Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mother Nature 1, Easthampton Fireworks 0

I biked by the Williston fields this morning, and unlike the usual morning of fireworks day, all was calm. Not even a dog walker to be seen. And with the sun shining brightly, you'd never think weather could be the cause of the nixing of this year's fireworks. I'm sure by now you know all about it . The t-storm clouds will likely be rolling in just in time for what would have been a field full of 20,000 families, kids, dogs, coolers, and lawn chairs. Oh well.

Guess we'll just have to get our fireworks fix this summer on some other town's field. In the meantime, here's a taste from last year...

And if that doesn't make you feel better, you're welcome to come on down for a big cone of homemade ice cream.

Stay cool.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unobstructed Views.

I finally 'made' time this morning to drag my kayak out of my apartment, down the flight of stairs and the steep hill and into the pond in my backyard. My main movitation was to get some fresh air and nature and sunshine on a beautiful morning. It was early enough to hope for a glimpse or two of some wildlife. Perhaps a few box turtles lounging on a log. Or those nine ducklings and their folks that people keep claiming to have seen. I really hoped I'd catch a photo opp. of the big blue heron that often lurks among the Nashawannuck. As luck would have it, I got all that and a little bit more. Unfortunately, Mr. Heron flew into the bright sky as I was shooting (with a camera of course) which wreaked havoc on the light settings of my camera. As you'll see below, I did my best with Photoshop to salvage what could have been an amazing shot, but unfortunately, the quality suffers from the lighting adjustments I made. It does give a feel for the span of this majestic bird, though. It's only June, so I'm sure I'll get another chance.
My other motivation for getting in the kayak today was to get some 'unobstructed' views of one of my favorite subjects - Mt. Tom. The flag is cool, in a patriotic way, but it definitely changes the composition.

Gone fishing...

Here's that heron... (tip: Click on the image for a full-size version)...
And to end this little pho-tog blog, here's one from a couple days ago. Right after one of those torrential downpours/thunderstorms we seem to be getting every afternoon. As you can see, it's hard for your eyes not to be drawn to the flag...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Lord of the Flies Summer.

I had a mini-reunion of sorts last week with a couple my old college buddies. Scott and Mike. These were the two guys I backpacked through Europe with during that summer between college graduation and the start of my grown-up real world working life. Thinking back at all the great life experiences I've been fortunate enough to partake in, I still put that summer of tramping through Europe near the top of the list. My buddies and I were barely twenty-one, young and still plenty dumb, and although I had traveled a bit with my family, the furthest I'd been was a hockey exchange to Montreal.

It's been more than a few years since that 28 cities, 14 countries in 83 days adventure, but as Scott, Mike, and I sat in the Dirty Truth and reminisced over a couple of Belgian Ales, it felt like yesterday that we were wandering through Versailles or sleeping on chairs in that scary train station in Brindisi, Italy or relaxing carefree on a Greek island beach. That trip opened my eyes to the world. It let me learn that although the language and the currency and the skintones and the streets may be unfamiliar in foreign lands, people are just that, people. People with the same wants and needs and desires as us. To be happy. To have fun. To provide for their family. To laugh with friends. I realize this may not sound like a huge revelation, but for a sheltered kid from Mansfield, Massachusetts, it was life-altering.

Traveling through Europe was like being in a giant 3-d world history book. Nowadays, you can 'google' images of the Collosseum in Rome or virtually walk through Oxford University from your I-phone, but none of that can hold an Ipod to the feeling of awe you get in your gut as you gaze across the two thousand year old structure and imagine what life must have been like in the days of gladiators, imperial empires, and Roman emperors.

My old travel buddies and I reminisced about the cool people we met. Like Pete from Michigan, who was living in Italy for that summer and interning at an Italian hospital. His nurse friends cooked us an authentic Italian dinner. Our job was to find all the ingredients in the local markets. This turned out to be a significant challenge since none of us spoke a word of Italian. We could have been holding a list of elevator parts for all we knew. Nonetheless, that was a dinner to remember.

We reflected on the amazing sites we got to experience firsthand. Like the Neuschwanstein Castle...

We didn't know what we were doing. It was a time when terrorism was just starting to go mainstream, and people were being warned not to travel abroad. If you did travel, you were advised to be careful and just try to blend in. Here's my buddy Mike in Vienna, trying to blend in...

And Scott and I doing equally as good a job not looking too touristy...

Note the book we're reading is 'Let's Go - Europe', the bible for the budget/young traveler who's willing to tolerate the rigors of hostel life and ride third class trains from Austria to Luxembourg to Italy to France. That book was indespensable.

It was great to see my old travel buddies after so many years, and equally as cool to have an excuse to reminisce about an amazing life experience, one that expanded my world view, gave me an invaluable set of first-hand history lessons, taught me how to be a grown-up and truly take care of myself (let's face it, college is a good start, but living in a dorm and walking to a dining hall every day doesn't sharpen survival skills.), and gave me a first glimpse at how good we Americans really do have it.

So what does any of this have to do with life and ice cream? If you've been here before, you've probably figured out that sometimes I lean more toward the 'diaries' than the 'ice cream'. In any event, if you'd like a moral to this little rant, I'd say it's this - although plane ticket prices are soaring right along with the price of gas these days, I hope that won't deter you from plotting and partaking in your own dream travel adventure. As a small biz owner, I don't get to travel as much as I used to, but I can certainly attest to the postitive impact it's had on my life. Two of my summer crew are off to semesters abroad at the end of the summer, and I'm certain I will send them off with a bit of envy.

Even if you can't take your vacation in Paris this summer, I still hope you are able to chart a course to someplace new and interesting. I'm certain you won't regret it.

Or as I like to say, 'Since life is a journey, why not make it one.'

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Guess who's back...

While out taking shots of the return of the American flag over the pond, I caught this image I like to call 'Boy Fishing on storm grate'. All bad 'America's Funniest Video's' titles aside, I thought it was a nice, calm and relaxing image...

Hope you're enjoying this fine start to summer weekend.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Cool New Mural.

If you live in town, I'm sure you've seen it. The new mural that sits proudly on the wall of Whisker's Bar and Grill. It was designed and painted by Tom Pappalardo as part of a competition sponsored by Easthampton City Arts (and underwritten by Williston Northampton School, Hampton Wholesale Auto, LLC, Easthampton Cultural Council and Massachusetts Cultural Council). He had a few assistants for the weekend-long paintfest, but this giant painting is for the most part all Tom. I think it looks cool.
There's going to be a ribbon cutting ceremony tomorrow (Friday) at 12:30 to commemorate the town's newest piece of public art. Stop by for a look, a piece of cake, a scoop of (mt. tom's) ice cream, and a chat with Tom, the Mayor, and the gang from ECA...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Perfect Storm.

Yesterday's round of thunderstorms brought some cool and creepy clouds, plundging us into near darkness around 5:30 last night. Fresh off the last round of storms and the dreaded power failure that came with, I watched with trepedation as the crazy clouds rolled in. They were interesting to watch though...

But the real perfect storm came today.

Two kindergarden field trips on the same day. At the same time. Fifty six year olds in white ice cream hats. It was a veritable sea of kiddos. Eating ice cream, laughing with their buddies, making plans for the summer that officially starts in the next few days. Ok, so they probably weren't making plans, but they were eating ice cream and laughing.

Needless to say, it was pretty chaotic in here, but at the same time provided a moment that made me savor what a sweet gig I have...
Here's to sweet gigs and ice cream hats.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dredging of the Pond back on.

Reported in today's Springfield Republican:

EASTHAMPTON - The city is moving forward with a plan to clean up Nashawannuck Pond by draining it and mechanically removing sediment, Mayor Michael A. Tautznik said yesterday.
Tautznik has authorized Baystate Environmental Consultants Inc., of East Longmeadow, to move forward with getting updated permits for the project.

The original $2.3 million plan for the cleanup of the pond called for pumping sediment from the bottom of the pond, dewatering it and trucking or piping it to city-owned land near White Brook Middle School....
Read More

If you live in Easthampton and have followed the on-again, off-again saga that is the Nashawannuck Pond Dredging Project, reading this will probably still leave you thinking, 'I'll believe when I see something actually happen.' Our Mayor has been lobbying tirelessly trying to get this done. He knows how important the pond is to Easthampton. He often talks about boardwalks, boat rentals, and other fun and touristy things he plans to pursue on the heels of a cleaned up pond. Who knows if the beach on Water Ave will ever be bustling with frolicing kiddos in swim trunks and floaties, but it's hard to argue against a cleaner, lessy weedy pond for our fine city. Let's hope this latest approach is a winner.

I look forward to watching the big dredge in my backyard this Fall. In case you don't have such a good view, I'll do my best to track progress here with photos. Or you could just come down, grab a cone, and sit yourself down here...

Friday, June 13, 2008


This is ArtWalk Easthampton weekend (2nd Saturdays of the month). Come check out the festivities... The Full line-up

And don't forget to check out the cool show at Mt. Tom's....

Artist:Group Show: Sweet.
Medium:Painting - Watercolor
Venue:Mt.Tom's Homemade Ice Cream Address:34 Cottage St

Event:What does the word Sweet mean to you? Each artist was asked to create a 12” square watercolor portraying what they thought of as ‘sweet’. The resulting exhibit consists of subjects ranging from fantastical lands where mountains are ice cream to portraits of children.The group of artists is from Kat O'Connor's Art Class.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The One Stressor of this Gig.

How about that crazy storm last night. I've heard a few people refer to it as 'just like the storms I used to see in Florida'. Lightning everywhere, wind, heavy downpours, climaxing in, of course, the obligatory power failure. Right during the middle of the Celtics-Lakers game. A few buddies and I were enjoying a cold one at the Brass Cat while we watched Kobe, Kevin and their mates go at it, when the bar, along with most of the town, instantly plunged into darkness. To most, it was probably pretty cool. Quiet, dark, and still. Just the sounds of the rain and thunder and the occassional woosh of a passing car. For me, it was that with a distinct flavor of 'oh sh*t'. You see, I have 300 gallons of ice cream, and the many me-hours it took to make them, sitting in freezers in every corner of my shop. 300 dear friends put in harm's way when electricity stops flowing to their life support system, their square home's compressor.

Needless to say, power outages are just plain stressful. Most power failures only last a few minutes, so I try not to get too anxious for those first few. I take a few deep breaths and try to extend this worry-less mindset for an hour or two, repeating to myself (and usually everyone around me) that I need not worry yet. Maybe in four hours, but not yet. After that, bad things start to happen to my frozen friends. Unless I come to their rescue, riding in on my shiny red portable gas generator (cue Gladiator music)...

Most people went home from the Cat when the emergency lights ran out of battery power, when Mike was forced to kick us all out. A few drove off to find a pub with the lights (and the game) still on. As I wandered home in the darkness, shuffling through the rain, just me and that pit in my stomach, I knew I wasn't sleeping until the power returned.

A nighttime power failure is a blessing and a curse. No business is lost, since once the power goes out, it's most important that no one goes in the freezers. The only cold the ice cream will enjoy is what's in there, and opening the freezer door greatly accelerates the melting process. Not hard to understand that, but whenever there's a power failure during scooping hours, some people actually get mad when you say you can't serve them. As if their single scoop of mint chip is worth putting 1800 other scoops at risk. Thankfully, most people are pretty cool about it. Disappointed, sure, but understanding. Especially when they see the look of anxiety carved into my face.

Even if you didn't stay up until 1:30am last night, you probably still figured out that power was restored to our fair street after about three hours. Long enough to stress me out to the point of getting Jenny the generator ready for duty. As you can see from the shot, I didn't actually haul her out of the basement, but she was as close as she's been in a couple years. I really wasn't looking forward to waking everybody up at 2am when I fired her up. I could hear the singing of the town hall generators about a half mile away, and although I'm certain my 3500 watt number wouldn't drown out theirs, it certainly would have woken up the light sleepers in our building.

So all's well that ends well. Can I just tell you about the feeling you get when the lights come back on. It feels like the weight of a yellow Smart Car being lifted off your shoulders in one instant. Phew.

And before I go, just to give you a flavor for the fun you missed last night by not actually owning your own ice cream shop during a power failure, I thought I'd share a few shots of me rummaging through one very dark basement. Hunting down power cords and such. And in a fortuitous intersection of luck and dorkiness, I just happened to have impulse-purchased a halogen headlight for night biking only a few days ago...

Kindof Blair Witch Project-ey, eh?

In any event, all the freezers are humming like tops today, having survived a couple crazy hot days. Perhaps they just needed a few hours off to catch their collective breaths while I learned to appreciate them even more...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Facade Fini!

I mentioned in my first post on the topic of facelifts there was still a bit left to do. The problem with finishing the job was neither my ten foot step ladder or my neighbor's twelve footer could get me high enough to reach that elusive top strip of scraggley white. Well, it just so happened this morning I needed to pay a visit to my other neighbor, the one with the garage full of electrical trucks, and what do you know, there sitting all alone and lonely was one shiny fourteen foot stepper.

I realized it was almost 90 degrees already (around 10 am), and I only had an hour or so before I need to open up shop. But I also realized the opportunity to finish the job and get it off my 'to do' list once and for all was right there within my reach. Neighbor Dan obliged me on the morning loan and even helped me carry it over to the front of my building (if you have a forteen foot step ladder, you are well aware of how heavy one can be). To make a long story short, the ladder got me where I needed to be and although it wasn't a whole lot of fun, the job got done. So without further adieu, I give you the new ice cream look of Mt. Tom's...

Thanks for listening. And thanks Dan for the final assist on the facade project.

Ask and you shall Receive.

Someone who read one of my recent posts touting the new waffle baker 5020 suggested we offer 'homemade waffle cone bowls'. So without a day to lose, we give you... the Mt. Tom's homemade waffle cone bowl. Thanks to 'anonymous' for the tip and to Kate, scooper extraordinaire, for executing the first set in fine fashion...

Dale Canon's Class goes to the Ice Cream Shop.

Hope you're enjoying this latest treat Mother Nature has served up for us. Crazy hot. All I can do is make tons of ice cream, say a prayer to the air conditioner gods, and hope that all the equipment withstands the harsher working conditions.

While you sit in your (hopefully) air conditioned office or not-so-air-conditioned home office with a fan blasting hot air at your face, I thought I'd share a few shots from today's field with Dale's gang...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

What a difference a day makes.

I think you can guess which temperature reading is outside and which one is inside. The direct sunlight might exaggerate the reading a little, but there's no denying the 3 h's are here to stay, at least for the next few days.

Hats off to the stellar efforts of Jen, our newest scooper, and Mi-Mi for keeping their cool and scooping like maniacs on an extremely hectic day here in scoopville. And I must admit, the April purchase of a 3rd new 12K BTU Air Conditioner definitely looks to have been a wise move. I'm sure that would have been a tougher purchase today....
In any event, hope you're staying cool, hydrated, and full of ice cream.

Must go make more.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hot in the New City this Weekend.

Sounds like Mom Nature will finally be throwing us some heat this weekend. High 90's potentially

No big deal for southern folks but that first real blast of hazy, hot, and humid is definitely an uncomfortable change for those of us more used to temperatures in the 60's and below, like today. Fear not though, we've got lots of a.c. here at the local scoop shop, and the freezers are stocked. Bring it on!
Here's a couple ideas for the weekend. Don't forget about Open Studios at 1 Cottage Street. 10-5pm Sat. and 12-5 Sun. Lots of cool art for a hot day. Check it out.
Here's the building, in case you're not sure...

And it just so happens this weekend the State Fish & Game offers up its own version of the no sales tax day. No fishing license required this weekend. In the mood for some angling but never got around to getting that fishing license? This is your chance to fish for free all weekend. Or at least until it gets too hot to bear...

And finally, let's not forget our reclaimed old love, the Boston Celtics, are in the NBA finals. Can you believe we New Englanders have another team knocking on the door of a world championship. Whether you've always been a diehard Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Revolution fan or have just jumped on the bandwagon these past few years, there's no denying it's been a great run across the board. At the risk of sounding greedy, go Celtics!

And if the games are past your bedtime, you can just watch the virtual simulation... Check it out
Whatever you do this weekend, enjoy, stay cool, and feel free to stop in for a cone whenever you want.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Christmas in June.

I finally broke down and bought myself a new toy. Actually, I bought it for the shop. We've been making waffle cones during the summer since the beginning, but I must confess we've been using a smaller, somewhat disposable, waffle baker, one much better suited to the occasional home ice cream party than a full-scale ice cream shop scenario. I actually bought a 'real' waffle cone baker when I started, but the first time we made a cone with it, we discovered it had a giant TCBY logo etched into the waffle plate. And I thought customers might get confused when the saw a big TCBY logo on their homemade waffle cone in a place called Mt. Tom's. I returned that one and we've been using an amateur version ever since. Until yesterday, that is.

Let me introduce to you, the Gold Medal 5020 Giant Waffle Baker...

Ain't she sweet?

It felt like Christmas morning when Steve, the UPS guy, showed up with the new rig. I couldn't make cones the first day, since she had to be seasoned first. It was like when I got that slick new Johnny Lightning Racecar track for Christmas when I was six, setting it up in the living room, but not getting to use it until December 26th. Most of the first batch of cones I made on her maiden voyage the next day ended up as snacks for me and the crew, but eventually I got the hang of it and was blasting out giant odorific and delicious waffle cones every 47 seconds until the racks were overflowing with crispy goodness.

Here's Katie on her first run, demonstrating the fine art of waffle cone creation. Look at her go.

This is the tricky part. Rolling them up. Takes a little practice and a few singed fingertips, but once you get the hang of it, piece of cake. Or, piece of waffle cone, as it were.

Voila! Waffle cones for everyone. Like my Dad always says, every job is easy with the right tools.
That solitary sugar cone in the other stand looks so sad and dejected in this shot. Poor little sugar cone.
And what's a freshly baked waffle cone without a hearty scoop of homemade ice cream in it, and perhaps a little hot fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry...

See you soon...