Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Memories

RS Interview: Marie Friswold

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Relative Something is thrilled to be able to present the second interview in a new and ongoing sporadic series where the art of thoughtful question and answer conversation is practiced with participants who are kind enough to respond to my requests.

What a special treat it is for me to be able to present to you, Cyndie’s mom, Marie!


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RS: Let’s dive right in. If you were told you were going to be featured on the cover of any magazine in the world, which one would you choose, and why?

Marie: First of all, I would be too embarrassed to be a feature, as I don’t like to have attention drawn to myself. Having said that, I know how to talk to people and make others feel comfortable, so I guess I am not as much of an introvert as I think I am. AT LEAST NOT ALL THE TIME. If there would be any magazine, I think it would have to be a Bon Appetit, Taste of Home, or some baking magazine, or maybe a Martha Stewart magazine where I would feel comfortable and more knowledgeable on the subject of cooking or baking.

RS: Oh, that seems perfect! Your ability to feed and entertain family and friends is legendary. In what ways do you think you have refined your gifts and skills for hosting special occasions over time?

Marie: With the help of Carlos and Barry, I have learned to add style, color, placement of dishes, tablecloths, and of course the wonderful flowers that our gifted Carlos has done for the past 20 years. I have kept all the many recipes, vases, candleholders, napkins, tablecloths, and pictures of the flower arrangements and the way the house and tables should look. I feel I’ve learned from both Carlos and Barry how to entertain with a flare. I loved every minute of learning new ways to present the decorations and the food with a touch of elegance and certainly missed not doing so this year of 2020, as no one could be here to enjoy it with me.

RS: Do you remember the first time Cyndie introduced me to you? (For the record, I don’t remember.)

Marie: I believe the first time I met you was when Steve had you, Bill Daly, Chip Gilbertson, and another guy up to Wildwood for a weekend.  Cyndie was also there and knew all of you. I really didn’t know that you were a special friend of Cyndie’s at that time since you were one of the gang that came up to the lake as a group of Steve’s friends.

RS: You know, the only thing I remember about that visit to Wildwood is from the photo we have depicting the gang gathered in the old triangle with me playing guitar. In all fairness, Cyndie and I went back and forth several times (usually my undoing) before we locked in for the long haul, so it is understandable you didn’t know our status early on.

Marie: Then I would add that when Cyndie went to California for college, I didn’t know then how much you meant to her, but she really knew that year how much you were the only one for her, and the rest is history. I do remember the time you came to our house to ask for her hand in marriage while I was arranging the Christmas tree lights all over the living room floor. Fred and I thought that was the nicest part about our whole day – with our answer being YES. Again, the rest is history!

RS: It’s been just over six months since your partner in life, Fred, departed this physical world. How are you doing? There are innumerable ways such a loss impacts a person.

Marie: I am doing very well and am sleeping quite well. I don’t like to show my sadness very much to others. Having said that, I do talk to my family and two or three really good friends to share the way I am feeling at different times. Covid times have not been helpful, as I am a people person and love being with my family and friends, which I have not been able to do at this time. It has been very lonely since Fred died, as we talked about everything (good, bad, different subjects, reading, politics, movies, you name it) and I find it hard to talk to myself about all these various subjects without being sent to a lock-up room. I also reflect on the wonderful life we had together and realize more and more how lucky this person from Manannah was to be the one he chose to be his lifelong partner. I am also frustrated at all the paperwork, file cabinet clean up, business subjects to be addressed, and tons and tons of papers to be looked at and thrown away, so I tell him of my frustration but he doesn’t answer me back. I think there will be ups and downs for the next few months yet to come, but I am aware that eventually there is a brighter year ahead for all of us. Thank goodness for my loving family as they have been the strength that keeps me going and are always there for me.

RS: You and Fred started life together in college and had kids right away, on a rather tight budget. Ultimately, you two succeeded in growing wealth while simultaneously growing your family, raising Cyndie and her brothers to successful adulthood, and gaining grandchildren. What do you feel whenever you look back on how far you’ve come?

Marie: As Fred had been noted for saying… “Ain’t we lucky.” I cannot believe I have had such a rich life and not just financial. As a very young couple, we had no car unless we borrowed from his Mother and Father, we made a pound of hamburger last for two or three meals, I washed diapers on a tabletop washing machine, made our meager salary go a long way, and had the time of our life enjoying what we had. As time went on, we made more money and could save a little along the way.  We rented for 10 years before we saved enough money to buy a house and lived in that house for 37 years before buying the house I now live in, which was 17 years ago. During those years, we had the first four children and lived in a double bungalow where we had a lot of other families with children for ours to play with and get to know really well. As a graduate of the NKP teaching degree from the Univ of MN, I learned how teaching young children was an advantage for creating things to do with my own young children. Fred was always so active, funny, and wise and loved reading nighttime stories to the kids. When our fourth child died of Leukemia at the age of four, our family had just built a home in Edina that we moved into just two weeks after her death. The next years were the most difficult of our life and for the remaining three siblings of hers. I think something good may have resulted as a result of our grief, that somehow we learned how to cope, live, and move on when things were tough. Then a beautiful new child came into our lives when our baby son, Benjamin, was born in December 1971. A new chapter was in store for all of us and our children went on to become the gifted, talented, wonderful, precious people they are today. I have been blessed with a rich and wonderful life with Fred, who was doing so much to give back to the community, church, YMCA, University, with kindness to all, and left me with the title that I now believe I will say…      — “AIN’T  I  LUCKY.”

RS: You were a little girl when WWII disrupted the world and now we’ve got the turmoil of a global pandemic some 75 years later. You’ve been through all the events between, assassinations, civil rights protests, and most personal, the loss of a young Michelle to leukemia and most recently, the loss of your husband. As long as I’ve known you, your perspective has been pretty pragmatic and generally positive. What’s your secret? How would you frame our current moment relative to all that you’ve experienced before?

Marie: I grew up with a very loving, caring, beautiful childhood and had the greatest older sister for my friend all my life. My mother and father were the kindest and most thoughtful parents, and I learned at this young age that there was always a safe place to bring friends home. I was taught how to do things for myself at a young age and I learned to be helpful to my invalid Grandmother. I think I became very thoughtful during the time the war ended because my dad was now going to be out of a job and I could sense that he was sad, yet we were happy the war had ended, but then so did his job. It was then that we moved back to Manannah where I had been born and our family became the store owners in this small town of 100 people. My mother was a one-room schoolhouse teacher and a darn good one from all that I have heard. She graduated from college with her four-year degree at the age of 58. She taught me a lot so I guess she had to be really good. My Dad always had a joke to tell and a smile on his face. Never a harsh word came out of his mouth and he was very aware of the needs of others. There was always a solution or a positive answer to my questions. I believe that during the tough times my glass was more half-full than half-empty, and I believe Fred always had his glass half-full or more, as well. We hope we have been able to give some of the positive and not the negative to our lovely children, but also to all our fabulous, wonderful grandchildren in hopes they can truly live a fulfilling and happy life. This current moment is the longest, most difficult everyday life experience to stay positive. There is so little I can do to help others, due to my age and slight difficulties doing things right now. I truly feel there is going to be a better future for us this coming year and hopefully a better understanding of people of all races, religions, and countries to live in peace and kindness.

RS: Amen to that.

Thank you, Marie, for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I’m feeling pretty lucky myself that you took the time to indulge my unexpected inquiries.  I suspect the family will make a point of getting everyone together to celebrate at the first post-pandemic chance we get with a grand feast where you can be the Hostess of Honor! Keep your apron at the ready.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2021 at 7:00 am

Flashing Back

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I was looking for an image last night and found myself exploring a folder of photos from five years ago this month. Brings back memories.

My, those horses kept that pasture well-manicured.

It is interesting how we adjust our lives to the changing circumstances swirling around us in each given moment or situation. I’ve already forgotten the daily routine of caring for our horses. It’s been 20 months since we returned them to their previous home and herds. They are dearly missed, but I certainly appreciated the freedom from managing concerns about hay and wild weather and daily manure scooping under the overhang.

We still nurture dreams of finding a way to make our pastures available to nearby rescue organizations during summer months in the future.

There is a big void here without the presence of horse energy vibrations.

Now we allow the chickens a greater amount of our attention and this year of 2020, with its protests, pandemics, and politics, combined with the final months of Cyndie’s dad’s life, have commanded a bulk of our limited mental resources.

It’s invigorating to think back to better times and remember how different life was only a half-decade ago.

With the pandemic spreading unchecked we are in for a strange couple of holidays this season. Home alone is taking on a whole new meaning.

I think I’ll be diving into multiple flashbacks of Thanksgivings and Christmases throughout my life in order to distract from how odd this year has turned out.

Do you wonder if all the U.S. Thanksgiving Day Zoom gatherings will bog down the internet next week? If ever there was a time to have “smell-o-vision” built into the app, the aroma of the turkey feasts wafting from kitchens around the country would be a particularly valuable addition to the virtual family visits.

Trust me, if I could share the incredible smells when Cyndie bakes my mom’s sweet bread bun recipe (Gramma Betty’s Buns), I certainly would. It’s too much for one man to consume. I’ll be on aroma overload.

Come to think of it, that just might be a way to overwhelm the coronavirus. I need to contact the vaccine research people and let ’em know I may have stumbled on to a solution that doesn’t require insanely cold freezers during distribution and storage.

With Cyndie’s tendency to bake enough for millions, we could be looking at a way out of this “stay at home” protocol much sooner than currently predicted. Although, one side effect to note, I think I gain weight by simply breathing in the scrumptious smell of these fresh-baked morsels of goodness.

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Written by johnwhays

November 19, 2020 at 7:00 am

Painted Skies

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One of many fond memories I have of home during my adolescence is the variety of magazines that showed up in our mailbox. I’m guessing I have my father to thank for this. Weekly, I paged through Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated for exposure to the latest images and trends. I remember exploring Popular Mechanics, or was it Popular Science? Probably both. There was Reader’s Digest and a few along the lines of Good Housekeeping, likely for Mom’s benefit, to which I paid a little less attention.

For a spell, there was Arizona Highways with its glorious pictures of colorful western sunsets. I suppose that contributed to a perspective that Arizona was the place where that happened. Obviously, that perception has carried through to now because that magazine came to mind when Cyndie offered me photos she took of yesterday’s sunset and this morning’s sunrise.

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Beldenville, Wisconsin. Land of painted skies…

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Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2020 at 10:18 am

Here Goes

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‘Tis the season. The aromas and the flavors of November have arrived inside our house. My ongoing challenge to control gastronomic excess for the good of my hemoglobin A1c and my waistline love-handles intensifies significantly as my childhood favorites show up in amazing succession.

Chex mix and pecan pie appeared this week to start the month with intensity.

I’ve noticed these hold a much greater draw for my cravings than all the scones and hand-pies Cyndie has been baking for the Berry Farm lately. As delicious a treat as those are, I wasn’t exposed to them growing up. That seems to be the key difference in the intensity of the attraction.

Oh, those childhood flavor memories.

Mmm mm good.

Yesterday, at sunset, I was tasked with tending the chickens into the coop because Cyndie wasn’t going to be home from errands until after dark. That’s not usually a big deal, except this time we have the ailing Australorp who had vanished on me.

Earlier in the afternoon, when I looked in on the brood, I found all the young ones romping in the vicinity of the barn. As I cooed at them and chirped my falsetto chicken-dad love-speak, I heard chicken feet running through the leaves in our woods. It was two of the adult hens coming to make sure they weren’t missing out on treats.

Only two hens.

Where was the Australorp? I searched and searched but found no sight of her. Uh oh.

Of course, I assumed the worst. When she didn’t return to the coop at sunset with all the others, I called Cyndie, in case she would know any other places to look. After begrudgingly closing up the coop for the night, I headed up toward the house. Since this was the direction the two hens had come running from earlier, I decided to detour behind the shop garage for one last look.

In the low light of dusk, the black silhouette of our Australorp stood out distinctly against the lighter background or our neighbor’s harvested soybean field. She was standing out in the open all by herself, poor little thing.

I have no idea if she didn’t return because she couldn’t or because she didn’t want to, but she obviously still isn’t well.

She didn’t warm up to my approach, but she didn’t run away, either. As I slowly talked my way closer and closer, she moved enough that I thought maybe I could walk with her back to our land. She got a few feet into the woods before I decided to just pick her up and carry her.

We’ve given her electrolytes with the hydration but didn’t have any antibiotics. Cyndie is heading to the feed store this morning to see what she can find there. We would like to offer our precious hens whatever support we can.

This morning, Cyndie pointed out the fact that this was the bird that survived an encounter with a fox a few months ago. We don’t know what internal injuries she may have dealt with at the time that might compromise her ultimate longevity.

My inclination this morning is that I might take some Chex mix down to share. She won’t have childhood memories of it, but still, it tastes like an elixir of love and life.

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Written by johnwhays

November 7, 2020 at 10:15 am

Dream Visit

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It’s a mystery to me, one which I believe equally that either of two possibilities could be true. When a deceased person makes an appearance in my dreams while I am sleeping, is it because my mind conjured up the occurrence or because the spiritual nature of the passed soul placed themselves into the perceptions going on in my mind?

On Wednesday night, or actually, in the wee early hours of Thursday morning, I was having a series of fantastical dreams. At one point, I found myself seated in a booth common to many eateries, with Cyndie beside me and her mother across from me, and then Cyndie’s dad, Fred, showed up, sitting on the corner opposite from me.

It is the first time I have dreamed of Fred since he died in June.

I was shocked to see him, and incredibly thrilled. He seemed to acknowledge my reactions, flashing an impish grin as I scanned Cyndie and her mom who remained oblivious. I was so moved with his presence, the rush of emotions made me want to cry.

It being a dream, and my body essentially paralyzed, I couldn’t get myself to act on the urge.

My question lingers; did my mind choose to create this scenario of Fred’s spirit appearing in my dream or did his supernatural essence actually show up to connect with me?

Either way, it brought me a lot of joy in the moment, joy that lasted all day long and expanded each time I described it to people.

Of course, the best was when I had a chance to tell Cyndie about it.

While he was seated, he took a swig from what appeared to be a beer bottle. He looked really happy to me. The thought occurred to me that he could probably have a beer if he wanted in his afterlife. Fred had been sober about as long as Cyndie and I have been married. He drank a lot of non-alcoholic beers, but I don’t recall him ever looking as happy about it as he looked when tipping that bottle in my dream.

Did my brain conjure all that up? Maybe. Since I don’t really know, I’m happy just relishing the great feeling the dream provided.

It did nudge up the emotions of missing him a bit more than before, but the fun of seeing him again, and his looking so perfectly happy and mischievous was worth it.

Missing Fred is something that a lot of us are adjusting to and will linger long. If we could meet him in our dreams at will, I suspect it would happen more often than it does.

Maybe that lends a little credence to the possibility that appearances of lost loved ones in our dreams is more their doing than our own.

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Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2020 at 6:00 am

Cake Mistake

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Missing ingredient? She swears not. Wrong ingredient? Confident there wasn’t. Overfilled pans? Can’t say it wasn’t, but both to this bizarre degree? Hard to pin down.

Cyndie tried an unfamiliar recipe to bake a vanilla cake for Julian’s birthday. Since it was an untested recipe, she decided to conform strictly to the directions, a somewhat uncommon mode for her.

It didn’t take long to suspect something was amiss.

The batter was boiling over in the oven. Both the six little bunt shapes and the square pyrex pan.

There was nothing very cake-like at all in this failed birthday bake-xtravaganza.

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Old ingredients? Nope, she said.

Baking powder or soda? Both included.

Did you mix up the amounts? No.

I want her to try again to see what happens. She has no interest in going near that recipe ever again.

After a quick visit to the grocery store for more supplies, Cyndie went for a layer cake.

It didn’t boil over.

Happy Birthday, Julian!

(And Happy 39th Anniversary, John and Cyndie! It’s a gorgeous blue-sky September day today, just like that day in the garden was on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.)

I don’t remember the weather 32 years ago, because we were indoors in a hospital room. I do remember driving 2-year-old Elysa to the hospital to see Momma and meet her new younger brother.

September 19 is a special day for our family.

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This year, we celebrate it with a tinge of sorrow in the shadow of yesterday’s passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Here’s hoping she will still be guiding us all from her continued heavenly perspective.

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Written by johnwhays

September 19, 2020 at 9:47 am

Himalayan Memories

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A dear friend who was a precious member of the Himalayan trek I did back in 2009 recently visited us and left me with her illustrated edition of Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.” I had read this book about the deadly 1996 season on Everest when it was first published but had not seen this version with all the photos and graphics.

David Piper took this shot of me overlooking Namche Bazaar

Thinking I would breeze through and just look at all the pictures, I unexpectedly found myself powerless to ignore the text. After an attempt to skim some of the reading to refresh my memory failed miserably, I gave in and absorbed every last word, at the expense of sleep and a few daily tasks.

I simply couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end.

Of course, the early portions of the descriptions from Kathmandu up to Lukla and then the villages up to 13,000 FT elevation resonate deeply with my first-hand experience and bring a rush of vivid pleasant memories flooding back.

I clearly remember the specific spot Krakauer describes when the rocky path first arrives at a vista with a view of the peak of Everest.

The adventure travel group I trekked with had a tag line that “Everyone Has an Everest.” While re-reading “Into Thin Air” I have found myself understanding better than ever how to apply this thinking more often to everyday life.

It doesn’t need to be some epic accomplishment. Reading the intricate details of the goings-on in a guided expedition to reach the summit of Everest reveals how important each little step is, maybe even more important than the few abbreviated minutes they are able to allow themselves to spend at the top.

As well, the critical value of coming back down after the pinnacle is achieved, which is the only thing that will allow a full realization of the accomplishment.

So it can be in our everyday lives. Each thing we do in an effort toward our goals holds value like the preparations individuals make in an Everest expedition.

It’s not simply the destination, but the journey that should be valued in our day-to-day mini-expeditions.

The journey both there, and back again.

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Aerial History

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With much appreciation to my son, Julian, for his pointer to a precious University of Minnesota online historical aerial photograph resource he stumbled onto yesterday, I dedicate today’s post to my siblings and cousins who will most likely enjoy this more than anyone else.

I immediately searched for images from my old Eden Prairie homes. I started looking at our house on Cedar Ridge Road, but the big fun was exploring views of Intervale Ranch on old County Road 18.

Check out the place in 1960:

I have cropped this to include Fullerton’s and McCartney’s houses for reference, and the gravel pit across from the driveway of our house.

You can clearly see the center circle of our driveway, the tennis court, the barns, and the house on the hill that was the Superintendent’s quarters where the family first lived while our grandparents were in the main house.

Just seven years later, it looked like this:

Look how much bigger the gravel pit is. You can see the divided highway that formed the barrier between us and Braemar Park. I’m pretty certain that the final excavation of the surroundings was already underway, based on the pathway cleared between the outer barn and the highway.

Here is a closer zoom focusing on Intervale:

Can you find the chestnut tree?

And finally, here is a wider pan to show more of the surroundings:

This gives the added reference of 494 in the bottom of the frame, much of the golf course, and –with the stark white roof– the Braemar hockey rink.

You can also see the rest of the expanded gravel pit.

Remember how hilly it was around there? From the satellite view, it is really hard to get a sense of those dramatic features. I believe we have photos of the construction of the north/south divided highway that was County 18 at the time that are dated 1962. I find it interesting to consider the changes that happened in the seven years between these images.

Cyndie and I have been at Wintervale for seven years now. In October it will reach eight. Luckily, I’ve already been collecting the overhead satellite views of this property.

Hopefully, there won’t be any divided highway installations coming into the pictures in our lifetimes.

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Written by johnwhays

July 7, 2020 at 6:00 am

So Little

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There are days when I want nothing more than to be standing again in the high Himalayas gazing at surrounding peaks and the valleys between.

These days I find plenty of solace in the wide-open spaces of our rural paradise where the variety of skies provides endless fascination.

It serves to remind me that we are so little and the universe so vast.

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Written by johnwhays

July 2, 2020 at 6:00 am

Music Memory

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As a latter-baby-boom fan of record albums, I have a number of milestone music memories from my coming-of-age years moving between middle school to high school in the 1970s. Admittedly, having four older siblings as in-home influencers contributed greatly to my exposure to music that was older than my years. The burgeoning rock scene of the Woodstock era was a little beyond my 10-year-old self, but the allure of the music was well-established by the time I reached my mid-teens.

Cyndie and I were recently gifted with access to Apple Music by our kids. The welcome message from Apple points out my song collection is now 60-million strong. This is a gift the kids will have a very difficult time surpassing in the future. Maybe a fiber-optic line of unlimited data access to our home in the rural countryside could top this, but that’s pretty far beyond the ability of individuals to achieve.

As it is, we are able to sip new downloads through a tiny straw on our current data plan.

However, my connection at work offers an alternate avenue for adding songs to the library on my phone. Yesterday, I downloaded the America album, “Holiday.” That record was released on my 15th birthday at a time when my interest in their acoustic guitar sounds and vocal harmonies was very strong.

It was to be my time. New music that was current to my adolescence. However, reality didn’t quite match my expectations. The band was evolving and I was disappointed.

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I liked the way they looked on their first album. I am embarrassingly influenced by album cover art. (Duly noting the incredible insensitivity of the somber indigenous tribesmen behind the gleeful white trio under the dual-meaning “America.”) The old-timey photo on “Holiday” didn’t appeal to me one bit.

The new album had less strumming acoustic guitars and more theatrical clarinet.

I tried to like “Holiday.” There were a couple of songs that wowed me, but the majority didn’t, despite listening to it over and over again. When I moved from LPs to CDs, “Holiday” didn’t get replaced. I haven’t heard most of these songs in 40-some years. Now, with the convenience of digital access, I get to revisit my youth.

Listening to the album again triggered a lot of memories. Riding in the back of a station wagon packed with teens and someone turning up the radio for the song, “Tin Man” and shooshing everyone because “John’s song” was on.

But, I wanted “Horse with No Name” and “Riverside” not “Sister Golden Hair” and “Muskrat Love.”

Luckily, at the time, I also had “461 Ocean Boulevard,” the return of Eric Clapton to recording after recovering from a 3-year addiction to heroin.

I’m looking forward to mining more lost gems and their associated memories of my youth among the other 60-million songs that hopefully include a wide variety from the 70s.

Thank you, Elysa and Julian! This was a brilliant choice for a gift for us both.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2020 at 6:00 am