rustic hideaways, stately rural mansions, quaint coastal cottages, converted churches, peaceful getaways, family nests...all leaving you yearning for more..trust me!

I love how they have categorized the pages...artists, foodies, gardeners, collectors, eclectics, historians and farmers. They all live between the pages, telling their stories alongside beautiful photography. This book is definitely a keeper and one I am excited to share.

Collage created by me

For those of you who cannot wait to see 
if you are the giveaway winner, you can find it
 in the USA here and Australia here

Here's how the quickie giveaway will work..

1. Leave a comment on this post

2. or write to me jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com

3.  Complete #1 or #2 by Wednesday 2 November
6:00pm Eastern Standard Time- USA
3:00pm Pacific Time- USA
Thursday 3 November
9:00am Sydney Time- Australia

On that dates/time
I will calculate a winner.


If you are intrigued and would like to read more
follow any of the following links. 

or follow me on Instagram here

When in Sydney...

While we are talking books..
Two local bookstores in Sydney 
I always enjoy visiting..
Berkelouw Books in Balgowlah

Heart to Heart...coffee time

And I love my coffee time here..

Bill's -Bondi
Bather's Pavillion - Balmoral
Bay Coffee - Neutral Bay
Woodland Kitchen - Neutral Bay
Wild Basket Cafe - Neutral Bay
Ck's Bites - Balgowlah
Ripples - Milson's Point

This morning, my friend Z. and I sipped
coffee here during a morning walk.
Great sipping!

Coffee views from Ripples at Milson's Point

And that is Post #4 

Have a great day/night
wherever you are in the world!

Jeanne xx

#4 A Quickie Giveaway

29 October 2016

Taking a "CHILL" day...in Australia

Big view on a cloudy day in Sydney.

Hello from Australia!

I am taking a break in Sydney to visit with family and friends. I have had a few questions about our Sydney connection and decided this is as good a time as any to fill you in. So here's the scoop.

The Sydney Connection..
Thirty years ago... Mr. H and I wed along the shores of New England...and the next day flew off (by way of a honeymoon in Bora Bora) to start a new life together in Sydney.

Quiet time Balmoral Beach, Sydney

Since then, in addition to our other expat travels, we have had two expat assignments in Sydney. As Aussie luck would have it, each time we settled into Aussie life... a son was born.  My first when I was 32 and the lucky last when I was 42. Our two girls were born during the ten years in between while living in Connecticut. I should add that our beloved family dog, Tika, was born in Australia too.

During our second assignment in Sydney we all became Australian citizens, adding an Australian passport to our American passport. A handy combination when travelling between countries. We also bought a house, Windswept ,which sits in wait for our eventual 'winter' retirement from expat life.

Three of our four children (and one Aussie daughter-in-law) currently live in Australia, two are based in Sydney. Daughter #1 (25 years) is spreading her wings in the world of business. Son #2 (16 years) is hitting the books in boarding school in Sydney.

Son #1 (27 years) and DIL are based in Townsville, Australia. Since I have listed all but one, I would like to include Daughter #2 (23 years) who is living in Botswana, Africa. All I can say is thank god for the Internet which allows us to  SkypeWhatsAppFaceTime and Facebook Messenger around the world. They are the threads that keeps us all together.

By the sea... Bondi to Tamarama, 

All hands on deck mom...
Visiting Sydney means I get to be an 'all hands on deck' mom again....and I love that. An extra bonus this trip is having Son #2 stay with me. It's great being a school mom again, having those hours in the car (Sydney traffic) to chat back and forth between school drop off and pick up, the hovering during homework hour, the endless trips to the supermarket to 'feed the boy', the reminders to go to bed and repeated reminders to wake up in the morning. I have been fussing and prissing and I am sure driving him crazy...but I secretly think he enjoys it...I know I do!

Lorikeet tweet

Daughter #1 recently took the big step to explore new horizons, leaving one job to start another. I am so glad I could be here in 'real time' (same time zone) to say how proud I am of her and encourage her along. We took a day out together and visited the Sculptures By the Sea exhibit from Bondi to Tamarama. It was one of those spectacular blue days that we frequently have in Sydney. We followed it with lunch at Bill's and a visit to one of my favorite shops, Aesops. It was the perfect mother/daughter outing.

I did text her on her first day of work to say... if she sees me hanging outside her new office building looking up to the sky, waving...not to worry. She asked that I please refrain from doing that as she would like to make friends in her new job.  I just love mischief making with my kids...in Australia ;)

Speaking of mischief...you know how we say it's always the little things in life that can make our day?  I had my little thing moment while driving my son to school this morning. He asked what I was going to get up to during the day. I told him I was going to take a "me" day and delve into my mindbox. He looked at me with one of those 'cringe' expressions on his face and said "Mom...NO... please don't say MINDBOX...it's weird and it makes you sound OLD. Just say you are taking a CHILL DAY."  To which I replied..."OK, I am going to take a chill day...with my mindbox."  ;)

Coffee rainbow in Sydney

Later in the day I recounted the story to a girlfriend ( Z.) over coffee and she looked at me with the same quizzical look and said "NO Jeanne...NO NO NO...it sounds like a recovery step for dementia. Please do not use the word mindbox!" I laughed hysterically as I always do when I am with her. Laughter truly is the best remedy.

So let's talk mindbox... because now I really need to talk about it.

What is it?

It's actually very simple...it's for those times in your life when you feel like you need to clear your head. For those times when you feel like your brain just might....EXPLODE...if you do not do something PRONTO.

I need to tune out before I can tune in again. I give myself five choices. I can either create, go solo, go mellow, exercise or reach out. If I can cover a few of these in the same day all the better.

'Celestial Rings' by Inge King
Sculptures By the Sea 2016
Bondi to Tamarama


On my list... 

go for a walk
listen to music
read a book
write in my journals
write a letter
write a postcard
write a blog post

get hysterical

grab a camera
 get lost 

Bondi Icebergs Pool
Bondi Beach, Sydney

escape into movie land 
with the BBC

go shopping
explore a museum
gallery hopping

get messy..
in the garden
in the house

bake brownies
bake a cake
make ice cream
eat cake and brownies
and ice cream
and drink a glass of wine
might as well go for it all

spa day


catch up
 family and friend

write to you

'Mountains Air-Circles' by Koichi Ishino
Sculptures By the Sea 2016
Bondi to Tamarama

And there you have it...my mindbox. 
At any age, it works!

 How about you? 
Any of the above helpful to you?
What you do when you need to tune out?

Have a thought?
You can leave a comment 
or write to me

As always, 
to hear from YOU!

Jeanne xx
Walking along Bondi to Tamarama, Sydney

19 October 2016

The L.L. Bean Man


L.L. Bean Man
Once upon a time...a dear friend told my about "this guy" who she called the "L.L. Bean Man" because he never seemed to wear anything else but L.L. Bean attire. He was the good friend of her boyfriend at the time and she thought we might get along. We eventually met one snowy Super Bowl Sunday in Manhattan. That was over 30 years ago and today I am happily married to the L.L. Bean Man.

For those of you unfamiliar with L.L. Bean, it is an American retail company specializing in clothing and outdoor recreation equipment based in Freeport, Maine.  You can read all about it here.

If you live in New England chances are you will have at least one item from L.L. Bean. If you happen be be a member of our family you will have lost count of how many items in our house are from L.L. Bean. This is what happens when you marry the L.L. Bean Man.

Before you know it...you become the L.L. Bean Woman.

13 October 2016

The Story of Buddha...

The Mom Talk...
I recently gave one of my children 'the talk' about setting goals, staying motivated, focused and moving forwards. After giving myself a pat on the back for a mom talk well done...I turned to my blog and realized I should practise what I preach. Just 20 posts and it is already October...yikes. So...I have set my own goal, a personal one.

The 30/60 Writing Challenge..
Here it is...Thirty posts in 60 days to be completed by December 31, 2016.  It also allows me travel time and down time and thinking time in between. And...I think it will help keep my sanity. I have roughly 80 days to accomplish this task. I think I can do it...and if I am feeling really ambitious I might just hit 40 and pass the 2015 mark of 56 posts. I have a list and a lot of air miles to cover between now and the end of the year. I think it will be fun! I hope you do too!

Happy Me! 
And...I am celebrating another anniversary this month...seven years ago in October 2009 we were packing up our home in New Zealand to move to England. And I thought...why not write about this crazy life I live in? Well, I can't believe I have blogged through three country moves with one more to come. If you are wondering where that might be....stay tuned...all will be revealed in my 30/60 writing challenge. ;)

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