Monday, March 02, 2015

A Writer's Studio..#24

Virgina McKenna on set, 'Born Free' 1966

I am easily distracted so it is no surprise that in the midst of my continued Q&A post on Vietnam that I should start to think about writer's studios. Things like that just happen..

Last summer I wrote about our inspiration for Tahilla Farm  and featured the photo above of Virginia McKenna on the set of the movie, Born Free

I noticed that the photo was for sale on ebay  by way of  Buenos Aires, Argentina and thought...why not? So I bought it and patiently waited for it to arrive in our postbox at Tahilla Farm. Weeks went by and I had nearly given up hope when it arrived. An "original vintage" photograph from 1966 and I love it. 

I packed it away with an idea in mind. I am saving it for the eventual studio in a barn. When the time comes for me to hang my hat in a room of my own, in a barn, it will be framed and hung in a notable spot. At least that is what I told myself at the time. 

My original plans for Tahilla Farm included the renovation of the barn, making way for a writing studio. I have a Pinterest file, Barn Space, in the waiting, for when that day comes.

But...a little thing called 'budget cuts' got in the way. Our ideas for Tahilla Farm grew and grew until the studio that "was to be" had to be put on hold. And that' ok for all is not lost. 

I still have a horse stall and between you and me I think this whole space will work just fine. It is as clean as they come. In fact the previous owner spared no expense for her horse. It is well insulated, has heated, padded floors and is in pristine condition. I'll take it.

Creative spaces come in all shapes and forms. For some it is that hideaway house in the middle of nowhere (I get that), for others it may be a specially designed space just for them and for others it is borrowed a horse stall in a barn.

While I am thinking about my writing space in a horse stall and the eventual hanging of my 1966 photo of Virginia McKenna ...I can't help thinking of all the places that caught my eye over the years. The photos you take because you know that one day, you will go back to them. That day has arrived, on a steamy day in Saigon. With that in mind, I would like to share a few of those spaces and am curious...if you identify with any of them.

If you could, which would you pick?

Would you create "your space" in New Zealand...

On a dock in Blanket Bay, New Zealand?

With a view to the water, through a garden in Waitangi, New Zealand?

Tucked in a cove in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand?

Along a walking trail in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand?

or do you see "your space" in New Hampshire or Vermont?

In a garden studio in New Hampshire?

In a greenhouse in Vermont?

In the woods in Vermont?

Over a pond in New Hampshire?

 How about you...
did you take a fancy to any of the locations above?

As for me..
When the time is right, 
this is where you will find me,
behind the red barn door...
through the potting room, 
to the horse stall...
at Tahilla Farm. 
And that's just fine by me.
For now.

Signing off from Chateau Mango
with visions of writing studios 
dancing in my head
28 Day Writing Challenge #23
Vietnam Time

Collage of Life
28 Day Writing Challenge
(click on title to read)

Photos above taken by me 
on my travels through New Zealand,
New Hampshire and Vermont.
Photographer of Virginia McKenna unknown.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Q & A…Where to Next? #23

Morning sun...Chateau Mango, Vietnam

Thank you! Ask and you shall receive! The questions are coming in from every direction and I am excited to be able to answer many of them on the blog. Some questions,I will respond to via email, so please be assured, either way, I will respond to you. A few questions have come through my other blog, Expat Diary: Viet Nam. If a question relates to travel information for Vietnam, I will respond here and post a link when I do.

Ok, let's jump into life in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)

Tika...a dog's life in Vietnam

1. What is it like having a dog in Ho Chi Minh CIty? 

Tika loves that you asked. I took the photo above this morning as she sat patiently waiting for us to give the nod for another round in the pool. Tika is an English Springer Spaniel and a few months into her 12th year..which makes her 75 in dog years. She hails from Victoria, Australia and has moved and lived with us in Australia, New Zealand, England and now Vietnam.

Tika lives a very comfortable life in Vietnam. She ingratiates herself with everyone she meets and is fortunate to have a pool and garden to exercise in.

Would I say this is the ideal situation for her? Not really. I would pack her up to Tahilla Farm in a heartbeat if the timing were right. I would love to see her running through the woods and streams and chasing something other than geckos. 

We have to be mindful of her whereabouts and make sure that she is never left to her own devices outside of our property. We are surrounded by large garden walls and even larger walls around the perimeter of the compound where we live. 

Dogs do go missing and we shudder to think where. Tika has many watchful eyes on her at all times. I am just thankful that she is no longer a puppy. When she was, she had a habit of getting into mischief. Nowadays she takes life as it comes. 

With every passing year we worry about our next assignment and how Tika will fare with long distance travel and possible quarantine. It is always on our mind. Which leads me to the next question....

Bougainvillea cascading this week at Chateau Mango

2. How much longer will you be living in Vietnam?

A good question and one I wish I had the answer to. I was so happy to have someone ask that of Mr. H recently rather than me. I always wait to see what his answer will be in case I missed something. I am guessing we will be in Vietnam for another year or so. But saying that, in his business, you just never know. Speaking of Mr. H and our reason for being in Vietnam...

3. What is your husband's work?

Mr. H tossed his hat into the multinational corporate arena years ago. It keeps us on the move.

4. Will you be living abroad after you leave Vietnam?

This question leads into the next. Yes, we will be living abroad but are uncertain as to where. At some point, when retirement beckons, we will be spending time in our home in Sydney, Australia. With three children, a daughter-in-law to be and many dear friends living in Australia, and a daughter, family and friends living in the USA, we plan on spending time between both locations. In an ideal world, we will head Down Under for the harshest months of the New England winters and head back to Tahilla Farm for spring, summer and fall. Having both locations in opposite seasons works well for the retirement plan. 

Morning sun...Tahilla Farm

4. When will you make Tahilla Farm your (main) home?

With our time in Vietnam uncertain, it is hard to say when we will make the full time commitment to Tahilla Farm. Last year, I spent more time out of Vietnam than in. The bulk of the time was spent at Tahilla. Our construction should be close to completion later this year. I head back again in a few months for another long term visit. It is kind of the way of the world for us.

Last one and on to another topic...

Shelter from the sun in HCMC..

5. What are the best ways to deal with the humidity in HCMC? 

Ok, this is easy..and then again maybe not. The humidity in levels in HCMC are moving up with the approach of spring and that nasty rainy season that follow soon after. Have I ever mentioned that I am a sweater girl at heart and really do not like the heat? Well, I don't but I manage. 

For those living in an air conditioned world, you know that you plan accordingly. If you happen to have a husband who loves the heat and sneezes at the slightest breeze from an air conditioner, you have a problem. It is an ongoing battle in our house but we manage.

Living in a paisley world...Vietnam

When we moved to HCMC, I quickly realised that all my "summer" clothes from the previous countries we lived in were not going to work. The fabric was to heavy. I keep it simple now by taking full advantage of the dressmakers in HCMC. I live in a linen, light cotton and Vietnamese silk world. It suits me best to keep it all loose and flowing. 

I wear very little makeup as it is lasts about five minutes in this weather. It took me a while but I finally found the perfect face cream and sunscreen for this climate. You have no idea what a challenge that was!

I keep my hair shoulder length, pull it back and pop on a hat when I head out. I stay well hydrated and have my favourite cafes and shops for an AC break.

Never leave home with out it.
My essentials, ones that I never leave home without, are featured above. A fan to take away the humidity blues, a bandanna to mop the brow, sunglasses,Colorescience Sunforgettable Lip Gloss (SPF 35), journal, pens, a few thousand Dong (Vietnamese currency), my camera and everyday over sized wallet, both with wrist straps. Very important if you want to avoid the accidental drop or bag snatch.  

I will stop there....

More Q&A to come in future posts. Once again, thank you for responding and feel free to ask more questions. I am sure there are things that I missed and most likely, the answers here will spark more thoughts. I know it has for me. 

Best wishes on this first day of March. Happy Autumn to my readers in the Southern Hemisphere and to my friends in the north...20 more days to the first day of Spring. It will come!!

Signing off from Chateau Mango
28 Day Writing Challenge #23
Vietnam Time

Collage of Life
28 Day Writing Challenge
(click on title to read)

#23 Q & A...Where to Next?

Photos above taken by me 
around Chateau Margo
and Tahilla Farm.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Big Move...Q & A #22

"Beep.. Beep"  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

When I was told we were moving to Vietnam I went into full Google search mode. Who, what, where, when, how...lay it on me. I searched out other expat bloggers living in Ho Chi Minh City, sent my list of questions and waited patiently. One person answered and I was grateful to her for taking the time. It was a start.

So here I am, nearly three years later and now the questions are coming to me. I feel like the expat "Dear Abby" of Vietnam. What goes around, comes around. I like that. 

Taking a moment...Saigon

People mostly connect through my other blog, Expat Diary: Viet Nam. I started the blog before we moved to Saigon, as a place store all the information from my Google searches. Since then, I have written sporadically.... but it seems to be enough for people to reach out.

"Fruit for Sale"...Saigon

My most recent request came from Esteban in Argentina in response to my blog post.. A Love Affair..with Vietnam

I'm thinking to live in Vietnam for a year to change the air, imbue my in their culture and break with my actual routine. I'm independent translator and I have many happy and loyal clients, so it I can work in any place in the world with Internet.
I like nature, sailing, reading. I consume tons of silence, makes me happy :)
I don't want to be travelling like a tourist during this year, so my plan is to rent a place that will be my home during the entire year. Eventually I wish to visit on some weekends other places in Asia: Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, other places in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. 
My wish is to live alone with my wife in a place near some river, beach or sea, with kitchen (I like to cook every day, this make me feel in home), minimum comfort. Nightlife is not for me, I prefer family lifestyle.
Can you recommend me some cities in Vietnam to do this?

Thank you very much!

Best regards from Argentina,


"Fruit Juice for Sale"...Saigon

Did I mention how much I enjoy receiving notes like this? I think Esteban has the making of a great story. I wrote to him with a few suggestions. I am curious to see if he makes his dream a reality. 

The questions I recieve vary...

Do Vietnamese eat dogs?
Should I bring mine?
What is compound living like?
Which schools do you recommend?
How do you find the medical care in Vietnam?
Do you drive in Vietnam?
What is it like living in a Communist country?
How do I find house staff? How much should I pay them?
What should I bring with, medicine, beauty products?
I am looking for a job, what should I do? How does it work?
How much money do I need to make to live comfortably?
Where should I live?
How do I find an apartment, house?

and from future Vietnam travellers..

I want to travel to Vietnam, where should I go?
Can you recommend shops, restaurants, places to stay?
I want to have furniture made, where should I go?

I admit, some questions are beyond me and some are to complex to answer, but for the most part, I try to answer them the best I can. I am now to the point where I can copy and paste information in response to the most popular questions. I wonder if "Dear Abby" does that..  ;)

"Park Here"...Saigon

So.. in the spirit of powering along with my 28 Day Writing Challenge (the one I am five days behind on).. I thought I would ask if you have any questions for me about life in Vietnam or any other topics that interest you. I find that when you live in a place for a time, you start to forget about the gems that intrigued you when you first settled in. The questions coming my way keep it fresh, allowing me to make the most of my time here.

If you would rather write to me, please do!

Sending you a big "Beep..Beep" 
from Vietnam 
for a wonderful weekend!

Jeanne xx

28 Day Writing Challenge, #22
February 27, 2015
Writing from Chateau Mango
Vietnam time

From Saigon...."Beep..Beep"

Collage of Life
28 Day Writing Challenge
(click on title to read)

Photos above taken along my travels
around Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Friends and Old Friends #21

New Friends and Old Friends

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.

Friendships that have stood the test-
Time and change-are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair may gray,
Friendships never know decay.

For' mid old friends, tired and true,
Once more we our youth renew.
But old friends, alas! may die,
New friends must their place supply.

Cherish friendship in your breast-
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.

by Joseph Parry

The Big Chill  (1983) Jo Beth Williams, 
Kevin Kline, William Hurt, Glenn Close

A few posts back, I wrote about the ins and outs of making friends in your 50's.  Life has a way of presenting us with new opportunities and those who take them, often make the most of it. I mentioned the analogy of being an adult in the proverbial sandbox. Sometimes it is empty and sometimes it is full, how you deal with it either way makes all the difference. 

Mr. H and I were in the USA last week, checking on the construction progress of Tahilla Farm. We also used that time to play in the sandbox or snow pile, depending on how you look at it. 

It was a series of reunions starting with new friends made since we bought Tahilla Farm and old friends..the ones that go all the way back to our college years. It reminded me of movies like "The Big Chill", a group of friends coming together, whatever the occasion, who connect spontaneously and joyfully. The kind of friends you can kick back with and just hang.

When we waved goodbye to our friends in Connecticut, 17 years ago, I said we would be back in two years, five at the most. And there we were, all those years later, chatting away as if we were still on playground duty, watching our kids and making plans for the next playdate.  Except, the kids are grown and on their own and we are that much older and wiser. 

It felt sooo good, to have that feeling again, where you can start talking as if you were picking up from your last conversation. A few months, a few years…no difference.

Speaking of love, couldn't resist...

The Big Chill video clip here

The dictionary says a reunion is an instance of two or more people coming together again after a period of separation.  When you reconnect with good friends, you realise, no matter the age, you can still have just as much fun. All those "remember when?" stories never get old. Some girls just gotta have fun..all through the years. This movie scene from Mamma Mia (2008) a classic and another "feel good" "pick me up" movie clip. 

Meryl Street, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski

Mamma Mia Video clip here

Phyllida Law and Linda Kerr Scott in Saving Grace.

Ok…I had to throw this in, because I could see myself and a few other friends getting into this same predicament. Cracks me up every time I watch it. If you have not seen the movie, Saving Grace,  I highly recommend it. I will save the reason for the scene below…you will just have to see it. I will tell you that it involves brownies…I just love it! 

Saving Grace video clip here

This all came about because I was thinking about reunions, not just the one we create by catching up with friends, but the ones when you come together with classmates. I have never been to a single high school or college reunion. Living overseas had something to do with it but even during the years when we were living in the USA, within a reasonable distance…I always had an excuse. One of those things I can not really explain. But…I have an invitation, to my 40th  High School Reunion and I might be within driving distance….or I might not. But if I am, I wonder if I should just do it.

How about you? Where do you fall on high school and college reunions? Are you a regular or do you prefer to keep the memories as they were?

Just curious….in the meantime, I hope you can check out the videos above, my "go to" "feel good" movie clips. Perfect for jet lag . Enjoy!

Jeanne :)

PS.. I am back in Vietnam, coasting through jet lag and catching up with blog posts. Thanks so much for your comments (mine coming) to my Mother of the Groom dress predicament. Wonderful suggestions! 

28 Day Writing Challenge, #21
February 26, 2015
Writing from Chateau Mango
Vietnam time

Collage of Life
28 Day Writing Challenge
(click on title to read)


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