Friday, August 31, 2007

Gone Mockless

After repeated frustrations, help from Bre (and photo credit), and even a read of the directions on blogger, I finally figured out how to rid my blog of that scary picture of myself. This one's slightly less scary and shows me in full Easthampton colors. Hey, beats the old uniform of chino's, button shirt, pocket protector, and boat shoes anyway.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just Cool

Art comes in many and unexpected forms.

Mostly just wanted to see if I was still geeky enough to post a video here, check it out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Changing of the Guard

Can you believe it's almost Labor Day already, wow. That was one quick summa. Wasn't Memorial Day just a few days ago? I have no complaints though. It's been a hot and nearly rainless four months here in New England. Really couldn't have asked for better weather. Dairy prices went through the roof back in June and have continued to creep up all summer, but the shop's been full every day and night, so all is well, and it looks to be another record season. Thanks to you all who have stopped in for a scoop or a batch of gummy bears. I really appreciate it. And if you haven't had a chance yet, Fall is coming, and you can guess how beautiful it is out here in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts when the leaves start turning. Hope to see you soon.

In the meantime, my great summer crew is, one by one, packing up their footlockers and heading back or off to colllege. So we bid goodbye to Lauren, Katie, Angela, and Kristin. And say welcome to Ben, Abby, and Kate. Taryn is still in high school, so thankfully she's sticking around. This time of year is always particularly challenging for me, since it's still summer weather and the shop is busy, but the crew is either new and green or weary and ready to turn in their apron for a bookbag. But we're getting through it, and with a little luck and practice, the new scoop crew will be hummin' like a top in no time. I hope to introduce you to the new crew in future posts.

P.S. Above is Kate on the left and Angela on the right.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

This week's Suggestions

My weekly perusal through the collection of suggestions in the shop suggestion candy jar is usually a combination of ego management and comic relief. As I've mentioned in the Diaries, this 'tip jar' has become a pretty good source for new flavor ideas. The ideas are not always, shall we say, good, (e.g broccoli, wheatgrass, Flintstones Vitamin chip), but occassionally a cool idea finds its way into the jar (e.g. Maple Cookie Dough, Heavenly Hash). Most of the comments are very positive and make me feel like I'm pretty good at this ice cream gig, which is way cool.

Sometimes, though, someone will let me know I can do just a little better (at least in their eyes and palate...listen to me getting defensive already). If nothing else, it's made me realize that everyone is different, and with a bustling shop every day, I must be doing something right. The challenge with any constructive criticism is to actually listen to it, process it from a somewhat detached position without getting too defensive, and then deciding whether the thought has merit or is just a case of 'one man's peppermint stick is another man's poison'. It's all good, getting feedback from customers, friends, enemies is what makes us better.

In any event, let's see what's in the jar this month...

'Serve booze.'

'Taryn should work more. She's really nice.' (It looks like her sister's writing...)

'Bloue Bare' (Mom told me to read it phonetically)

Nutella, Grapenut, Rum Raisin, Rum Raisin, Cannoli'

'Mohito Sorbet'

V-bet chocolate syrup (Israeli?)

'Bring back Root Beer Rudy'

'Fried Ice Cream' (Want a PuPu platter to go with that?)

'Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough' (there's that cookie dough theme again)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Claire's Candy Necklace

My friends Pam & Mike from Woosta stopped in today to check out my ice cream/candy store digs. Took a few shots during their visit. This is their daughter Claire. I didn't think they'd mind me sharing a moment of childhood glee...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The A-team

Katie & Lauren. If you've been to Mt. Tom's, I'm sure these are familiar faces. They rock. Once again, they've made my summer a lot easier and definitely more successful with good old fashioned hard work, street smarts, and great personalities. As we creep closer to Labor Day and their return to Bryant College, I get closer to working that much harder once again. The new crew has been hired and is, shift by shift and scoop by scoop, steadily climbing up the learning curve. Ben, Abby, and Kate. And Taryn is not yet off to college so she'll be around this Fall. Early indications are I picked some winners, which will soften the blow of K & L heading off, but they've got some big shoes to fill. With any luck, K&L will be back for one more Summer of scoopin'. Here's hopin'. In the meantime, welcome aboard to Ben, Abby, and Kate. More on B, A, & K to follow...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Doom, Gloom, and Air Guitar

I was surfing the news earlier and amid the hurricane doom, and sub-prime mortgage gloom, and the Yankees creeping up on the Sox division-leading plume, I came across this. Seems there actually exists a U.S. National Air Guitar Competition, won this year by none other than Ryan 'Stryker' Strecker. With hair like that, how can you not win. He gets to go to the World Air Guitar Championship in Olou, Finland, representing all be and would be air guitarists in our fine land. Go get 'em Stryke, make us proud!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Slightly Cooler Look...

To the Ice Cream Diaries Blog. Introduced by my first nephew Will...

Home stretch of summer coming, hope you're enjoying....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Savory Taste of the Writing Life

If you're a Diaries reader, you already know that when I'm not wearing my apron and swinging an ice cream spatula around like a crazy man, or sleeping, I try to sneak in a little time with my other passions, writing and photography. A few years ago, while still enjoying my sabbatical time between careers, I got to live the livestyle of writer. I was travel adventured out, having just returned from four months in Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii, and before that a four month cross-country and Alaska adventure. Somewhere during that trip, I came up with an idea for a book and had begun scribbling notes and ideas in my journal. The book, which I early in the process named, "Hand-me-downs: Some Just Slightly Used Tips on Life for my Little Brother', was to be a collection of short essays about life and the pursuit of happiness. From the beginning, I liked the idea of creating it in the style of a conversation between two people. Like a father-son talk. Or from one big brother to his little brother. I'd been a big brother for a number of years, and since my biological brothers are far too 'grown up' to be needing any life advice from me, I decided it would be aimed at my little brother Ted from the Big Brother program. It really helped to think about what and how I might share my life experience with him. What stories a sixteen year old boy would find interesting. I thought it might make a pretty cool high school graduation gift for him the following year.

The process started on the road, deep in my journals. I wrote down one liners for all the ideas I wanted to share. For example, "There are plenty of unhappy people in big houses." or "Everyone gets a little something." I came up with sixty or so in pretty short order. Fast foward to the end of my journeys, I was still unemployed and liking it. And I had the bug to write. So I did. I got up every morning, drank coffee and wrote. For as long as I felt like it. Sometimes for ten hours, sometimes for two, followed by a bike ride or run, lunch, more writing, cocktails, write. Sleep. The travel during those two years off was pretty sweet, but there was also something really cool about being able to live the life of a starving artist. Writing for me is one of those things that when I'm in it, time stands still. I disappear to another place and don't return until my fingers stop pushing keys on my laptop. If you've had this experience while doing what you do - painting, running, doing yoga, you know how great and addicting it can be.

It took a few months, but I finished my first, second, and third draft. I went with the coffee table book format so I could include my favorite images (being the aspiring amateur photographer and all), so part of the process was to sort through my lifetime collection of favorite photos, especially the ones from recent travel adventures. I tried to match photos to specific themes. Some connections are subtle but most tie to its facing essay in some way. With the photos, Hand-me-downs became truly a labor of love, bringing together in one place my interests in photography, writing, travel, and self-discovery.

The final leg of the 'writing life' phase of my career break included learning how to market a manuscript. I bought a 'Guide to Literary Agents', write query letters to all agents I found who represented my type of creation. I sent out probably 25 and actually got a bite on one. The very first one I sent out, go figure. She requested a 'book proposal' and over the past couple years, has sent it out to a number of publishers. She sends me copies of responses, er rejections. Here's the latest, just got it today...

Hi Alison,
What a sweet project; unfortunately, it's not for us.
Thanks for the lookand best of luck with it.
I'll return the material by mail this afternoon.

Best wishes, Julie
Acquisitions Manager Ten Speed Press
Berkeley, CA 9471051

As with most endeavors not easily accomplished, especially in art, rejection is just part of the process. The life tip buried in my latest is this... Focus on the part before the semi-colon. And don't lose hope. In the meantime, I've self-published Hand-me-downs, and it sits majestically on my shop counter. Many persuse it while waiting for or while enjoying their frozen pleasures. I've even sold a few (73 to be exact). Financially, each sale is actually a slight loss for me, but I must admit it's still been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. From start to finish.

Strawberry Gourd Ice Cream?

This week, I came up with an ice cream flavor based in Strawberry with strawberry fudge pieces and a marshmallow swirl. My crew and I brainstormed for an hour about what to call it. Strawberry Delight. Strawberries & Cream. We tried to work the Moose Tracks angle, but got hung up on what animal you'd associate with a strawberry. Rabbit Tracks? No. Then we thought about the color, pink. Pig Tracks. Somehow we ended that line of naming at Pig Poop. I must admit, that's kindof catchy, but I just wasn't convinced it sounded very appetizing. After much deliberation and a nearly complete creative breakdown, we decided on Strawberry Fluff. I'm told such a product actually exists, although I haven't tried it, and I really don't want to. In any event, it's now on the Special Flavors board. Intrigued? If not, I've still got some Guinness left...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tye-Dyes & Cream

One of my crew made the great suggestion a few weeks ago that we get tye-dye t-shirts. I inquired with my t-shirt guy, and voila! tye-dye tees. We actually did it one better this week. The last order of Mt. Tom tee's got messed up (they forgot to fill the logo with blue) so they gave me a steal of a deal to save them from their dumpster. Since those are basically giveaways now, I thought, why not give tye-dying a try ourselves. If the kids on Zoom can do it, I'm sure my ace team and I would have no problem. It was actually pretty fun. Felt like arts and crafts at camp. The first batch of homemade ones came out surprisingly good. Every one is different. I just gotta run out and get more dye and rubber bands so we can complete the extreme makeovers on the rest of the bad batch. The moral of the story... Unexpected and cool new things are often the outcome of mistakes mixed with a little creativity and a 'let's just give it a try'...