Thursday, December 27, 2007

Winter Break approaches.

I recently came across this photo from one of my on-line albums. It's dated January 6th, 2007. The beach is Ogunquit, Maine. The temperature, as you might guess from my barefootedness, is a balmy 72 degrees, or thereabouts. Do you remember that crazy day? Maybe you were one of the alleged many who peered through my shop window, longingly looking for a cool cone of cookie dough. I remember standing in line at the local deli in Ogunquit that day when a woman says, "Man, I wish I owned an ice cream shop today, I'd be rich!" That one gave me a twinge in my gut. It's never so much about the money, although that's always nice, as much as imagining disappointment in people's faces when they come to the shop only to find a 'closed' sign on the door. Nobody likes to disappoint. But then again, who could have predicted ice cream weather in January?

Well, if this December is any indication, I'd be really surprised to see a beach day around here this January. Although it is New England, and I suppose anything's possible.

I'm not taking any chances, though. I've booked my tickets to Florida. The shop will be locked up tight starting December 31st right through to January 23rd. Time to stock up for the three weeks I'm resting up for what I hope will be another great and fun year. Speaking of stock up, it's a buy 1, get 1 half price thru New Years Eve...

In case I don't see you, have a very happy and safe New Year. If you find yourself at the Brass Cat ball drop at midnight on NYE, especially if you're in your running gear, feel free to wander over to Mantis Graphics next door at 12:01. A gang of us will be running off on our annual NYE Midnight 5K Fun Run. We've got no official timers, so it truly is just for fun. And a cool t-shirt. At least for the first 25 who sign up. If you see us running down the street just after midnight, I hope you'll give us a cheer. Or at least a drunken heckle.

Not sure how much I'll be into posting during my break, so it may be a bit quiet here. But then again, you never know when the mood will strike me...

Happy New Year to you and yours. See you soon.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Santa enjoys a Banana Split.

Seems when you bear a slight resemblance to jolly Nick, you can't even enjoy an ice cream without being captured by the paparazzi. Is it really HIM or just a nice guy taking a shopping break at his favorite ice cream shop? I'll let you decide...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Candy Cane Ice Cream Pie anyone?

It doesn't rival the sales punch of the pumpkin pie ice cream pie for Thanksgiving, but it's still festive and darn tasty in its own way. The candy cane pie. Peppermint stick ice cream on a chocolate cookie crunch, topped with Wicked Good fudge and bits of candy canes for good holiday measure. Order one up today for your holiday get-together...There's still time...

Ho Ho Holy Cow.

In case you either live in Florida or just haven't noticed, winter is on steroids this year. Two feet of snow, single digits cold, and it's not even officially winter yet! But it really has been a tremendous year for ice cream weather, so I really shouldn't complain about a couple snow days in December. It does give you the holiday spirit...

Speaking of holiday spirit, how's that shoppin' coming along? Just in case you're in need of a couple last minute gifts, here are a couple of gratuitous self-promotion ideas for you...

A Mt. Tom's tub of 'vintage' candy - Abba Zappa, Necco Wafers, Old-fashioned Sticks, Mallow Cups, Chuckles, and more...
Or feel free to fill a tub with your own (or significant someone's) favorite.

How about a colorful Mt. Tom's t-shirt? Tie-Dyes, long sleeve, short sleeve, many sizes. Stay tuned for a special sale this weekend. Just ask if you are in before then, I'm sure I could save you a trip...Stocking stuffers anyone? ...

And don't forget about the other cool stores on Cottage Street...

Night Owl Records

Pick your Flicks

Nashawannuck Gallery

Enjoy your holiday festivities!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mt. Tom's Enchanted Village (the early years).

Inspired by a recent trip to the giant Yankee Candle factory store (If you've never been there, it's more like a Disney attraction with interesting odors than a factory outlet), I've decided to plot, purchase, and develop my own little enchanted village in the front window of my shop. This is what we've got so far. A soft serve joint (I know I don't have soft serve but it's still a cool piece. Many thanks to Bre for that.). And on my day off this week, I discovered a great sale at A.C. Moore, so I'm already up to three buildings, a few townsfolk, and an ice cream truck. The other new buildings on the mini-block are a gelateria and a candy store. Go figure.

The master plan is to build an entire city block on a big piece of plywood, fully equipping it with streets, hills, trees, snow, and all the other fixin's. I think it's going to be cool, but it may take a few years, so for this the groundbreaking year, it's a just humble little village of all things Mt. Tom-like.

If others on Cottage Street jump in on the idea, perhaps we may someday rival the Macy's windows in NYC. Ok, probably not, but it would be very cool if the windows of downtown Easthampton eventually became a local holiday destination like Bright Lights in Springfield. Just like anything in life, you gotta start somewhere.

The Shop during a Storm.

In case you were wondering what a good old-fashioned New England snowstorm looks like through the eyes of a candy store, here's one for you...

Looks like we're in for a real New England winter this time. Hot cocoa anyone?

Keep those shovels handy, round 2 on the way Saturday night...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rock candy on a fence.

I wandered around yesterday morning, just me and the trusty new Pentax, through our latest winter wonderland. The night before brought a light rain and temperatures that dangled around the freezing mark. Not quite the killer ice storm the midwest has been suffering through this week, but enough to coat the trees and fences with an intriguing layer of ice. Dare I say the makings of a good batch of rock candy. Lest you fancy a fate like that little boy in the schoolyard on A Christmas story however, I don't recommend sampling.

Sounds like lots of winter weather heading our way this week too...bad for biz, but great for photo opps. Take it slow, enjoy, and stay tuned.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Winter Survival Mode.

One thing I've learned about the 'off-season' for an ice cream biz in New England is that one must be extra creative and very willing to try new things soas to avoid dipping into summer profits to pay the winter heating bill. There certainly are the much beloved die-hard ice cream customers who'll walk a mile through a blizzard for a scoop of cake batter, but reality reminds me yearly that more people than not just don't think ice cream when it's the temperature of ice cream outside.
I'm not complaining about this really. In fact, I actually enjoy the slower months. Shorter hours. Dinner at a relatively normal time. Time for hobbies and actually being able to watch a complete movie after work. I'm not tucked away in my ice cream-making cave all day and night, so I can chat more with customers, which I really enjoy. The bad news is the snow and ice doesn't stop Don the mailman from delivering me bills every week.
The candy and chocolate and coffee drinks have to step up to the plate from November to April. And as any retail biz owner knows, it's all about the holidays, with Christmas being the king of all gift-giving days. With that as a long-winded introduction, I'd like to introduce the latest creation for the coming holiday, the Mt. Tom's Cone of Hot Cocoa...

It's got our own blend of hot cocoa mix topped with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips, peppermint candy, or sprinkles. One cone makes 2 hearty mugs of hot cocoa. Just add boiling water! Hoping for a winner on this one. If this one doesn't grab you, how about a chocolate dipped marshmallow peppermint star?

Like I said, you gotta be creative and take chances in the winter.

Got a few more ideas in pre-development, stay tuned for more wacky creations, stocking stuffers, and holiday candy novelties...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Virtual Show

As promised, here's a link to images from tonight's show. You can see them up close and personal on the walls of the shop (Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream in case you don't know where you are right now). If you see something you like, they're available for purchase, framed and unframed. Just in time for the holidays... Check them out here.
If you were able to stop in during ArtWalk, thanks.
I really appreciate it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Candy as Art.

In the shop and as part of this weekend's ArtWalk Easthampton, I'll be doing a show of my photography I'm calling 'Shoot Local.'. It's a collection of my favorite images of 2007. In addition to these favorites, I've put together a little montage of candy images, a somewhat random collection of colorful shots peering into candy jars in the shop. I'm looking forward to seeing them all together on the wall. I invite you to stop in for a look, a bit of chocolate, and a hot coffee. Hope to see you on Saturday (5 -8pm). In case you can't make it for that, the show will stay on the walls thru the end of December. And if you're far away, I'm also planning to post a Flickr link for you to take a virtual look. Stay tuned for that later in the weekend.

Thanks in advance.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Holiday Spirit Yet?

In case the wintery weather descending upon us isn't getting you into the spirit, I thought a little glimpse of my latest creation, Eggnog Cheesecake ice cream, might do the trick. Doesn't that look tasty? You know you want some...

Stay tuned, Festivus party order or not, I plan to make up a batch of Festivus ice cream sometime this week too. In case you don't remember that one, it's got bites of homemade gingerbread and a caramel swirl in a brown sugar and cinnamon base. Intriguing.

And I suppose if you're one of those who thinks it's too cold to eat ice cream this time of year (I forgive you), how about a glove-ful of reindeer corn for a sweet snack?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

High School Reunion.

I went to my 25th high school reunion last night. I realize by mentioning the year, I've given you enough information to figure out that I am, in fact, old. For the longest time, I was always the youngster in the group, what happened? Thankfully, I still look fairly young. At least that's what my old high school mates told me at the Elks Club last night. For that, I suppose I have good genes and low stress living to thank. After all, I grew up in a time before UVA/UVB sunscreens and Paba. In those days, you could find baby oil on the sunscreen shelf. So I consider myself doubly lucky. Or living on borrowed time.

In any event, my reunion was a lot of fun. If you get a high school reunion invite in the mail someday, I recommend you go. It's your chance to sneak through a little wormhole and be transported back to a forgotten era of your life. It's the strangest thing, standing again in a room full of people you literally grew up with. But something's different. Everyone's been morphed into grown-ups, with jobs, and kids, and responsibilities. Some with a few extra pounds or a few less hairs. Guys you idolized as a kid are just regular guys now. The girl of your adolescent dreams still looks great, but now she's got a ring on her finger and a picture of her two beautiful little girls in her pocketbook. It's a bit surreal, but in a good way.

You work your way around the room, saying hello to friends you haven't seen for over half your life.

"Great to see you."
"Great to see you."
"Where you living now? Got any kids? What are you doing?"
"I'm living in... 2 kids... Selling life insurance... And you?"

Couple laughs, a story or two, swig of beer, and it's off to the next group of high school friends.

I was impressed there was no, 'look how successful I am' or 'aren't my kids amazing'. Just genuine happy to see you again after all these years energy.

And aside from the collage of high school yearbook photos on display and the Pina Colada song playing in the background, there's little reminiscing of the old high school days. Everyone seems interested in the now. I like that. Someone mentions 'wouldn't it have been cool to have some of our old teachers here'. I concur and wonder which ones are still around. There's a few I'd like to thank for skills I thought trivial as a tenth grader. Like typing and writing. Many of those teachers seemed old two and a half decades ago. But then again thirty-two seems ancient when you're seventeen.

My reunion was also one with my old hometown too. I made the obligatory drive by the house I grew up in. Cased some of the old haunts. My favorite fishing hole. The not-so-big-anymore hill we used to race down on our 3-speeds with the banana seat and baseball cards clacking in the spokes. Again, it's all so 'the same but different'. The old corner store at the end of my road has grown-up into a strip mall, fully equipt with gelateria and eco-friendly dry cleaner. The little schoolhouses I shuffled to every morning with my Partridge Family lunchbox have been transformed into giant educational complexes that look more like correctional facilities. I grew up in a town that didn't have a single fast food joint until I was in college. That same town now has a mall, a Home Depot, luxury condos on every downtown block, and garden style apartments that sell for $250K.

I was raised in a quaint little town just like my new hometown of Easthampton. It makes me wonder where it'll be in a couple twenty years. I'm sure it'll be more developed and seasoned by time, but hopefully still look good and retain a bit of its charm.

Just like that gang I hung out with last night.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First Snow of the Season.

Two days before Thanksgiving, reality check, seems winter really is just around the corner. I'm sure the unexpected sight of snow this morning was an unwelcomed guest for some, but for me it was a great chance to sneak in a little photo shoot before the next round of pie making. Here's one more...
Safe travels and Happy Turkey to you and yours.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Turkey Day push.

Buried up to my elbows in ice cream this week, getting all those ice cream pies ready for the big Thanksgiving rush on Wednesday. No time to blog on about anything of substance (not that there's ever much substance) until after T-day. In the meantime, instead of 'this page intentionally left blank.', I thought I'd drop in a pic of a pint of vanilla. Because I can.

If I don't see you, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May you end up with the long end of the wishbone and a good wish to cash in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wife, it's not what you think...

I got an interesting email the other day. It was from a producer at ABC's show, WifeSwap. I've never really watched it, but I suspect the gist of it is they take two families, likely with an overbearing father or unappreciated mother or wild kids I'm guessing, and swap the mothers for six days. According to the email, WifeSwap is in its fourth season, so there must be some watchable moments. But then again, I think Jerry Springer is syndicated all over the world, so I suppose watchable is a loose term. Here's the email:
My name is Michelle Silva, and I am an Associate Producer for ABC's Wife Swap. For our 4th season, we are looking to feature a family that LOVES candy! We are searching for family-run candy shops, chocolatiers, confectioners, etc. Even if your family doesn’t work in the candy industry, we would still love to hear from you if you adore candy!

This opportunity is very real, and this email is NOT spam. I came across your company information by doing a general search and thought you might be able to assist us. If your company is a larger corporation, feel free to pass this along to all levels of employees. We are not looking for a specific type of family—every family is different and has a story. Personality is a must! Our show is fun for the whole family and an overall unique experience!

Any person who refers a featured family receives a $1,000 referral award.

In order to apply for the show, families must have two parents and at least one child between the ages of 6-18 still living at home. If your family doesn’t fit our profile, feel free to recommend friends and family.

Families selected to appear on the show receive $20,000 from ABC Television.
If you know any colorful candyfreaks who fit their family definition (2 parents, at least one child aged 6-18), feel free to drop me a line . The $1K finders fee would be sweet, but better yet, it would make for a great story for the ICD. $20K for the selected family would buy a lot of mallow cups and whistle pops...

Pass the Pumpkin Ice Cream pie...

You heard it right. Pumpkin Ice Cream pie. It's an ice cream pie made with Mt. Tom's pumpkin pie ice cream on a bed of sugar cookie crunchy things. Topped off with a pinch or two of chocolate sprinkles and a buttercream icing border. Mmm. I sell a bunch of these tasty desserts for Thanksgiving. Making ice cream pies and tubs of vanilla is pretty much all I do for the four or five days leading up to the wednesday before Turkey Day. It's a nice little late November win-win. My customers get a cool dessert to bring or serve for Thanksgiving dinner, and I enjoy a tiring but helpful opportunity to cover for the slowdown in sales on account of the cooler weather and shorter days. I think you should call and reserve yours today. But that's just my opinion.
By the way, that's not actually a pumpkin pie ice cream pie pictured. It's an equally tasty cashew turtle pie, albeit slightly more photogenic than the pumpkin. Vanilla ice cream topped with wicked good fudge, caramel, and salted, roasted cashews and a cookie crunch on the bottom. Feel free to order up one of those too. Did I mention the deer trax pie yet?

My name is Jim Ingram, and I approved this ad.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Kate Rocks.

Looking for something to do Saturday night? How about starting off your evening with Easthampton's monthly 'ArtWalk'. It runs from 5 - 8 pm every second Saturday of the month, which means the next one is up this weekend. There are over 50 venues this month, nice. This sucker is growing every month! It was founded and is coordinated by Michael Crawford and Thomas Hanus. Here's the map for this month's event. This month showing in my shop is the art of my goth friend Kate Fontaine. She's got a unique style, intriguing and 'gotta see them for yourself' cool paintings fill the walls of the shop through early December. If you're able to make it out for an art stroll, stop in, meet Kate, and check 'em out. I'll even have some gourmet chocolates and great Indigo Roasters Organic French Roast coffee waiting for you.

And if you don't make it this month, the next ArtWalk is December 8th. I just booked myself to do a show in my shop for that one. I'm calling it 'Shoot Local', and it'll be a collection of my favorite images of this year, 2007. More on that as it gets closer.

And don't forget another great local art weekend, Open Studios Easthampton. It's the weekend of November 30th thru December 2nd.

So much art, so little time.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

October's Top 10.

October's Top 10 Ice Cream Sales:

1. Vanilla
2. Pumpkin Pie
3. Chocolate
4. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
5. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup
6. Deer Trax
7. Chocolate Fudge Brownie
8. Peppermint Stick
9. Cake Batter
10. Chocolate Chip

No big surprises here...except of course, Pumpkin Pie beating out not only the usual heavy hitters, but chocolate, no less. Impressive. And it's not even Thanksgiving yet....

Friday, November 02, 2007

How writing a book about Starbucks saved my life.

I just finished the book, 'How Starbucks Saved My Life', by Michael Gates Gill. It's a coming of middle age story about a guy who crashed from riches to rags, untimately landing standing behind a Starbucks counter. I expected it to be a cheesy read, and it probably won't win a Pulitzer anytime soon, but I actually found it hard to put down. The protagonistic in this autobiography is a big shot ad executive who, at sixty, finds himself victim of something I've had first hand experience with, downsizing. At the same time, his wife leaves him after discovering he's about to become a daddy with another mommy. And to round off the misery, he learns he has a brain tumor. And he's broke.

While sipping a latte in a Starbucks one day in Bronxville, NY, he meets the manager as she's conducting a little job fair for the store. Kiddingly, she says to him, 'You want a job?'. Seriously, he answers, 'Yes.'

From there the story takes us through his first challenging days and months behind the counter of an always bustling NYC Starbucks. He describes the physical and psychological challenges of a sixty year old white guy with an Ivy League education just trying to survive in a very visible entry level job. I certainly can relate to the intimidation factor of working in retail. Before I started this ice cream gig, I'd never worked a day in retail, to quote a Barenaked Ladies song. It's scary at first. As it was that first day for this guy in a Starbucks. He tells how good he got at cleaning bathrooms and how relieved to be doing that rather than going to the front line, which of course, eventually did happen. Just like anyone venturing outside their comfort zone, he survived, and eventually learned to really enjoy it - chatting with the regular customers, making people happy, and putting out a friendly face for his new employer.

Parts of the book read like a Starbucks infomercial, but all big company/chain bashing aside, it does sound like they treat their employees well. Health insurance, tuition reimbursement, and general respect for employees as well as 'guests' are emphasized throughout this 'finding contentment despite losing everything and having to work for tips in a coffee shop' tale.

I recently read that Tom Hanks has signed up to make 'How Starbucks Saved My Life' into a movie. It's an unlikely story about figuring out what's really important in life. It's about taking the breaks you get and making the most of them, even if they may seem 'beneath you'. It's about taking responsibility for your lot, accepting it without drowning in a puddle of self-pity, and moving forward, even if it means one latte at a time. What's not to like about a story like that.

From the intro to chapter four (also published on the side of a venti Americano coffee cup) -

"Let go your sadness, give up the fight, follow your madness and take flight...take flight."
-lyric by Seal.

Halloween Mt. Tom's Style.

Hope yours was full of a good mix of tricks and treats. (Carve credits to Briana, nice work)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nothing but Parades.

Last night was Easthampton's annual rag shag parade. It's a wandering mass of costumed kids along with costumed and un-costumed parents making their way down Cottage Street. Seems that part of the tradition is for local business shopkeeps on the main streets to throw candy from their respective sidewalks. It's actually very cool - one of those annual events that makes small towns great.
Since my ice cream shop is also a candy store, it was pretty much a given from Halloween one I'd be hurling candy on those nights. It passes by in about ten minutes, but not before I've emptied a five gallon bucket of candy. What starts as a 'shower the crowd with candy' approach, quickly turns into a hundred-little-hands-in-your-bucket, trick-o-treat-like frenzy. Some awesome costumes in a sea of smiling faces. Hope you got to participate or at least check it out.

Speaking of parades and seas of smiling faces, how cool would it have been to go to the Red Sox victory parade/Riverdance-a-thon today.
When I lived in Boston before I moved here, I got to go to a couple of the Patriots rolling victory parades. It's definitely an unforgettable event. You just can't believe how many people can fit into those two hundred year old Boston streets. It's almost scary at times, like being packed into an overflowing subway car on the Green line to Kenmore before a Sox game. All claustrophobia aside, it's a euphoric experience. Didn't get to go this year, but it sure was a beautiful day for it. I guess I'll just have to settle for my sweet new memories of champagne victory showers and high fives at the Brass Cat after each series winning game. Has it ever been a better time to be a fan in Boston. Nope, I don't think so. Great things come to those who are willing to wait. We wait no more...
Go Pats!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Take out the Trash.

I watched the movie Peaceful Warrior the other night. It's based on the book 'The Way of the Peaceful Warrior' by Dan Millman. The caption at the beginning says, 'based on actual events' but it feels more like a spiritual adventure than your typical sports movie. Speaking of good sports movies, check out 'We are Marshall' sometime. That's a good sports movie. Don't mind the critics' grades. It's about rising from the ashes of tragedy. Their entire team, coaches, and a number of fans are lost when their plane crashes on the return flight from a game. I guess I'm just a sucker for a good underdog-makes-good true-life sports movie, ala Hoosiers, The Natural, and Rudy.

Peaceful Warrior is a little annoying to watch in spots. It's about a cocky college gymnast and his equally cocky teammates all trying to make the Olympic gymnastics team. The movie tries hard, perhaps a bit too hard, to make them unlikable and in need of a good spirtual cleansing. Along comes our imaginary spirit guide (or is he?) in the form of one old and beat up Nick Nolte, a most unlikely Yoda. He tries to instill his zen-like ways on the kid, but he's just not ready to hear it. Until the obligatory life-changing event occurs when the mad-at-the-world kid drops his motorcyle and shatters his leg. You can probably guess how the rest of the story goes.

The movie isn't great, but I did get a few good nuggets out of it I thought I'd share with you. Here they are. Get your yoga mat ready...

A warrior does not give up what he loves. He finds the love in what he does.

Life is a choice. You can choose to be a victim or anything else you'd like.

Warriors act.
Only a fool reacts.

Accept that you don't control what will happen to you.

There is always something going on. You just need to pay attention.

Empty your mind (take out the trash). Be in the moment.

The journey is what brings us happiness, not the destination.


Namaste' to you and yours.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Big Papi-mint.

I've generally shied away from naming flavors with punny or goofy names, like Cherry Garciaparra and such, for a couple of reasons. Number one, if you name it after a local celebrity, they could be traded like Nomah, or just be unrecognizable to a customer who may like peanut butter in their ice cream but has no idea who Teddi Bruschi(-nut Butter) is. Secondly, I don't want someone to pass by a flavor because they're afraid to say 'Pretty in Pink Mint' or 'Almond-califragilistic!' It's just not right.

Finally and probably most importantly, the less a flavor name sounds like what's in it, the more you'll need to explain to customers what actually is in that batch of 'Nonotuck 'n Nuts'. I already know all about that with my Deer Trax flavor. The one positive of that flavor, however, when someone asks 'what's in the Deer trax', they've inevitably identified themselves as a first-time visitor to Mt. Tom's, which is good information. If there's time, I can chat them up, ask how they found the place, and if they live around the corner, why it took them so long to finally come in for a cone. But I digress.

I've mentioned in the past that names definitely can affect the sales of a particular flavor, so it's important to give it at least a little thought before reaching for the chalk. Case in point, Devil's Food Cake sales skyrocketed when I renamed it Chocolate Cake Batter.

Having said all that, sometimes, like today, I just can't help myself.

So I give you, Big Papi-mint Paddy. Mint base with pieces of real peppermint and wintergreen paddies from the gourmet chocolate cabinet. With a rich, dark fudge swirl thrown in for good measure. If this batch (and the Sox in the series) go well, perhaps I'll come up with another. Hmmm. Papelbon Pecan? Beckett Raspberry? Anyone?

Go Sox!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Leaf Peeping Underway.

Seems the green pond is my favorite early Fall foliage subject. The colors are starting to pop. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Cell Project.

Right around this time of year, I get a bunch of kids who come into the shop looking for candy. This group isn't the usual 'fill a bag with all your favorites...gummy teeth, lego blox, airheads, and Pop Rocks' type. Seems there's a local schoolteacher who has come up with an interesting way to teach her class what's in a cell. Their assignment - build a model of a cell using edible products (I don't know if the teacher specifically says 'candy', but one rule is it must last three days unrefridgerated). So for a couple days every year, I see a number of kids in the shop, assignment tucked under their arm, dilligently hunting through the jars for all the essential elements of their model cell. It's fun to watch. I don't want to give away too much, in case there are kids out there still coming up with their incredible edible cells, but I will say that the giant jawbreakers have been a big seller this week. Why didn't I get cool projects like this when I was a kid? All we ever did was boil stuff with bunsen burners...

Bears and Shakers.

I had a day off yesterday. I know that may sound somewhat unremarkable for a 'normal' person, but as a small biz owner who makes almost all his hay between May and October, it's a big deal. That first day off after a long stretch of long days of ice cream making, scooping, and all the rest that goes with it, is always a very welcomed guest. Sometimes it's hard for me to let go and to shut it all off for that first day off. Guilt creeps in. What if someone wants ice cream or gummy bears today. How many people will be disappointed when they peer into my darkened shop? Luckily, the cool Fall weather has finally arrived and although it was bright and sunny most of the day, I felt no remorse whatsoever yesterday. Especially after my first Octoberfest at the Bistro in Great Barrington.

Among the cool stops on my day off o'fun was one of my favorite photo opps, Chapelbrook Falls...
Even got a glimpse of a big black bear in a tree. Well, actually it was an overstuffed porcupine in a tree, but a pretty cool wildlife sighting nonetheless. Usually, it's just squirrels and the occasional chipmunk.

From there, it was off to Hancock Shaker Village, which was actually pretty cool too. That stop is worthy of a dedicated blog entry. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's one more shot from the road. Looking forward to lots of foliage shots as the leaves turn. Still a little early here, but won't be long before the leaves are in full techicolor.

Hope you're enjoying this fine Fall weather.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mt. Tom's Top 10 in September

  1. Vanilla
  2. Chocolate
  3. Pumpkin Pie
  4. Mint Chocolate Chip
  5. Cake Batter
  6. Cookie Dough
  7. Coffee
  8. Maple Walnut
  9. Strawberry
  10. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

I think the pumpkin will give chocolate a scare in October....stay tuned...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Green Pond Explained.

You might remember this shot from a few weeks ago...

From Today's story over at the Channel 22 News site...

The water in Rubber Thread Pond at John Bator Park looks just like pea soup. At first glance you might think the pond is full of algae, but what is actually causing the water to turn green is a very tiny free floating plant called watermeal....


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Tag Sale

In the spirit of what is certainly prime tag sale season right now, I dug up an old piece I wrote during that first lonely winter here. A lot has happened since then, so it was cool to re-read this one. It was printed in the local Gazette a few years ago. Thought you might enjoy...
The Tag Sale

Why is it so difficult to drive by a tag sale without stopping? Let’s face it, a tag sale is really just the result of someone saying, ‘Let’s throw all our old junk into the front yard and see if anyone will buy it.’ A dilapidated old desk, one Nordic track turned coat rack, a stack of dog-eared paperbacks, and three-hundred fourteen other personally obsolete trivia. Just extra ballast jettisoned from a family’s lives. Or at least that’s what I used to think.

Like many these days, I’m unemployed. This past year of joblessness has given me the time to reflect on where I want my life to go from here. Yet, despite all the unhurried contemplation, I was still unable to choose a direction.

Then my parents decided to have a tag sale.

Within minutes of Mom’s proclamation, boxes began appearing throughout the house. Dad was tasked with assessing every rusty tool and retired sporting good. He served as judge and jury, passing judgment upon each item – keep, sell, live, die.

Our own archeological dig was underway. Family artifacts rediscovered in remote places like beyond that giant box of Christmas decorations in the attic and deep within the mysterious space underneath the stairs. Our entire family history was excavated, dusted off with toothbrushes, and put on trial. Amid this chaos, I sought solace in my journals as I wrote endlessly about ‘what I want to do with the rest of my life’ and daydreamed about a new life with an exciting new job.

The tag sale would arrive well before the new job. As I sat on the front steps and gazed across our land of misfit toys, I played spectator to the spectacle of this American institution - the simple uniqueness being the junk strangers and neighbors were rummaging through was ours. And so it was in this moment when it all became clear, like I’d come out of a blinding snowstorm into a warm, sunny day. The answers that had eluded me for so long, delivered right to my front door.

Tag sales are about pulling out the past, sorting through it, and then letting it go. What to keep, what to sell. Each box from the attic represents a set of memories. In one box, an old Sea Monkeys kit reminds you of the loophole you found in Mom’s ‘no pets’ rule growing up. A bumper sticker proclaiming, ‘This car climbed Mount Washington’, invites memories of the family trip that mercifully did in that station wagon with the walnut veneer siding. Each item offers the opportunity to relive a specific moment in time, like reading an old journal long buried in the back of a little-used bureau.

This heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking process of sifting through the past doesn’t come often but seems to appear when we most need it. When we clean out a shed or an attic, we make room for something else. Selling that relic push lawn mower for twelve dollars isn’t about the money. Tag sales are an opportunity to lighten our loads. To set free what we couldn’t part with when its time truly was up. By unloading en mass, somehow it seems easier. Less personal. Like laying off 500 people instead of just Mary and Bob.

The time I spent sifting through my pile of ‘history’ was a chance to relive my own past. It was also a chance for me to let go of that past. Among my history I found a box of old love letters from my college sweetheart. As I read the letters, it was as if she was with me again. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the heartbreak that returned. Instead, reading those letters filled me with happiness as I relived the playful spirit of the moment, the innocence, dabbling in love for the first time, reaching for that hot stove before I knew it could burn me. After wallowing in those feelings for a while, I swooped up the letters and tossed them into the fireplace. I lit a match and threw it in. As I watched a piece of my past burn, I felt a weight I had carried around for too long melt away like fallen snow in the rain. I had made room for the new, and it felt good.

Losing my job and losing my way were tests, meant to make me stronger. That tag sale became the turning point. I had been stuck. My past kept pulling me back and tempting me to repeat the patterns such as returning to the career my résumé best fits yet the same one that denies me fulfillment. It wasn’t until that morning, sitting on my folks’ steps, as I watched my past being sold for grocery money, that I figured it out. The past is just that, the past. It’s meant to be savored and to provide wisdom. But only by letting go of it can you truly make room for a new and compelling future. I look forward to that future and the new experiences awaiting me.

Jim Ingram

Jim is an ex-engineer who recently traded his cubicle for an ice cream parlor. He just opened Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe (formally Sunrise Sweeties), 34 Cottage Street in downtown Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


As you've probably heard, Cottage Street, Easthampton, and the Pioneer Valley lost one of its greats this past week. Frank Lucchesi, luthier extraordinaire and owner of Lucchesi Vintage Instruments, passed away suddenly this past Saturday. He was 56. Many heartfelt words have been written about Frank as the news of his untimely passing has spread throughout the community. A tribute night of music is planned for this week's ArtWalkEasthampton.

I didn't know him well, but from the few times I got to hang out with him over a beer and his wife Fran's amazing cooking, it's easy to understand why he was so beloved by family, friends, and even customers. He was the storyteller. Those who have written about him all say you couldn't just drop-off or pick-up your instrument. Going into his shop meant a visit and a conversation with Frank. He was a wealth of knowledge and stories. He was just one of those people, five minutes after meeting him, you felt like you've known him your whole life.

During one of those dinners at his home, he gave us a tour of his gardens, fruit trees, and blueberry bushes. I remember being particularly impressed with the giant blueberry bushes, all draped in netting to protect them from their predators. To which Frank said, 'Take as many as you want. Come back with buckets.' It was a small gesture, but gave me a clear first impression of the man. A good guy who'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He will be sorely missed by all who were lucky to know him.
Rest in Music, Frank.

I urge you to stop by his shop this coming Saturday, 5 -8pm.