What's Happening

Gato Diablo Specialty Coffee Roasters

If you are a coffee lover like me, nothing compares to that smell of a great cup of freshly brewed coffee. Even before the first sip kisses your lips, the aroma fills you with warmth and pleasure. Not just any coffee can give you that feeling; it must be from exceptional beans. The coffee beans used by Gato Diablo Specialty Coffee Roasters meet that criteria!

Gato Diablo was created by Cape Vincent resident, Dan Miller. Dan, and his wife, Lynn, have lived in the Cape Vincent area since 2008. Both originally from New York State, they lived in Madison, Wisconsin, for eight years where Lynn, a computer programmer, worked, while Dan stayed home with their two children. Dan’s graduate degree is in Evolution and Ecology, and had been working toward his PhD, using his education on the Tug Hill Plateau and Irondequoit Bay prior to the move to Wisconsin. In WI, he became a stay-at-home dad, and he turned his attention to building canoes!

Upon moving to the Cape Vincent area, he continued his canoe building business and became curator at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton.

Dan has always appreciated a great cup of coffee. He and Lynn love to travel and finding specialty coffee shops during their excursions was an added perk. They are also avid birders. A trip to Costa Rica in 2015 combined both passions – coffee and birding – when they paid a visit to a certain coffee plantation. It was not just any plantation. Dan had done his research and prior to their visit, emailed the plantation about their exceptional coffee beans and environmentally sustainable practices. Imagine their surprise when the plantation owner greeted them upon their arrival and spent the day showing them around and discussing the benefits of growing coffee beans under a canopy of trees; a natural habitat where sloths, bats, and birds live peacefully, keeping the pests from invading the growing plants. Dan was not only impressed with the miles of canopied coffee bean plants and protected birds, but also the work of the plantation owner to advance the livelihood and education of the migrant workers, promoting fair wages, and effective farm management.

That Costa Rica trip ignited a spark within Dan. Over the years, he had roasted his own beans, using a cast iron skillet on the stove – similar to the days of caravans and cowboys, when the cook would throw some green coffee beans into a pan over an open fire until the color of toast, before crushing and running boiling water of the grounds. Dan wanted to roast environmentally friendly SMBC Bird Friendly and Rainforest Alliance Certified Costa Rican beans to share. 

He contemplated buying a roaster for his home but considering the space it would take up on his kitchen counter, Lynn put a kibosh to that idea. Since he had worked as a curator at the museum for three and a half years and was familiar with the village, he explored renting property in Clayton, but the ambience was just not right. Then, one night, while he and Lynn were at The Cape Vincent Brewing Company, they chatted with Amanda Derouchie. She was wondering what to do with the backroom in the Cup of Joy. It was kismet!

And, in 2018, Gato Diablo Specialty Coffee Roasters was born!

The name, Gato Diablo, which translates from the Spanish to “devil cat,” and Mayan-influenced logo, is homage to the jaguar, an endangered and elusive feline predator of Central and South America.

The beans Dan roasts are certified to ensure that the coffee is shade-grown, fair-trade, organic, and grown in harmony with nature. Not all are from Costa Rica, he also roasts beans from Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, Ethiopia, and Columbia. The decaf beans come from a plantation in Mexico that uses a water process to strip the caffeine from the bean rather than a chemical process.

The pre-roasted beans are delivered in large burlap bags a few times a year to Cup of Joy. They are quite large, weighing in at 69kg (152.119lbs). The beans are quite stable and could last years before roasting. (Roasted beans have a shelf life of a month and a half.)

Dan roasts beans three to four times a week during the busy months and once a week during off-season. The technology used for roasting is a simple recipe of sight, sound, smell, and temperature. Dan recently upgraded to a larger roaster! The roaster he purchased when he opened Gato Diablo roasted one kilo (2.20462 pounds) of beans at a time, but now production has increased to three kilos at a time!

You can purchase the heavenly roasted coffee beans not just at Cup of Joy, but also at the Clayton Food Co-op and the French Towne Market. If you purchase the beans on-site at Cup of Joy, the staff will gladly grind them to your preference. They are also available online at

Pop by Cup of Joy next time you are driving, or walking, down Broadway and step into the backroom to catch Dan delighting in roasting his distinctive certified organic coffee beans. Savor the delicious aroma that wafts and entices, maybe sample a medium or dark roast and buy a bag to take home to make yourself a great cup of coffee.

What's Happening

The French Festival is Cancelled

Five words — “the French Festival is cancelled” — five simple, innocuous words strung together. However, those words struck a blow to the community, businesses, and organizations of Cape Vincent never felt.

I am a member of the French Festival Committee. The committee last met at the end of February. I remember a couple hushed remarks then about the future of the Festival in light of the news overseas of the coronavirus but we stayed positive and kept on task: mass gathering permits were acquired, fireworks contract finalized and coordinating with DHS to set off the fireworks, reviewing of half of the vendors who were already registered, bands and parade entertainment that were partially or already booked, and what contracts, permits, volunteers, vendors, organizations, and sponsors  that still need to be secured. As the head of the French Festival Sponsor Sub-Committee, I met with my team a couple times in early March, fully functioning and spearheading towards sponsorship acquisition. Then, by the third week of March, schools closed, businesses were shuttered, and New York residents were ordered to stay home.

The COVID-19 outbreak was spreading throughout the United States and Northern NY was under quarantine.

The future of the French Festival was uncertain.

As history tells it, the French heritage in the Cape Vincent area stems back to as early as 1615 when French explorers first set foot upon our shores. In 1655, the French missionary priests Father Chaumont, Father Dablon, and Father Simon LeMoyne came to the area to establish missions and homes. Between 1790s-1800s, James LeRay de Chaumont acquired many thousands of acres of land in Northern New York. Cape Vincent was named after his son, Vincent. It was LeRay’s influence that drew many French emigres and refugees of the Napoleonic regime to come and settle in Cape Vincent. Many of their descendants still live in the area. 

I was the reigning French Festival queen in 1987
Miss French Festival 1987: Kristie Stumpf

It was because of this French heritage and history that the French Festival was born! In 1968, Cape Vincent residents, June and Jack Walker, Gary, and his first wife, Jackie King, Jerry and Ida Radley, and Jessie and David Otis met to discuss how Cape Vincent could celebrate its French heritage and share that knowledge with younger generations. They partnered with the Chamber of Commerce with a budget of $300, the annual tradition got its start. 

Two months passed after our last French Festival Committee Meeting, when on May 5th the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors decided during their monthly Chamber Meeting to cancel the 52nd Annual French Festival. A sound decision for the health and well-being of the community but one surely difficult to comprehend.

For the first time in fifty-two years, Cape Vincent was not going to be hosting the Annual French Festival. A yearly summer tradition that brought together so many families and summer residents in the North Country for a weekend of French-inspired fun, entertainment, pastries, a parade, and fireworks. But even more so, it meant that local businesses and community-based organizations that benefited from the weekend would be losing revenue and donations.

Cape Vincent has had its share of hardships throughout the years: The Blizzard of 1977, the Ice Storm of 1998, and the high-water flooding in the Spring of 2019; and the community has always rallied to weather the storm. So, how are the businesses and organizations in the Cape going to cope with the loss of the French Festival?

Even before the announcement of the French Festival cancellation, local amateur photographer, Alex Davis, son of long-time resident, Barry, started collecting donations for the Food Pantry and Ambulance Fund with the #FrontDoorProject, or also known as The Front Steps Project. The Front Steps Project is a nationwide project where photographers decide what local organization will inspire their communities and then photograph a family on their front porch for a donation.

With the reliance on social media for communication during quarantine paired with a grassroots swell in supporting regional products and buying local, the handful of Cape Vincent businesses that remained open during April and May certainly felt the love of the community. As with every other disaster encountered, the community as a whole collectively picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and kept moving forward. Information about take-out, delivery, and products (maple syrup, wine, Black Angus beef) available was shared amongst residents online and folks kept those businesses busy.

How is Cape Vincent businesses and organizations going to deal with the loss of French Festival? They are going to do what they always do – persevere with the support of the community! After any disaster, the community of Cape Vincent has proven it will always rebuild. The strength of the Cape Vincent community is what makes this town remarkable.

So, we do not have French Festival this year. That is okay.

Cape Vincent will be all right.

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

“The French Festival is Cancelled” was published in the Thousand Islands Sun newspaper, as well as the Chamber newsletter.

What's Happening

The Cottage on Rose Bay

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

The St. Lawrence River is magical. Every person that encounters the river is enchanted by her magnificent beauty.  They find solace and calm, even on the mightiest of days. When away, she calls to them, begging them to return to the river. They oblige, returning year after year, knowing she will be there waiting to bring them peace.

If you are one of the lucky few charmed to live on the River, you want to share her serenity.

About five miles outside of the village, down Route 12E, past Millens and Dodge Bays is a quiet cove nestled within the gentle curve of Beadle Point called Rose Bay.

Cape Vincent residents, Brian and Mary Lynn Leech have lived on the edge of the rapturous River in Rose Bay, enjoying every glorious sunrise and spectacular sunset, for forty years. When the opportunity to purchase the lot next to their home became available four years ago, they snatched it up. 

Renovations to the lot and existing cottage began immediately. Brian, owner of Rose Bay Builders, completed the repairs and remodeling in the evenings and on Sundays. It took a spell. Plus, Brian, a master craftsman, took his time to ensure each tile template, repurposed wood step, and corrugated tin trim was faultless!

Three years later, the pièce de résistance, a gorgeous, fully furnished year-round cottage with central heat, air conditioning and a beautiful gas fireplace. A spacious eat-in kitchen with a range, built-in microwave, dishwasher, and refrigerator. There are two huge flatscreen Smart televisions — one in the living area and one in the bedroom. A large bathroom with a custom-built 4’x6′ tiled shower in the style of an old-timey wood porch. A spacious bedroom with a king-sized bed from which you can enjoy the river from the king-sized window. Plus, a large waterfront Paver Patio with a built-in wood burning fire pit and a shaded Pergola along the waterfront!          

Brian did not do this all on his own, he credits Mary Lynn for much of the design and plans. Upon entering the Cottage, if you are not instantly impressed with the tile work, repurposed wood, and cabinetry; you will be amazed by her exquisite Better Homes and Gardens-like feel of the River decor and theme.

I was fascinated that from bathroom to bedroom to living area to kitchen there was a view of the River — it was inescapable. And it was mesmerizing.

I asked Brian and Mary Lynn why they wanted to have a rental next door to their home. You would think their first response would be something along the lines of supplemental income or retirement fund. Instead, they said that they wanted people to appreciate the River as they do, to fall in love immediately with the swans swimming by and listen to the geese, watch the ships sail pass in the channel and view the magnificent sunsets.

And, they have created the perfect cottage to enjoy her.

Sitting in the Cottage at the kitchen table talking with Brian and Mary Lynn with the River in view, I felt her enchantment. I did not want to leave. There would be pauses in our conversation as we sat watching the River. Not awkward pauses, just a quiet calm.

It is no wonder they do not have to advertise outside of social media and the Chamber of Commerce. Word-of-mouth is all they need to promote their little bit of paradise. They have only been renting the Cottage for a year and already have repeat customers booking a month at a time. 

Plus, unlike some rentals along the River, theirs is year-round making it the perfect weekend getaway for a second honeymoon, winter holiday, or escape from the city. Imagine sitting around the beautiful gas fireplace with your loved one on a romantic getaway in a private, quiet bay on the River for an entire weekend!

The cottage offers every amenity you would possibly need, all you must bring is food and drink. You can swim, boat, and fish right from the shoreline. Off-season is $225 a night and on-season is $275 a night. There are no limitations on your stay – one night, three nights, a month — you choose. During the off-season, if you book two nights, the third night is free!

If the River is begging you to return to her waters, give Brian and Mary Lynn a call and stay at the enchanting Cottage on Rose Bay: 315-783-9642

For more information, visit:

“The Cottage of Rose Bay” was published in the Thousand Islands Sun newspaper, as well as the Chamber newsletter.

What's Happening

The Cottage Bakery

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

A sweet little roadside cottage along county Route 57, a half-mile onto Point Peninsula, may seem virtuous but open its door and the sinful delights inside will tempt and delight you: cupcakes, cookies, donuts, brownies, cheesecakes, and oh, so much more! These wickedly splendid treats are made by the most remarkable woman. She is a woman who has never been deterred by hard-work, hardship, or heartbreak.  Cathy Gallagher is the sole baker and owner of The Cottage Bakery.

Cathy was not destined to be a baker. After graduating from Watertown High School in the 70s, she attended St. Joseph’s College of Nursing in Syracuse. Bumps in the road happened and she dropped out. She tried staying in the field, becoming an hospital aide for a while, but it was not to last.

One night, while enjoying a night out with co-workers at Benny’s Steakhouse, a prominent Watertown professional robustly attempted to coax Cathy to be his mistress. A handsome young man saw what was transpiring, placed his arm around Cathy’s shoulders, and sternly told the married gentleman to “leave my future wife alone.” 

That handsome young man was Bob Gallagher. He and Cathy started dating after that evening and married on February 21, 1976 at Sacred Heart Church in Watertown. Bob was always Cathy’s biggest supporter and champion. Cathy describes Bob as her one true love, her soul mate. They were together 43 years until his untimely death this past June.

Between her two professions of hospital aide and baker, Cathy worked at a Watertown radio station as a Traffic Manager. She worked at that radio station for twelve years, from the ground up, until a portentous merger and the top tier were let go on New Year’s Eve.

Undaunted, she took the severance package from the radio station and enrolled in classes at Jefferson Community College, graduating with two Associate degrees, one in Business and the other in Culinary Arts. 

She also began working as a prep cook at Sboro’s Restaurant. As her dessert making skills improved and gained recognition, she graduated from prep cook to dessert maker.

Post JCC, at 44 years of age, she pursued her Bachelors degree from SUNY Potsdam in Economics. 

Steadfast and focused, still regularly working at Sboro’s making desserts, her two children both teens at the time, Bob always her encourager, she attended classes at Potsdam on Tuesdays and Thursdays from sun-up to sundown. And, in one and a half years, she graduated in 2002 with honors, Magna Cum Laude.

Her desserts were gaining notice, and a profit, at Sboro’s. Before she took over, only 8% of their food revenue was dessert-based. After Cathy took over, that percentage jumped to 30%! With Sboro’s encouragement, Cathy created Desserts by Design, a high-end bakery creating signature desserts for local restaurants, special occasions, and fundraisers; all created in the kitchen at Sboro’s solely by Cathy. Cathy still supplies Sboro’s desserts to this day, employing her for over 22 years now.

Then came the call from JCC, an instructor remembered her culinary talents as a student and asked if she would be interested in sharing her skills as an Adjunct in their Culinary Arts Program. She accepted. Cathy taught Intro to Culinary, Baking 1, Baking 2, and Quantity Foods from 2006 to 2018.

Along the way, Bob and Cathy purchased land on Point Peninsula and built a garage with an apartment. They sold their house in Watertown in 2009 and moved into the apartment above the garage while an adjoining house was built. 

After the house was completed, the apartment space above the garage was the perfect space to convert into Cathy’s Desserts by Design kitchen. When the space was ready for production, the Health Inspector noticed during the review the large amount of traffic that passed by the residence — it IS the only road in and out of Point Peninsula — and suggested to Cathy that she put a stand with her desserts by the road.

And…The Cottage Bakery was born!

Cathy, never one to retreat from extra work, purchased a 10 x 12 shed from North Country Storage, and in addition to her Sboro’s responsibilities, JCC classes, and recurring Desserts by Design orders, she started stocking The Cottage Bakery shed in 2012 with cupcakes, cookies, fried cakes, brownies, breads, and so much more! 

The Cottage Bakery operates on the “honor system”  — a system that works well in our rural small towns — where her customers pay for the desserts they choose to purchase with cash and leave it in a lock box located within the shed.

The honor system only works for the honorable and Cathy had to take matters into her own hands on one occasion. 

A few years ago, Cathy noticed a red pickup frequenting her Cottage throughout a Father’s Day Sunday and at the end of the day, when totals were much lower than expected she became suspicious. When she saw the same red pickup truck make a second stop at her Cottage the following day, she confronted the perpetrator! Without fear, she questioned the young man, observed incriminating physical evidence of his crimes in his truck, and threatened him. After he left, she called the police and an arrest was made.

Today, in its ninth season, the Cottage Bakery is a bit bigger. Cathy has replaced the original 10 x 12 shed with a 12 x 16 shed, and her son, Ethan has finished the interior so that she can be open year-round. So, although the Cottage is typically open Memorial Weekend though Columbus Day, Cathy has already opened for the season with the renovations to the Cottage. As well as offering her scrumptious treats, she has expanded the menu to include: soups, side dishes, one-dish meals, local farm-fresh eggs, and seasonal local produce. She also offers hot coffee, iced coffee, and bottled beverages.

Cathy truly has a passion for baking. She describes her kitchen as her sanctuary. And, nothing makes her happier than seeing the smiles her desserts bring to her customers’ faces.

Despite the heartache of losing Bob in June, she has not slowed down. During our conversation, she pointed to a box of tissues and mentioned that there are several boxes around her kitchen and house. She allows herself to mourn, to cry but then she wipes her tears and keeps moving forward.


Cathy is always available for a fundraiser. She regularly collaborates with the Lyme Free Library hosting Victorian Tea Parties and Culinary Classes in her kitchen. Give her a call for your next charity event: (315) 408-7318

What's Happening

St. John’s Episcopal & the Child Advocacy Center

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

The Child Advocacy Center was established in 2006, when Law Enforcement and Child Protective Services recognized the need for a safe space for victimized children, where the child would be interviewed only once by a forensic interviewer and not by multiple agencies. The Center is 97% grant -funded and is under the agency of The Victims Assistance Center.

The CAC houses interview rooms, a medical examination room, a waiting room with stuffed animals, toys, age-appropriate movies on the TV and warm, inviting colors. Most important of the rooms in the CAC is the room where all the agencies involved in the case can gather to review the interview. In that room, the walls are lined with laptops and headphones. This is the reason the Center was established. One interview. One Interviewer.

Watertown is the Main Hub for the CAC, but they also have two satellite offices, one in Lewis and another in St. Lawrence county. As well as, two 33-foot-long Winnebago’s outfitted with victim intake capabilities that travel to destinations in rural Lewis and St. Lawrence counties when travel is difficult for the victims.

Of the cases the CAC manages:

  • 95% Sexual Abuse
  • 5% Physical Abuse/Witnesses of Traumatic Event

Of the children served in 2019:

  • Jefferson: 397
  • St. Lawrence: 279
  • Lewis: 90


  • 0-6:    234
  • 7-12:  292
  • 13+:   240

St. John’s Episcopal Church of Cape Vincent has been a blessing to the children of CAC. 

In 2018, St. John’s wanted to make the rectory a Safe House but requirements such as 24-hour police accessibility were not attainable. So, they sold the house and the funds were allocated to the Child Advocacy Center. The center used $25000 of the allocation in 2018 to update their offices with contemporary equipment, furnishings and technology. The remainder of the funds were to be contracted in the amount of $5000 over the course of four years. In 2019, the CAC used the first $5000 to purchase all new furniture to outfit their site. This year, they are testing the theory of digitizing documents, and using iPads in the field, so CAC Advocates and the agencies they work with can quickly sign and release critical and time-sensitive materials.

But St. John’s support is not just financial.

An exuberant woman by the name of Charlie Fix, a retired Fort Drum Public Health Nurse and member of St. John’s, first introduced me to the CAC – St. John’s connection during a French Festival Committee meeting I attended in January. She talked about how not only did one of the CAC Winnebago’s participate as a float in the parade but also joined forces to provide a Comfort Station for festival goers. 

I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about St. John’s involvement. Charlie set up a meeting for me with Amy, the CAC Program Director, Priest Lisa of St. John’s, and Therapy Dog Emelia, at the Watertown office. 

Amy has been with the CAC since its inception. First as an Advocate (an Advocate works directly with the non-offending family members of the victim), then as Coordinator, and now in her present position. She is also the lucky soul that gets to take home the beautiful golden Emelia each night at the end of the workday.

Amy was more than happy to discuss the support St. John’s provides the children that enter the doors of the CAC. In the Waiting Room, along the mantle, are a row of stuffed bunnies. The bunnies are made by a woman in Cape Vincent. Before the bunnies are transported to Watertown, Priest Lisa blesses them. When a child is interviewed, they are given one of St. John’s blessed bunnies for comfort. When the interview is over, the child can take the bunny with them to continue to be consoled.

St. John’s regularly donates much needed blankets. Some are made (knitted, sewn), some new, others gently used – which are given to the child, like the bunnies, to hold and take with them for comfort. They also supply snacks for the Waiting Room to keep the waiting child engaged and nourished.

At the beginning of the school year, backpacks are prepared with school supplies for those children in need. And, when a child comes into the CAC with few personal items, Amy lets St. John’s know and the clothing and donations flow in abundant.

St. John’s does not just provide indispensable care and donations to the children. Recently, when the staff of the CAC had endured a couple grueling months a harrowing, sometimes unresolved cases, the emotional toll was evident. To help boost morale St. John’s hosted a luncheon to remind them that they are worthy, supported and the job that they provide is vital.

The CAC and St. John’s will work together again this summer for the 52nd Annual French Festival, entering one of their Winnebago’s in the parade, providing a Comfort Station for Festival goers, and offering the public insight into what an important program the Child Advocacy Center is for the victims of abuse.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Promote the prevention of child abuse by considering a donation to the Victims Assistance Center, the Child Advocacy Center, or by purchasing a Blue Pinwheel from the Cape Vincent Community Library.

What's Happening

Mary Madison Studios

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

Weddings are magical. As in, whether a large ceremony with hundreds of guests, or standing together in front of the Justice of the Peace with your closest friends and parents, you’ll be in a dreamlike state for the entire event. When the day is over, and the enchantment has worn off, the two of you will look back on the day and wonder, “did we eat?”

Enter the importance of the wedding photographer! Photos of your special day will help you recall all the beautiful memories of the occasion.

What better duo to capture those memories, than the husband and wife team of Mary Madison Studios! They understand the enchantment, the flow of the wedding, the unexpected moments, and the occasional bumps in the process. They’re married; they’ve experienced the magic, and they know exactly how to seize those moments that seem fleeting during your cherished day!

Kathleen and Dave Bonney are the artists that make-up Mary Madison Studios. The business name comes from their middle names: Kathleen Mary and Dave Madison. Both grew up in Cape Vincent, became friends over their passion for photography, and fell in love. 

Kathleen, also known as Kat, formally a Trottier, credits The Latimars, a brother and sister photography team from Boston, for teaching her the fundamentals of wedding shoots. Dave attributes his time spent in Rochester after graduating from JCC and years photographing arbitrary patrons while tending bar, for honing his skills. And, both acknowledge the discovery of their eye for photography to Cape resident, and retired TI Art Teacher, George Mingle. When each was a High School student, they took his Black & White Photography Class and realized then they had a talent with the camera.

Mary Madison Studios has been in business since 2015. In those five years, they have fulfilled 75 weddings! As well as, get married to each other – in June 2017 – buy a house, and have a baby – in July 2019. WHEW!

What sets Mary Madison apart from other wedding photographers, is the time and care Dave and Kat spend with the couple. Dave credits Kat with an important conversation that many are afraid to present. Kathleen sits down with the bride-to-be to discuss the realty versus expectation of the wedding day to dispel unrealistic goals.

On the day of the wedding, Dave and Kathleen start their day early, and are the last to leave at the end of the day. They split at first, Kathleen follows every movement of the bride and bridesmaids, Dave monitors every detail of the groom and the groomsmen. Coming together for the ceremony to work jointly to get those perfect shots. At the reception, they work the crowd to get those “spontaneous” shots as well as the traditional. Dave has been known to prove his skill for dancing too when the party floor needs a livelier participation. 

By spending that extra time with the couple, caring enough to be early and stay to the very end, they guarantee the couple more genuine memories of their special day.

I asked Dave and Kathleen if the wedding photography field was a cutthroat business. They completely dismissed any notion of competition. Just the contrary, they described it as a nurturing and generous environment. They’re friends with most of the North Country photographers. And, if Dave and Kat can’t fulfill a wedding, they happily refer the engaged couple to one of the trusted, local wedding photographers, because they know the same would be done for them.

One local wedding photographer, whom Dave and Kathleen seek advice from and consider a mentor, also lives in Cape Vincent. Kristen of Kristen Charles Photography is a portrait photographer with a studio located in Watertown. When Dave and Kathleen need business advice, or have a question about photography, they go to Kristen. It was Kristen, whom they chose, to be their photographer when they wedded in Dave’s father’s backyard in the summer of 2017.

Talking with Dave and Kathleen, it’s clear their passion for photography. They both get a twinkle in their eye and a glow about them when they talk about their craft. And, they don’t do just weddings, they also do engagement, newborn, maternity, lifestyle, and senior photos. 

Mary Madison Studios is not their only profession. Kathleen is employed at Converse Laboratories Inc in Watertown. The company that originally started as a dairy lab, and today is better known for testing drinking and non-potable water supplies. Dave works for Watertown Savings Bank. He is also a trustee on the Village Board; and, is enthusiastic to be working with current Mayor Golden and his vision for riverfront revitalization.

When they are not working their day jobs or shooting photos, they are busy caring for and raising the cutest baby. Owen entered their lives in July 2019. Always the professionals and undeterred by swollen ankles, Dave and Kathleen were shooting a wedding five days before Owen’s arrival! They also like to work on their house, as well as travel when they get the chance.

You can access the Mary Madison Studios portfolio through their website:  You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram

“Mary Madison Studios” was published in the March 11th edition of the Thousand Islands Sun newspaper, as well as the Chamber newsletter.


“You’re No Spring Chickens”: An Essay of Infertility and Indecision

My husband and I struggled with infertility. We were happy when blessed with the perfect daughter from a successful IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) in March of 2007. A happy little family. Like an athlete who made it to the Olympics after years of hard work, we felt heroic after the hurdles and obstacles we had to overcome to achieve parenthood.  The journey was over.

In 2006, the treatment path that my fertility doctor had set me on was more than successful — the shots, the pills, the weekly trips to Syracuse for a vaginal ultrasound and bloodwork — produced many eggs for harvesting. When the miracle-workers in the lab introduced my husband’s sperm to my eggs, 8 embryos were created – EIGHT viable embryos! 

When the embryos were three days old, the remarkable Dr. Rob of the CNY Fertility Center in Syracuse, took three of the viable embryos and inserted them into my uterus. 

The remaining 5 embryos were frozen. 

Over the next couple years, my husband and I casually considered what we would do with the five frozen embryos. We considered giving them to a family member struggling with fertility. We thought about selling them. We contemplated donating them to research.

By January of 2010, the money we had been granted for fertility treatments no longer covered the cost of storage. My husband and I had fallen on hard times financially and a quarterly fee for storage made our conversations of the embryos no longer a casual chat. We had to make a decision. We paid the fee for the first quarter but promised we would make a decision before the next payment was due.

Forced with making a final decision, the angst of what to do was tremendous, the potential lives of five babies hung over us like a gray cloud on a sunny day. Many conversations later, multiple scenarios discussed, we came to the simple, yet harsh conclusion that we would donate the embryos to science.

Around the same time we made our decision, I was scheduled for my annual gynecological exam. I was quite fond of my OB/GYN. She was an unsympathetic, brass woman who talked like she was raised in Hell’s Kitchen. She told it like it was – and I adored her for it. 

Sure, when I first started seeing my OB/GYN in the early 2000s, I thought I had made a mistake. Was this the right fit for me? But, by my second visit, I was able to make a connection with my wit and humor – and she, in turn, always gave me the most spot-on advice – I knew this was the doc for me. When I told her in 2005 that family planning was not going as expected, and we may need some help, she didn’t mess around with different pill concoctions and tracking my cycles. She knew from my history that she needed to send me to the best person for the job, Dr. Rob and his team of miracle-workers at the CNY Fertility Center. She even gushed like a schoolgirl talking about a crush when she mentioned Dr. Rob – one not to exude warm fuzzies, I could tell from her demeanor that she was sending me to the mightiest wizard in infertility treatments. 

So, when I told her during my annual exam on that day in 2010, that my husband and I decided to donate our frozen embryos to science, she flatly disagreed.

She told me, “one of the saddest aspects of my job is the woman who has no family. Her parents were older when she was born and did not have any other children. Now her parents are gone and her parents’ families are gone and she is alone. When she goes to the hospital for a procedure, she does not have family to sit by her and hold her hand. When she goes to her chemo and radiation appointments for her cancer, she has no one to check in on her when she returns home. When she dies, she will have no family left behind to mourn for her. You and your husband are no spring chickens. You will be in your sixties and seventies when your daughter graduates college. You may even be dead by the time she considers starting her own family. Don’t do this to your daughter. Don’t let your daughter be an only child. She needs family, she needs a sibling.”

And, that was that.

By early summer, after a failed FET (frozen embryo transfer) attempt and only two embryos remaining, I implored that Dr. Rob do the FET. He did. And, the miracle happened.

It was not an easy pregnancy. I cramped and bled at four weeks which resulted in strict bed rest for two weeks. My husband, attempting to make a better life for our growing family, took a job in Boston, MA, five hours away, when I was six months pregnant. I stayed behind with our house, daughter, and dog. I was sick. Very sick. I ended up in the hospital four or five times for dehydration — always dragging my three year old daughter with me because we had no family in the area. I lost twenty pounds.

In March, 2011, two days after my 41st birthday, our second daughter was born.

Today, we have two daughters that absolutely adore one another. Sure, they are still young — I anticipate they will be hating one another during their teen years — but they won’t be alone.

Originally published in April 2015

What's Happening

Riverfront Properties

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

In our small town, nicknames bestowed during youth tend to carryover to adulthood. To overhear a conversation amongst year-round residents, you’d get a feeling you were listening to fictional characters in a Francis Ford Coppola movie: Big John, Butch, Woody, Little Davey, Buck, Shorty, Beaver, Pookie. Recently, I met with the co-owner of Riverfront Properties. She grew up in the village of Cape, her family well-known pillars of the community, and although she herself is an adult, is still referred to by her childhood nickname.

Jacqualine Johnson Costello, the daughter of the late Joan and Bob Gosier, affectionately referred to as Bopper by friends and family, and her husband, Jim, own Riverfront Properties.

Bopper met Jim when he was still an up-and-coming Funeral Homeowner in Alexandria Bay. Jim is originally from Utica but spent his childhood summering on the River, not far from the Cape, at Sand Bay. As a young adult, he knew no better place, than the beautiful 1000 Islands to open his Funeral Home business. At 23, he bought a small house in Alex Bay. Breaking into the Funeral business is difficult, but Jim was determined. He immersed himself in the community, worked multiple odd jobs, and built upon his small house.

In their late twenties Jim and Bopper met through mutual friends.  In time they were drawn to each other over their love of the River and the Thousand Islands. It was a perfect match. Today, Jim and Bopper have established an esteemed business; and, Costello Funeral Service is the first-place families entrust with their recently deceased loved ones.

A few years back, wanting more participation in the town where she grew up, where her parents still lived, and looking to complement their income with a rental property, she and Jim spied a trailer in a picturesque spot along the river. It was an older trailer with an addition, the interior had a dated 70s motif with a Brady Bunch feel, but Bopper and Jim saw its potential. The price was a bit high for what they were willing to pay so they waited. Patience prevailed. The price came down and they purchased the trailer in 2009.

A little bit of structure remodeling and Bopper’s expertise at décor, the trailer was ready for rental the summer of 2010.

Jim and Bopper and their family enjoyed the refurbished trailer, family visiting from out-of-town stayed there too, helping a new generation form a bond to the River. And, when the trailer was not being used by family, they easily rented it out based on its location, convenience, and features.

In 2012, Bopper and Jim were kayaking on the River when they spotted a vacant cottage along the shore. Jim pointed out the possible potential of the cottage but this time, Bopper was a bit hesitant. She thought maybe Jim, a Waterfowl Hunting Guide, was just considering the locale for hunting purposes.

After convincing Bopper that he didn’t have an alternative motive, and falling in love with the location, they purchased the property. However, unlike the first property, that just needed a little fine tuning, this cottage needed some serious structural repair and updating as well as shorefront cleanup and dock repair. Jim and friends took the year to work on the necessary construction to make the cottage structurally sound . When done, Bopper used her magic to create a charming summer residence.

Jim and Bopper loved the cottage and location so that they use it to this day as their primary summer getaway, only renting it out on the rare occasion that they are not using it.

Both properties included dock access to the River, however the high winds and high waters of Spring 2019 and then again in that following Fall, caused damage to the docks and made them unusable. Plans are in the works to have those docks repaired.

Riverfront Properties, along the St. Lawrence River, are located at 32322 NY State Route 12E and 32783 NY State Route 12E. The properties are on the River that both Bopper and her husband grew up playing in, and so dearly love. They rent out seasonally. The locations and the beauty of the properties sell themselves so well, that Bopper and Jim are booked far in advance and rarely must advertise.

Today, Jim, Bopper, and their children, Robert (19), Elizabeth (17), and River (12) live in Alex Bay. They continue to serve Alex Bay and surrounding communities with the business Jim started in his twenties, Costello Funeral Service. And every chance they get, spend their down time on the magnificent St. Lawrence River.

As Bopper and I both agree, it’s nice to know in a resort area sought for large corporation development, rental properties are still owned and maintained by local folks.

“Riverfront Properties” was published in the Feb 12 edition of the Thousand Islands Sun newspaper, as well as the Chamber newsletter.

Huffington Post

No Time to Pee

Okay, raise of hands, who will admit that they wait until their significant other is home from work so they can poop in privacy?

How many of us dutifully fill our water bottles with the daily recommended 64oz only to completely avoid hydrating during the day because you dread being trailed by an entourage every time the urge to pee strikes.

Now, just the mommies? How many would admit that if changing your pad/tampon were an Olympic sport, the speed of which you make the change would qualify you for a Silver, maybe even a Gold?

I certainly did not experience these issues when I was a working mom in the corporate world. Sure, there were some similarities: you couldn’t always pee when you wanted, pooping was held off until you got home, and your lunch break was a frenzy of eating with one hand, responding to personal texts and voicemails with the other hand, and potty time was an exercise in speed and efficiency, not unlike the small, oh so tiny, window of me time when you finally get all the kids asleep for naptime.

Recently, working from home, and caring for other children as well as my own, pooping and peeing has entered a new level of potty hell. Not only do I have my own children screaming with a heart-stopping intensity of a horror movie actress, “MOMMY!” when they realize I am not in their immediate presence, but I also have 2-3 other toddlers wanting to know where that woman with the yummy Goldfish crackers has gone. 

Most parents have the experience of dragging their diaper-clad little one into the bathroom. We all are under this illusion that if they watch us on a potty that they will suddenly be overwhelmed with the urge to tear-off their diaper and poop on the potty, too. It is all fine and dandy the first and second years, but sometime around age three or so, it becomes this creepy little voyeuristic adventure where their eyes follow every motion, movement, and wipe. And, that’s when your sudden desire for privacy kicks in — sure, you have been walking around them naked since birth, popping out the boobies when they are hungry, showering with them when there are just not enough wipes to clean up that poop explosion, occasionally catching mommy and daddy in an embrace — but the pooping and peeing sightseeing ride is shrieking to a halt.

These days…*cue the Mission Impossible theme music*…it is all cloak and daggers. “Hey, kids! Look at that large pile of Goldfish over there!”, “I think I hear someone knocking at the front door?”, “Who wants to watch Frozen?”.

These distractions will usually give me 30 seconds on the clock — and I make it work with a little determination and a lot of mental preparedness — and double-checking to ensure the path is clear of Legos

Do I cut corners? Sure! I leave the bathroom door open for ease of entry and exiting. I wash my hands in the kitchen sink where I can oversee the children noshing on the last few Goldfish like zombies grasping at entrails of a fresh body. I don’t wear pants that require a belt.

In and out of the bathroom. Thirty seconds or less. Who knew parenthood would make potty time such an adventure?

Originally posted in Huffington Post 11/11/2016


The Music, a short film review

The Music is the sixth film by award-winning New England director/producer/writer Mark Battle of Sweven Films – sequel to his second, The Janitor. Despite six years separating the two films, the cadence and tone have remained the same. However, something phenomenal has happened — Mark has accomplished what many filmmakers fail to pull off — the sequel transcends the first!

The Janitor (2013), winner of Best in Fest at the 2013 SNOB Film Festival, introduced us to Dominic, a cleaner for hitmen. Dominic is a quiet man, private and living modestly. In The Janitor, Dominic is faced with cleaning up a botched hit. In The Music, Dominic is still cleaning hits but he’s tired. He wants out.

Dominic is played by Michael Anthony Coppola. Michael, a handsome, broad-shoulder Gregory Peck-looking actor with a tousle of gray in his wavy dark hair, plays Dominic to perfection. He does not have many lines of dialogue – 20 lines – which he speaks in a low-pitched, slightly accented voice, sometimes in Czech. But what Michael doesn’t say, he expresses with movements of his eyes, hesitations, and facial expressions. Michael skillfully conveys Dominic’s story on his face. It’s an execution guaranteed to win awards.

The film is aptly titled. The music is not simply melody accompanying the story, rather it’s like a rudder on a boat changing the course of characters actions. When Dominic listens to music, he sails smoothly, methodically through the process of clean-up, but when the music abruptly stops, reality of his actions floods his consciousness. He heaves from the foulness of it all. When the character, Miklos, Dominic’s handler listens to music, his conduct is altered, outcomes are affected.

The Music is filmed in black and white, and as with every Mark Battle composition of genius, it is a work of art. The clarity and depth of each scene is stunning, like an Ansel Adams photo – pure and focused. The beauty of the visual backdrop against the anguished story plays in perfect harmony. And, Mark’s clever lack of color for literal interpretation – Dominic lives in a clearly defined black and white construct, despite his profession, burden, and legitimacy being muddled – is absolute brilliance!

The Janitor being my favorite among the Sweven Film oeuvre; it’s what began my admiration of Mark’s writing and cinematography. When I read that he was working on a sequel, I was ecstatic. It took a few years for the symphony to find its tempo, but it was well worth the wait! The Music now tops my list. Standalone, or as a sequel, it will be the short film that I guarantee audiences and film festival judges will be talking about this year.

Want to see The Music? Watch it in November in Concord, NH at the 18th Annual SNOB Film Festival! Dates & times TBA —