Margaret River – Harmony

Nothing I have ever done prepared me for Globetrotting and Jesters Flat…….

Beautiful Perth.  My final few hours before returning to ‘the real world’

All to myself - time to reflect
as I walked along the banks of the Swan River

Enough time to marvel at what had happened over the past week at Jester’s Flat


Enough time to marvel at what happened when seven women, unknown to one another arrived in a place unknown to any of them, and challenged themselves to a completely new experience.

Some of the 'gang'
doing ‘their thing’ at different parts of the week.

And what happened was that I found, in that a week a glimpse His creation in all its glory.

Miles of beautiful fields, grass bending in the breeze
Miles of manicured vineyards; shade and light playing with the colours on display as the wild flowers showed off their extravagance

Birds of remarkable colour and sounds more varied and sweeter than any music created by man.
Grasses, flowers, trees of every shape and hue –  so many variations of blue, baby blue, dusky blue, egg shell blue, blue blue light blue; as many pinks as there are adjectives;  every variation of white imaginable and then the yellows, oranges, purples, mauves, reds and every shade of green.  Some tiny delicate plants last but a few hours and are as small as a finger nail, some stand bold and strong for hundreds of years, each a miracle of design and detail.   Only with His palette on His canvas, can these colours work so beautifully and not jar the eye.

About 800 years old, this tree is

Forest of intrigue filled with mystery and bird song

Whites whiter than white, pinks, blues, details

The sun played with us

with light and reflections....

adding to the joy of 'bush walking'

I found a sky that brooded over us, kept us jacketed but honoured us all the same by not wetting us.
A sun that teased us, warming us intermittently and unexpectedly filtering through the forest or lighting up the fields and fields of yellow daisies, until finally it exposed itself totally to reveal a sky of such blue blue our eyes were opened to a world of promise; shining new growth on the trees, shimmering in the light, red clover stark and strong alongside the vines which ran so straight and neat beside us.
Kangaroos by the score looking at us as we looked at them, scampering away, with their young sometimes peeping at us from a snug pouch and at other times hopping alongside their mothers. Was there ever a stranger creature?
Cows always curious running up to stare at us, eyes luminous and vacant at the same time.
Sheep taking no notice of us at all.
All though, taking notice of the season, and dropping young as Spring arrives with That promise of new life.

The entrance.....

that time of year.....

Rosie, the family 'pet' for whom....

dried noodles were as appetising as new foliage :)

And of course I found the horses.    The reason we were all here.

These four legged creatures;  as strong as an ox and as gentle as a baby, as wild as it’s possible to be and then again as submissive, as yielding as gentle as imaginable.

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There is nothing in the world quite like sitting astride a horse which weighs hundreds of kilos, and working with it to move, stop, walk, trot, canter, turn on a dime all with subtle body movements and a tiny metal piece in its mouth.   Having said that, they can be capricious and unpredictable, kicking and pulling for no reason and then again be kind and loving and snuggle you for no reason too (or perhaps it can smell that Apple 😜)

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And all the while seven women share their stories, their dreams, their fears.  They offer encouragement, a helping hand, a laugh, a glass of wine, a smile. They stretch themselves doing things never done before (like trying to play polocrosse 😂😂😂)

They bond through a common love of horses and all that they experienced Through that love, in that place.


And for one week His plan for creation shone; people and nature worked together in perfect harmony. Each leaving with a sense of being part of ‘what’s possible’ ; linked forever through Globetrotting.com.au and Jesters Flat – a very special time

Me and my special George
The “Mob” – if we weren’t eating……

We were probably riding 🙂

 

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Or restingimg_3510

Or Riding

 

so special, no words
The local Polocrosse team – yes, we did – or at least tried to play 🙂 – the best fun ever
He kept us company and amused throughout the day

as we learnt SO much
about this amazing land
and how it is possible to
live united to and with it, in complete harmony
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The Essence of our week                                                                                                                      Tranquility, harmony, beauty, nature, breathing, joy, serenity                                                              Such a special time

 

Day One

The most amazing porridge and coffee (Mansfield Coffee Merchants) 

 

set me up for the drive to the stables – about 30 minutes out of Mansfield.   

There is, at least for me, always a few nerves involved in arriving somewhere alone on another adventure.   Will I be riding alone, and if not, who will I be riding with.    

And so the ‘settling in period’ as I  jostle around the ‘edges’ to determine where in the pecking order I fit – a little, as I discovered like the horses themselves as they get chosen for the trail.

I arrived at the stables to find I was not riding alone.   Sitting comfortably and beautifully attired were a ‘couple’ – mother and daughter to be precise.   Or even more precise, Wendy and Danny.   My antennae and nerves on high alert I realised these were riders with a capital R, every fibre of their brand name gear confirmed that to me.  Almost certainly  their antennae were out as they realised this was a rider with a capital B (for beginner), as every fibre of my gear (aka Aldi & Kmart) confirmed.   I have no doubt their hearts sank at the thought of a novice holding them back.

But they were so gracious and at no point did they allow me to feel incompetent.   So grateful.

That out of the way, the next thing is to ‘navigate’ around the horses.  Which one leads, who snaps, who lingers, and let me tell you, they most certainly do have a pecking order as Danny and I discovered throughout the 2 days as our two jostled with each other.

And then there’s the saddles, apparently I was riding on a stock saddle, long stirrups, legs down, stand up when cantering, hang on the mane, lean forward so if she swings in the bush (as she did a few times) you ready to swing with her and not off her 🙂 🙂  and so it went on.   Finding bones and muscles in strange parts of my body, I settled onto the new horse, in a new saddle surrounded by Victorian Alpine countryside.

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My stock horse, Rhumba made me think on many occasions that she should be called Rumble (as in the jungle – think Mohammad Ali); nipping whenever she felt like it, putting her ears well back and warning me and Danny that any closer was a no go, deciding to trot at the most random moments, for the most random reasons and for all that, lovely to canter.    Danny had a busy time keeping her little one in line – and her years of riding experience came to the fore.

The ride was interesting with very steep climbs and even steeper declines – although I know that cannot Really be possible :).   The ground was often very muddy and the inclines such that  much of the day our eyes were down keeping a watch on our horses feet.   They slipped and slid but thankfully everyone kept their balance.   Well most of the time that is.

The countryside was breathtaking and we stopped for a photoshoot.

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We also stopped for lunch alongside the river at an old miners hut.   Which was fortunate and lovely because as we started our fire and made some hot tea, it began to rain and we were warm and snug.   By the time we were ready to ride again, the rain had moved on.

We needed to cross the river a few times and it was  surprisingly full and fast flowing.   Four of us were across when Michael’s horse (Michael being our host) lost its footing and it and he went for a swim in very cold water.    Thankfully neither was seriously hurt and we could all laugh about it once we were sure there were no major injuries.   One learns early on that there are no egos in riding – mishaps can and do happen to any and everyone if you spend long enough on or around horses.

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Truth be told, even in those tranquil riding moments when you can be lulled into a semi comatose state, your horse remains its own being with a will and strength quite independent of yourself! So I’m realising it pays always to be vigilant. 

Rhumba jumped a creek and chose to land on my foot as opposed to the ground, (I wasn’t on her back at the time – just in case you wondering)   Wendy’s horse lifted her head suddenly and cracked Wendy very hard on hers (She wasn’t on her back at the time either!), ever so grateful she was wearing her helmet; Michael’s horse had a swim and so did Michael (he Was on her back at the time!)

As you can ‘see’ a lovely day one, with many hours in the saddle.   A good meal and time now for bed.

 

Again?


Even the most liveable city in the world sometimes is not enough. When the urge to smell the bush, feel the breeze, see the vistas, hear the creak of leather becomes too strong to ignore and a dear friend sends you a link to Watson trail rides

http://watsonstrailrides.com.au/
How could I resist?

So here I am – 3 hours out of Melbourne in Mansfield – with an adventure about to begin

Well the truth is it began sometime time ago when I booked ‘on the web’ my accommodation for tonight in Mansfield – at the Mansfield Travellers Lodge – pleased as punch I was with myself until too many emails from the USA made me suspicious. On checking my booking – I was scheduled to arrive at Mansfield Travellers Lodge -Ohio 😂😩🇺🇸

Rewind – I won’t bore you with the rest of the fiasco – think dumb blonde!!!! However I did feel better when I discovered I was not the first person to make this mistake!

However all’s well that ends well they say; though in this case I should say, starts well as here I am in Mansfield Victoria Australia at the start of my riding adventure
Backpackers lodge – why wouldn’t I at $40 a night, (bring your sleeping bag) and being Monday I have the dormitory to myself!! And the kindest manager, who clearly felt I couldn’t be trusted, after my failed booking, (- not the first person he assured me ) to find the stables unaided; has given me a detailed map for tomorrow – so appreciated

A stroll round the town prior to my dinner has me wondering about this ride – I see only people in snow gear here, coming off the mountain – you hear that peculiar sound their pants make as they walk, before you even see them. And the sight of the sun on the still snow capped mountain takes my breathe away – no photo could do it justice.

So as I sit in the local pub with my local wine (Snobs Creek Pinot Noir😂) and lasagne I reassure myself : regardless of snow, rain or shine it’s all about the horse.

But will I be warm enough, will my body hold up, will I dismount or be dismounted?

Tomorrow will tell

Mansfield
Warm welcome
Filled the gaps

It’s all about ….

It’s all about the right horse, I was told by those who know best. And those who know best are, of course, those who ride all the time.
So why would I doubt them?
After all, they are regular riders who know horses well and are, I was told, the people one should ask for advice when embarking on a riding adventure.
Except, precisely Because they are riding fit and do so all the time, perhaps they are Not the people to ask?
What do I know? I set off to the gym confidently believing if I did the exercises (squats, sit ups etc) as prescribed, for a few months, I would be fine, as it all depended on having the right horse 😳
So there I was, with dire warnings from many friends about the madness of this adventure; the pain I was going to feel in unmentionable parts of my body, the risk I was taking, still ringing in my ears. My stomach slightly knotted as my brain tried to convince my body that those that Know, say I’ll be fine, it’s all about the right horse.
So I waited for Howard from African Horse Co to arrive at our meeting place, Farm 215. at the designated time of 10am having overlooked of course that the riding world runs to its own clock – dictated by where the horses wandered off to graze; how the old car felt that morning (riding in my limited – very limited experience seems synonymous with old cars – the cost of the one mode of transport dictating the cost of the other 😜), which saddle was where etc.
And then suddenly, after hanging around for an hour or so, there I was being handed ‘my horse’ – Luke
Far from sitting down and gently talking me through the week’s plan with words of encouragement ( the picture I had created in my head 😂) with a question/answer type session. Breyten advised; “Howard said hi”, and “up you get!” Which of course I couldn’t do without a step ladder 😂😂
Luke was a large animal – the largest of the three horses – and I was the smallest, or perhaps shortest is more accurate, rider. Somehow that didn’t seem quite fair 😩.
Since there was no ladder, I needed a leg up; and that was the case every time I wanted to mount him, for the entire week! Alas? I never did get to master the art of lifting one leg as high as my shoulder, putting it into the stirrup while balancing on the other and then swinging myself into the saddle, all on one elegant motion 😂
Nonetheless before I knew it I was on the back of a large horse and off down the road to, well I wasn’t quite sure where.
Reminding myself I needn’t worry – it’s all about the right horse.
And of course it is. All about the right horse.
And the legs, and the thighs, and the back and even the feet (6 hours in stirrups and you find parts of your foot you didn’t know existed 😳)
But it is about the horse. And Luke was the kindest, most gentle soul and within half an hour I knew he would not surprise me, well not much anyway. After all he did bolt when the bus greeted him, and we shot into the bushes when the bushbuck shot out of the bushes, but as bolts go, they were gentle ones, even for me, a beginner.
His back was broad and comfortable. His walk was steady if a bit slow. I asked him to trot and he did, not reluctantly nor in mad haste. It felt like he was indulging me: you want to trot, okay we can trot. Oh, you prefer a canter, no problem, I don’t mind cantering.

When we were galloping and I could hear Sparky galloping up behind me, I prepared for Luke to increase his pace. He didn’t, he stayed reliably steady. A ‘man’ beating to his own drum.
He never embarrassed me by moving when I was trying to mount or dismount him, something I was most grateful for 😃 He waited kindly, nuzzled me when I stood close, shared my sandwiches and even, dare I say it looked pleased to see me each morning.
And at the end of 5 glorious days of riding I agreed that it’s all about the right horse.
Perhaps Howard was right when he said. “If you had to chose a husband, you would want one like Luke.   Reliable, stable, predictable, trustworthy, safe”
Did hear a small voice somewhere whisper “and boring”.

I could not be sure.

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There’s more to The Bush


There’s more to The Bush than the bush.

There’s more to The Bush than the big five, or even the little five, or the birds, or the snakes.

The Bush is about the smell, the sound,the Feel.

In this instance, the wind, the rain.

First fierce and dominating so that speech is pointless as words are carried away with the hustle of the storm. Water cascading down, flooding every corner of the land and disappearing quickly into ground parched and thirsty to drink.

And then, spent, the heavens seem to rest and the rain falls gently, so gently my clothes don’t get wet yet I can see the drops still falling on the water hole.

On this day, most holy day of Good Friday it seems appropriate that the sky is black and angry and the storm rages down on us.

And it seems also appropriate that as I turn to look to my right, I see the light through the clouds, not yet shining, but with the look of a promise of what is to come; sun and renewed growth.

And the rainbow to remind me, on this holy day, most holy day of Good Friday;  not of our covenant with Him, but His with us.

“When I bring clouds over the earth, and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being.” (Gen 9)

There is more to The Bush than the bush

No Regrets

As if on cue.

As if to remind me how special.

As if to highlight what was.

The clouds have settled, the rain is streaming down, the shutters rattling and I can see absolutely nothing from my windows.

The lights are on, the chimney whistling, my hair washed (and smelling of roses and geraniums the bottle tells me), a hot coffee getting cold alongside me as I sit on my bed contemplating the amazing five days I have just had.

It all began with Kate Pilcher and her http://www.globetrotting.com.au. Or perhaps with something even older, a primeval horse-man thing stirring within and disturbed again by her.

Either way, at 63, with no more than ten horse rides on my life, I bite the bait 😂😂😂

And swallowed hook, line and sinker.

I did some sit ups (clearly not enough) some squats (clearly enough), borrowed riding gear, found some Dutch courage, a sense of humour, and have lived to tell the tale.

Every day we breathe has the potential to be an adventure, at home with the dog or across a continent with a horse and new friends.

So crazy as the idea was, and against sound advice and my own ‘adult voice’ I took the plunge

No regrets :

I have seen the sky filled with light from a million stars;

I have seen the moon appear like a silver sliver over the mountains;

I have felt the thrill of half a tonne of animal galloping beneath me on a beach, alone, with only the gulls, waves, sand, sun and a solitary seal as witness;

I have felt the pain of a body used;

I have marvelled at the skill and strength of those gone before whose only means of transport was horse;

I have witnessed beauty that no iPhone can do justice to.

As I savour the solitude of Farm 215 and Bruce’s amazing food for the last time, I give thanks, I know I have been fortunate





Day 5 : Leaving something on the table 


All good things…..
Following the old adage my mother taught me; always leave the table wanting more.

I did a short ride today, almost too short. But then again not.

Just perfect

It is a grey day today

The clouds blanket the sky so the mountains look somber, the grass ‘quiet’, sounds muted, birds more still, butterflies absent.

Our ride is appropriate.

Inland, along farm roads, between fields where sheep have their heads down, barely visible above the grass, where cattle lie or graze dulled by the absence of sun on their flanks.


We have new horses. Me on Willow (why are mine so large and my legs so short 😩), Julia on Princess and Randal on Whiplash. Different saddle too.


A time to test my body, just how well has it stood up, can I trot, canter? We shall see.

We warm up walking easily, Willow with a little more pace than Luke that makes for a more comfortable walk.   Past springbok, dark and light, young ones too, mixing with hundreds of Guinea fowl.

We trot and all is well. We canter and I debate whether the desire to canter outweighs the pain in the back ( strange that, not the but 😂).

I hear my mother; leave something on the table. Quit while you ahead!

So we trot and walk for a few hours leaving cantering as a memory and a hope for future times.

We pass through groves of gum trees (go figure 😜) which on this gray day make sounds that mimic the sea when it’s grumpy as the wind moves through them.


Through a forest path so dark no photos came out and where we startle a duiker (makes a change from them startling us👏)

I watch a Bataleur roll above us, powerful in his world.   Keeping pace with our trotting, rolling , dipping, disappearing.

A car stops to let us pass and I see a little girl, dummy in her mouth, on her fathers lap, to get a better view of us through the open window – eyes like saucers. Fascinated? Scared? Who knows, perhaps  a seed is sown to follow in our footsteps one day

A special way to end 5 days of riding through some of the most exquisite scenery surely God ever created.


But wait, there’s more, lunch at Stanford Hills

You mean I need to use a knife and fork?
Surely you’re joking?
Who’s he? (Howard – African Horse Co)
And so ‘the end’ 🐴🐎🚗😄

No Clothes

There is something very liberating about having no clothes.

Every morning we put on the same things.

And when we return from our rides, shower and change, it is into the same tracksuit pants and top every evening .

I intend to get into my pyjamas each night and instead crawl into bed just as I am, tracksuit and all.

My breeches, chaps, socks, (there was a clean pair; still drying in a truck somewhere I’m thinking) helmet and jacket now stand in the corner, almost by themselves, so coated are they in sweat, salt, sand, and above all memories.
Waiting for me to put them on again : safe, smelly, secure and with no choice.
It is very liberating to have no clothes 😄

Day 2 – long, long, remarkable 

If you are wearied by my use of superlatives – please move on.

Because today is filled with superlatives, both with respect to the world I saw and with respect to how my body feels now!!😜😜
Julie and I had coffee and cereal this morning and left on our mounts, joined again by Breyten and Patch.
Another perfect day, slight breeze to take the edge off the heat, few clouds to make photographs more interesting and horses eager to move.
And move we did. Did they forget I put down beginner on the form? Did they forget I am three times their age? Sometimes it felt like that 😜

Our start took us through hills filled with Leucadendron – miles of them, green with pink tips, bulging with energy following massive fires a few years ago. It felt as though if Luke and I stood still for a while they would flower before our very eyes. As far as we could see, these green gentle bushes.

Then hills and hills of proteas – breathtaking
The ground was different today – sandy, soft, tough going I am guessing.
I know you may not drive and be on your phone, but no one told me I couldn’t use my phone while riding. So there I was, trying to get a signal; reins loose; gentle walking; looking down at my phone; happy as Larry 😂

And then a large male bushbuck jumped out of the bush, Luke jumped out of his skin and I nearly jumped out of the saddle 😂😂😂😂

BUT I didn’t; I gripped legs tightly, gathered the reins, saved the phone and decided perhaps I could , after all, call myself a rider !

Steep climbs – up and down, Luke trusting me and me him.

We saw the baboons today, sitting on a rock above screaming at us (apparently they don’t like horses 😂)

And one more steep hill revealed another world of beauty- before us was the Atlantic Ocean ; no words can describe the beauty; the privilege, the pinch myself this is real moment.
And for the next hour we had the sea and mountains before us. Such majesty and beauty : how can anyone say He is not amazing. It was beyond description. We could see as far as Cape Point !
After a short break to water the horses. I saw the saying come to be; we led them to water, filled the tub, and even though we told them in English, German and Afrikaans that were would be no more water till camp, we could not make Patch and Sparkey drink 😂😂😂😩😩
And then the dunes. Miles and miles of white sand.

We saw no one the whole day and it felt as though we were the first people in the world to arrive here. At times the sand was hard and I could hear Luke’s hooves crack the surface and in other parts so soft the animals sunk deep into the white sand, making me grateful I wasn’t walking 😊

And finally the beach, wild, isolated, waves roaring, amazing and exhilarating. No talking, just hand signals.

It was high tide so at times we had to wait for the waves to subside and rush through the gaps.

And suddenly a long stretch  of uninterrupted beach, in all this time we saw only 3 fisherman. And thousands and thousands of cormorants, filling a huge rock, and in the distance looking like a forest on the beach – literally thousands of them. They flew into the waves, diving like kids do, under the waves – amazing
Dolphins, we counted 4 also played in the surf – the whole sight somewhat surreal .
And we cantered, and cantered. Spray on my face, the even sound of Luke’s feet in my ears. My mind trying to absorb it all, the sights, sounds, the sensations. My body trying to adapt to the rhythm. “Trust your horse, trust yourself, trust your body”

And I did.
And then we reached the end of the beach and turned into the dunes again. Suddenly there was silence, the sound of sea blocked by the sand.
Up and down we rode away from the beach and each up brought the sound of the sea and each down took it away.

Surreal.
We still had two hours riding ahead of us. Completely different fynbos again. Trees burnt black looking like skeletons, with green new growth all around.

I saw butterflies everywhere – all day surely a good sign that the bush is healthy.
I cannot lie, the last hour was hell. My body was exhausted and trotting was painful. Every canter saw me holding onto the saddle ( thank goodness for a trail saddle) to save my back, or was it my kidneys, or perhaps my thighs, or was it my mind?
But I made it to Stanford River Lodge, let the others care for the horses, made a cup of tea, had very hot bath and am now nursing very tender thighs.
6 hours about 34 kilometres
Would I have missed this and saved my body? Not on your life. Although perhaps I should answer that tomorrow 😜






https://youtu.be/Lnj8ZMlx13I&rel=0


 

Ride : day one

I wish I could share this day with you, I wish I could show you all the amazing things I have seen. I wish I could capture the sound of the wind in the trees, or the feel of the breeze in our faces as we canter along.
I wish I could take photographs of all I experienced; the tiny tortoise on the road; the kahia (homestead) with an afdakkie (no Aussie equivalent 😂) with every metal contraption on its roof – including a kitchen sink!!!

I wish I could share this day with you, I wish I could show you all the amazing things I have seen.

I wish I could capture the sound of the wind in the trees, or the feel of the breeze in our faces as we cantered along.

I wish I could take photographs of all I experienced; the tiny tortoise on the road; the kahia (homestead) with an afdakkie (no Aussie equivalent 😂) with every kind of metal scrap you can think of on its roof – including an old kitchen sink ! The hen with her chicks scuttling out of our way as we rode past.

The added height of being on horseback gives angles, views, approaches not seen on foot or bike and of course access where cars can only dream of going 😜
And the views: whichever way I looked, mountains, sea, sky, clouds – beauty beyond expectation.


We rode for about four hours today. Through fields of proteas, grasses, Erika’s of all different reds, tiny blue flowers, bold yellow ones, white, pink and every shade of green the eye could conceive of.

The birds, or rather their calls as they flirted from one plant to another with every so often the streak of copper, red, green as a sunbird  shone against the light.

Baboons that must have travelled parallel to us as we heard them calling all the while although we never saw them. 
Luke, my large brown gelding is the kindest animal, not perhaps what I imagine they refer to as a forward moving horse, as I spent much time hoping his walk would get sprightly 😜. But he trotted and cantered easily so that, just like dancing when your partner leads well, I managed easily on his back when his energy was up.


I just wish I could share today with you in more ways than  just this blog.
While women are known for being able to multi task (my girls always say I do too many things at once 😜)- even I failed to multi task today ; riding and taking photographs , not my thing 😢I pulled my horse up many times to take shots, but finally gave up. My iPhone doesn’t respond to gloved fingers so every shot involved degloving – why not just leave off the gloves I hear you ask- I’m old 😩 my hands are fragile and added to that the sun is still warm ☀️

We had a lovely late lunch – home made bread (from Stanford) cheese, avo and fruit. I’m in a self catering chalet make that a Woolies catered ( how did we ever manage before Woolworths?) with Julia (my young German chaperone,cook, companion.)


I’ve had an hours walk exploring and bird watching, a hot shower (no bath 😩) and am now seated on my verandah, hot cup of tea, chocolate, feet up looking at a stunning view (as a beekeeper moves his hides right in front of me 😊)

Luke is out to graze, the sun is setting, the lasagne almost ready, wine cold, bed calling.

Can life get any better?

I am so so grateful .

Bathroom
Reminder of an optional way to live
Our kitchen- past visitors memories 😂