Welcome to Shamwari

Originally when K & I talked about travelling to South Africa, our intent was to participate in a volunteer project while we were there.  Unfortunately, due to some time restraints, we were not able to participate in this kind of experience, however, in doing our research, we were led to the Shamwari Game Reserve.

Looking over a small piece of Shamwari.

Looking over a small piece of Shamwari.

Shamwari is a private reserve located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. We chose it for a few reasons.  Situated in a malaria free zone & covering an area of approximately 25,000 hectares, we liked the idea of being able to visit the reserve we had hoped to volunteer on but more importantly, we were impressed with the very close attention paid to the conservation of the land & the animals who live here.

From the moment we arrived on Shamwari, we knew we were in a special place.

There are 7 choices of accommodations on the reserve, each beautifully incorporated onto the property.  They are small by North American standards, with the largest of the 7 only accommodating a maximum occupancy of 30.  This is part of what makes them so unique, creating not only an intimate experience, but a very tranquil one.

*We chose to stay in the Bayethe Tented Lodge, which consists of 12 private “tents”, each strategically placed to ensure privacy for guests while being surrounded by the quiet of nature.

We were blown away when we were escorted to our “tent”.

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Walkway up to our “tent

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The view from our tent. If you look closely, you can see another tent off to the left.

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Inside our tent

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A bath perhaps?

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Or maybe an outside shower?

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Or would you prefer to just sit & watch the world go by!

Over the course of the next 3 days, K & I would find ourselves speechless many times, drinking in the beauty of this place & the utter sense of calm we felt in being here.

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Making our way to the dining area. I believe “K” may be saying, “no seriously, we are never leaving here!”

After freshening up a bit, we made our way down to the common area where guests are treated to beautifully prepared gourmet meals 3 times a day as well as high tea each afternoon prior to heading out for the late day game drive.

Pool outside dining & common area

Pool outside dining & common area

Outside eating area which overlooks a watering hole on the other side where animals are often sighted.

Outside eating area which overlooks a watering hole on the other side where animals are often sighted.

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Dining area

Lounging area just below the dining area

Lounging area just below the dining area

Lounging area below dining area

Lounging area below dining area

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The Spa & yes, we booked a full body massage for ourselves!

Guests are assigned a ranger who is responsible for taking you out on your game drives & acting as your host for the duration of your stay.  I cannot say enough about our ranger, Alistair.  His knowledge of the plant & animal life on the reserve, his charm in making us feel so welcome, his patience in driving all over the reserve in search of animals we hoped to see & his enthusiasm for the work that he does, were all part of what made this experience so memorable.

We were so excited at the prospect of the sights we would see over the next few days.  Like two little kids in a candy store, we happily tucked ourselves in for an experience that would leave a lasting impression on our hearts.

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Our chariot awaits!

After briefing us on the dos & don’t of going on safari, we headed out for our first game drive.  We were barely out of the road that leads into our lodge when we spotted  a group of these magnificent creatures!

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Well hello!

First sighting!

Loved how the majestic this giraffe looked standing against the darkening clouds.

Stay tuned for many more wonderful sightings!

Hugs,

L

*Our tour was booked with African Welcome Safaris who were incredibly easy to deal with, responding to any concerns or questions in a very timely fashion.

 

Posted in Uncategorized, Wanderlust | Tagged , , , , | 61 Comments

Our Little LAM

Our first meeting

Our first meeting

For the past 9 months, we have been waiting with great anticipation, for the arrival of our first grandchild.

Because our son & daughter-in-law chose not to find out the gender of the baby, we knew not whether this precious being was a girl or a boy until our first meeting.

Personally, I think it’s more fun that way.

 

Allow me to introduce you to our precious granddaughter, or wee little LAM. (her initials)

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How is it one little person can cause your heart to practically explode?

img_2109  There is something magical about looking into the eyes of your grandchild for the very first time.  An overpowering sense of awe & a knowing that this is a connection that promises to reach the very core of your being.

img_2175I was so grateful to have been invited to stay with Mom, Dad & our wee LAM for the first week after their arrival home, helping out in whatever way I could, & of course sneaking in as many baby snuggles as possible.

As I sat there with this little bean in my arms, listening to her little breaths & simply staring at her for hours on end, I often found myself overcome with emotion.

Just when I thought my heart could not feel more full, I look at her perfect little face & somehow my heart grows just a wee bit more.

My son & his daughter.

My son & his daughter.

Mom & her baby girl.

Mom & her baby girl.

 

How fortunate this precious little life is to have been born into a family with so much love to share.

 

Parents who, I have no doubt, will be there for this little one each & every step of her life.

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img_2151Above all else, our little LAM will know that she is loved more than words can ever express.

Of this, I am sure!

Welcome my beautiful girl!  I am so excited to share in your life and to learn how to be the best Grandma I can be as I watch you grow.

Hugs,

Grandma L💛😘

Posted in Stories from the G-Ma Crib | Tagged , , , , | 87 Comments

The upside of social media

At the age of 16, I took a job at a summer resort about 2 hours north of where I lived.  As a child, I had spent many summers vacationing here with my family.

I was hired as a chambermaid, but after the first 2 weeks, I was moved to the dining room as a waitress.  It may have had something to do with the fact that after a particularly late night with my coworkers, the bed I was supposed to be making, looked very inviting. Thinking it would be awhile before the occupants of the cabin returned from breakfast, I decided to crawl in & take a little nap.  Like a scene out of Goldilocks & the Three Bears, I was rather startled when the returning guests found me with a wee bit of alarm, asleep in their bed.  True story.

I discovered I much preferred serving food to cleaning toilets & making beds anyway.

For many of us that summer, it was our first time away from home for any length of time, out from under the watchful eyes of our parents.  I look back and wonder how our employers managed to keep that many young people in reasonable order.  Let’s just say, it was a summer to remember, for many reasons!  A living soap opera of sorts! 🎉😎

Working in this kind of environment, your colleagues become your  family, living under the same roof together, working together & hanging out in your down time together.

I met a number of great people that summer but sadly lost track of most of them not long after we departed ways when the season was over.

But there was one friendship that remained for many years beyond the age of 16.  My friendship with Karen.  She & I immediately clicked as friends, developing a friendship that would span a number of years post our summer job at the resort.

Karen & I - 1977, Winter 1978 when Karen came to visit.

Left to Right – Karen & I – 1977, Winter 1978 when Karen came to visit.

Keeping in mind it was 1977, these were the days before cell phones & Facebook, which made it a little more challenging to stay in touch.  Letters were hand written & sent via snail mail, as there was no internet or email.    You know, the dark ages!

Parents rarely offered to drive you.  Anywhere.  If your friends lived within the city limits, you were expected to walk or ride your bike.  If they lived a distance away, as Karen & I did, you got on a bus & made the long trek to visit for a weekend.

The picture below was taken the first time Karen took the bus down to visit, in the winter of 1978.  As cool silly as my local group of friends were, we decided to create handmade signs, don party hats & paper horns, to give her a fanfare arrival when she got off the bus.  We were given more than a few strange looks but what did we care, we were 16!

The welcoming committee as Karen came off the bus!

The welcoming committee as Karen came off the bus!

Karen & I stayed in touch for a number of years, but as happens in life, once we began having families, our worlds just got busy & for no other reason than not living within close proximity of one another, we fell out of touch.

That is, until a few years ago when we reconnected through Facebook.  The upside of social media.

It has been over 25 years since we have seen one another.  Until today.

Karen & her husband Paul, own a beautiful piece of property, formerly a family farm where Paul’s father enjoyed the hobby of tapping a few trees on the land to make maple syrup.  Their son has inherited the love of the trade from his grandfather, expanding to now tapping over 2500 trees on the property.

Having recently taken down an old barn to build a new one, I was interested in purchasing some of the barn wood,  which is what led us to our visit after all of these years.

Within minutes of our arrival, I was reminded of the reasons we so quickly became friends all those years ago.  It was as if no time had passed, as we chatted away catching up on each other’s lives.

Karen & I today.

Karen & I today.

I think this is the beauty of true friendship.  Whether you are friends who see each other on a regular basis or friends who reconnect after 25 years, the ease with which you share one another’s company is a testament to the reason you became friends in the first place.

Loaded up with beautiful barn wood and a few litres of fresh maple syrup, as we departed with full hearts, we vowed to not let another 25 years pass before we meet again.   In fact, we hope to go back when the sap is running to help with the harvest of this years maple syrup.

The sugar shack where the magic of maple syrup happens.

The sugar shack where the magic of maple syrup happens.

The boys (Karen's son on the right) filling the shed beside the sugar shack with wood.

The boys (Karen’s son on the right) filling the shed beside the sugar shack with wood.

Turkey lunch for everyone!

Turkey lunch for everyone!

Thank you for such a fabulous day my dear friend.  How wonderful to have been able to reconnect after all of these years & still enjoy the pleasure of each others company.  The gift of good friends knows no time.

Hugs,

L💛

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Cape Town – The Best Laid Plans

The V & A Waterfront in Cape Town is a popular area for visitors to explore, filled with a number of shops, places to dine, the ferry dock & a variety of tour company experiences.

V & A waterfront, looking back towards Table Mountain

V & A waterfront, looking back towards Table Mountain

It was also the place where we met up with Mark from AWOL tours, who would guide us on a city bike tour.

Making our way through the city, we stopped at various points of interest to learn a little about the history of this area.  One of my favourite areas we cycled through, was in the Company Gardens.

The Company Gardens, created in the 1650’s, are situated in central Cape Town, in & around a number of landmark buildings.

The gardens and park are open to the public, free of charge.  People meander through, enjoying the quiet beauty in the center of the city.

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Taking a break in The Company Gardens, behind Tuyrhuys, the presidents residence.

In the picture above, we are standing in front of the Presidents residence.  During Mandela’s time in residence, Mark explained it was not uncommon for him to be found walking in the park, engaging in conversation with people.  Wouldn’t it have been a wonderful experience to have a chat with such an incredible man?

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Statue of Cecil John Rhodes

Mark also shared an amusing story about the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, pictured above, which sits in the midst of the Company Gardens.  It appears Cecil was not a popular guy for some.

In January of 2016, it seems a group disguised as workers, made an attempt to cut the statue down with a grinder.  Hearing the commotion, a city manager caught on to their antics, forcing them to flee before completing their mission.

We chuckled over what they would have done with the statue, had they been successful in knocking him off of his pedestal.  Imagine that conversation at a pawn shop!

If you are history buff, you can read more about Cecil here.

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The incision made by the vandals before being forced to flee.

Our next stop was the Bo Kaap area, a community dating back to the 1760’s,  formerly known as the Malay Quarter.

Bo Kaap has an interesting history, with many of the residents being descendants of slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and various African countries, who were imported to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries.

With their cheerful & brightly coloured exteriors, these houses definitely catch your attention as you make your way up the slopes of Signal hill.

You can read 5 fascinating facts about this unique neighbourhood here.

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Just a few of the brightly painted houses in the Bo Kaap area.

Returning from our cycle tour, after a lovely lunch at the waterfront, we headed to the ferry dock, excited about our trip out to Robben Island.

Sadly, Mother nature had other plans for us.  Apparently she was creating high swells in the ocean that day, resulting in our ferry ride being cancelled.  Rescheduling for the next day, we hoped the weather would be more cooperative but sadly it was not, thus taking away our opportunity to get out to Robben Island.

Please note, if you are planning a trip to Robben Island, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance of your trip as tickets sell out.  You can source information here.

One of the things I have learned about travelling, is that even the best laid plans don’t always work out.  The need to be flexible in your plans can be paramount to enjoying the experience.

Flexible we were.  Checking to see if the winds had affected the cable car that goes up to Table Mountain, we confirmed it was still running & opted to head up the mountain rather than out to sea!

Table Mountain, appropriately named for its flat top, is South Africa’s best known landmark.  The cableway, which is the primary mode of transporting visitors to the top, opened in 1929, although has been refurbished to accommodate the approximately 800,000 visitors who come here annually.

Cable Car going up Table Mountain

Cable Car going up Table Mountain

Table Mountain offers a variety of hiking paths, ranging from easy to difficult.  One of the more popular routes is the Platteklip Gorge hike.  It is free of charge to do it on your own or you can hire a guide through a tour company to take you.

Our original intention was to hike up the gorge & take the cable car back down but with our change in plans that day, we did not have enough time to safely get in the hike so we opted for a return trip on the cable car.

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View from the top looking down at some of the hiking paths.

K enjoying the view.

K enjoying the view.

On a clear day, one is greeted with a beautiful view of the city below.

Robben Island in the distance.

Clouds starting to roll in but at this point you could still see Robben Island in the distance.

Up in the clouds.

Mom & daughter up in the clouds.

Whether you hike up or ride up, it is worth the trip just to see the view.  Once at the top, the terrain is very easy to have a wander about, enjoying both the view & the many species of plants native to the mountain.  If you would like to stay awhile, there is also a restaurant to have a bite to eat or perhaps just a glass of wine.

Regardless of the changes in plans, with a little flexibility, we experienced another fantastic day in this beautiful area.

Beautiful sunset from our balcony.

Beautiful sunset from our balcony.

Next up…a trip out to Cape Point.

Hugs,

L

Posted in Camp's Bay, Cape Town, Uncategorized, Wanderlust | Tagged , | 27 Comments

South Africa – Cape Town – Getting Settled

Africa has long been on my list of places to visit.  And so it was with much anticipation & excitement that my daughter & I had the pleasure of exploring a tiny piece of this massive continent, the southwestern tip of South Africa.

Our first stop – Cape Town.  Arriving late in the evening after a 12 hour flight from Amsterdam, we were incredibly grateful that our gracious host from the property we were renting, had offered to pick us up at the airport.  The combination of jet lag, not knowing where we were going & the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road, all seemed like very good reasons to take Michael (our host) up on his generous offer!

Before heading to our rental, Michael suggested if we weren’t too tired, we take a drive up to Signal Hill, given that it was such a beautiful night.  The view at night is spectacular, the coastline lit up like a million twinkling little stars.  A definite must to see, if you are visiting & have the chance to go.  Regrettably, I neglected to pull out my camera to take a night shot so you will have to google it or just trust me on this one!

cape-peninsula-mapThe Western coast of South Africa is dotted with a number of beautiful communities all along the coastline.

Upon recommendation from a friend familiar with the area, we opted to stay in Camp’s Bay.

Sitting just below majestic Table Mountain, Camp’s Bay is a beautiful suburb of Cape Town, easily accessible to the city center.

Booking through airbnb, we chose a lovely 2 bedroom apartment with a fantastic location. Our balcony faced the ocean, with only a half a block walk to the water.

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

If you are heading to this area for a visit, I would highly recommend this property or any other property Michael manages.  He is a fantastic host, very quick to respond to any questions or concerns that might arise & goes above & beyond in ensuring his guests are happy.

As an added bonus, having lived in this area for the better part of his life, Michael is only too happy to share his wealth of knowledge of the beautiful area he calls home, often referring to himself as a frustrated tour guide!

View behind our apartment.

View behind our apartment.

There is no shortage of things to do and see in Cape Town & the surrounding area.

Having only 5 nights & 4 days to explore this area, we had a packed itinerary, making our best attempt at covering off our list of things we hoped to cover during our stay.

After so much travel, we decided to have a bit of quiet day our first day, spending time getting a few groceries & exploring the waterfront at Camp’s Bay.

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Waves crashing in at beach in Camp’s Bay

Can you spot the surfer?

Can you spot the surfer?

Although the water was a bit cold for swimming this time of year, it didn’t stop us from taking a lovely walk along the beach & dipping our toes in the ocean.

K, testing how cold the water is.

K, testing how cold the water is.

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All smiles before swept away by a wave.

As we were taking this shot to the right, a massive wave came crashing in, soaking us to the knees.

Sending us into loud squeals & fits of laughter, with sand stuck like glue to our feet, we decided to made a quick dash back to the apartment for a rinse before continuing on our walk.

Walking from Camp’s Bay to Clifton, your eye is met with beautiful vistas in every direction you turn.

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From Clifton, looking back towards Camp’s Bay. The darker colour building on the left is where our apartment was.

After returning from our walk, we thought we would pop in to one of the lovely establishments along the waterfront in Camp’s Bay, for a wee snack.

Mmmmm!

Mmmmm!

There are a number of dining options along this strip.  Any of the ones we visited, the food was delicious & very reasonably priced.  Our favourite meal was at Col’Cacchio.  Check it out if happen to be in the area.

Next up on our itinerary, a city cycle tour & a visit to Robben Island….or maybe not.

Hugs,

L

Posted in Wanderlust | Tagged , , , , | 47 Comments

Chasing the Light

It’s been awhile since me & my bike have spent time together.

Autumn brings shorter days, making it a challenge to get in a good ride before the light of day disappears.

Racing home from work to change into my cycling gear, I hit the road and was very quickly reminded of why this so-called relationship is so important to me.

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Chasing the light

Chasing the light

As I listened to the rhythm of my legs pushing & pulling, filling my lungs with the crisp, fall air, I could feel the tensions of the day being left on the road.

This is what riding does for me.

To bask in the silence that comes from just me & my bike, working together in harmony.

It is good for my soul.

Quietly, chasing the light as we made our way home.

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Wishing you a wonderful day!

Hugs,

L

 

 

 

Posted in On My Ride Today, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Just the Other Day

jay-baby

Just the other day, I held you in my arms for the very first time.  I couldn’t have imagined the impact you would have on my life, nor the things you would teach me.

Just the other day, I watched as your lips curled up, forming your very first smile.  Little did I know how much your wonderful, quirky sense of humour, would send me into fits of laughter over the years.  To this day, you can make laugh like no other person can.

Just the other day, you found the courage to let go of my hand, taking your very first steps on your own.  I couldn’t have understood the mixed emotion a mother feels to slowly let go of her child, willing & encouraging them to find their own path, but feeling a sense of loss at the same time.

Just the other day, I dressed you for your first day of school, packing up your Ninja Turtle lunchbox with your favourite snacks & putting you on the big yellow school bus.  I couldn’t have foreseen the number of years of education you would pursue, ever working diligently towards achieving your goals.

Just the other day, I stood so proudly as I watched you successfully complete your education.  Years of hard work culminating in graduating in a field where you can utilize so many of the wonderful qualities you have obtained as young man.

Just the other day, I cried most of the way home on the train, after settling you in to your new place as you prepared to begin your career.  Feeling so excited for you to embark on this chapter in your life, yet knowing in my heart that this move was a more final one than the many we had done in the past.

Just the other day, my heart was overflowing as I witnessed the vows exchanged & the love spoken between you & your beautiful bride.  Knowing the challenges you had both faced in bringing you to this day of celebration, I had no doubt that your love was one that would stand the test of of time.

Just the other day, I heard the excitement in your voice when you called to tell me you had purchased your first home.  A place to lay down some roots and call your own.  A place to raise a family some day.

Just the other day,  I saw such joy in your eyes as you shared the news that you were going to be a father.  My heart was bursting as I know what a wonderful man you have become & that this child will be so blessed to call you Dad.  As the days come closer to meeting this beautiful new little being, I couldn’t help but think...

Just the other day, I held you in my arms for the very first time.

Hugs,

Bighead

*Dedicated to by beautiful son who is expecting his firstborn in the coming days.

 

 

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Precious Together Time

As parents, we hope our children enjoy spending time with us as adults.

Let’s face it, growing up, they really have no choice.  Whether we are good company or bad, our kids are stuck with us.

Moving into their adult years, they have the option of being much more selective about the number of hours they choose to spend with us old folks!

There is nothing I love more than to hang out with my adult kids.  To seek out their company not only because I love them more than life itself, but because I genuinely like the people they have become.

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And so my heart is bursting as my daughter & I prepare to set out on an exciting adventure together.

Two weeks of precious mother/daughter time, working our way through parts of South Africa.  A dream we have been dreaming of for the past 5 years.

This week that dream becomes a reality.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share this incredible experience with my daughter, creating new chapters in our life story together.

Our adventure begins in Amsterdam, a brief little layover for a couple of days, where we hope to take in some of the sights of this beautiful city, before we continue on our journey to South Africa.

Hoping to share a bit of our travels as time permits.  Join us, won’t you?

Hugs,

L

Posted in Wanderlust | Tagged , , , , | 64 Comments

Sharing the Load

Every now & again, we are reminded of the random acts of kindness of strangers.

My run to Costco this morning included picking up 10 over sized cases of water for an upcoming cycling event, our annual Ride4UnitedWay .  If you live in the GTA area, you should check it out!  It’s a fantastic day on the bike!

After loading the cases of water into my cart (in heels & a dress), it took a bit of a shove to get the cart moving.

Similar to a roller coaster gaining momentum, once I got rolling, there was no stopping me.  Weaving my way through apparent starving Costco customers haphazardly making their way to food samples, I safely maneuvered myself to the cash without taking anyone out.

I even managed to grab a 4 cheese perogi on my way!  Impressive, right?

Approaching the receipt checking security lady, she nicely asked if I needed assistance loading my wares into my car but in true stubborn, “I can do it myself” form, I politely declined.

Confession – I am not very good at asking for help!

As I pushed my loaded down cart full of water out into the 5000 degree heat wave that seems to never end here this summer, I began to second guess my decision to decline a bit of muscle.

Rolling across the parking lot, I then started chastising myself for being so damn independent. Whether it was the fact that I was talking to myself or the fact that I was breaking into a sweat just thinking about unloading the cases, I heard a voice say, “would you like some help loading those into your car?”

A good Samaritan & his son took pity on me, transferring all 10 cases into my trunk.  It was probably the fact that I was wearing heels & they were having a “what was she thinking?” moment but regardless, I was not going to decline help twice!

Sweat rolling down their faces, I sincerely thanked them for their random kindness, making a mental note in my air conditioned car to ensure I pay that kindness forward today.

So my friends, it appears chivalry is not dead, nor is the kindness of strangers.  We just don’t hear about it often enough.

Wishing you a happy day!

Hugs,

L

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What’s going on

Only love can conquer hate. Marvin Gaye.

Last night, I stumbled across a beautiful rendition of this classic song,  What’s Going On. Artists from various parts of the world, working together in a unique & collective way,  to deliver a beautiful & powerful message.

With so much hate in the headlines these days, it seems we could all benefit from a little more love.  I urge you have a listen & pass it along.

Wishing you a happy weekend my friends!

Hugs,

L💛

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