Gillian

Posted by Ellen

We open this post with a small step back in time, to October of this year, when our niece Melissa Koehler married Matt Solomon. We noted this elegant and awesome occasion at the time but somehow managed to omit any photo of the bridegroom. By now, photographers and videographers and Facebook contributors have documented the day in images worth a billion skillion words, and from all that treasure we selected a frame from a video, with its swirl of wind and an imminent kiss.

Below are pictures of four other of our nieces, two sets of sisters, taken as they celebrated with Melissa that day. At left are Maggie and Amelia; to the right are Avi and Gillian. These pictures are tightly cropped to feature the nieces; people have been cropped out literally and perhaps also figuratively as we try to keep the focus on these young women.

Gillian's wedding, of course, was just this month in New Zealand. Maggie's was back in June in Maine. Gillian works in Wellington, New Zealand, organizing ecotourism adventures. Maggie is a nurse in Rochester, New York, studying to become a nurse practitioner.

Maggie's little sister, Amelia, wearing blue in the picture, lives and works in New York City, where she is creative director for a brand new startup fashion label, The Girl That Loves. Amelia prepares marketing materials and designs the company's overall look and feel.

Who is The Girl That Loves? According to the website, she's a girl who's "going places, but she plans to have a good time getting there."  

She mixes edgy and trendy pieces with cute and playful pieces. Her favorite combo? Sexy heels, jeans and a sweatshirt (and possibly a fedora). Tadaaaa! Looking great has never been so comfy! Instead of breaking her bank over one designer piece she lines her closet with a variety of fun pieces. She likes simple, elegant clothing but enjoys taking an occasional risk: the right neckline, a bit of cool embroidery or an edgy color scheme can turn a piece from “like” to “love.”

Here is one of The Girl That Loves' new designs, in the playful category, a rhinestone panda skirt that perhaps, when some people wear it, can go from "like" to "love" in a heartbeat.

At the other end of the world from New York City, on New Zealand's South Island, Amelia's cousin Avi is herself no slouch when it comes to fashion; in fact, she once was almost turned down for a job because an interviewer thought she dressed much too nicely for someone in her line of work. Avi earns her living by studying penguins in their natural habitats.

She's just beginning a new position at Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, on the east coast of New Zealand about three hours' drive south of Christchurch. There at the edge of town, hundreds of little blue penguins, the world's smallest penguin species, sometimes called fairy penguins, have colonized an abandoned limestone quarry, making their nests at the top of a steep rocky slope just outside Oamaru's harbor.

Most days, the penguins leave the colony before dawn to swim several miles to their fishing grounds offshore; they fish all day and then return home at nightfall. Their nightly return has become something of a tourist attraction in Oamaru, so much so that an important research focus for scientists like Avi is how best to manage interaction between the public and the penguins.

Below is a huddle of Oamaru penguins just back from the sea; they swam in together as a "raft" and then paused amidst the rocks, perhaps just to catch their breaths and cool off after their long swim. Penguins' greasy feathers keep them very warm, so warm that to prevent overheating they have to fluff themselves, as they've done here, to allow chilly evening air to reach their skin.

Little blue penguins are not endangered, but many local populations are at risk because of land predators such as dogs and cats, which are not native to New Zealand. In the water, they are preyed upon by fur seals. In some coastal areas, they get hit by cars while trying to cross the road at dusk.

At the bottom of this post is a portrait of a little blue guy. He weighs about four pounds or less and is only 12 inches tall, not even knee high to a ten year old.

Posted by Ellen

Yesterday's shout-out to our accomplished nieces at this commencement season mentioned Olivia, and Melissa, and Amelia–but inexplicably omitted another niece: Avi. Avi has just received her master's in zoology and wildlife management from Otago University in New Zealand, where she spent two years researching yellow-eyed penguins like this little guy, in the penguins' native beachland of New Zealand's South Island.

That's it for graduating nieces, we believe, but school is by no means all that these and others of our nieces have been busy with. We know of at least three who are planning weddings this year: Maggie, who's marrying Colin next month in Maine; Melissa, who's marrying Matt in October in Chicago; and Gillian, who's marrying Mark in December in Wellington, New Zealand. 

And that's not all the nieces!! We can also brag on Jess in Arizona and Lindeigh in Seattle–we can and we will!! Nieces are so awesome.