Thursday, January 7, 2016

Farewell to the Master Story Teller - Adrian Albulescu

Twenty One years ago I walked into a small dingy room to attend my children's first violin lesson. There sat Adrian with his long, Fabio hair and exotic Romanian accent, patiently waiting to inculcate us with the wisdom of the ages. We never could have imagined the magical lifelong journey we were about to embark on as Lawrence bounded across the room, violin squeezed tightly under his little elbow and bow held outward like a pirate sword. Stopping just short of poking out his teacher's eye, my first reaction was to berate Lawrence for his carelessness. But, as would typify the next 20 years of my life, Adrian looked at me calmly and with a quiet rebuke said "Don't worry Mom. I will handle things from here."

One thing was crystal clear from the very beginning, Adrian was adroit at the art of training the young. How magnificently he conjured up visions of ballerinas dancing en pointe, sylph like across the stage  or drunken sailors stumbling about town on twenty four hour shore leave.  One especially memorable lesson had him leaping in the air like a true Cossack peasant dancer, striking his calves in a rhythmic percussion which he then promptly mimicked with bow and string to the delight of us all. 

I never wanted to miss a lesson. 

Born in communist Romania, he was raised in a world dominated by an iron fisted dictatorship. His parents were well educated and held privileged governmental positions that ensured an upper class apartment and even some luxuries from time to time. At age 12 he was selected to enter an exclusive governmental boarding school where he would be trained as an elite musician who would one day represent the communist ideals of Nicolae Ceacescu on an international stage.  Far from the nurturing arms of his mother and father, he cultivated for himself a deep love of music and math that sheltered
him from the harsh realities of the solitary existence of boarding school.

Many a lesson Adrian would impress upon us the lacsadaisical ways of North American parents with respect to education. He would regale us with stories from his youth about chain smoking professors throwing lighters into the grand piano and demanding an immediate regurgitation of every note it had struck. And if he ever had the audacity to attend class without acquiring the appropriate techniques covered in the previous weeks lessons, the professor would toss Adrians violin into its case and heave it out the classroom door with nary a word. The implicit threat behind this tale was loud and clear. We worked hard never to come to class unprepared. 

In his twenties, Adrian began touring Europe, performing for dignitaries and royalty, enjoying the freedom to travel outside of Romania which was not available to the proletariat masses. However, the party bureacrats ensured his faithful return home behind the iron curtain by never allowing his young wife and newborn son to travel with him. As the Ceacescu reign of terror became more and more ruthless towards its citizens, Adrian was able to secretly acquire fake visas enabling him to spirit his young family out of the country. 

Eventually Adrian settled down in the little village of Chilliwack, far from the pomp and circumstance of the life he had before. He began to teach a motley crew of disciplined Asians and privileged white children in the art of violin. We were assigned to his class in '94 as Suzuki students who would be schooled in the Japanese philosophy of "mother tongue" music training by our Eastern educated Romanian mentor. 

It was a match made in heaven. 

Over the next 20 years, weekly lessons eventually became Tri-weekly (and often more) as the children grew older and more skilled.  I furiously scribbled notes on every word he said in class,  repeating every new tip and technique to my kids in our practices at home. By the time I had filled my fourth notebook with his detailed instructions, Adrian asked me what on earth I was all writing!  He had begun to suspect that I was planning to publish a Suzuki training manual based on his unique teaching methods. Eventually Adrian, ever the suspicious casualty of communism, insisted I hand over my notes.   I did so quite happily since I knew it would engender his trust in my genuine intentions. 

At every lesson we ended up talking philosophy, history, mathematics, politics, education, religion and everything in between. The minute you entered his classroom he made you feel like you were the most important person in his world. It made you want to perform your very best. It made you jealous to share him with his other students. To please the teacher became our top priority. He gave us his heart and we in return wanted to make him proud. That meant more practice. Lots more practice!

Adrian's exacting standards were not easy to achieve. Lawrence, the oldest of our troupe, caught on the quickest.   At six years old he started with a twenty minute session and soon progressed to one hour. Scales and arpeggios, shifting and harmonics all became techniques to be conquered. The more challenging, the better. Adrian loved his courage and in response, demanded even more. Some days were more problematic than others.  If at the lesson, a certain fingering execution seemed impossible to play, Adrian would drive him hard till his face would flush and tears would begin to form. "Be a man!" Came the firm, Securitate-like command "Just be a man and do it again until it works. No tears!"

The girls were treated with the same firm demeanour which was more challenging for their soft countenances. As the grew and progressed to increasingly more difficult pieces, their hormones began to play a bigger part in the scheme of things. When ambitious pieces rife with technical road
blocks were commenced, they often found themselves struggling to hold back the waterworks. One day Adrian brought an empty bottle to lessons planning, he explained, to capture all the tears they cried for safekeeping. When they faltered on a simple scale progression, he would tap his music bag as a reminder of the imaginary gun contained inside which he would be forced to use should they stumble too many more times. 

Adrian's rather unorthodox teaching methods were not for the faint of heart but were most definitely the main source of our many successes. He understood the tools we would need to progress in our technique yet always balanced the lesson with stories of courage, strength, bravery and beauty. He regaled us with tales from history and opened our eyes to the mysterious exquisiteness of God's creation as he saw it in music, science and math. He blew our minds with something new and amazing time and time again.

Over the years it became clear that Adrian paid a dear price for his musical gift. His passionate interpretations came not only from an understanding of true beauty but also from a knowledge of the black heart of man. Adrian was haunted by dark spirits and spent most nights chasing away the shadows by busily composing and arranging music for his students. He was a spiritual man wrestling the ghostly demons that tried gain entrance into his mind most forcefully in the early hours of the morning. For him, pride and lust were the enemies he zealously grappled with day after day. 

Some days he won and some days he lost. 

At competition time his students would inevitably take home trophies and awards. Afterwards, Adrian would joyfully discuss the results, describing the performances like a hockey coach amusing his buddies with the details of an epic game. Suddenly he would pull himself up short and sheepishly say "I don't want to sound prideful but I know that I'm good at what I do."

Adrian's faith in God was something I found most inspiring. From the time he held the Bible up at class for me to swear allegiance on to the many discussions on doctrines and denominations, I knew he was a man who desired more than a dead religion but a new heart for himself.

One of the last stories Adrian told us was about a dream he had one  night. He dreamt he had died and  was standing at the golden gates of heaven listening to an accounting of all the sins he had committed in this life. It was clear from the long, ugly list that he was not worthy to enter paradise. And then suddenly from behind him came a pure quiet voice that said "Here, let ME take those for you."

It is my hope and prayer that some day we may together, all of us, enjoy a front row seat at the heavenly concert featuring the "Totalmente Bene" orchestra, dear Adrian as conductor, praising the saviour who washes us all to whiteness that snow can never capture!


Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Wonderful Story of Hope to Start the New Year!

Daoowd and his wife Rasha with little George

Sitting comfortably perched in my favourite chair sipping a glass of cab-sav while munching on crackers and cheese, I love to end the day with a bit of quiet time watching the news and catching up on what's going on in the world.  Rex Murphy is always the highlight of the evening with his dry wit and clever repartee.  He says it like it is.  Nothing beats blunt truth wrapped in a blanket of colourful sarcasm to end a busy day.  However, this year's news has been particularly troubling with constant messages of fear and blood, terrorism and violence, guns and death.  My wine has gone a bit sour and my cheese tastes off.

Earlier in the year, September 2nd to be exact, the world was shocked to wake up to a photo of a little 3 year old boy, Alyan Kurdi lying facedown on a sandy beach in Turkey, drowned during a calamitous attempt to escape the horror of civil war in Syria that had been raging since 2011.  The image of his tiny lifeless body peacefully resting at the waters edge as if asleep was a defining moment.  What had been up until that moment just a middle eastern problem, became the business of every Mother, Father, Grandmother or Grandfather.  Everyone was shocked by the realization that this little fella could have been their son, grandson, nephew or cousin. He was not some adult man in an orange jumpsuit having his throat slit at the waters edge by hooded terrorists……he was just an innocent child.

As I watched the reports night after night of atrocities being carried out against Christians and Yazidis or viewed documentaries on the mass migration of peoples fleeing from death, my heart became burdened by the knowledge that we humans have the capacity to commit heinous atrocities against our fellow man that are abominable.  Men chaining men together and drowning them in a swimming pool while filming the entire act for mass consumption.  Women strapping on bombs walking into crowded markets full of innocent people to obliterate them with the push of a button.  Hands, just like my hands, ripped from their arms and thrown in the streets covered in gore.  Feet like my feet blown off at the ankle with a sandal still clinging to what's left.

"yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead."  Ecclesiastes 9:3

One day I listened to an interview with Canon Andrew White, a Bisschop serving in the last remaining Anglican Church in Iraq.  Most of his members had fled for their lives as ISIS militants invaded new territories, beheading Christians who refused to convert.  His life in danger, he refused to leave his parishioners, choosing instead to remain in harms way to minister to refugees in an attempt to save anyone who crossed his doorstep.  That interview told the story of a man who truly understood "the cost of discipleship", sacrificing everything he could to save the helpless, even at the cost of his own safety.

Over the summer I read a book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Pastor who was imprisoned by the Nazi's in WWII for the part he played in a failed assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler.  His life and writings were an inspiration.  He spent his life encouraging his brothers and sisters in the church to consider the cost of truly following Jesus.  His was a message not of "cheap grace" but of costly sacrifice in the service of others.  He died at the hands of the Nazi's, all because he was willing to risk everything to eradicate the kind of wickedness that comes to life when men choose to heedlessly wait on the sidelines.

Atrocities and evil littered my Facebook feed and Twitter account.  Dead mothers lay bleeding in the streets beside their martyred children because they refused to denounce the name of Jesus.  Such a horrific sight that can't be unseen.  A deed that can't be undone.

Oh the horror!

Is it possible to make any headway agains the kind of evil we face today?!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer thought there was.  The Bisschop of Baghdad thinks there is.  Their legacy shouts out to each of us

"Don't just sit there!  DO SOMETHING!'

So, I put down my glass of wine and wrapped up my cheese.  I picked up the phone and called a good friend who works with an association which aids refugees all over the world.  Within minutes she had given me the name of a Syrian family who had lost everything and was seeking a sponsor.  The father, Daoowd, a christian, had been kidnapped by militia and held for ransom in Syria.  His family feared for his life and managed to scrape together enough money to pay off his captors and have him released.  He had to sell his home to pay back his family. He immediately fled with his wife to Iraq to start a new life there, away from the horrors of civil war.  When Isis expanded their operations and invaded, the business where he worked shut down and he fled again to Lebanon where he is now living in very difficult circumstances.  His emails are heartbreaking.  Although he has lost everything, he has not lost his hope or his faith in God!

He writes about his wife….

"She is my second half, we both overcome the difficulties which was impossible to overcome alone, and together we survive." 

He writes about his faith….

"At every challenge and obstacle we faced absolute belief in God that he will light our way and save us."

He writes about peace….

"Peace Jesus bring is the greatest value we must practice , as we suffered from radical Islam from 100 years ago"

He writes about his hope for his new life in Canada….

"Our desire to move is not just to survive and escape what happen here , but to start a new life and integrate into new society to be active and reactive , to have new job , new home , new land forget the recent history and old history"

But most humbling for me, He writes about his hope for blessings on me, my family and my church family.  I tell him that we have been so richly blessed by God in our lives and are honoured to be able to share with them.

Yesterday we received the most wonderful Christmas gift.  We received news that his sponsorship application has been approved and Daoowd will be coming to Canada with his little family to start a new life soon!

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!  May the God of all mercies surround you and yours in 2016 and may we all be encouraged to more and more shine our light into the darkness! 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Now He Has All The Time In The World

On Tuesday, July 14th, 2015, the Lord took home to heaven our dear Father.  His final few days on earth were a time of great blessing, a time when we could sit together around his bed and sing Psalms and Hymns of the hope we have in Jesus.  This was the hope he talked about often.  A hope so great it was a message he yearned to share unreservedly with his family and friends.  And yet this weight of glory was so heavy for him.   His greatest regret in life was not being able to adequately put into words what his heart was so full of.

Dad was born in Holland just 4 years before the outbreak of WWII.  He was a darling little fella who could literally charm the potato peels off a German soldier, managing in this way to keep a few scraps on the family dinner table during those lean years.  Never a very good student, his educational career ended early and he entered the workforce where with his gift of ingenuity, he thrived.

Once he was able to do what came easy to him, his passion for working hard took hold.  An engine of productivity, Dad came to Canada and started his own electrical business with just a VW Van and a few tools.  On the strength of that meagre beginning he was able to marry the love of his life and raise a God fearing family of 6 kids.  He provided them with a warm home full of music and gospel.  He ensured that all his children were educated according to the promises he made at the baptismal font and in the ways of the Lord.  He gifted them all with his passion for hard work, love for their neighbour and most important of all, the joy of faith.

However, having been drenched with blessings from above his whole life long, there was one thing Dad most desired of the Lord which to his great disappointment he never received.  What he truly coveted was the ability to speak easily and clearly, most especially about the love Christ has for all mankind.  With little formal schooling and a learning disability for stumbling blocks, Dad yearned earnestly for an easy way with words.  He would often feel frustrated with himself for not being able to quote scripture or paraphrase the great Church fathers like Augustine and Calvin.  After retirement he began a diligent course of reading in hopes of loosening his tongue with a deeper understanding of the faith.  However, the more he read, the more the words eluded him.

"There's not enough time anymore." we heard him mutter not so long ago from his wheelchair prison.  His eyesight was failing, making reading an impossibility.  His hearing diminished along with his vision, so that even conversation could be quite frustrating for him.  His life long pursuit of lady wisdom was at an end as the fog of old age and disease descended slowly upon him.

And yet, for those who knew Dad well, his greatest virtue was the fact that he wasn't a man of many words.  Rather, he was a man of much work. His heart was full of compassion for his neighbour and without saying a thing he showed what it means to be a man of God.  If you needed food, he gave you bread.  If your marriage was falling apart, he sat with you late in the night and prayed with you.  If your car broke down he gave you a ride to work. If you lost your job, he would hand you a shovel and show you where to dig a hole for a project he came up with on the spot.  

James 2:15 "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Recently,  the building contractor Dad worked for many years ago came to visit.  Frail and thin Dad sat in his easy chair by the window, a shadow of the man he used to be, chatting about the good old days on the job site.  "Pete" his visitor declared "I knew that I could even trust you with my wallet!".  Dad's eyes lit up with unshed tears.  This spontaneous testament spoke to the way Dad communicated his faith best.  With few words but much honest work, he demonstrated the ways of a man saved by Christ unto a new life.  

Dad's ultimate desire may never have been granted here on this earth but we are deeply comforted to know that he has finally received that ultimate prize for which he yearned so earnestly.  He sits before our Father's throne, with tongue loosened and wisdom granted, there to praise Him for all eternity!

Now he has all the time in the world.


And that is enough to raise your thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex forever will also drown her pride… Perfect humility dispenses with modesty.” 


Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Thy People Shall be my People" - A letter to my daughter

Dear Daughter;

A week has passed since you married my son.  He whisked you off to a sandy beach somewhere warm where you played in the ocean together, he learned how to eat snow crab straight from the shell and you got a nasty sun burn while snoozing in the sun.  

It's a pretty good bet that you have already had your first major argument as man and wife.  It was probably over some silly thing like Reuben setting his wet swim trunks on top of your brand new suitcase, leaving a salt water stain and ruining the fabric.  Or maybe he was unwilling to go into that one last store you really wanted to check out with all the pretty bathing suits hanging in the window just begging to be tried on.  Trust me when I tell you, dear daughter, that thing you argued over will end up being one of your favourite honeymoon stories to tell your kids some day!  

How do I know this?  Well, my dear one, I was once on that same beach, scorched by the same sun's rays, wearing that same adoring look in my eyes, gazing on my new husband as he played in the swirling waves so many years ago.  He was my all and everything as I know Reuben is yours.  In my youthful heart, bursting with love and admiration for my new husband, I thought that he was my Boaz and I was his Ruth.

"Wither thou goest, I shall go" was a refrain that echoed in my mind. "Wither thou lodgest, there shall I lodge" comforted me and gave me courage as we began our lives together in an old farm house just a few miles from where he was born.  His quiet and firm faith was such a joy to me.  A man not of words but of actions, he swept me off my feet with the soundless gestures of a steadfast servant full of selfless giving.  I silently prayed that I might be a crown of choicest diamonds and sapphires to adorn his head and bring him honour, giving my life to him so that he might be built up more and more.  

Dearest daughter, the most amazing part of Ruth's story for me though, was the vow she made to Naomi long before she ever met Boaz.  As those two weary widows, hearts full of suffering and loss, walked slowly back towards the land of Israel, Ruth knew without a doubt where her true hope and comfort lay. "Thy people shall by my people" she said.  She, a daughter of Moab, had the audacity to cling to the covenant promises she knew in her heart were hers, no matter where she came from.  

I identified with Ruth, feeling like a stranger in a strange land.  I came from a family broken and torn apart by divorce.  Sure, I shared the same history as my husband.  We were both born of dutch immigrant parents.  We were both baptized by the same Minister, wet with the same cleansing water at our baptism when our parents promised to bring us up in the way of the Lord.  We even went to the same christian school and sang in the same church choir.  

But my youth was messy and full of the baggage that comes with the dysfunction of a broken home.  I had seen the dark side of marriage and I was not sure I could learn how to be a good and faithful wife like I saw in my mother-in-law.  In those early years, I was so inspired by the way she prepared meals for her family, gathering her children around the table for physical and spiritual sustenance every night.  Every evening my father-in-law would fold his hands and pray a simple prayer, his quiet voice laced with a thick dutch accent, petitioning for those in physical and spiritual need, always following it up with a jolly "Amen!" and "Goede bekomst!" .  It wasn't fancy but it was truly from the heart.

How would I ever fit inside this family with such a completely different upbringing than I?

I know, my daughter, that these thoughts and fears are weighing on your heart at this time as well.  You were born a pastors daughter and Reuben a farmer's son.  You were born Presbyterian and Reuben Dutch Reformed.  You were born an American and Reuben a Canadian.  You were raised in a home full of good books and rich conversation while Reuben learned through calloused hands and heavy labor.  You express your needs and desires in words while he is most comfortable with unspoken gestures.  Could the two of you be any more different?

And yet the words of Ruth which comforted my fears all those years ago, "Thy God is my God", are the great constant we all share, no matter who we are or where we come from.  He is our Saviour and our Lord.  He brings all men together through the saving power of His love.  Let His word be your guide in your married life and He will light the path forward.  He will not let you falter.  

With much love;

Your Mother


Friday, May 15, 2015

Everything You Need To Know Is On Pinterest

Pinterest Inspiration picture #1

I have to tell you a secret.  I am ADDICTED to Pinterest.

Pinterest Inspiration Picture #2

I just can't get enough of it!

Our version of the White Rabbit in last year's May Day Parade

There are just so many wonderful things on Pinterest that tantalize the imagination.

Another Pinterest Inspiration photo
Once I find something I like…….

Wee Three Pinterest Photo Session
I get my team together……

Getting the shot is not as easy as it looks!
and we work hard……

A few things get in the way
to get it just right……

Some props are more challenging than others
which always takes a few tries!

We just have way too much fun!
Luckily my daughter, Lydia, also loves Pinterest…...

Pinterest Photo Idea number 4
and has a fantastic talent with a camera…..

A rainy day in April with Wee One posing for the camera
as well as the most photogenic children on the planet!

Together, we fuel each other's obsession!

A few weeks ago I found this amazing wheelbarrow planter on Pinterest and I just HAD to try make one for myself.

I scrounged up and old yellow wheelbarrow from the greenhouse and painted out all the dirt and dry cement with a fabulous cherry red can of Rustoleum spray paint.

Then I planted it up with colour coordinating flowers.

Of course I couldn't help but go just a little bit further after I ran across these easy, peasy giant paper flowers…..

I got out my glue gun and scissors…..

and combined everything in a fantastic display that is ready to PIN!

So, this week at the store, we have decided to help YOU make your own Pinterest masterpiece since we are convinced you NEED to know how easy Pinterest projects really are.  All you have to do is register online at, bring your old "barrow" to the store this week on Saturday morning and we will have a Pinterest party all together!

You could make one of THESE…..

or these…..

or these……

or these…..


You could just troll Pinterest yourself to find the style you like.

But be aware that Pinterest is highly ADDICTIVE!

Don't say I didn't warn you.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mayhem for Mother's Day!

This is the week when all H - E - double hockey sticks breaks out in the greenhouse every year again!  And with it come a myriad of issues that are just too numerous to mention……

But I will mention them anyways since it makes for some pretty exciting blogging!

NOTE:  I was reading a new blog I found this week about the trials and tribulations of being in the floral industry, how tough and yet rewarding it is, and how important it is to find the joy in all the things we experience from day to day!  Who knew my twin was growing fabulous Wild Flowers in Skagit Valley, so close to home.  Looks like I need to put Floret Flowers on my bucket list of places to visit!

OK……now back to my story.

First off, our wholesale division is working out of 2 satellite greenhouses in Alberta and the Big Guy and I got the marching orders to see how we could help out in the prairies for the next 2 weeks.  My specialty is going around to all my favourite Big Box stores to check on the plants, water and spruce them up!

Depending on the weather, this can be an easy job…….

Brand new rental car with only 28 KM's on it now is a rolling garbage bin with 2000 KM's and counting!
or this can be a tough job……

Getting things to the stores in one piece over the winter washboard roads in the Prairies is not easy!
We encounter all sorts of issues……

The Big Guy manages to get stuck in the mud.  Don't even ask me how we got that thing back out!
the worst of which is WET FEET in my opinion!

I only packed enough for a few days worth.  I'm buying all sorts of strange things at the truck stop.
But in the end, we get the job done…...

and then Mother Nature throws us a curve ball!

In a friends backyard this morning in Edmonton!

However the craziness continues non-stop…….

Would you just look at the intensity on their faces…'s the wild, wild west out here!
And the hanging baskets just keep on rolling.

Fortunately, the Big Guy and I got a breather from the chaos with a flight in to Las Vegas on Tuesday night for a big Industry Convention.  Unfortunately, by the time we arrived we were too tired to check anything out besides a glass of Merlot and some appies in the piano bar.

The next morning we woke bright and early so we could check out the gardens at the Bellagio before the Convention opened.  What a TREAT to see such beautifully designed displays!

Behind the Front Lobby Check-in you can see this wonderful burst of colour.
Ginormous Foral Arrangements are everywhere!
In the Atrium

So much work and planning must go into these fabulous displays, no doubt!

Now, since my work at the Convention is TOP SECRET, I can't share any of my photos for now.  We are busy planning for next year and I have to keep those things on the down low.  Wouldn't want the competition to get a whiff of what we are up to for Spring 2016.  So, instead I sign off with a few more inspirational photos from this amazing hotel and say "Until next week!".

Beautiful classical garden out by the Patio Cafe
Our view of the Bellagio while getting a quick bite to eat at the Paris before flying back to Calgary
We may look old and tired but we try hard to make ourselves useful :)

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Big Day is Almost Here - Are You Ready?

Milner Village Garden Centre Mother's Day display

At this time of the year, all of our work for the past 12 months comes to fruition.  365 days ago we started ordering our pots, soil, seeds, carry trays, trollies, plant tags, protective sleeves, decor containers, fertilizers and so much more.  All in preparation for the biggest day of our season…..


We have travelled the world in search of what exactly your Mom will want for her special day.

  Our entire team has been working hard behind the scenes…..

Our Container Garden Planting Team

They all take great pride in making sure you will get the pretties flowers on the market!

Our Drivers and their swampers

Our team is the BEST!

With such a fantastically creative team behind us here, we take great satisfaction in a job well done.  A celebration is in order, wouldn't you say?

Any excuse for a party

Cheers to the BEST CREW ever!

And now, I must admit that what I would really like for Mother's Day looks something like this…

One of my favourite things to do…..climb ladders with wine bottles at the top!