Posts Tagged With: turning 40

Turning 40 and 40 Things To Do

Langdon Hall Country Hotel and Spa is a magnet for guests celebrating milestone events. Often they are honeymoons or anniversaries, but I’ve been part of many 40th, 50th and upward birthday itineraries. My Barbara Walters question is immediate: “Any revelations, destinations or to-do’s for the year?” (*I am a big loather of the “Bucket List” term—and don’t even get me started on “staycations.”)

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I turned forty in September without hoopla, tacky t-shirt, tiara or hangover. It was a civilized and romantic night, soaking in a claw foot tub at the Naramata Heritage Inn in British Columbia. Kim and I shared a bottle of “Therapy” (yes, that’s the name of the nearby vineyard) and she gave me a card with an open-ended plane ticket to anywhere in the world. That’s how life is with her—one giant meringue-cloud dream without restriction or hesitation.

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I have plenty of hair-brained ideas (almost daily) about life as a cheesemonger, chocolate maker, cake decorator, donkey groomer and the like. Kim supports all of this, genuinely. I frequently have us flying off to places like Robinson Crusoe island (yes, it’s an actual place) or the jungles of Papua New Guinea. As rational as Kim is, nothing seems far-fetched to her.

Turning 40 was seamless, just a continuance of this life by design. But sometimes, turning a different number triggers a need to focus attention on ideas simmering on backburners (or, taken off the stove completely). Much like New Year’s resolutions, monumental birthdays are another attempt at those champagne-fogged lists of refinement.

This list certainly won’t be a chore—why would I choose to do anything that wasn’t inspiring, feasible or purely indulgent? And, as any self-helpy book would dictate, when you ‘go public’ with ideas and goals, you’re more accountable because you’ve said it ‘out loud.’

So, here’s my Out Loud List. Some of the items have been cultivated for years. Some are ambitious, complicated, others effortless. A few are brand new developments that surprised even me—and that’s the beauty of lists, you can keep refining them until they make sense. I’ve already attempted knocking a few off, but, there have been mini obstacles for some. I’m not deterred!

  1. Enrol in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Biology course. (*Note: I’ve already attempted this. The textbook required for this course is out of print and is $680US to purchase on Amazon. I love birds dearly, and want to take this course—but, in lieu, will use that $680 to travel somewhere like St. Pierre and Miquelon to see the birds in person.
  2. Sign up for the Labour Day Novel Writing Contest. This is a no-brainer, but, despite being out of school for decades, the last official weekend of summer makes me so nostalgic that I can’t imagine being cooped up inside, hammering out a book in three days. I know I could do it, but, November might be more inspiring. If the September Labour Day weekend forecast is single digits and full of rain clouds, potential is high that I’ll finally scratch this one off the list
  3. Run For the Toad. This is a neat race at Pinehurst Conservation Area in Paris (Ontario) held every October. It’s responsible running for a sensible cause that doesn’t receive a lot of fanfare (toads). It’s been on my list for too many years. It’s just a measly 25 or 50km run.
  4. Watch The African Queen (*roadblock—our local library doesn’t carry this title. I need to visit my cinephile wonderland Queen Video in Toronto). This movie is obviously a cinema staple and, Africa-centric.
  5. Read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My grade nine English teacher recently mentioned this as such an essential read, but I keep getting distracted by other titles.
  6. Read The Snow Leopard. (*roadblock—not available at the library and my sister ‘borrowed’ –which translates into ‘KEPT’ my mom’s copy. Kiley lives in Banff. I will blame her for #6 being temporarily unachievable.
  7. Go to Saugatuck, Michigan. When we were miniature, our aunt Buffer (long story) had a game similar to Monopoly called “Saugatuck.” We played it endlessly, cross-legged, sucking back cans of Coke with ketchup chip-stained fingers, awaiting our next move. It was only a few years ago that I learned that Saugatuck was an actual place. It’s lakeside and chock-a-block with art studios, quirky cafes and cutesy B&B’s.
  8. Make a gingerbread house. At Christmas of course, not now. This was always a tradition, but somehow I fell off the gingerbread house wagon.
  9. Carve a pumpkin! Also, to be done during the appropriate season. I’ve slacked on carving since moving from Toronto—and in the city I paid big bucks for an urban pumpkin ($20). We live close to so many patches now, there’s no excuse. Plus, it’s been a while since I scorched a nice batch of salty pumpkin seeds. (Does anyone bake those without burning the life out of them?
  10. Sleep in a treehouse. For my sister’s wedding gift, the Torti fam pulled financial forces together to get Kiley and Mark two nights in the “Melody” orb at Free Spirit Spheres, near Qualicum Beach, BC. We always give the gifts we want to receive, right? (Hint).
  11. Re-create mom’s shortbread. I’ve never attempted my mom’s recipe, but, her shortbread is meant to be eaten on a treadmill or elliptical.
  12. Make a batch of egg nog. I haven’t done this since I was in Africa, of all places. Even stranger, Jann Arden gave me the recipe. I paid premium for the only dusty bottle of Captain Morgan’s dark rum in Entebbe and used unrefrigerated eggs bought at a roadside stand. I thought for sure I might kill off the entire staff at the Jane Goodall Institute, but, whew, didn’t. It’s time to make a Canadian-grade batch again. Also seasonal.
  13. Pick strawberries and make jam. When I lived in the beating heart of Toronto, I had such farm and foraging fantasies. We always seem to miss the strawberry season as June is when we travel east to Prince Edward Island (and we miss their season too, which is later). Last year Kim and I actually made mustard pickles (though we didn’t pick the cukes). We’re channeling our pioneer ways, slowly.
  14. Go to a roller derby match. I’ve been meaning to do this since that movie with Drew Barrymore—Whipit? Let it be clear that I have zero interest in participating—it’s completely barbaric and I still have a bump on my lower jawbone from when a Hostess Munchie chip mascot flattened me from behind on the roller rink. It was Jeff Kellam’s 8th birthday party and I thought my jaw was broken. But, I managed to stifle my tears and take advantage of the free birthday hot dogs.
  15. Go to the Organic Farmer’s Daughter. In nearby Baden, an actual farmer’s daughter serves up organic fare and it’s as close to farm to fork as you can get. You can visit the farm before dinner and see where everything is sourced from.
  16. Do one of those Farm-to-Fork events. The price tags are usually steep ($175+), but, you get to walk around some fairy tale farmer’s field in the autumn, or traipse through the woods with craft beer or guzzle wine and make pit stops at gourmand food stations and chat with chefs along the way.
  17. Sleep in a Lighthouse. Better yet, Kim and I both have fantasies of living in one. Preferably at a southern latitude, not the wave-battered, teeth-chattery east coast of Canada.
  18. Drink pink grapefruit margaritas at The Diplomat Hotel, Merida, Mexico. My ex-boss decided to ditch Canadian winters forever and the slog of working for other people. Sara and her husband Neil, opened their fancy-pants boutique hotel last year. It’s stunning and a true showcase of their design maven ways.
  19. Go to a lacrosse game. I haven’t been in over 15 years. I love the aggression in lacrosse. Last time I went was on the Six Nations Reserve with my dad. I sat in a seat that had a giant wad of purple Hubba Bubba stuck to it, and then, consequently me. Those jeans were toast after that game. I almost had to bring the seat home with me.
  20. Go to a women’s boxing match. Who doesn’t get all charged up watching Rocky movies? Adriannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnne! Sometimes when I run in the winter in the blinding snow, huffing the wind chill, I pretend I am Sly Stallone in Russia, training for the big ring with Dolph.
  21. Make spaghetti squash. Simple, right? If I can’t do #21 then I should just quit this list now.
  22. Go ice fishing. (Typed with trepidation. Just like our stay at the Ice Hotel. And, I don’t even non-ice fish, so, maybe this isn’t practical?)
  23. Try buttertea. There was only one place in Toronto that served this Nepalese-style of tea and it was always closed. The tea is hot, oily, made with gobs of butter and salt. I know, it sounds terrible, but I read a book called Buttertea at Sunrise and it’s been on my mind ever since.
  24. Increase gin knowledge. And this isn’t some lazy half-arsed excuse to just drink more gin. It’s historic and intriguing.
  25. Learn more about beekeeping. Bees are so trendy right now. I always loved that the Fairmont Royal York Hotel (where I worked eons ago) had beehives on their rooftop. After reading Michelle Catherine Nelson’s Urban Homesteading Cookbook, I’m two steps (swats?) away from getting a ‘hive nuc’ (nucleus with Queen and drones).
  26. Make Italian Wedding Soup. It’s a rare thing to find on menus. I haven’t had it since I skipped out of some massage class back in 1997 and a classmate with a car drove us to a little tea house in Dundas that served it.
  27. Go to a Red Bull Crashed Ice event. Have you seen this madness on TV? The competitors are kamikaze—flying down an ice track on skates to the finish line. We narrowly missed seeing an event in Quebec City and instead watched the track being constructed. Competing in Crashed Ice is something you would do at age 7, when you don’t think about the consequences of not having front teeth anymore.
  28. Have an official high tea at Langdon Hall or the Empress Hotel in Victoria, somewhere authentic. I went to the Empress, but opted for a beer instead as I had discovered lamb burgers at the Pink Bicycle just an hour before. I’ve seen Langdon Hall’s tea service behind the scenes, but, it’s good to be on both sides, right?
  29. “Choose a direction to set sail instead of catching every which wind.”
  30. Go to a drive-in movie. Just for nostalgic sake. We grew up three cornfields behind one. There’s even a drive-in theatre in Aruba.
  31. Attend a life drawing class. Not as the subject.
  32. Take my Katniss double (Kim) to an archery class at Casa Loma. I’ve ‘arched’ before, but not since high school phys-ed class. And, summer camp, when half the idiot boy campers would aim at the nearby cows instead.
  33. Write my African memoirs. “I once had a farm in Africa…” Yes, they’re written, but, all over the years and in various forms—journals, blogs, postcards, beer coasters, porcupine quills, etc.
  34. Find out how I can be a James Ready Beer Cap Writer. The writing team under these bottle caps is brilliant! It’s Kim’s brand and I love popping the top to see what wit lies beneath. I really want to be a beer bottle cap writer. What a handle.
  35. Try a cake decorating course. I don’t even like cake that much (except the pear-ginger-molasses one my mom just made, wow! It was like a gingerbread man French-kissed a Bosc pear!). However, I love the cool direction that cakes are going with fondant.
  36. Check out the Arkansas Elephant Experience Weekend. I’ve already enquired about this course—it’s sold out annually, for good reason. Who doesn’t want to learn all about elephants, suds them up and scrub them down and hand-feed them? In fact, if there’s any sort of ‘experience weekend’ involving an animal of any sort, I’m in. Which reminds me–there’s a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica that’s always eager for husbandry volunteers.
  37. Investigate what it takes to be a Cicerone-in-Training. I didn’t even know there was a name for beer experts, but, this is the hoppy cousin to a sommelier. It’s the true bar exam.
  38. Get acupunctured. I’ve subjected myself to sand saunas, volcanic mud baths, Tuina, Chinese cupping, Anma-do…but never acupuncture.
  39. Go for a beer bath. The Grand Wellness Centre in Brantford has expanded its services to a more beer-centric spa menu. Clients can soak in a beer bath topped up with three pints of Ramblin’ Road Brewing beer and extra hops. And, you get to slug back a pint while you soak.
  40. Start list (ie. Maybe just delete a few of these wacky notions. Like, am I really going to start cake baking? I made a sorry batch of pumpkin cookies near Halloween that were so dense and wet that even the squirrels rejected them and ate an old foil ball and empty peanut shells instead.

It’s easy to come up with 40 ways to engage and live out loud. Just build stuff, paint things, make things, eat superb things–learn widely, read deeply…I’m still percolating with thoughts—like, must read Farley Mowat’s A Whale for the Killing. Sleep in a yurt. Road trip to Amherst Island to investigate if it’s somewhere we could actually live merrily. We haven’t been to the farmers’ market at Evergreen Brick Works yet or that lavender farm on the way to Paris. Do I need a literary agent? Should I learn more about orangutans? Should we build a bat house?

Of course this list isn’t comprehensive—it doesn’t even touch on my/our travel ideas because that’s a different list altogether and it’s double this one.

What’s on your list? Maybe it’s time you made one!

Last minute addition. #41. Go to Aruba Monday. Check!

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Categories: Polyblogs in a Jar | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Rocky Mountain Road Trip Part 2: Nelson to Naramata

Nelson to Osooyos: 262.45km

Soundtrack: I Drove All Night, Cyndi Lauper

Road Snack: Buxom Okanagan apples, 1.5 kilos of Costco trail mix (mostly down to the gross raisins)

Nelson, BC is true hippie headquarters. As you enter the core, there is a significant increase in yoga studios, Birkenstocks, a surplus of tie-dye, transients and stranded and broke twentysomethings with guitars and huskies.

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We found a perfect launching pad in the Adventure Hotel on Vernon street. The heritage building has been updated with a serious dose of cool since its 1913 heyday. The walls are corrugated iron, the ceilings are clockwork orange and the hallway carpet is very Andy Warhol. The lobby counter has bike cog wheels embedded in its surface, there’s a “Hogwash Station” for bikers out back and Kootenay coffee is at the ready in the commons room.

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It’s architectural design mag-worthy—and the rooms have a slick Euro-feel with exposed brick and ducts and  super-sexy en suite showers. And, to boot, you can order a 6-pack of Hell’s Gate Lager for $10 from the room service menu.

My sister had gushed endlessly about Nelson—so much so that she admitted it was her second choice to live, if Banff didn’t win out on the mountain scene. I get it. The waterfront trail winds around a tiny marina on the western arm of Kootenay Lake and sits in the shadow of the Selkirk mountains. The parks are lush and the soccer pitches have dip nets (to retrieve soccer balls that get ambitiously hoofed into the lake). Kim and I walked the trail and took in the parade of organic-looking locals with equally happy dogs, kamikaze kids on BMX bikes and groovy skateboarders on longriders. You can feel the community hug in this place.

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From the waterfront, the town itself is San Francisco-like with monster hills (total calf-burners on my morning run). Note: don’t buy a standard in these parts. The main drag is rich with gear shops, yoga this-and-that and relaxed indie coffee joints. After a substantial wander and some fawning over Patagonia shells and fleece we were drawn to the stately Hume Hotel with its landmark neon sign beckoning.

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It was dark and moody inside, but in a good way. Two greyhound-thin guys in even skinnier skinny jeans played unobtrusive jazzy numbers. The place was packed. I felt like we had just stepped into 1898 (the year it was built) with our horse tethered outside while we ordered pints of Nelson Brewing Company Harvest Lager. A crab and artichoke dip became dinner as we had spent the day grazing on trail mix and had bypassed an appetite hours ago. However, had they brought out another terrine of dip, I would have been game.

Back at our Adventure Hotel, Kim and I set to work re-plotting our trip (again) and turned our bed into a tourist information booth with the stacks of brochures we had collected for the Okanagan. We could hardly stay awake until 9pm—I know, a world record. The two of us haven’t gone to bed at 9 since we were probably 7-years-old.

Kim was eager to get going in the morning, hoping that we’d make it to the desert and be able to enjoy a few solid hours lakeside in the afternoon sun. We hit up a nearby coffee shop called Oso Negro (Kiley insisted we go for “e-balls” and dandelion lattes) and had total guilt pangs about not travelling with a reuseable mug. The shop actually has a central rinsing station, and, everyone except us got the memo about a decade ago. We queued up with at least two dozen Oso Negro die-hards. I spied the e-balls that Kiley got glassy-eyed talking about, but, the baseball-sized ball of 100% peanut butter rolled in seeds and dunked half in chocolate looked like protein overkill to me. Too rich for my morning palate. Instead, Kim and I went for the carb-load of pineapple raisin and white chocolate-raspberry muffins that could double as doorstops.

The dandelion latte was a curious brew. I’m glad we tried it, but, I don’t need to try it again. It had a savoury finish, almost like chicken broth. But, it’s the kind of drink you keep sipping because it’s so weird and you need to keep trying to establish the exact taste profile until it’s finished.

Fuelled with dandelions and muffins (cake in disguise) we were ready to take on the next leg of the race—to Osooyos. The scenery changed dramatically every twenty minutes as we drove deep into the Arrid Extra Dry landscape. The ponderosa pines of the Kootenayshad thinned out long ago and the few trees we saw now were scrubbier. Remember Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree? Yes, a stretch of those. We had entered the zone of bleached grasses, taupe monotones and possible tumbleweeds. I started craving cans of pork n’ beans and Maker’s Mark in a metal cup by a blazing fire. It was the wild west, indeed.

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In Fort Greenwood (blink-gone) we passed Dr. Van Hulligan’s Circus of Calamities. The gold rush-esque town was dotted with trapper cabins, collapsing barns and saloon-ish bars. We drove a little faster through these parts half-expecting to see Dawg the Bounty Hunter or Christopher Walken.

Driving, driving, driving. On high alert for burrowing owls, Ogopogo and Sasquatch.

  • Next Nelson visit: All Seasons Cafe—a back alley bistro dishing out ‘left coast inland cuisine’ like bison spring rolls
  • Sandon: a silver mine ghost town. I like the mingling of abandonment, history and creepy.

Osooyos, BC

Selling features: 2, 039 hours of sunshine, less than 318mm of rain, average summer temperature of 28 degrees Celsius with a low of 1.3 degrees Celsius in the winter

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Similar to Spain in climate and terrain, residents have adoped an Iberian-style in buildling construction as well. Dubbed “Canada’s Warmest Welcome,” it totally was—the temp was 26 degrees. Like water diviners, Kim and I drove immediately to the two waterfront hotels we had earmarked online. Realizing the sun was going to set at the Coast Hotel versus Walnut Beach Resort, our decision was easy. Plus, Coast had cute complimentary Q-tip packages, in-room Starbucks Verona and a pancake machine in the breakfast room. By 2pm we were Q-tipped, on lounge chairs and well under the spell of Osooyos Lake (Canada’s warmest fresh water lake).

Our books went largely unread. We stared and strolled the shore, pausing to chat up a retired couple from the UK who were like sage owls in their slick of coconut oil, dispensing snowbird advice. Osooyos was kinda like stepping into the movie Cocoon. Everyone was over the age of 60, limber and as tanned as Bob Barker.

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Osooyos highlights included a drop in to Nk’mip Cellars—Canada’s first aboriginal owned and operated winery. The 2012 Syrah blend was pure plum and cedar and the perfect sundowner with wedges of maple cheddar.

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In the morning we tracked down the geo-marvel that is the Spotted Lake. Just eight kilometres from Osooyos on Highway 3, the sacred lake is a jawdropper with its crystallized “spots” of minerals. Dense deposits of magnesium sulfate, calcium, sodium sulphate, silver and titanium create multi-coloured rings, especially in the summer. It’s outer spacey and a fine display of Mother Nature’s creative side.

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Oliver, BC

This is the northern tip of the American Great Basin Desert (which extends to Mexico) and the south end of the Okanagan Valley– the trampoline jump to the Golden Mile. A map pinpointing the location of every winery in this area looks something like a Bingo card dabbed by a drunkard. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the proximity and clever names. Burrowing Owl was a must for me because they’re generous to our feathered friends. While Cariboo Brewing Company donates 10% to restoring forests ravaged by the Asian Pine Beetle, Burrowing Owl puts 100% of their tasting donations to owl rehab restoration projects. I like drinking responsibly!

All the reds we tried at Burrowing Owl were silky and big on the barnyard mouth-feel. Or, as the tasting notes suggested, “bacon and pastry crust.”

See Ya Later Ranch—the playful dog-centered winery donates 100% to the local SPCA. They sell everything from neon dog ponchos to dog-friendly peanut butter to a snappy Brut. We scooped a Jimmy My Pal chard/pinot gris but were quite sorry that we weren’t hungry enough for a patio perch lunch overlooking the rolling wine terrace. For those in the hood: How about their Brie LT? Brie, basil pesto, garlic confit and tomato with a fennel balsamic reduction.

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Oliver Twist—check out the cool vintage cars! The winemakers here are young bucks—35 and mad for the vintage hot rods. The Summer Passion Rose would be a fun pour to swirl on a June afternoon.

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Black Widow—the name and branding sucked us in naturally. The 2012 Phobia was a punch of black raspberry and seductive throughout. The port was a complete surprise. Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, this one would be a crowd pleaser with a chunk of Fair Trade sea salt-flecked dark chocolate in the mix.

Oh, it was difficult not to go all Sideways, but Kim was driving and I was getting cranked on so many sips. We bypassed Laughing Stock, Misconduct, Howling Buff and Ruby Blues. Silver Sage Winery with their infamous bottles with submerged hot peppers would have to await a future Golden Mile redux. Same with Hester Creek and their wood-fired potato and truffle pizza and Tuscan sausage-stuffed calzones.

Canada’s wine capital of 20 wineries in 20km is rather dreamy. Unfortunately, wine tours with shuttles demand $60++ bucks a person. Instead, we reasoned, for $120 you can have one dedicated taster and drive away with five decent bottles.

And, it was my birthday after all. So, as dedicated taster, we swooped in on one last winery: THERAPY. It seemed appropriate.

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Part of the Naramata Bench, the labels here are completely Freudian, of course! I quickly chose a syrah, the best accompaniment for our soak in the tub later that night at the Naramata Heritage Inn and Spa.

Backtrack: Our original plan was to stay in Penticton, possibly in a yurt (inconveniently located just feet from the highway). That was a blow-out. It’s just a big box city, clogged with traffic and with zero charm. The only saving grace was that the tourist info centre also had a wine tasting area. The staff there directed us to Naramata (Therapy also had a guest house, but, it was rather remote and we wanted to park the car for the day and get into the vino purchases).

The Naramata Heritage Inn was formerly a girls school house built in 1908. With just 12 rooms, the hotel is intimate, complete with creaking stairs and wonky hallways. I love sleeping in history– a byproduct of owning a 153-year-old home I suppose.

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We stopped at the local general store and picked up some of Penticton’s Cannery beers (the only praise-worthy thing about Penticton—especially the Anarchy Ale and Naramata Nut Brown), Old Dutch jalapeno chips and another block of cheese. Kim and I were born to picnic, indoors and out.

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The Inn, with the soaker tub and nostalgia oozing out of the floorboards was pure Romance 101. The rooms had the requisite plush robes and Aveda products to pimp out the bath with a dose of rosemary-mint. There was even a bottle of lavender linen spray.

But first, before the lounging—some sweat. We snaked up through the vineyards to the Kettle Valley Rail Trail and hiked to Little Tunnel (a 4.4km one-way jaunt). The views were surreal, and despite our mutual imaginary bear sound detection (and rattlesnake warnings!) we were left unscathed and seriously moved by the elevation and view over the Naramata bench.

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Day’s end: The Naramata Inn balcony. The sky had threatened us with rain and then shifted. Near the wharf the Damson purple clouds softened with sunset. We read a few chapters of our books (mostly out loud to each other), shared some olives, bites of cheese and unmatchable stillness.

And then, a soak and some Therapy. The best start to 40, I’d say.

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