Monday, September 22, 2014

Art, Books and a Handsome Scotsman


An artistic life...

I am not an artist, I can not draw to save my life...but once upon a time,  I had a yearning to create on paper and canvas. This epiphany happened ten years ago, when we were living in Sydney, Australia. Life was full...we had just bought a house, a puppy, our four children were ages 3 -13,  Mr. H was a travelling man and I wanted to learn to paint. It seemed an impossible notion.

As luck would have it, when on home leave in America, I met an artist, who turned out to be one of my mother's art teachers, twenty years earlier. Kismet..we started you do..and I told her my story.  She suggested that on our return to Sydney, I find an art teacher with a private studio and start one on one classes. I decided if their was a will, their was a way and flew off to Sydney with a mission. My exploration had begun.

The world turns in marvelous ways. I mentioned my quest to an artistic friend, Evelyn, who knew just the person. Enter Sonja.

Sonja, a talented artist and teacher was a dream come true. She had an amazing studio, filled with atmospheric light. It was sensational, she was sensational. It wasn't just an art lesson, it was a life lesson. Before I could begin she wanted me to find my inspiration, in art, words, music...wherever I felt it. I filled volumes of books with ideas and images to help me find my way. My first creation was the painting "Collage of Life". I had an idea and she helped me put it onto canvas. The ideas spilled on from there. My greatest challenge was drawing, gripping fear was more like it but she managed to get me through that as well. She told me not to look at what others were doing but to look to myself and realise that my vision was what mattered and to be comfortable with my "unique" style. Well..that is one way to look at it.

Agony and Agony...drawing.

Work in progress, Collage of Life.

In between the lesson we chatted about music, books, cinema...all the things that inspired us. When I look back at our sessions together, I can see that she had a strong influence on my artistic life. My bookshelf grew in leaps and bounds. Poetry, art history, design, art, literature and historical fiction. Amongst other things, Sonja introduced me to series of books by the author Diana Gabaldon. From that point on, if someone were to ask for a good story...the kind of story you can get lost in, I would say the Outlander novels..

The Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon via

A handsome Scotsman...

Ok..I admit it, I am a soft touch for romance in a story, an even softer touch when it happens to be a handsome Scotsman. If you live in the USA you may have read or seen the TV version of Outlander. When I first heard about the TV show I was reluctant. I was quite happy with the Claire Randall and  Jamie Fraser of my imagination these past ten years, why risk it? One look at Sam Heughan, the actor who plays James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser, Laird of Lallybroch and I thought better of my reservations. Surely it wouldn't hurt to watch just one episode...

Sam Heughan in the role of
James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser
Laird of Lollybroch
Actors, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, the heroine of the novel,
Claire Beauchamp Randall/Fraser via

I watched it and I was in...hook, line and sinker.  I happily spent  my remaining weeks at Tahilla Farm catching up on episodes as they appeared on Starz TV. Then the unthinkable happened when I returned to Vietnam, I lost all connection to Starz and any chance of seeing the remaining episodes. Blast! I took immediate action, went to my bookshelf, pulled out the first book and decided to devote myself to all eight novels. I have lots of flying time coming up in the next three months. I am sure I will be good for all eight books...after all, I have an amazing cast to fill my imagination. Easy!

Cast of Outlander via

In case you think I am a crazy lassie...well, I am...but...I have to say, all the actors are remarkable.  This story is rich in history and life..and it is woven though Scotland. Can't get any better than that in my books.

I think Sonja would agree.

Hopefully, the video clip below is working, if not, you can view it here.

I leave you this fine Monday with thoughts of 
art, books and a handsome Scotsman.
If you have any of the above in your life...would love to hear about it!

Best wishes for a wonderful week!
Jeanne xx

From one world to the next...
latest news from Vietnam

Monday, September 15, 2014

Are we there yet? Said the hippo.

 The other day, someone asked me to tell them about my life in Vietnam. 
I thought my brain was going to seize up on the spot. 
Vietnam? you mean Tahilla Farm?
Where am I?

Catching the morning sun at Tahilla Farm.

I have learned over time that it is best for me to process one life at a time.
When in the USA it is all USA and when in Vietnam it is all Vietnam.
As was the case for Australia, New Zealand and England.
My heart travels better that way.

 I have been out of touch..
off the blogging radar screen, as they say,
in an effort to get ready for some big changes at Tahilla Farm.

Back to storage... "Collage of Life"

There was packing to be done and farewells to be said.
The greatest farewell of all was to "Martha"
our large maple tree. If my New Hampshire friends are reading this, 
they will be shrugging at this moment and thinking..
"There she goes again"
they heard it all..again and again.

For reasons too many to recount, 
we had to make the call and we did and she is gone.

Adieu Martha...

She left us a gift..a view we had not anticipated.
For we could never see the view through her frail branches 
and all of a sudden we could.

Mrs. H gets an idea...

The moment I saw the expanded view,
 I immediately messaged Mr. H and our architect, Sheldon,
suggesting we might want to rethink our current renovation plans.
And we did.
 We have added an extension to the master wing 
so that we can wake up to the mountain and the morning sun.
Thank you Martha.

Farewell last look.

With that, I packed my bags, took my last look
 and made my way from Boston to Saigon by way of Tokyo.

and while I was sleeping across the miles...
construction at Tahilla Farm started with a mighty roar.

As was to be expected, 
my arrival into Saigon was not without a surprise or two.
After all...Mr. H was home on his own for four months.
Just as he was two years ago 
when he selected the colour for our house.
 I said beige, he said mango and 
Chateau Mango was born.

As we drove into Chateau Mango last week, 
I knew something was up when I spotted
the large backside of an enormous animal at our front door. 
Not your everyday welcome.

Guess what?
Mr. H looked at me and said..
"Meet Henrietta Hippo"
(I really have to stop creating names for animals)
He fell in love with a similar hippo
in a hotel lobby in South Africa this summer. 
When he returned to Vietnam,
he commissioned one to be made...for us.
I thought..great, if we were in the hotel busines, 
which we are not.

What would you say?

So..we have an enormous wooden hippo that required a crane
to be lifted off the truck that it arrived on. Mr. H thinks
it will be great for the front porch at Tahilla Farm. 
I think not. 
Tika agrees.
After all Henrietta is all posture and no action.
I think Tika thought she had a new playmate.

Never a dull moment with Mr. H...that's for sure!
Wait..maybe I am dreaming this.
Pinched myself...not. are thing's going with you?

 PS..if on reflection, you are thinking 
that Henrietta's head looks more
like a dragon, you would be correct. 
She is a Vietnamese interpretation of a hippo.
Care for a seat?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Making friends…extraordinary ones

If you have been following my Tahilla Farm days at Collage of Life you will know that I have a fondness for naming animals. I feel a kinship to some animals and often bestow a name, the first name that comes to mind. We have "Priscilla" the Porcupine and her baby "Pia", two turkeys…"Thelma and Louise" and have recently brought two others into the fold, one I call "Stupid"  and the other one…"Harold".

Let me tell you about "Stupid"…the woodchuck. I call him "Stupid" because that is what I call myself every time I see another plant in my garden chewed to bits. "Stupid" because I had a heart and did not call Mr. Critterman to  trap him and move him onto yonder pastures as I have done with others. "Stupid" because I gave him a second chance and a third chance and he knows it…and he flaunts it as if to say…"You silly woman…don't you know that is what people do in these parts?" "Serves you right and I am going to chew all your lettuce leaves just to prove it." BTW…" If you think you will ever be able to catch me…forget about it!".."Stupid"

I really should have wised up when "Stupids" family went to work on creating a tunnel under our granite steps last summer and managed to create a sinkhole in the process. We trapped several woodchucks and moved them on…except we were never able to catch mother woodchuck. I have to be honest..the use of smoke bombs has crossed my mind. You think crazy thoughts when you start to call yourself and a woodchuck…"Stupid". ;)

But..then another friend came along and gave me faith, 
a hawk who glides effortlessly, weaving in and out of the trees around Tahilla Farm. 
He is truly special and I think he deserves a name he can be proud of.
I call him "Harold".

Because…I think he looks like a "Harold". I thought of "Harry" (Hawk)…but
he really feels like a "Harold" to me. What do you think?

He just has that way about him.

Some might say that when one gets around to naming the animals 
on her property it is time to move on. 
That will come soon enough… 
but in the meantime…I am just going to enjoy them all. 

They are a delight….even "Stupid".

Extraordinary friends in and around our home, Tahilla Farm,  in New Hamphsire.

But then again….
I have a few friends waiting back in Vietnam..
of the more colourful variety… here.

Extraordinary friends waiting for me at our home, Chateau Mango, in Vietnam.

Best wishes to one and all for a wonderful week.
I hope it is filled with extraordinary surprises.

Jeanne xx


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