Friday, November 30, 2012

Wednesday's Featured Business - Thousand Word Photography

What do spray paint, a second hand store, a beautician's license and a whole bunch of kids have in common?  They are the roots from which Thousand Word Photography was born.

90 Seconds and Velvet, Jennifer Goulart Amero
Jessica Adams and Vanessa Gigliotti are Gloucester, MA mothers with an eye for opportunity.  From Jess's skills with second hand props and her trusty spray can to their use of the natural environment of their beautiful Cape Ann neighborhood, the photographers at Thousand Word Photography create natural, light embracing, artistic portraits for clients using props lovingly scouted in antique shops and thrift stores, refinished in their homes and studio space and arranged to create anything from boudoir to bridal to newborn images.

Jessica is an aesthetician and cosmetologist by trade. She is also the mother to a yours-mine-and-ours family of five busy children ranging in age from one to thirteen.  She and her partner, Jon, met several years ago and to quote the message (spray) painted on the wall in the family's den, her world changed, "All because two people fell in love".  Motherhood shifted her schedule and Jess, ever the entrepreneur, set out to find a profession that blended her salon skills and her eye for art and creation with her hectic schedule.

Vanessa, a mother of two and a server at a local restaurant had been operating solo for awhile, mostly through personal connections, but was ready to move into a larger, more structured undertaking.

90 seconds and velvet, jennifer goulart amero"Vanessa and I have been great friends for a million years", says Jess. "We were always the ones with the camera, the ones who grabbed that shot of the kids walking in the woods that ultimately ended up being used by our friends for their Christmas photos.  So we started talking about it, starting our own business.  And then it all came together.
I love the camera.  And I have always been crafty.  I collect old stuff, paint it up and use it to decorate my house.  So when I started to read photography books, enrolled in online course and really learned about the technical side, my mind started going towards creating unique settings using what I know best, old stuff refinished".

Jessica spray paints everything - old headboards missing the rest of the frame, battered baskets just big enough for a baby to slip inside, the fabric on a faded love seat (yes, she assures me, there is such a thing as color-fast fabric spray paint).

And it works.  Thousand Word Photography produces truly memorable images in their Washington Street studio using those otherwise overlooked yard sale finds.  Their clientele is growing exponentially in the short year since they officially opened and with their vision for new enterprise, it's doubtful that'll slow any time soon.

Currently offering hair and makeup pre-shoot using her cosmetology skills, Jessica and Vanessa's packages include Bridal hair/makeup/photo and little girl birthday parties, Bachelorette Beauty Bashes and Hollywood Boudoir Shots with full makeup and hair prep.  Her energy is electric, her vision is vast and her skills, abundant and very frugal - all the makings of a successful small business.

But small is not their goal. Vanessa and Jess have bigger plans. "With the hotel coming in to town, we will finally be able to capture the location wedding business that is dying to come to Gloucester.  And we already know how we are going to make that part of our success".

Thousand Word Photography creators share the dream of creating a one-stop-shopping business where formal wear specialists, tailors, cosmetologists, photographers and caterers work with busy brides and event planners to simplify the overwhelming elements of the "Big Day" in a one-venue, one-visit personalized session. They, of course, will head up beauty and photography.

"We know it's a long ways off, but with the amount of business we already have and the ideas we keep coming up with, this is only going to get bigger and better," beams Vanessa.

Like I said, these girls are entrepreneurs.

And they are hopping with Holiday Card Business, with a special kickback for 90 Seconds and Velvet readers - 10% off holiday sessions or a free 8x10 print for your home when you mention 90SecondsandVelvet.

 Find them online at

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Weekend Happenings - A Whole Lotta Holiday Local Here

Wow. Sometimes it's the chicken, and sometimes it's the feathers.

This weekend is all chicken, or Christmas Goose, more accurately. Saturday is brimming with local events for the family, with holiday fairs all over Cape Ann and even some fun stuff for the grown ups. Read on, and get out there - shop local, see old friends and share a carol, a cocoa and that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from enjoying the simpler traditions this season.

THE LONG VIEW - Plan to hit this one AFTER you've brought the kiddos to 10000 holiday fairs:
90 seconds and velvet, jennifer goulart ameroCraft Beer Holiday Tasting Event
hosted by Merrimack Valley Distributing Company 
Railroad Avenue Liquors

Our Lady of Good Voyage Holiday Fair
9-1pm at  142 Prospect Street
Fried dough breakfast. At 10:30 a.m. Santa arrives and at 11:30 lunch will be served.The bazaar will feature Portuguese sweet bread, baked goods, a general store and more

Beeman Elementary School Holiday Fair
9-2pm at 138 Cherry Street
Games, arts and crafts, spin art, sand art, gingerbread house kits, raffles, silent auction and lunch. All proceeds benefit school’s enrichment programs.

Trinity Congregationalist Church "Christmas by the Sea"
11:30-1pm at 70 Middle Street
Gloucester Fish chowder, hot dogs, pictures with Santa, silent auction, lots of great Christmas stuff; fresh greens, wreaths, jewelry, crafts, holiday foods, Advent calendar, ‘Cookie Walk,’ White Elephants, clothing at thrift shop next door.

Seacoast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center’s Holiday Bazaar
10 -2 pm at 292 Washington Street
Professional vendors, bake sale, raffles, white elephants, photo ops with Santa till 11 a.m. 

United Methodist Church 
9-2pm at 436 Washington Street
Christmas ornaments, stocking-stuffers, white elephant items and baked goods.

Saint Ann's Church Holiday Bingo
6:30pm at 

Christmas Fair at Lanesville Congregational Church
9-1pm at  1120 Washington Street in Lanesville
Baked Goods, Used Books, Craft and Handiwork, Christmas Wreaths and Greenery, White Elephants, chowder and more. Proceeds benefit Mississippi Missions project.

St. Paul Lutheran Church Christmas Fair
9-1pm at 1123 Washington Street in Lanesville
 Photos with Santa, homemade Nisu bread, kissing balls, wreaths, swags, raffle Dave’s homemade chowder

90 seconds and velvet, jennifer goulart ameroROCKPORT
Santa's Arrival in Rockport and Tree Lighting
1-4pm at 
Bearskin Neck, and Dock Square
Santa will arrive at Rockport’s Bradley Wharf on Bearskin Neck on Saturday, December 1 at 3:45 p.m., following a brisk lobster boat ride across Sandy Bay. Then Santa will climb up onto a Rockport Forest Fire truck, Cape Ann Jazz Band. At Dock Square Santa will briefly ascend the platform to greet the crowd and kick off the Tree Lighting festivities, before climbing back onto the fire truck to begin his long return journey to the North Pole.

Santa Paws Fundraiser 
Benefit for Cape Ann Animal Aid
11-2pm at Smith Hardware and Lumber

Breakfast with Santa
8-11 am at Essex Elementary School
Enjoy a great breakfast when Santa visits Essex Elementary School. $5 per person or $25 per family.

Essex Shopping Open Houses
Find the perfect gift at Essex's unique
Antique and Specialty Shops and treat yourself to lunch or dinner at one of
Essex's Restaurants! Many businesses will be offering specials and refreshments.
Eat, Shop and Be Merry in Essex!

Cranes' Castle "Greening of the Greathouse"
Friday - Sunday at Castle Hill

Celebrate the magic of winter as the Great House on Castle Hill is festively decorated by area florists and designers. Enjoy live music, a dance performance, a children's "Eye Spy," refreshments, and more at this Winter festival. On Friday evening, make it a date and come for live jazz music and a drink at the cash bar. On Saturday and Sunday, visit the Gift Gallery for distinctive holiday gifts. Please consider bringing an unwrapped gift for our "Giving Sleigh" to benefit needy families through Ipswich Caring.

Friday - Sunday at Throughout Downtown 
Lucky 9 Raffle Drawing on Thursday (tickets $25; grand prize of $1,000, more than 20 prizes in all!); Open Houses in the shops all weekend long; Shop Manchester Night on Friday; Pancake Breakfast, Santa's arrival, and Jingle Bell Walk on Saturday; Concert and Lighting of the Friendship Tree on Sunday; and much more!

Friday, November 30, 4:00 to 9:00 pm - Shop Manchester Night
Downtown Manchester-by-the-Sea stores will be OPEN until 9:00 pm.
Here's how to play...
-Get a Shop Manchester Night Passbook, available from participating stores.
-Collect stamps from all participating shops, between 4:00 and 9:00 pm

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Giving Tuesday. This is very important news

90 seconds and velvet, open door, giving tuesday, help, donate, charity

Today is Giving Tuesday, a national movement to encourage American consumers to spread some love for the organizations and people who provide for, protect and educate the citizens of your community. I think this is a wonderful and important notion - creating a marketing drive on behalf of the schools, youth centers, hospitals, shelters, arts resources and environmental efforts that continue the good work of bettering the world we live in.  

Frankly, I think Giving Tuesday should PRECEDE the frenzied holiday shopping days - so that in the week of Thanksgiving, when we look around at what we have, and consider those who have not, what we have to give to those truly in need has not been depleted by the things we bought for our loved ones who already have so much.
Below is a list of my favorite local and national causes.  I apologize, in advance, if I've missed yours.  Send it along and I'll be sure it gets up here.  Every single one is worth mentioning.

You'll find that many of the organizations on this list directly impact your family's life in some way.  Perhaps your pet is a rescue from Cape Ann Animal Aid or your elderly parent spends time at the Rose Baker Senior Center. And the YMCA, the Gloucester Education Foundation, Cape Ann Art Haven, the Sawyer Free Library and Maritime Gloucester, for example are no doubt some part of every local child's experience. We are lucky to have them.

Many of the other causes I've listed provide for those who aren't fortunate enough or well enough to enjoy these luxuries we too often take for granted.  Saint Jude Children's Hospital, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and the Open Door provide care, medicine, housing and food to families that might otherwise go without.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the memory of how quickly a comfortable life can become a life of hunger, homelessness and need is very, very fresh. Even temporary need requires help. Thank goodness help is out there.

The links are all active on my list for easy travel to each organizations' page.  It is heart warming to read the testimonials, see the photos and read the annual reports on how many human beings are fortunate enough that these groups exist.  But they can't continue their work without funding.  That's where you come in....

Please make the most of this opportunity and teach your children a little bit about gratitude and humility by choosing together which of the invaluable causes you might support this year. Let some knowledge of that reality serve as a gentle reminder of truly good fortune when our little angels are disappointed at the one shiny toy that didn't end up under the tree.

Happy Giving Tuesday,

Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving Tuesday - the most important date this season

The true spirit of the holiday season is in giving to those in need. Tomorrow is #givingtuesday

Please open your heart and your checkbook to those who might otherwise go without.

A little bit on this nationwide event from another terrific blog. Thanks for sharing

Trees, gifts, crafts and more at Beeman Holiday Fair

This Saturday at Beeman Elementary School

A Tri Inside the Y - 5 week fitness challenge we all can and should do

While we are talking about warding off the holiday 7, thought I'd mention this cool, manageable motivation tool starting today at the North Shore YMCA.  I am doing it.  My friends are doing it.  You should be doing it.  The goals of a triathlon  spread out over 5 weeks. Do it inside, outside, alone, with a friend.  Track your progress and reach your goals. Just enough structure to keep you out of the cheese and crackers, and all  the competition and camaraderie to keep you going.  $12 gets you signed up AND a tshirt.  Register here:

It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year - here's some help in the battle of the bulge

Did you know the average American gains 7 lbs over the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas? If you consider the fact that to achieve 1lb weight gain, you need to increase your calorie intake by 3,500,  that's a whole lot of cookies, stuffing and sloth in a few short weeks. Consider what 7 lbs of fat might look like in a bucket and then think of how it feels to carry around on your belly.  Cookies don't seem so appealing anymore, do they?

Ok, so realistically, none of us will be iron-willed against the temptations of holiday cheer, but we can do a few things to curb our enthusiasm for gluttony. Exercising self control on the Mondays and Tuesdays of the week will help balance out the 3-party Saturdays of the season.  Kicking it up just a weensy bit will make a huge difference in how quickly those cookies accumulate, on your ass.

Here's a place or two to start.... And I'll keep them coming - like a wellness Advent Calendar, hold the chocolate.

Baby Steps to Weight Loss –
Little dietary differences
  • Plan Ahead, Stay Ahead
  • Keep your fridge stocked with eye-level, easy –access fruits and veggies.  Wash grapes and baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, cukes and celery.  Cut into bite size grab able portions and leave in the fridge on the top shelf  That way, when the grazing crazies hit, or you’re too busy to eat a meal, the first choice you encounter is a good one.  Pair 1 cup of veggies with a light cheese stick (in the cold cut drawer, and you’ve got a pretty satisfying stack without dirtying a plate. 
  • Similarly, remove toxic food choices from obvious locations.  Do not leave your kid’s leftover birthday cake on the top shelf of the fridge – stick it in Tupperware and put it on the bottom.  They’ll remember it’s there – but you won’t.  Get cookie jars off the counter, and put cracker bags BEHIND meal-makers in the cabinets.
  • If you have the cabinet space, keep snack foods in an altogether different location than your regular grocery items.  I keep mine in with the breakfast stuff.  Even on my worst day, I’d never eat goldfish at breakfast time, so I’m less likely to crumble then.  Later, when you’re making dinner, you’ll have no reason to go into that cabinet and face temptation.
  • Prepare one healthy soup in your crock-pot every Sunday (if you don’t have one – buy one – they are about $25 for family size and they will be your saving grace throughout the week, on the fly). 
  • Prepare tuna, grilled lean chicken breast, steak tips or hard boiled eggs, and wash salad greens every Sunday.  Mix with your precut veggies (see above) for a 5 minute salad.  Keep yummy salad toppers on hand (sun dry tomatoes, feta cheese, raisins, nuts) to make a fabulous restaurant quality salad and keep yourself from feeling denied.
  • Shop places like Trader Joe’s and your local butchery for all-natural marinated meats (refer to your chart for best healthy selections).  These places often carry great sauces, all-natural light dressings and interesting salad toppers that you can keep on-hand and save the steps in preparation.
… About Small Exercise Changes
  • Take the stairs every single time they're an option. No more elevators or escalators.
  • Make exercise a priority, not an inconvenience.  Put it in your planner like every other appointment and keep this important appointment with yourself.  Every other thing you do will benefit from making this commitment!
  • Park far from your destination, so you're forced to walk — this works at the supermarket, the mall, wherever. (This also helps you waste less time looking for a parking space!)
  • View tiring chores (shoveling snow, cleaning the house, weeding the garden, taking the garbage out, grocery shopping) as a chance to get in some activity.
  • Take the grocery cart back to the store when you're done loading your bags into your car.
  • If you take public transportation, get off one stop early.
  • Work out with a friend.  You’re less inclined to blow off your friends than you are to blow off your exercise class.

  • Try different exercise classes until you find the one you like.  It could be that you don’t HATE exercise, you just step aerobics.  Shop around until you find something that works for you, so you won’t see working out as a chore.

  • Try different tools to enhance your workout.  Add a few hills to your walk. Get an iPod to add tunes to your walk.  Invest in long johns so cold weather won’t hold you back or buy a stability ball for your home, so you can do some abs and stretches first thing in the morning.  Lots of great fitness equipment costs less than $20 to purchase (resistance bands, balls,) and having a few things at home will make you feel better if obligations throw you off your routine.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Be Grateful Project - Open Door and the Cape Ann Food Pantry

Continuing the Be Grateful Project through the holiday season with a nod to Gloucester's own Open Door/Cape Ann Food Pantry. Under the energized direction of Julie Hazen LaFontaine, the Open Door offers a free grocery store and community meals for the needy, the elderly and the lonely at their Emerson Ave location as well as neighborhood, senior care and school-based mobile farmers' markets and a second hand clothing and furniture shop at it's "Second Glace" resale boutique on Pond Road. Through collaboration with agencies like Action, North Shore Health Project, the Backyard Growers' Program, Pathways for Children and many others, the Open Door provides outreach education to consumers young and old, healthy and ill and offers the promise of improved quality of life to thousands.

The fact sheet below was taken from the organizations' website and illustrates the power and reach of the Open Door's services in feeding, clothing, and teaching residents in need how to grow and prepare nutritious foods to nurture mind and body. The numbers of residents served by the Open Door in all it's focus areas speaks volumes about their importance in our community - something to keep in mind as you choose which organizations to support in donation season.

Open Door Service Fact Sheet - Program Services in 2011

Food Pantry provided 444,121 pounds of free canned goods, fresh produce, meats, bread, dairy products, and eggs to 1,487 households during 10,457 visits representing 3,593 people.

Community Meals served 16,324 hot meals to guests needing food and companionship in a safe environment.

Mobile Market, a free farmers’ market, provided 199,732 pounds of fresh produce and groceries to 893 households representing 2,249 people at four neighborhood-based, two school-based, and two senior center-based market sites.

Emerson Market, a free weekly surplus food market, provided access to 27,652 pounds of fresh (and locally grown) produce and wholesome breads.

Summer Lunch served 4,213 lunches to children ages 1-18 at seven sites during a ten-week summer lunch program.

Holiday Meals distributed 1,665 baskets with all the food to provide 9,990 holiday meals.

Collaborative Meals supplied 27,179 pounds of groceries and fresh produce to clients of the North Shore Health Project, Action Shelter, Harvest Meals, the North Shore Hunger Network, and the Chill Zone.

The Good Food Project launched with key partners to reach our most vulnerable populations with targeted nutrition boxes or bags to help better manage health conditions and diet.

Garden Project partnered with Backyard Growers to work with families to plan, plant, and harvest gardens in twelve raised beds at The Open Door.

Cooking Matters provided a series of six-week Cooking Classes to clients and families.

SNAP (Food Stamps Outreach) handled more than 500 appointments.

Second Glance, The Thrift Store of The Open Door, sold 243,392 reduced-cost clothing, furniture and household items to the community, honored 321 referral requests from other agencies, recycled textiles, appliances and metals, hosted Community Enterprise and STEP program participants for job training, and raised revenues to support our hunger-relief programs.

Volunteer Service totaled 17,497 hours of time, talent and engagement.

jennifer goulart amero,

Throughout the holiday season, many local businesses and schools are working with the Open Door to offer incentives for food donations to provide meals for thousands of Cape Ann Residents. Information on where to donate and how to host your own food drive at your business, school or community location is available here: How to Help - host a food drive

Contact information and service hours for the Open Door is listed below for readers willing to support their mission with food, clothing, furniture or monetary donations or folks looking for a hot meal or bag of groceries. The fact sheet illustrates the breadth of the Open Door's services in detail and will, hopefully, inspire readers to lend a hand in continuing their important work.

Street Address: 28 Rear Emerson Avenue Gloucester, MA 01930
Phone: 978-283-6776

One parting thought that will, hopefully, resonate throughout this season and all year long - Be grateful for what you have, and be generous to those who have not. A tiny fraction of what we will spend on wrapping paper and Wii games, mittens and holiday cards would clothe and feed many who might otherwise go without. In the spirit of giving, I ask you to give a little to those who truly need it. They are all right here in your neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

GP - Trustees of Reservations

Part Two of the Grateful Project and today I am thinking about the woods.  The wind outside my office is howling and I can't help but think about the clean up from another one of Gaia's tantrums. Oye.

This, of course, always brings my mind back to the beauty in ravaged nature.  Anyone who's gone beach trawling after a hurricane or storm chasing during one (this is what you do for fun on an island in winter, you see), can fully appreciate this notion of the entrancing power of the "calm after the storm".

One place I visit frequently and love especially after a particularly gnarly tempest has blown through is Ravenswood Park in Magnolia.  This is no surprise to my readers, there are quite a few posts and photos on the place on this blog. With innumerable possible hiking trail configurations and topography that ranges from fields of rocky crags and pointed ridges to murky, verdant low lying swamp to overgrown watery piepline, a person could walk here often, as I do, and never grow bored of the scenery.

But to catch the apres storm shots, one needs to be quick, as the owners and managers of the park, The Trustees of Reservations maintain the grounds - dozers in droves appear, though immediately though invisibly, following a storm to bring the place back to its reliably impeccable condition.

Monday, November 5, 2012

BG Project - Camp Spindrift

Camp Spindrift (of the North Shore YMCA)The first in the "Be Grateful" Series throughout the holiday season

Today I am grateful for our local YMCA and, specifically, for Camp Spindrift in Gloucester for making my artsy, introverted 9 year old come on out of her shell, join in songs and games and camp camaraderie that has truly helped her grown in confidence and feel like she's a part of something.

Beyond the dull, though accurate and important statistical data about how summer camp positively influences positive social development in children, there is that magical moment, or moments, to be clear, when a parent "sees" this growth happening.  Julia, my nine year old, gets off the camp bus gushing with tales of the ridiculous games they played, the preposterous antics of her cooky, warm, and energized counselors.  She sings goofy camp songs about Tarzan and Bananas and tries very hard to explain just exactly what "Gaga Ball" is.  I still don't get this one, though I've seen the "Gaga" Pit.

From a child who was clung to her counselors, awkwardly avoiding interaction in favor of reading in solitude in the small fry cabin, or engaging the teenagers in a game of Magik (she is an only child who once preferred the company of adults, you see), Julia has become a confident kid who now asks that I not walk her in to the Y, or theater practice or stay for softball.  Though her independence makes me feel the pangs of empty nest, it is her blooming self esteem that leaves me awestruck.  And I attribute this growth to the loving efforts of the wonderful staff at Camp Spindrift at making every kid feel like they belong.  Spindrift isn't just a summer camp, it's the BEST summer camp this mamma could've asked for.  Thank you to Rick Doucette, Blair Hadley, Austin Souza, Steve Bouchie, Kira Oliver, Miss Annette, Eileen Jermain and all the other people out at Spindrift who have truly given my little girl something that she will benefit from for the rest of her life.

One little plug, and an easy "to do" - come out on Saturday, November 10th from 11-4 to the Spindrift "Fall into Winter Festival".  Ticket price is family friendly, includes hours worth of kid friendly activities  and onsite crafters, food vendors and local craft beer brewers make this a fun event for adults.  Our buddies at Cape Ann Brewing have generously offered to donate 50% of proceeds from sales of their (super tasty) craft brew and a bonfire and smores will keep you toasty all day.  Details in the flyer below. See you Saturday.

Link to Camp Spindrift

Be Grateful - because if you are reading this, you are already more fortunate than many

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and on the threshold of the holiday season, it occurs to me that those comforts we take for granted - fresh water, power, food, hey, wi-fi to read our favorite blogs and a warm office to read or write in are worth celebrating out loud.  The next month on 90secondsandvelvet will be dedicated to those resources we might otherwise take for granted.  I feel it's my duty, as a community messenger, to give voice to all of the wonderful people and organizations that are "my village".

But a village is made up of MANY voices.  And so I ask to hear yours. I welcome readers to share the same - post a comment, email me a cause, send me flyers on events we should love or companies that do great work for our planet, retailers who will be donating holiday shopping profits to folks in need and any organization that you feel should be including in our end-of-year donations list.

Spread the love, share your thoughts on what is really important to you, and help us to give proper thanks and support to all those people out there who are doing the good work in what is often the hardest of circumstances. Your nudge or nod might inspire something wonderful for the people who care about your world.