Author Archives: S.D. Kelly

Rockport Retail: It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here

by Rockport artist Stefan Mierz

Rambling in Rockport

Yesterday, a post went up on GMG written by the venerable Joey C. on his Saturday a.m. shopping experience in the equally venerable town of Rockport, Mass. The post has since been edited in response to the wail that went up from Main Street and parts of Bearskin Neck — a wail that could be heard all the way in East Gloucester, ringing through the antennae of the crustaceans piled up on the dock as Rockport shop owners rose up in protest. (The protest is mostly on Facebook if anyone wants to read along for some insight into what I’m talking about).

It seems that Joey came to Rockport on Saturday no less than twice (which is two times more than a whole lotta other locals) in an effort to procure some goods from some stores that had caught his eye on Instagram, but both times he was thwarted. Once, because he showed up with the not-unreasonable plan to eat breakfast and shop after the stores open (in theory anyway) at 10 am and the other time — after he was stymied the first time — because he couldn’t find parking. A parking pain we have all felt from the regular schmuck just trying to buy a doughnut from Brothers’ Brew to the the highest Selectperson in the land, just trying to buy a doughnut from Brothers’ Brew. In frustration Joey had no choice but to go to Bed Bath & Beyond or worse, maybe Kohl’s — I don’t know, it was some terrible place way far away with a couple of football fields of empty parking spaces — and line the pockets of our Corporate Overlords with his hard-earned dollars.

The point of the original post seemed to be twofold: 1) Talk about how genuinely great the shops in Rockport are, mention how awesome the Rockport Farmers Market is (yes it is!) and give a well-deserved shout-out to breakfast at the Blue Lobster Grille, and 2) Call out the shops for contributing to shopping difficulties by opening after 10am when securing a downtown parking space in Rockport in July is roughly worth the price of your firstborn.

A coupla things. First off, in the eyes of this very lame GMG occasional contributor, Joey stepped up by editing the post to reflect that he did not plan his shopping visit to Rockport with a strategy that included the realities of a shopping visit to Rockport. In Rockport, there’s not much about the retail scene that is like other places. The shops are independently owned, many of them run year-round by the same person (in spite of the assumption that everything is seasonal) who at some point has to see his or her family and take a shower, and then there is the consumer. Residents and tourists in Rockport follow ancient traffic patterns that involve a complex algorithm of when/if the sun is shining, vacation alcohol consumption recovery times, and preferred side of the street to walk on (I’m serious about the last one). Showing up in Rockport just minutes after the sun rises — which, on Rockport time, is more or less 10 am — is an exercise in futility, unless you are planning on going to the farmers’ market, eating a strudel, heading out in a boat, or staring at your fingernails while you sit on an empty bench. It may sound nuts from a consumer standpoint, but there is a method to the Rockport retail madness.

For most shops (multi-generational places like The Pewter Shop or John Tarr’s notwithstanding), opening at 10 am is equally an exercise in futility, with shop owners waiting in vain to make a sale to the approximately sixteen potential buyers that are out strolling Bearskin Neck and/or Main Street at that hour (a count that actually goes down to around seven people when adjusted for the ones who “forgot their wallet” — oldest excuse in the book — because they’re walking the dog or just aimlessly wandering between coffee places). Maybe the Rockport Farmers Market, which is only in its third year, will help change this, as shopping patterns shift to earlier in the day. I hope so.

Secondly, for those of you who read the Facebook thread in response to the original post, the merchants make some valid points, even if these points are cloaked in dismay, sadness, and even one or two expressions of rage.

People who come to Rockport, and maybe even more so people who live in Rockport, have no idea what running a shop in Rockport is like. It’s hard to write about this, because readers will immediately go into Mach-Defensive mode, rushing to explain to merchants everything they’re doing wrong, starting with the brilliant point that no one is forcing anyone to own a shop in Rockport (as though, because shop owners aren’t forced at gunpoint to run a business that means any point they make about the REALITIES of running that business become moot. Which is bizarre. So don’t bother with your “no one is forcing shop owners to own a shop” nonsense comments. I mean, you can bother with them, but I’ll just know you’ve got nothin if that’s your opener.)

Getting Real

Owning a small retail shop is a lot like owning a mom-and-pop restaurant in the sense that literally every single customer that walks through your door — or stands outside of it because your shop is closed — thinks, at some level, that they can do what you do. Imagine how crappy that feels for a second. Every single person thinks they are an expert on your work, when in reality they most likely know next to nothing about retail in general (let alone retail in Rockport), which demands a mix of smarts, financial wizardry, aesthetic gifts, salesmanship, and lots and lots of luck. Because weather is involved. It’s a lot like farming, actually. You have to anticipate what will sell at market six months in advance, throw everything you have ($$$) at it and pray like crazy the sun shines at the right time. Then you have to show up, pretty much all the time, but chances are (and by chances I mean literally, by chance because retail is also like gambling — you are always playing the odds), it will be still be the wrong time for someone, who will tell you how you screwed up. Which could be true, the screwing up, but if nearly every shop is closed in tandem at the hour you want to shop, then chances are there aren’t enough people shopping at that hour and the issue is with consumer patterns, not store owners.

I used to own a shop on Main Street in Rockport, and if I had a nickel for every soul who came in and stood at my counter and began a sentence with “I’ve always wanted to own a shop” or (the always-fantastic) “You know what you should do? You should…” well then I would still have closed my shop because I would be so incredibly rich I would have bought my own island, named it Cape Get Out of My Face I am So Very Tired and moved there.

Story time: one hot summer day years ago, I was standing in my shop in Rockport contemplating whether this was the right time to leave the store to dash to the bathroom. That’s right. Because I did not have a bathroom in my shop, even though I paid a rent that would make your ice cream melt, because several Rockport landlords have decided toilet facilities are optional. Anyway, a woman came in right at that juncture, when I was choosing between the health of my bladder and losing a potential buyer who might wander in and help pay my toilet-free rent. I looked at the woman — might this be a customer? who is always right? — as she stood blankly in the middle of the room, her mouth hanging open. I honestly thought she might need help of a non-retail variety because she she seemed so disoriented and aimless fifteen seconds into her visit. Suddenly she whipped her face toward me, a face distorted in rage and shouted “I might have BOUGHT SOMETHING if you had said hello to me!”  I was shocked. Before I could even respond she spun on her heel and stomped out the door. (Follow up: I chased her up the street and begged her forgiveness at the same scale at which she screeched at me. More confusion ensued.)

Take that scenario and multiply it by a thousand, only don’t forget to account for variations — like the strangers who come in and, when, you say hello in your best cheerily calibrated shop voice, haughtily inform you that when they need help they will ask for it, rolling their eyes at their companion at what a loser you are, accosting customers who want nothing more than to fondle your merchandise in peace — and it all adds up to a lot of stress for the small shop owner. Especially since most of their net worth — and lot of credit — is tied up in that merchandise.

Anyway, I could go on as I have stories galore, both from my store and those of friends. Like the time a customer — except he didn’t purchase anything — put a 14-inch vintage knitting needle up his nostril nearly (hopefully) into his brain in order to demonstrate his sideshow prowess to a lady friend, or that one time a customer — except she wasn’t — used the corner of another friend’s store as a bathroom. Actually, maybe I should have realized that last one, using a corner of the store as a litter box, was an option. I never would have had to leave the store then.

I should add, because I need to clarify, that having the shop was wonderful, and I loved working in Rockport and connecting with locals and visitors from all over the world. I really miss those days in so many ways. It’s just that getting advice from strangers when I was already about to pass out at the counter from working 7 days a week is not one of them.

The Takeaway (with Tissue Paper and a Gift Bag)

In short, while it’s important for shop owners to listen to consumers, especially ones who are as supportive of local businesses as Joey, it is also important for consumers to listen to shop owners, and not assume the worst — that they are willfully refusing to say hello, or that they purposefully refuse to stock whatever it is you want to buy, or that they are rolling around at home in a pile of undeclared cash that they raked in from all those suckers who came in to buy a candle or a card — or whatever it is that people assume. Buying local is a two-way street, a marriage between small business owners and their customers, and just like in any relationship, mutual respect goes a long way.

A Book Party in Rockport!

BookADayinRockportPlease stop by this Sunday, July 19th and join Mary Faino at her shop in Rockport, The Paper Mermaid, along with me (aka S.D. Kelly) for a party in celebration of our new release: A Day in Rockport.

Mary created beautiful illustrations of iconic places throughout Rockport, and I wrote the text to go along with her work. It was a fun collaboration and we enjoyed the entire process, from choosing the places that would make it into the book — ranging from Millbrook Meadow to Bearskin Neck to the Headlands — to the more technical aspects of book design.

We’ll have locally-made treats at the party, a Scavenger Hunt, and a raffle to win a framed print of one of the illustrations in the book. Celebrate Rockport with us and stop by!


Raw Bar at The Fish Shack in Rockport on FRIDAY NIGHT

Say what? Yes, it’s true. Word on the street (the mean streets of Rockport, MA) is that Karin Porter of the Fish Shack (the restaurant, not the fish shack) in Dock Square is serving oysters along with a signature Motif No.1 Day cocktail to kick off the weekend’s pahtying in downtown Rockport in front of the Motif No. 1 Day festival on Saturday. Rockporters and assorted other types are eating raw mollusks in celebration of Motif No.1, Rockport’s famous fishing shack.

Motif No.1 is so famous that it has a festival dedicated to celebrating every inch of its surface, documented down to the last buoy and nail hole. It’s like Cape Ann’s very own Kardashian; we know everything about it and we still can’t get enough.

Come on down to Dock Square, eat oysters and lobster rolls, listen to music and generally party like it’s M1D:2015 this weekend! Because it is!

Motif No.1 for the win!


Motif No.1 Day 2015 (M1D:15) is Gonna Be Amazing

Five days away from the best M1D in 65 years (really). Film, Dance, Poetry, Music, Art, activities for kids and tons of community events are planned.

FILM: (look for GMG goddess Kim Smith’s clip!) The Red Shed Film Fest at the Rockport Public Library

DANCE: The T-Wharf tent featuring the Rockport Dance Academy and Fight or Flight Aerial Theatre.

MUSIC: The Dock Square tent features the Mari Martin Band, Pesky J. Nixon and Glass Onion. The Shalin Liu features a FREE community concert and an Instrument Petting Zoo.

WORDS: The School Street Tent: Magnetic Poetry Slam, Words Interactive, Words Before Dinner: the Poetry of Cape Ann.

ART: motif 2015 is a show featuring fresh, new work curated by Bob & Jill Armstrong of Iartcolony Gallery in Rockport. Artists from Cape Ann, Boston and beyond have re-imagined the Motif in everything from sculpture to paintings to video installations. A gallery walk will also be part of the festival.

COMMUNITY: Rockport Elementary School 3rd Grade Art Show, the M1D 5k & Fun Run to benefit Rockport Public Schools, Thacher Island Committee, Sandy Bay Yacht Club, Rockport Cub Scouts, Millbrook Meadow Committee, Addison Gilbert, SISU Fitness and more!

FOOD: Top Dog will have a food booth at the School Street Tent, Blue Lobster Grille and That Nutty Redhead will be set up in Dock Square, the New Year’s Rockport Eve Food Booth will be in Harvey Park.

FAMILY ACTIVITIES: Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest with prizes sponsored by The Ice Cream Store, painting, sketching, a Story Walk and Make-a-Book craft sponsored by the Rockport Public Library and much more!

Print out this handy Schedule of Events and bring it with you to Motif No.1 Day. The CATA trolley Park ‘n’ Ride will be running all day. Follow us on Twitter @rockportfest to stay up on the festival haps (do people still say that?) #M1D #rockportrocks



Awesome Local Workshop for Teachers Coming Up

Coming up on March 14th: a great workshop/micro-conference for teachers of English Lit and related subjects is taking place at the Eastern Point Lit House in Gloucester. There will be a communal meal and a few sessions on “Teaching Impossible Texts” with some outstanding local teachers. This event is designed for public, private and even homeschool educators to come together, connect and collaborate with other likeminded teachers who are into books and want to teach kids how to be into books as well. Feel free to call me (Sarah) at 978-546-2861 for more info. If you mention GMG there will be a 25% GMG Close Reader Discount refund offered after you register! :)



Rockport Local Food Forum

Well, it’s been a while since I posted. But in the meantime, Nichole Shrafft and others have been killin’ it in the representing Rockport department, so that’s been awesome. A whole bunch of stuff is coming up, so I wanted to pass along some information, starting with a local Food Forum in Rockport scheduled for next Thursday night. We can all get together and figure out the answers to some pressing food-related issues. There’s an anonymous survey too, in case you want to make your thoughts known and submit any questions to the panelists. Click HERE for the survey.

Feel free to share the poster

Feel free to share the poster

Fish Cakes & Beans & Trupiano’s Sausage Brunch at the Rockport Farmers Market!

Tomorrow, from 10am until supplies run out: a traditional fish cakes & beans, along with Trupiano’s sausage, served fresh at the Rockport Farmers Market. Proceeds benefit the market. The brunch features Cape Ann’s heritage food. A big thank you to Rockport Farmers Market vendors Mike & Grace from Trupiano’s Sausage and Tim & Ruth Sullivan of Sullivan’s Sugarhouse, along with food writer Heather Atwood for providing the food for tomorrow’s brunch!

RFMcodcakes2014About that Fish Cakes & Bean Brunch…
Tim & Ruth Sullivan are Rockport Farmers Market vendors, selling their own maple syrup each week. Tim knows a lot about fishing and lobstering in New England, having experienced a considerable amount of both growing up in Lanesville.

Tim gives a little background on the traditional Fish Cakes & Beans meal:
“In coastal areas, especially commercial fishing areas like Gloucester or Cape Cod, Maine, and the Maritimes, fish cakes are a staple of a traditional New England hearty breakfast. These are usually made from a flaky white-meat fish, such as cod or scrod, breaded and pan-fried to give them a delicate golden, crispy crust. They are truly scrumptious!  While baked beans are sometimes also a part of the traditional ‘Full English’ breakfast, Boston baked beans have a secret ingredient that gives them a deeper sweetness: molasses. The other secret to great Boston baked beans is slow cooking. The early colonists would make these beans in heavy ceramic beanpots, place them in the banked fire of their hearths on Saturday night, and let them slowly cook overnight until the Sunday breakfast. Ours will be on Saturday morning of course, and we have another secret ingredient…maple syrup!

For more on the history of cooking beans in the traditional way, check out this article from The Fisherman’s Voice.

Rockport Stuff: A Reunion for Locals, Parade & Bonfire, CHEESE at the Farmers Market!

The Rockport Fireman’s Parade begins at 6pm on the 4th of July!


Friday, July 4th: Parade & Bonfire Look for the Rockport Farmers Market float at the parade, and be sure to stay for the bonfire on Back Beach! (Affectionately known as the Rockport Inferno — a can’t-miss event if you’ve never seen it before.)

Saturday, July 5th: Rockport Reunion Reconnect with old friends and people you grew up with at a fun event with great food, games, beer, Twin Lights soda and more organized by a whole bunch of Rockport-loving locals. The organizers still need volunteers to help. For tickets and more information, click HERE.

*Saturday, July 5th: Rockport Farmers Market!* New this week: small-batch cheeses from a Vermont farm, jellies and relishes, plus cold-brewed tea, baked goods (whoopie pies, breads and much more), farm-raised beef, fudge sauce, fresh pesto, maple syrup, hummus, salsa and guacamole. And don’t forget the produce! Lots of produce will be on hand from First Light Farm, Vintage Greens, Seaview Farm and Grant Family Farm.


Rockport Stuff: FREE Ice Cream & Awesome Pesto (Not Together)

This Week Downtown: Free Ice Cream AND the Rockport Farmers Market.

TODAY: Thursday, June 26th at the Ice Cream Store on Bearskin Neck: Enjoy ice cream provided by the Ice Cream Store with all donations to benefit Rockport Fireworks! For more info go to the Rockport Fireworks Facebook page. Don’t miss the chance to eat some very tasty ice cream for a fun cause.


SATURDAY, June 28th: Pesto is back at the Rockport Farmers Market! We’re thrilled that Paolo Laboa’s award-winning pesto will be featured this week, along with scones and tea from Heath’s Tea Room, produce from Vintage Greens, First Light Farm and Grant Family Farm. Baked goods, from whoopie pies to anadama bread to focaccia bread will be at the market, along with fudge sauce, fresh salsa, maple syrup, tomato plants, amazing Trupiano’s Sausage, hot coffee and much more! The Farmers Market is located in Harvey Park, downtown Rockport and runs from 9am to 1pm. Did you see this post on the value of Farmers Markets? It really captures what makes the Rockport Farmers Market so special. (Plus it offers a really awesome Trupiano’s sausage recipe.)

Upcoming Events:
Lobster Day
at the Rockport Farmers Market: July 19th
Ice Cream Social at the Rockport Farmers Market: August 9th

Interested in volunteering at the Farmers Market? Click HERE (and thank you!)

Sea Biscuit Fine Baked Goods Sasquatch Smoked Fish Wally's Blackburn Bistro

Rockport Stuff: Farmers Market, Garden Club Tour, Scandinavian Mid-Summer Fest

Rockport is kicking into summer this weekend with the Rockport Garden Club Tour, which starts on Friday June 20th. It’s a walking tour this year, which is cool because well, you can walk from garden to garden. Just imagine, instead of getting into your car between gardens on the tour, you can stroll at a leisurely pace, enjoying the hidden botanical gems of Rockport. No more fumbling with your keys, no more peering from the map in your hand back to the windshield as you try to find the next location, no more nearly side-swiping some unsuspecting tourist or one of your fellow Garden Club members in your desperate attempt to find a parking space. The Garden Tours are always wonderful, but this one might just be the most relaxing and inspiring one yet — you don’t want to miss it. Tickets are available at Toad Hall Bookstore now through the dates of the tour, and on the dates of the tour (June 20th and 21st) at Harvey Park under the Rockport Garden Club tent.Garen tour Poster 2014_500x398

Spiran Hall is hosting their annual Scandinavian Mid-Summer Fest this Saturday, June 21st, also in Harvey Park at the corner of Pleasant Street and Broadway. The Mid-Summer Fest features all sorts of good clean Nordic fun: pickled fish, strawberries and cream and nisu bread for starters. Folk dancers and singers will be on hand and a maypole will be set up for a little ceremonial welcome to summer. And if summer ever deserved a welcome, it is this year. Glad Midsomer! as they say.

Finally, the ROCKPORT FARMERS MARKET is back! This is all-caps, because I’m excited. Fresh food made, grown or produced by hard-working folks in cooperation with the earth. Rockport may not have a grocery store, but we have our sweet little Farmers Market, so that’s a good start. And since the market falls on a Saturday, it’s a great complement to the Thurday Cape Ann Farmers Market. Patrons can go to both each week and stuff themselves with good stuff. Fresh food all the time, that’s our motto on Cape Ann. Well, not really, but it’s not a bad idea. The Rockport Farmers Market vendors will offer fresh produce, small-batch salsa, hummus and guacamole, baked goods, coffee, maple syrup, eggs, and more and more.

See you in downtown Rockport on Saturday, June 21st for some good food, beautiful gardens and Scandinavian rituals!


Submit Your Short Film or Poem for Rockport’s Upcoming Festival!


The Red Shed Film FestSUBMIT YOUR FILM FOR THE RED SHED FILM FEST ON ROCKPORT’S MOTIF No.1 DAY Are you a filmmaker? Apply to screen your film at the Red Shed Film Festival on Motif No.1 Day in Rockport! The Red Shed is a micro film festival featuring selected shorts produced on Cape Ann or with Cape Ann as the subject. The history, geography, art, people, city and towns of Cape Ann are all suitable for treatment — anything that conveys the region’s sense of place. The Red Shed Film Festival takes place on Saturday, May 17, 2014 as part of Rockport’s annual Motif No.1 Day festival of the arts. The Guidelines for Entries: Films must come in under 15 minutes and should be produced on, or be about, Cape Ann. Film structure and genre can be fiction or non-fiction, abstract or literal, linear or non-linear – play with your aesthetic tastes.Application does not guarantee screening. As such, a winner in this festival is anyone whose film is chosen to be screened. If your piece is chosen to be screened, you will be contacted based on the information you provide in the application (email or phone probably). Please submit your film at: For more information please contact 978.290.9200 or go to

SUBMIT YOUR WORK FOR THE “WORDS BEFORE DINNER LITERARY EVENT” ON ROCKPORT’S MOTIF No.1 DAY! Have you written a poem or essay with Cape Ann as its theme? If so, we’d love to have your submission for the annual Words Before Dinner Literary event, taking place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 17th in downtown Rockport as part of the town’s Motif No. 1 Day festival. Readers will share selections of their own work from poems to brief essays (under 750 words) featuring the beauty, history, industry art and landscape of Cape Ann as inspiration. Please submit your work for consideration to and plan to join other members of Cape Ann’s literary community for a few Words Before Dinner on May 17th. For more information go to or call 978-546-2861

A Coffeehouse in Rockport with an Awesome Band!

Yes, this band is indeed awesome. Not that I’m biased or anything. Of course the fact that the band is made up of my brother, niece and two nephews doesn’t influence my love for their music. Not at all, I swear (well…maybe just a bit). But it is true that I really think that anyone who digs roots music will find Daniel Dye & the Miller Road Band’s live show to be just as awesome as I do. They are playing this Thursday, March 13th at the Rockport Community House, with proceeds to benefit the work of Rockport Festivals, the group that puts together the Rockport Farmers Market, HarvestFest and Motif No.1 Day in downtown Rockport.

The Coffeehouse will feature the delicious coffee of Brothers’ Brew and give community members a chance to connect with the folks of Rockport Festivals. Opportunities to sign up to volunteer with the festivals and Farmers Market will be on hand, and we look forward to meeting up with our friends and neighbors and kicking off the spring after a long, cold, snowy winter.

Daniel Dye & the Miller Road Band are making a stop in Rockport on their Northeast mini-tour in support of their new album and feature a mix of original tunes in the style of indie-folk, Americana and roots music, playing everything from the fiddle, cello, viola, harmonica, mandolin, guitar, banjo to the melodica.
Please call me at 978-546-2861 or email if you need any more information, and we’ll see you Thursday in Rockport!DDMRBpromoRockport SMALL

Downton Abbey: That’s All Folks (Until Next Year…)

I grimace because I care…

Season 4 of Downton Abbey is over, and as much as I love to complain about its soap opera excesses, I’m gonna miss now it’s gone. I’m already looking forward to next winter, when the millions of us who watch this show can once again spend January and February with the Crawley family and their servants. In Season 5, will viewers get to see Mary’s decision about which one of her suitors to marry? For my money, I think it will be the Pigman. Mary will steal him away from Edith and together, Mary (Lady Pigman to you!) and her man will raise pigs and make so much money for Downton Abbey by selling bacon rashers that the old home place will never be in financial trouble again.

For my full rant, feel free to head over to my blog by clicking the link…

Fire, Ice & Music: “Wharf Music” is Wharf-tastic!

One week later and I still psyched about my experience of last weekend’s “Wharf Music” installation on Bradley Wharf in Rockport (where Motif No.1 is). The installation involves lobster traps, LED lights, fire pits, and music drifting from across the harbor from several different, distant points. It is very cool for several reasons: mostly, for the thing itself. It is just really a cool experience to sit by the fire outside, in the brisk winter air and hear beautiful, almost ethereal-sounding music drifting toward you from a point you can’t exactly identify. And it is also cool because Rockport (Rockport!) has the opportunity to enjoy a public art installation on one of the town’s treasures, our old wharves, made from chunks of granite and a reminder of our industrial past.

Many, many thanks to Rob Trumbour and Rick Erhstin for conceiving this and putting it together, to Andy Tierstien for his beautiful original composition, and to Karen Berger of the Rockport Cultural District for her support. I’m looking forward to heading back to Bradley Wharf this weekend for more public art. And fire!

When it Runs:

Friday & Saturday, Feb. 21st & 22nd from 6:30 to 8pm. You can park off Bearskin Neck and walk down toward Bradley Wharf to experience the “listening rooms” made from lobster traps, or you can drive down to T Wharf and just sit there in your car and roll down the windows to hear the music. This last idea is a great one if you have a screaming 18-month-old in the car, for example. Or an uncooperative spouse. But if at all possible, get out of the car and head to Bradley Wharf itself to experience the music by the fire.

Hope to see you there!

wharf music poster

Say What? Fire, Ice & Music in Downtown Rockport!

People assume that the off-season in Rockport means that the town is entirely shut down when, in reality, winter in Rockport provides great opportunities to enjoy downtown when it is at its most beautiful with snow cover and ice — all of it reflecting the thin winter light. Plus you can easily find parking, which is never a bad thing.

Local residents and artists Rick Ehrstin and Rob Trumbour have collaborated with composer Andy Tierstien to create Wharf Music: a public art installation bringing together light and music. The installation will take place in the heart of Rockport on Bradley Wharf over four evenings: February 14th, 15th, 21st and 22nd from 6:30 to 8:00pm.

Come get warm by the fire, listen to the music as it washes across the water, check out the installation on the wharf and feel a moment of gratitude that you live in a place where cool stuff like this happens.

wharf music poster

Wharf Music

“The night, the warmth of a fire, the company of others, a distant musical conversation.”

Make a Mess Making Art!

This event sounds like a good time for a good cause! Check it out, below…

Messy Art Night Essex PTO


Essex, MA (January 27, 2014) – Essex Elementary School (EES) and the Essex Parent-­‐Teacher Organization (PTO) will hold their annual Messy Art Night on Friday, February 7, 2014. This will be the fifth year of the event, which draws attendees from all over Cape Ann and the North Shore for it’s hands-­‐on art projects led by artists from the area’s vibrant artistic community.

Over a dozen local artists will demonstrate their crafts and host hands-­‐on make-­‐your-­‐own projects at Messy Art Night, including sculptors, painters, collagists, mixed media artists, potters, and others.

Confirmed artists include: sculptor Chris Williams, illustrator Chrissie McNiff Twombly, potters from Art Haven of Gloucester, painter Kathleen McHugh, the Art School of Salem’s Andrew Carr, painter Margaret Sweet, illustrator Leslie Galacar, painter Emily Gala, The Art Center of Hamilton’s Erin Clark, mixed media artist Jen Mayer, painter Kristen Wilson, and sculptor Scott Mulcahey. Local Essex museums Cogswell Grant and the Essex Shipbuilding Museum will also host projects at the event.

Read more

Downton Abbey: Post-Episode Breakdown

First, let’s just get this out of the way: this show is awful. Bad writing and a terrible plot have conspired to ruin what, during the first season anyway, was once a beacon of televised goodness across a crowded wasteland. But as every season brings new awfulness and I’ve lowered my expectations, I’ve learned to enjoy the Downton Abbey we have, not the one we want. And watching it is (slightly) less guilt-inducing than watching any of the Real Housewives, though many of the elements are the same: attractive vacant-eyed people throwing their money around in between arguments at dinnertime, unlikely love affairs and random stints in prison. But I do want to say that in spite of the atrociousness of DA: at least the actors are holding up their end of the bargain by trying to take this stuff seriously, so that’s worth something. And in the spirit of full disclosure: I plan on watching this thing until the show breathes its last, miserable gasp. Which might happen at any time, if the story lines are any indication.

The Characters:

Carson: We don’t want to hear about Alice anymore, unless it turns out she’s NOT dead and living in Yorkshire and ready to love again. And this time, she means business. The business of love.

Mrs. Hughes: Apparently the only one left with any semblance of good sense and decency, which is why nearly everyone runs into Mrs. Hughes room to share their problems. She should start charging a shilling for her services. Or a ha’penny. Or a sixpence (whatever — it’s all the same to me). And she should start sharing a few of those secrets too. Why did she have no problem digging Mr. Carson’s personal correspondence out of the trash a few episodes ago “for his own good” but can’t find her way clear to inform Lord G that his guest, the other Lord G, has an animal for a valet? Strange priorities. Someone should be sounding the alarm (discreetly, by tinkling one of those little bells) that a violent rapist has entered the house. When discussing this troubling matter with my sister, she mentioned that what is the point of the class system, really, if two aristocrats can’t rain all kinds of special aristocratic justice down on a valet for raping and beating someone right in one of those giant houses they claim to be in charge of? Do the police even need to be brought into it? At least Mrs. Hughes got rid of Braithwaite, though that’s no doubt not the last we’ll see of her. And why doesn’t Hughes enlighten that dimbulb Lady Grantham about Braithwaite’s character? She wouldn’t have to go into details. Just something like, “Trust me Lady G, Braithwaite is a terrible, terrible person and you’re lucky to be rid of her.”

Lord Grantham: Pathetic, out-of-touch and irrelevant. Why is he still around? I forget. Oh yes, so Mary has someone to undermine and Bates has someone to help get dressed.

Lady Grantham: Slightly less pathetic. Very slightly. And why does she talk as though she is holding a grape between her lips? At least she got rid of that awful Nanny a few episodes ago. You know, the Nanny for the children. But I’m afraid she might have accidentally gotten rid of the children too, since none of us have seen them since Nanny left. Someone might want to track down little Sybil and little George…

Tom: Oh Tom. Tom spent the entire house party, which seemed to go on forever, moping around for no clear reason, his big Eyeore eyes so, so sad. Even though he said, again and again and again, that he just didn’t fit in, it was hard to find a cause for the level of his despair, because not a single soul there drew attention to his newly-acquired status. As far as I could tell all the guests treated him well and he used all the right forks at dinner. It would have made more sense if he expressed unease for political reasons, because he’s clearly left his activism far behind him. How exciting would it have been if an Irish separatist had dashed into the after-dinner-cigar-and-brandy-room, shaking his fist in Tom’s face and accusing him of betraying the cause? But alas, nothing quite so fascinating occurred. Instead, Tom was just so super down in the dumps because, in his now highly developed social sensitivity, he just couldn’t believe that he called so-and-so Your Grace instead of Duchess. It was enough to send him into a tailspin. Enough to make him question everything he had ever thought about himself. About his own abilities. About who he was. Tom sat on the bench in the hallway in a self-appointed time out, thinking about how stupid he was and wishing that he would have just rented the dinner clothes instead of buying them. It was now all so clear: he would never wear them again. What a waste of a pound and sixpence. Or two pounds and a shilling. Or a shilling and a ha’penny. Then Brathewaite comes in swirling whiskey around, as transparent as water and Tom is so distraught at making a fool of himself in front of exactly no one (how could he not KNOW that Your Grace should have been referred to as Duchess? How could he not KNOW that?!). He is putty in Brathewaite’s hands. Or so we are left to surmise. As far as Braithwaite goes, her strategy with Tom left me suspecting that she was a lot less clever than we had been led to believe. What woman would consider it a Master Plan to ply a man with whiskey to the point of incapacitation before demanding, just a few hours into the next morning, that he marry her? He’s not even sure what happened between you. That is not exactly a successful seduction. And the answer is; no woman, that’s who. That is just a dumb plan and it would never, ever work.

Lord Gillingham: Another dimbulb who has an animal for a valet and demands that a widow of six months commit to marry him. Right now. Or it will be too late. Oh, she doesn’t have to marry him right now, he will wait a decade for that, no problem. She just has to swear to marry him at some point. Right now. Swear right now, on the spot, to marry him in the distant future. Sorry Mary, you lost your chance at happiness with that gem. But we viewers are not worried, if the past is any indication, Ms. Finch-Fox-Ardegarde-Castleberry, his intended, will die of the flu, or just from general malaise at not being the love of Lord Gillingham’s life (why on earth is Mary repeatedly the object of such devotion?) approximately 15 minutes to eight hours before their wedding day, and you will have a second chance at love with Lord G, the Younger.

Anna & Bates: Nothing to see here folks, except a train wreck. And for no reason other than the show writer’s malicious desire to undermine the happiness of his characters. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth are coming our way, and someone’s gonna pay.

Edith: Watch out, Edith! Your man is becoming a German citizen (for the sake of your love, cough cough) in the 1920s!  Your fellow may lose the baggage of his first wife in the process, but he will gain a dictator and a fervent belief in National Socialism, so all will not be lost.

Rose: Rose? Who is that? What? Oh that’s right. She’s a character on the show. And she might be breaking all sorts of taboos by falling in love with a fella who sings like a tiny girl. Is he black? I didn’t notice. Too busy wondering why in the world he was singing like a tiny girl.

Alfred-Ivy-Jimmy-Daisy: Hopefully Alfred will learn to cook and so will Ivy and so will Daisy. I can’t wait to find out which one will learn to cook the best! Then they will all have a cooking competition and Jimmy can marry the winner. Mrs. Padmore will be the Judge. If she doesn’t die of the pressure of being a Kitchen Maid Footman Cook-off Judge first.

Thomas: Thomas is looking better and better these days. I hope Lord Grantham secretly adopts him and that he (surprise!) inherits the estate after Lord G. kicks the bucket. He can open up Thomas Barrow’s Retirement Home for Disaffected Former & Preferably Gay Valets. There’s plenty of room at the Abbey!

That’s all folks, until next week: Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 5! And I can’t wait.


The Best Christmas Decoration EVER! (Not to Overstate it)

This year I was lucky enough to acquire one of the limited-run wall hangings created in printer Julia Garrison’s studio & shop, The Sarah Elizabeth Shop, in Rockport. The piece hangs near our dinner table and I stare at it during every meal, surprised every time by the beauty and the level of detail in the design.

The wall hanging was printed from a block carved in 1950 by local artist Delores Rapp, who was trained by Virginia Lee Burton, the founding member of the Folly Cove Designers, so it is only fitting that over six decades later, prints are being made from the block using the same Acorn Press that was used by the Folly Cove Design Collective, which Julia uses in printing both archival and her own original designs.

Julia prints this piece in a few different colors. Mine is printed in red ink on a natural linen background.

Julia prints this piece in a few different colors. Mine is printed in red ink on a natural linen background.

This year, the current owner of the vintage block (Delores Rapp passed away a few years ago) came to Julia and they worked out an arrangement that allows Julia to print a limited run of wall hangings from the block. All the wall hangings are hand-printed and sewn locally, using archival ink on linen, which lasts forever, so your descendents will still be enjoying this pieces many Christmas moons from now.

You can purchase the hanging (and see other options for ink/background colors) directly from Julia online HERE. Or better yet, go see her in her studio/shop this weekend at 5 Whistlestop Mall in Rockport to see the wall hangings — and her other wares — in person.

This piece is bound to be an heirloom in our own family — I am already attached to it more than pretty much any other holiday item I have — and will no doubt be equally as meaningful in the homes of every one else who gets their hands on one. It is beautiful both for the amazing design (when you consider that every detail was hand carved!) and for its connection to our local and current artistic heritage.

I’m sorry my photos don’t do it justice. Check it out at Julia’s online shop or in person to get the full effect of these limited-run pieces.

Just some of the detail of the design.

Just some of the detail of the design.


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