jenn jay tales

Jennifer Johnston shares her travel tales; life adventures; observations, photos and random thoughts

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Win a trip to Cambodia

Thought the title might interest you – but sorry after that headline grabber – this post is actually about me trying to win a trip to Cambodia (not the other way round!)

I’ve entered a blogging competition with a worthy prize – the only thing I need is your vote – so to help me win a trip to Cambodia please go to my entry Naked Communion – a divine onsen experience and follow the links.

This is my last week of campaigning for votes as the comp closes August 3rd. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be sharing stories about Cambodia!




Giving back – an inspirational story

Meet My Huong Le

When travelling through Vietnam, I was fortunate to spend a day in Vung Tau with this amazing woman. She opened up to me about her childhood, being taken from her mother at the age of five during the Vietnam War. My Huong was part of operation baby lift, an initiative towards the end of the war by American President Ford, where children from southern Vietnam were adopted out to American and Australian families as the Vietcong invaded the south,

My Huong Le returned to her country of birth 30 years after leaving. As an adoptee herself, could there be a better person to understand the plight of orphans?

My Huong now helps manage an orphanage in Vung Tau and also works closely with a learning centre for disadvantaged children. She has an incredible life story and is only just beginning it she says!

My Huong Le at her desk

Her story about giving back despite all the challenges in her early childhood is incredible and inspiring.

Please find my story about my time with My Huong Le LIFT Magazine Issue 8 Winter LIFT 8 15-19  published in Lift Magazine.

Long Hai learning centre grounds Vung Tau, Vietnam

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How I lost half of myself

A weight loss journey

Background to the story

It’s well known there is a noticeable drop in the number of female lifesavers who continue volunteering once they reach age 50 and over. To continue as a lifesaver requires passing an annual proficiency test which involves a swim, run and obviously a certain amount of fitness. Maybe it’s hard to make the commitment later in life as other priorities take over? But not for Helen Hallett. She will be 55 years’ young in September.

Helen continues in her voluntary capacity as a lifesaver at the Gold Coast, a role she’s loved since her mid 20’s. She also works full-time for Surf Lifesaving Queensland. I initially met Helen in the Brisbane office of Surf Lifesaving Queensland, while I was working for the Lifeguard team. Helen is one of those work colleagues you love to be around. Upbeat, fun, generous with her time and incredibly passionate about what she does within the lifesaving community. Helen was the reason, as a freelance writer, I began researching a feature story on the 10 year anniversary of the Boxing day tsunami. We were at our desks in the office one afternoon, when a discussion began about Helen and her family’s incredible experience in Thailand during the Boxing Day tsunami – it was a real sliding doors moment. I wrote the story (with Helen and her family a major part of the story) and it ended up being published by QWeekend, titled Fatal shore. Qweekend article 13.12.14

A few months later I spied a call out from an Australian tabloid magazine for an inspirational real life story for “mature” women. I knew Helen would be a perfect choice having discussed her weight loss journey when interviewing her for the tsunami story. She agreed to do the article.  Helen generously gave more of her time to me to share her weight loss story. It’s not easy to share something so personal. That was 15 months ago and I’m not sure whether the magazine ended up publishing the story (I was paid for it.)  One of the many frustrations of being a writer!

So I’ve decided to share Helen’s story here, because I feel it’s a story worthy of sharing. Hopefully I’ve changed it enough to not conflict with the tabloid Magazine article (should they ever publish it!) Continue reading

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Seen better days

I had visions of 2017 being a year of many things.  Getting around on a pair of crutches with a broken leg was not part of my vision.

It all happened on day five of our Japan holiday. Myself with Mr 18 and Mr 13 were on a two-week vacation in Japan. (My other Mr 13 stayed home with Dad – “I don’t like skiing Mum.”) Like most trips, I’d done a fair amount of prior planning. This was my first visit to Japan and it was timed to co-incide to meet up with friends for a few days in Nozawa Onsen. Always more fun if you can ski with others – not just on the slopes but also the apres ski activities!  If you read my previous blog post on my impending Japan trip you’d know I was super excited to be finally visiting the land of the rising sun. It was going to be a quick overview: Tokyo, Nozawa Onsen and Kyoto were on the list.  As were a bunch of activities, including a sumo tournament, on the last night of the sumo season (had to jump through hoops to organise!)

But things don’t always go to plan do they? Continue reading


Renovation – the home run

Don’t dream it’s over

Love that the Crowded House song and thankfully I’m not dreaming, the (BIG) reno project is almost over! All that is left is the waft of paint fumes and clutter of painter’s trestles and paraphernalia as the painters finish the outside. A few walls are showing one of the fifty shades of grey I chose as my house colour! It won’t be long and I can remove the project manager hat. Hard to believe after 18 months the project is almost complete. I say almost as the external house paint is work in progress. The start date for that was delayed but I’ve learnt over the course of this project you just roll with delays.  Landscaping, some storage stuff to sort and the left over stainless steel security grills and old pool fencing lying around the spare block are still to be dealt with.  Next year (ha ha which is tomorrow!)

Oh and then there’s the spare block to develop. One of the major reasons I went down the renovation path on my old house, was to create a block of land to sell at a later stage.  There is still the registering of the title, the connection of utilities – including the big job of sewerage connections – and the clearing of “all encumbrances.” This involves removing the remaining slab and retaining walls!  A wee excavation project in a few year’s time, provided I can get the extension on the DA (development application) to allow me a bit of breathing space.

the spare block - the next project!

the spare block – the next project!

So what’s happened since my last blog post?

June 2016

June 2016

The downstairs areas became more than a skeleton. Walls and floorboards were added.  Decisions had to be made fast on the width of the downstairs bathroom and whether to add a bath or not. Thanks to a persistent friend (Kelie – yes you) the bath was ordered. Rather than going into the boy’s bathroom downstairs, the new free-standing bath was added to my en-suite.  There is hope I will have time to “enjoy” baths in the future. I’ve not been one for luxuriating in a bath tub unless it’s in a ****hotel room. It was fun testing baths for suitability. (If I was to be installing a bath it was going to be the right “fit!”) Continue reading