New Zealand

Adelaide's Downton Abbey: Ayer's House

I have been moving my home and office since I got back from New Zealand, so I am behind on blogging about my trip. I cannot help but notice that all US social media is leaving a little space (after election coverage) to talk about the last episode of Downton Abbey airing on PBS this Sunday evening. The season traditionally ends with a Christmas episode that plays on Christmas Day in England.--obviously delayed in the USA. I bought Season 6 on Google Play so I have already seen the conclusion and I will not spoil it.

It did make me think about Adelaide's equivalent of Downton Abbey: Ayer's House.

Growing up in California I can relate to places like Adelaide, South Australia. The sprung up, new fortune, scratch-a-community-out-of-the-bush feeling is one I know well. Whether it is a gold rush or agricultural land rush, the place history is not very old and the challenges of creating a "showplace" home to create status in a brand new community is familiar. When I walked up the circular drive to Ayer's House in Adelaide it felt like a mansion in Grass Valley of another mining tycoon.

This particular tycoon, Henry Ayers, exaggerated his work experience. He was an office clerk but he claimed other skills so he could get a subsidy to emigrate to Adelaide with his wife Anna. He did well with the Burra Burra mines and ultimately served as the Premiere of South Australia five times between 1863 and 1873. He built a huge house in downtown Adelaide near the Botanic Garden. Even now it is gracious.

I went to see it because I saw a flyer on the bookshop window advertising the exhibit of costumes from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. I have watched all of the episodes on Netflix and the costumes depicting a wealthy feminist detective and her entourage solving mysteries. Sometimes with television I am disappointed with the reality of a set or costume because the camera can fool you. These costumes are the real deal--recreated couture to emulate the roaring 20's. 

I was ready to join the enthusiast crowd of women who sew or craft to go through the exhibit, but first I stopped and spoke with the docent at the front door. It was he who told me about Henry Ayers and why the house is worth a look even when there is not a fashion display in every room.  

To make it more interesting, the museum staff also created a bit of a whodunit to solve while you walked through the rooms. I did not need anymore entertainment as I was completely enraptured with the clothes themselves. Beautifully made from exquisite fabrics, I enjoyed talking to other women who sew about where they source fabric and how hard it is to find. We all laughed because even though we were from USA and Australia, both of our mothers used to look at a garment in the department store and say the equivalent of "You could make it yourself for less." Now it is quite the opposite. No one can say they are sewing to be thrifty. 

This gives full permission to sew as a creative expression. Many of these garments are impractical and designed and executed as a celebration of beauty.

The show, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, is based on Australian author Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher book series. I have looked for them in the US and have not found them. The gift shop had a new copy of the first in the series Cocaine Blues. I bought it for my Mom. Then when I found a secondhand bookshop at the Central Market I was able to pick up quite a few more in the series. My Mom read them first and now I am reading them. They are not as complex as say Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike series, but neither do you have to worry about gore or upsetting physical violence.  I hope Ms. Greenwood makes her books available electronically in the USA so more people can enjoy them. 

If you are interested in fashion that pushes the envelope and is inspiring and beautiful, the check out WOW! The World of Wearable Art dates for 2016 are September 11-October 9 in Wellington, New Zealand. Tickets are available here.

This blog is reposted from AmericanJulie.com. 

Download your Free Guide to Otago Central Rail Trail!

At last! I am pleased to share the first publication from On Your Radar Media Company, "A Cycling Adventure: Otago Central Rail Trail." It is available as a downloadable PDF here.

The Otago Central Rail Trail is a terrific, accessible adventure on the South Island of New Zealand. You can bike or walk, and this guide gives you all the information you need to plan your own adventure.

It will hopefully be the first of many On Your Radar Media Company cycling and other travel publications. Let me know what you think of the format and if you have any questions I did not answer.

Author JA Pieper on Otago Central Rail Trail

Happy Penguin Awareness Day!

Fiordland Crested PenguinIt is Penguin AWARENESS Day not Penguin APPRECIATION Day. Fiordland Crested Penguin

Because man is doing a lot of unhelpful stuff threatening penguins.

Fiordland Crested Penguin

Melting ice and overfishing in Antarctica is crashing the food web the penguins depend upon. For specifics from an eye-witness, read Fraser's Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica by Fen Montaigne.

Fiordland Crested Penguin

People are doing a lot of good stuff to protect their habitat and make it to another generation. Like Dr. McSweeney in New Zealand.

Beach without penguin

Be aware. Do good stuff before they are gone.

This post "Happy Penguin Awareness Day!" is featured on blogs associated with On Your Radar Media Company.

Keep Christmas Weird

Penguins in a canoe

I enjoy how Christmas inspires people to new weird heights.  Move over Austin, TX. You do not have a monopoly on weird.

This picture of penguins in a canoe also fit in with the theme of my Christmas cards this year--penguins. I am writing a penguin viewing guide for New Zealand and it seems like suddenly I see penguins everywhere.  Some are completely silly and some are charming. The last box of cards I bought brings together Santa and penguins, thus subtly encouraging the misperception that penguins live in the northern hemisphere.

Meanwhile this huddle of penguins in the canoe show a highly adaptable spirit that I hope permeates your New Year in 2014.

Merry Christmas!