Celebrating Jane Austen in 2017

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Any year is a good year to celebrate Jane Austen. If you agree with this statement then you don’t need the 200th anniversary of her death to do a little Jane Austen inspired travel. The good news is that many places in southern England are using it as an excuse to offer plays, special exhibits and special events. If you have complete flexibility in your travel check out Hampshire county’s website.

janes-tombstoneI have a specific time in June when I will be in Hampshire county and Winchester, so I will be able to see three exhibits at the Winchester Cathedral where the novelist is buried:

  • The Mysterious Miss Austen
  • Jane’s Winchester: Malady and Medicine
  • Jane and the Alton Apothecary
  • The Jane Austen Story

My favorite is an ephemeral event called #RainJane.  “Explore the city of Winchester and be delighted as 12 of the writer’s quotes from her novels or correspondence magically appear various locations across Winchester city centre when it rains. Rediscover Austen’s words in Winchester, her final resting place, and re-experience their enduring relevance. Copies of the trail can be downloaded here or hard copies can be collected from Winchester Tourist Information Centre. Explore the city to find the quotes and share your images on social media with #RainJane. A carved wooden and wrought iron bench is placed in College Street in the Winchester College garden as a place to reflect upon a living wall of ivy showcasing one of Austen’s memorable quotes “Know your own happiness. Call it hope.”

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If you have flexibility, the week of March 13th there are a number of plays and other events scheduled in surrounding towns. It looks like fun. Events are scheduled at Steventon, Chawton, and Southampton.

England to far away for you? North America has two celebration for Janeites.

The largest Jane Austen event in North America will be in Louisville, TN from July 14 to 16, 2017.  The theme this year is “Celebrating Jane Austen’s Legacy: 1775-1817.”

The Jane Austen Society of North America hosts the 2017 Annual General Meeting:  “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality,” at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa October 6-8. Registration fills quickly in early summer, so become a member in good standing so you can take part.

 

Boston Must See: Gardner Museum

I read about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum a couple of decades ago before the expansion. I’ve been yearning to visit ever since. The couple of times I’ve made it to Boston the family agenda has superseded mine. I finally made it! Since I first read about it they have added a whole new administrative wing with a cafe, book shop, reading room, music hall and offices.

Gardner created her palace of fine art to show off her collection. What I didn’t realize is that it designed as an immersive experience. It is Gardner’s assemblage masterpiece. For example, the wing she added for John Singer Sargent’s El Joleo. Her cousin owned the painting and accepted an ambassador appointment. He had planned to will her the painting, so she offered to “babysit” and then immediately added this Spanish Cloister to best display the painting. On one side are spanish tiles and pottery and an archway into the center courtyard garden, and on the other side is a mirror to better enjoy the painting and light. She didn’t use electrified lighting (although her personal apartments did) so there is a place on the floor where the original lantern stood. She opened the new gallery space to much fanfare, so of course her cousin could not ask for the painting back!

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I definitely recommend the docent guided tour. In an hour the docent explains in depth 6 different paintings and in the process you see most of the museum. I must warn you though, you’ll either want to plan for time to go back and look longer at the things you had to speed by on the way, or go again or both!  This vignette is typical of Gardner’s creations. In the Raphael room, she created this scene for us to admire Raphael’s painting of a friend. They do have elevators to help people who cannot cope with the stairs.

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In 1990 the Museum experienced a theft of 13 paintings–3 from the Dutch room–by 2 men dressed as Boston police officers. This self-portrait of Rembrandt remained because it is on wood and could not be cut out of the frame. There is a $5 million reward for the return of the paintings. They have left the empty frames awaiting their return. The will stipulates that nothing in the gallery can be changed and this has been honored almost to the last inch, making the theft more tragic.  The 2005 documentary Stolen is fascinating (I just ordered a used DVD for $12. I originally saw it from a rental from the video store–remember those?).

Isabella Stewart Gardner was fascinating in her own right. A bad-ass woman for her time, or for any time. She used her $33 million inheritance to create this museum masterpiece. I bought a biography, Mrs. Jack, from the excellent gift shop. I look forward to reading it. There were at least 2 portraits of her in the museum. My favorite was the John Singer Sargent portrait hanging on the top floor of the gallery. Henry James introduced Gardner to Sargent and she became his patron and enthusiastic collaborator. He painted her portrait just after the scandal of painting Madame X and having it refused by the client. This portrait also caused a ruckus and Gardner’s husband Jack asked her not to display it in the gallery (and so she did not until after his death).  I love it!

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Getting to the museum was an easy walk from the Ruggles Station on the Orange Line. Gardner bought the land at the edge of Frederick Law Olmstead’s new park Fenway (what was on the edge of town at the time). There are a number of art colleges surrounding it and it is just a short walk from Boston’s Museum of Fine Art. I also found Lyft to be super affordable and never waited more than 4 minutes for my driver. It is just slightly more expensive than the T. It is only $15 admission but thanks to my Crocker Art Museum membership I got in free. There are senior discounts $12 and student discounts $5.  The museum hours vary and the galleries are closed on Tuesdays.

 

Part of History! #WomensMarch 0n Washington

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This young woman embodied the enthusiasm and spirit of the March. Another young woman had a sign that read “What Would Hermoine Do?

It was so thrilling to be part of history. This was the biggest worldwide march for women ever. It came together within just a few months with marches from Antarctica to Stockholm and all across the United States. My son and I went to the Women’s March on Washington, DC. It was the first really big march for either of us.

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We drove from Boston to DC on Friday. It was a very long day due to traffic and weather. My college chum Carole was hosting us and her nephew Cade (who was my other March buddy). We chatted briefly, made plans for the morning and then went to bed.

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With Carole’s local knowledge we were able to get going at 8:30 a.m. and beat the traffic. She went way round to the back of the Capitol and came back in, dropping us a few blocks behind the Supreme Court building. People were already streaming from everywhere–with pussyhats. So many pink hats!

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We were packed in tighter and tighter. Everyone stayed positive, but after about 4 hours we needed to find an edge of the crowd.

We joined the throngs and walked toward the Capitol. Cade has worked for an Illinois Senator one year, so he knew his way around. Really though, you just had to follow the masses. Like everyone else we collected signs, button, and stickers, and took pictures of so many clever signs.

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We walked past the inauguration infrastructure as it was being broken down. We kept expecting to have to go past some sort of security check. None. We never saw any police presence the entire day. They made no arrests at any of the dozens of Marches. The mood was good natured and even joyful at times.

The main stage was on Independence and because of the 500,000 participants we couldn’t get any closer than the Mall. Since none of us could hear the official program, people got creative and started their own chants. The most common was “This is what democracy looks like.” After 4 hours of crowd jostling I was hoping that Democracy might have a little more elbow room.

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We began to make our way across the Mall and up 4th Street. This took another hour. More and more marchers were arriving to replace the small stream that were heading to the sides. So many marchers filled the area that it shut streets down for blocks. There was a festival atmosphere everywhere we went.

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We noticed that some of the more expensive restaurants were closed for private inauguration parties, but we saw very few Trump supporters or school groups. We were getting peckish and Cade had been telling Tevis about District Taco, so I knew we’d end up there for lunch. It is delicious. My only suggestion is to add more seating!

The Metro became more and more crowded as the day wore on. We hopped on the red line to go to our friend Gary’s house and watch the speakers and music on CSPAN. We caught the end and then marveled at the many other marches around the USA–especially San Francisco. Beautiful.

The day held such a positive spirit. I still cannot get enough Facebook shares from family and friends who attended marches in Oakland, Sacramento (my grandson!), San Francisco, San Diego, Boston and my friend Mexicali Cindy who helped organize the very first March of the day in Auckland, New Zealand. Right on!

This is just the beginning of the Resisterhood!

 

 

 

 

“Penguin Professor” Must Read on Penguin Awareness Day

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When I was in Auckland in November, my friend Barbara and I dashed down to High Street to the incomparable Unity bookstore. I really didn’t have room in my luggage for more books–but when has that stopped me from browsing? I purchased a couple of books including a pocket-sized one called F*ck*ing Apostrophes for a friend. Then Barbara spied the Penguin Professor and knowing my interest pointed it out. Without even reading a paragraph to see if it was dull as toast or not, I purchased it and hauled it home.

I am thrilled to say it is a wonderful book. I learned new things about penguins and Antarctica. Each chapter begins with a brief Adelie penguin snapshot–from a penguins point of view. Then one of Lloyd Spencer Davis’ stories about his accidental penguin research career and then a profile of a colleague or mentor who deserves to share the title of “Penguin Professor.” Most of his adventures are set in Antarctica, so if that locale fascinates, you will find this book hugely satisfying even if you are not crazy for penguins.

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Wait! This post is to celebrate Penguin Awareness Day. Let me share some of the gems from his book. His early research in 1977 and early 80s helped to dispel the idea–at least within the science community–that penguins mate for life. They do not. Although he gives a good explanation of how this misinformation took hold in the popular imagination. Furthermore, the male Adelie penguins are not the initiators in the game of love: “Ultimately it is the females, however,that decide whom to mate with and whether a male can mount them. The fights observed within Adelie penguin colonies at that time of year had traditionally been seen-in the blokey way of science up to the 1960s and the women’s liberation movement–as males fighting with each other for access to females, as if the females were somehow the spoils of war. Our observations showed, to the contrary, that the fights were often female against female.” (p 116)

Spencer Davis is a good raconteur and the chapters fly by. He pays tribute to Bernard Stonehouse as his role model in popularizing science. Storytelling is a skill that seems to come naturally but actually takes practice and Spencer Davis has practiced. He also  introduced me to the Antarctic “classic” The Worst Journey in the World.

I highly recommend Professor Penguin. He has also authored an award-winning children’s book to raise awareness about penguins: The Plight of the Penguin.

Lloyd Spencer Davis: Professor Penguin (Random House New Zealand, 2014. 185 pages paperback, $__NZ) ISBN: 978-1-77553-725-0. This delightful book chronicles Professor Lloyd Spencer Davis’ adventures studying Adelie penguins in Antarctica. His storytelling abilities shine through combined memoir, light scientific information, and tribute to his penguin-expert colleagues. Available in USA as Kindle only for $16.99.

He has also authored a children’s book to raise awareness about climate change and how it is impacting penguins: The Plight of the Penguin.

Pussyhats and Women’s March

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I love the way women create together. The Women’s March was a spontaneous reaction to the US election results. Loads of women (and men) thought they’d be celebrating the first woman President. Cue glass ceilings shattering. Instead we shared a state of shock and dismay. What does it mean when a man who grabs kittycats and whose Vice President is hostile to women’s health issues is going to form the 45th Administration?  So after a viral bump and then some rumbles about the organization and sustained enthusiasm from around the USA and then the world (over 35 countries having Women’s Marches too), the Women’s March in Washington and over 270 cities in North America will take place on January 21, 2017.

Sometime in early January friends sent me links to the Pussyhat Project. I knit and I’m going to the March in Washington, DC so it’s like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I scooted over to my local wool shop Rumplestiltskin to buy pink wool yarn and some circular needles and downloaded a couple of patterns for Pussyhats on Ravelry.com.  My knitting is not as fast as it used to be and I have enough yarn for six hats. My goal is to knit four before I leave on Wednesday morning for Boston, then two on planes, and automobiles. It is fun and women are sharing photos on Instagram and women who cannot go to DC are knitting in support. This so reminds me of other women organized events–we ace the details and embellish and enhance until it is something truly special.

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Why am I flying to Boston? Don’t I know that Boston is an 8 hour drive from DC? My son and granddog Dozer moved to Boston in August and I have not visited them yet. I am going to spend some time in Boston before and after we drive to DC for the March. Not sure my son will want a Pussyhat, but he’ll have the option. He is an excellent driver so I will be able to knit, a lot.

#WhyIMarch is to speak out as a woman who has experienced adversity because of my gender that women’s rights are human rights. I am motivated by this election to #staynoisy and to not take the progress women have won for granted.

Placerville Fun Even in Pouring Rain

Poor, poor Placerville. Overlooked as a destination except for those in desperate need of a restroom and a hot drink on their way home from Tahoe.  Or just an exit to get to Apple Hill. So unfair. Of course the town is laid out more to please itself than visitors (and bathrooms are scarce).

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Lunch at the Farm Table at 311 Main Street

My friend Cameon had spied Placerville’s latent charm when she passed through with her kids. She thought we should go back and explore. So one Saturday we did. It just happened to be raining cats and dogs.

Our first intention was to check out Lofty Lou’s yarn shop. If you Google it a photo of the old shop comes up. They have moved to a much roomier place at 263 Main Street. Lucky for us it was also a short jog from the public parking lot. It is a lovely store with a great variety of wool and other fibers. They also offer a lot of classes and have a classroom space.

We also found hard to find candy, and terrific Christmas ornaments. It does not take more than an hour and a half to circuit the main part of Main Street with stops.

We ended our visit with a delicious lunch at the Farm Table. They describe themselves: charcuterie – good food – provisions. We warmed up with a tasty soup and shared a salad. There is not a lot of sit down dining space, but there are choices for picnic lunches and pickled preserves to go.

The best thing going for Placerville is how close it is to downtown Sacramento and Folsom–different and yet not more than a 45 minute drive. It offers a different vibe–because it is essentially a mountain town to serve the local community. I mentioned our adventure to a friend and she asked if I had checked out the hardware store. She gushed about how awesome it is–an old fashioned, hard-to-find anymore hardware store.

Cameon and I also just went to old town Folsom for breakfast and shopping. It is much closer (especially for Cameon), with good food options. We ate at Peaches for a wholesome and tasty meal. The shopping options were also good, although my favorite store Roost is closing at the end of January. By comparison it is more quaint than Placerville. Aside from the farmer’s market on Saturday, it is designed more for visitors than Folsom residents. It is a destination for cyclists and runners using the American River trails, or for antique hunters.

Both towns are great options for something interesting to do with a friend on a Saturday morning.

 

 

Stocking Up on Fav New Zealand Products

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Whenever I leave New Zealand I make a plan in my head for a return visit, Lord willing. I also stock up on my favorite NZ products. The Dove roll on deodorant is better here, not sure why. I also bought a number of Lynley Dodd children’s books for my newborn grandson. Finally I bought manuka honey. It is a lot more affordable to buy it here than in the USA.

Manuka honey doesn’t taste distinct from other honey, but it has terrific medicinal properties. The Maori have long known the medicinal qualities of the manuka plant and of honey from bees collecting manuka pollen. In 2006 German scientists isolated the property that gives it antibacterial properties (methylglyoxal). I use a little every morning on my toast or in a bit a of tea if I’m feeling under the weather. The amounts are probably not enough to be more than a placebo effect. Nonetheless, I like to have some on hand.

Bees generally collect from one type of flower rather than sample many types. Manuka grows in groves (like manzanita or gorse) and once they start collecting the bees are able to recognize and return to the same flowers by sight and smell. Once the hive is committed to the manuka flower the bees use dance to communicate to the rest of the workers locations of blooms. Beekeepers can also test their honey to establish the level of “unique manuka factor”.

I am trying a new manuka product this visit. Our penguin guide swears that manuka tea will cure sea sickness. He’s used it and it worked instantly. I am skeptical since my seasickness is both severe and related to the convoluted shape of my ear canal. Nonetheless, I am going to try to find a way to test it because then I could go to Antarctica with less trepidation.

The final product I am bring home is chocolate. I mail Crunchie bars to my friend Mara. They are a Cadbury bar made with honeycomb and chocolate. I also bring chocolate fish (also by Cadbury)–fish shaped marshmallow dipped in chocolate. I also usually bring a Picnic bar for myself when I’m feeling low from missing the clean air and southern light of New Zealand.

I bought my AllBirds in the USA (from the internet: http://www.allbirds.com). On this visit I noticed AllBirds are trending in New Zealand, although Kiwis are more likely to wear them without socks. I also learned they are washable and I have subsequently washed them and they look like new! Check it out:  http://thisnzlife.co.nz/put-new-zealand-merino-allbirds-shoes-test/