Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Eat in Easthampton tomorrow for a good cause.

Easthampton Eats for JJ's Memorial
Wednesday July 30
10% of sales at participating restaurants will be donated to JJ's Memorial.

The family and fiends of JJ Dushane have a goal to raise $72,500 by the end of the year. The money is to be used to complete construction of a Memorial and new basketball courts over by Nonotuck Park. This group has been working hard to raise money to honor their son and friend. I hope you'll stop in to one of the following businesses to lend your support. I'm sure you can drop them a ten spot directly or pick up a wristband for a fin if you're not hungry tomorrow. They've also got a golf tournament coming up that sounds like another good way to support the cause and help create something good out of a terrible tragedy.

Mt. Tom's Ice Cream
Opa Opa
Papa George
Pizza Wings n Things
Ralphine's Cafe & Deli
Silver Spoon
Treydon's Bar & Grill


Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch (1960-2008)

By now, you've probably heard of Randy Pausch and his powerful 'Last Lecture. I've been meaning to post a blog entry about him, his courageous battle with pancreatic cancer, and his amazingly optimistic and positive message about how to live a happy life. Although he outlived his 1-2 month to live prognosis by over a year, he passed today. If you've never taken the time to watch his 'Last Lecture' or read the book version, I highly recommend it.

Although I haven't made time (ironic) to watch his 'Time Management' lecture, also posted on his website, that looks really good too. You may have some trouble getting through to his website today, but I'm sure it will be easier in a few days.

There are countless great quotes from the talk, so I'll just leave you with a few...

Find the best in everybody…. Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you. It might even take years, but people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting.

- Decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eyeore. I’m a Tigger.

- It is not about achieving your dreams but living your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.

- Never underestimate the importance of having fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day, because there’s no other way to play it….Having fun for me is like a fish talking about the importance of water. I don’t know how it is like not to have fun…

- Never lose the child-like wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us. Help others.

- To be cliché, death is a part of life and it’s going to happen to all of us. I have the blessing of getting a little bit of advance notice and I am able to optimize my use of time down the home stretch.

May we all be so fearless in the face of our own mortality.

A day at the Easthampton Beach.

After a couple days of dark and rainy weather, who wouldn't want to go to the beach on a perfect, blue sky, sunny day like today. Couldn't quite pull off the logistics of getting to Cape Cod or Misquamicut or Plum Island and back in time to open the shop for noon, so I had to settle for a little bike ride to what was once a happenin' little town beach (or so I'm told).

I didn't actually get to frolic in the surf or make sand castles, but wandering around the 'beach' with my camera was a good excuse to enjoy the fine morning.

Looking East over Nashawannuck Pond as Mt. Tom keeps an eye on things...

And perhaps someday when the pond has been drained, dredged, dozed, and refilled with crystal clear spring water, and the beach has been remodeled and resanded, these may become those 'before shots from that guy's blog'...

The future renovated paddle boat rental house/tiki beach bar?...

Hope you got to get outside and enjoy this top 10 day...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer Crew of '08.

As we round out the first half of the summer (can you believe it's almost the end of July already, wow.), I thought it was a good time to introduce the Mt. Tom's ace scoopers of Summer 2008. Returning from last summer is Katie, peach peeler extraordinaire and opening day pitcher of this summer's crew. Off-season recruits include Kate from Williston (end of last summer) and Mimi and Montana (late spring). Also returning from last summer is local favorite and Hampshire Regional High cheerleader, Taryn. Rounding out this summer's crew is Jen, Easthampton star athlete and cousin to Mt. Tom's scooping legend, Lauren.

I was often told 'employees will be your biggest headache', and I'd be lying if I didn't admit they have been cause for the ocassional headbanger over the years, but I've generally been careful (and lucky) enough to hire conscientious, hardworking kids. You hear the 'kids these days' comment thrown around a lot, and admittedly there seems to be a wide range of 'motivation levels' in today's youth, but I believe there are more than plenty of great kids out there, eager to work hard and make money for college, that first car, a new I-phone...

And let's face it, the quality of your crew is directly proportional to the quality of your life. For me, a responsible and reliable crew means not only a better, more successful biz, but it translates directly into my ability to leave the shop to the crew while I drop the kayak in the water or go for a jog around the block.

Being able to employee teenagers has been an unexpected perk of being a small biz owner. It's definitely a lot of work to hire, train, maintain, do all the paperwork, manage, and schedule the crew, but just being able to provide jobs to college-bound teens is pretty satisfying. For most, it's their first job, save a few babysitting gigs and paper routes. This can complicate the training aspect, but it also presents the opportunity to offer a young person a chance to (hopefully) get their professional lives off on the right foot, or forearm, if you will.

When I first started my engineering career, I had the opportunity to do a one year rotation as a shop supervisor on a production line. It was a challenging job, especially as a twenty-two year old engineer and working world neophite thrown into a feasting pool of well-seasoned union workers, some three times my age and a hundred times my experience. I was tested early and often. It was definitely one of the most challenging jobs I've had, but also one of the most rewarding. It was in those silicon trenches where I learned a few key rules about managing people that have served me well through my tech career and now as crew chief to an ever-changing group of young men and woman. Here's my short list, if you'll indulge me.

1. Treat people with respect.

2. Value their efforts and tell them whenever you can.

3. Encourage fun (as long as the jobs get done).

4. Empower them.

5. And most importantly, be consistent. Treat everyone the same way. Make your list of rules and consequences and stick to them. Discipline is never fun for anyone involved, but I've learned if you let it slide for one person, pretty soon others will start breaking the same rule, and before you know it, you're a lame duck waving an ice cream scoop around like a crazy person.

One final people managing observation... Although arguably the most important aspect of the staffing process is hiring the right person for the job, I believe everyone has a strength or a skill. Or as I like to say, 'everyone gets a little something.' The key is to identify what that something is and, for lack of a better word, exploit it. The 'cleaner' becomes the go-to cleaner. The artsy one becomes the cake decorator. The chatty one becomes the shop quality team leader...

Ok, I'll stop lecturing now. Hey, what else is there to do on a rainy day like this...

Enjoy the rain, and stop in soon for a cone and a hello to the summer crew.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Image of this Week.

Rumor has it, the rain is coming in for the next few days, which usually means time for organizing, projects, and blogging. In the meantime, here's an image from today. Baby sis of scooper first class, Mimi.
Talk with you again soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Down on the Farm.

Just another one of the many cool things about living in western Mass. A farmshare at Mountain View Farm (the farm formally known as Ole' Turtle Farm). Fresh veg to eat and cut flowers for the shop tables every week all summer. I know the shares sell out pretty fast every Fall, but definitely worth checking out if you're a Pioneer Valley rez. Check it out here.

A few shots from a recent morning 'u-pick'. Another heat wave is here, must go make ice cream. Come on down. The Blackberry Merlot Sorbet is going fast.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Savor the Moment.

During the space between careers, I had the great fortune to enjoy some amazing travel. What started as 'taking the summer off' after getting laid off from my high powered engineering job at a now-busted optical networking startup (I know, that's a long way away from making ice cream), turned into nearly two incredible years of wanderlust. First, I drove cross-country in my little Acura, with just a tent, some camping supplies, my laptop & camera, and U.S. road atlas. Thiry-five states, three months, and many thousands of miles. 16 National Parks. Alaska. Mountain biking in Moab, Utah. Camping in Grand Canyon National Park. Getting up early to catch Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. So many unforgetable moments.

My second adventure took me to Australia and New Zealand with a buddy who also got laid off that summer. We did the entire east coast of that land down under. Syndey to Caines. Dove the Great Barrier Reef. Camped on a deserted island. Walked on a glacier on the South Island of New Zealand. Hiked through rainforests.

We were hiking, wide-eyed, through one of the rainforests in New Zealand, and my buddy says to me, 'remember this moment. This is something you'll remember your entire life.' As we sat in that mossy forest and scarfed power bars, we literally savored the moment.

There were many moments during those years of adventure. When I think back, the moments that stand out in my mind aren't things like the hike down into the Grand Canyon (although that was very cool) or driving the twisties of Big Sur (again very cool). No, it was more the little moments. Sitting with a glass of red on the edge of a lake reflecting the majestic Grand Tetons. Being woken up in the middle of the night by a light so bright I thought it was morning, only to open the flap of my tent to discover a full moon so bright you could read a book under it. That moon was rising over the desert of Joshua Tree National Park in California, and became a moment carved into my mind as one of the most tranquil, dare I say spiritual, I've ever experienced.I could go on and on. Perhaps in a book for my counter someday.
So what does all this have to do with life and ice cream, you begin to wonder?

It's simple, really. As our t-shirts like to say,

Life is Short.
Eat Ice Cream.

Life is short.
Savor the moments.

The nature of the moments I experience in this adventure I call 'Mt. Tom's' is certainly different, but that doesn't stop me from occasionally stopping to try to 'remember the moment' as my buddy suggested a few years back in New Zealand. And sometimes, I'm even able to grab my camera before that moment's passed...
My nephew, Willy, during a rare visit from his home state of Florida.

A buddy's kids. Check out baby sis in the background.

Happy customers.

A couple scoopers decided to do a shift with the ice cream party hats. Seems they didn't aspire to have the moment recorded.

If you haven't been to the shop this year, you haven't seen the digital picture frame on the counter. It's chock full of pleasant moments of life in an ice cream shop.

All aboard for Mt. Tom's.

Ok, so some customers are more reluctant than others to make the digital picture of moments frame. Perhaps I'll just stick to kiddos. They don't seem to mind...

Let's face it. There's plenty of reasons to feel down these days. Just open the newspaper to any page. In these times of foreclosures, $4.00 gas, inflation, stock market dips, and the temporary demise of the travel vacation, one's ability to enjoy the simple moments becomes even more important. I guess that's what makes this gig so great. I get to be part of one of those simple moments of happiness nearly all day, every day.

What more could you ask for in a job.
Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Sign of Things to Come?

An albeit well intoxicated man enjoys a float on the pond this past weekend. As hot as it's supposed to get later this week, I still don't think a dip in the Nashawannuck is such a great idea.

But one can only hope...

Easthampton awaits state ruling on pond cleanup

Friday, July 11, 2008

Shop's gone to the Dogs.

Adorning the walls of Mt. Tom's this month, it's regular dogs in crazy digs. Check out this madcapped collection of aristodogs all month as part of this weekend's ArtWalkEasthampton festivities.

The artist is Carol Lew, and she paints dogs in fancy clothes. The show includes both prints and original oils, all in handsome frames. Definitely worth dropping by for a look. And while you're here, may I suggest the strawberry cheesecake ice cream. Or perhaps the peach mango or blackberry merlot sorbet?

And while you're strolling around Cottage Street, don't forget to check out the Nashawannuck Gallery's 'Oz show', held over for another month. Rumor has it, that Red Shoe'd girl will be making an appearance.

ArtWalk goes from 5-8pm Saturday night. Here's a map for you.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Happy National Ice Cream Month to you & yours.

I was thinking since this blog is called 'Ice Cream Diaries' and not just 'Jim's Diaries', that I should actually talk about ice cream once in a while. So here we go. What you see before you is the latest creation in my little ice cream kitchen. Commonly called 'S'Mores', it's a chocolate base with marshmallow swirl, little marshmallows, graham cracker crunchy things, and chocolate chips all swirled together like a big happy family. How's that sound?

If you're not a big chocolate ice cream person, here's what else is cookin' on the specials board this week... Rum Raisin, Black Licorice, Banana, Mocha Chip, Heath Bar Crunch, Cake Batter Chip, Blueberry Pie, Peach, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Watermelon Sherbet.

On deck... Blackberry Merlot Sorbet, Peach Mango Sorbet, Swiss Chocolate Almond, Ginger, burnt sugar

And another interesting development... Made my first batch of Soy gelato this week. It's a French Vanilla, and I've been told by a few non-dairy types that 'it's really good'. It seems to be selling pretty well, so perhaps Soy Gelato could be that nice non-dairy alternative to sorbet. Stay tuned.

Moving along to the consumption portion of the show, here's a shot of the Day Care Express, fully loaded with kiddos enjoying some cool refreshment.

And in the spirit of National Ice Cream month, I feel oblidged to pass along some ice cream trivia...

  • Based on ice cream consumption figures, the top five individual flavors in terms of share of segment in the United States are: vanilla (30%), chocolate (10%), butter pecan (4%), strawberry (3.7%) and chocolate chip mint (3.2%). Source: The NPD Group's National Eating Trends Services
  • Ice cream and related frozen desserts are consumed by more than 90% of households in the United States. Source: Mintel
  • More ice cream is sold on Sunday than any other day of the week.
  • Top 10 Ice Cream Consuming Countries in the World
    1) United States 2) New Zealand 3) Denmark 4) Austrailia 5) Belgium/Luxembourg 6) Sweden 7) Canada 8) Norway 9) Ireland 10) Switzerland
Ok, that's enough.

Too hot for ice cream (like that's even possible)? Can I tempt with the latest confectionary temptation here...
Ok, so maybe a marshmallow ant farm isn't exactly what you woke up hankerin' for this morning. How about this one? Chocolate-covered pretzels with Jimmies.

Stay cool, and if you can't stay cool, stay sugared up at least.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Long Weekend

Hope you're winding down nicely after the long holiday weekend. A couple (nearly) random thoughts and images for your end of weekend (or ease into work Monday morning)...

"You have to believe in yourself when no one else does. That's what makes you a winner."
- Venus Williams

An interesting article on happiness.... Happiness, Is it as easy as a Smile?

And a few intriguing variations of recent Mt. Tom's shoots, ala Photoshop...

Prints (in the form of photo cards) will be available for purchase soon at the soda fountain counter in the shop. Hey, gotta support my photography compulsion somehow...

Hope you had a great holiday. See you soon.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Image of the Week.

How can you not be happy looking at these two ice cream covered kiddos.
The next generation of Root Beer Rudy and his brother Reej? Only time will tell...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My Ice Cream Adventure Captured on Canvas.

You might remember this scene from a few weeks ago. This is John Gnatek, local artist extraordinaire, painting the facade of Mt. Tom's as part of the Plein Air art competition during last month's ArtWalkEasthamton. It turned out to be a great event, with over 40 amazing entries. Although John didn't win, his was a crowd favorite, and certainly a favorite of mine. So much so that I had to make the purchase...

It does show the 'pre-facelift' color scheme of the shop, but it's still pretty darn cool. I had to sell a few extra cones last month to pay for it, but I think it'll look great on a wall in that retirement cabin on a lake thirty years or so from now...

Nicely done John. Thanks for choosing my shop to paint.