Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween is for Treats.

Since it met its untimely demise a few days short of the rag shag and Halloween, a virtual view of this year's Mt. Tom's-o'lantern will have to do. Thanks once again to Briana for the fine carving expertise, way cool.

As promised in yesterday's reminder post about the Rag Shag parade, here's a shot from the fun event. Although it didn't fall on a Monday this year, and the shop was open which meant I had ground support for candy tossing, Taryn and I still had our hands full (of candy) once the mass of costumed kiddos descended upon our neck of Cottage Street. As you can clearly see by the bluriness, it's pretty tough to throw fifteen pounds of candy in about eight minutes while simultaneously taking photos. After a few quick snaps, it was pretty clear it would be one or the other, and in the better interests of the screaming masses, candy distribution won out.
Here's one of Aribella, Mimi's baby sis, on her return from the Rag Shag. This one should help your eyes readjust from the last shot.

I hope you enjoyed the parade. And have a safe and spooky Halloween. Some tips that might help.

A parting shot from my Fall collection...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Don't Forget to Get your Rag Shag on Tonight.

Tonight's the night of the annual 'cool in a small town way' Rag Shag parade. Rumor has it the festivities begin around 6pm at the Maple School. Might want to throw some long johns under that costume. Got some wind chill going on out there.

Taryn, ace scooper, and I will be outside tossing candy like crazy at the costumed paraders. See you there.

And check back here tomorrow for some shots from the festivities. While I'm not throwing tootsie rolls at mini Kermits, Thomas trains, and goblins, I hope to be grabbing a few photos...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Only Hanging Sprinkles in this Contest.

Don't worry, the last thing I want to talk about here is politics. We biz owners figure out fast and early that little good can come from talking politics in the shop. It's not that we don't have political ideologies and opinions on the political state of things, particularly now when the most anticipated election perhaps in our lifetimes is less than two weeks away. It's just that, in terms of business, it's just too risky, because no matter which way you lean, there's bound to be someone on the other side of the counter who leans the other way. And the last thing you want to do is have someone take their ice cream craving elsewhere because they didn't agree with your politics.

Having said that, it is without spin or bias that I pass along the results of one somewhat unscientific poll, conducted by Dunkin Donuts corporate ice cream sister Baskin-Robbins. They just announced the results of a contest they recently ran to predict our next president. Using admirable ice cream logic, BR created two special flavors, one for each presidential candidate, and let their customers decide with their palates. For Obama, the 'dessert scientists at the Baskin-Robbins ice cream skunk works' created 'Whirl of Change'- peanut-nougat ice cream whirled with chunks of chocolate-covered peanut brittle and a caramel ribbon.

And for John McCain, it was the 'Straight Talk Crunch' -an intriguing melange whose ingredients include caramel ribbon, chocolate pieces, candy red states, and crunchy mixed nuts swirled into white chocolate ice cream.

After 500,000 votes, the envelope please...

Obama and his Whirl of Change, by a nose. 51% to 49.

There you have it. 'Dessert Scientist'...might have to put that one on my next set of business cards...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Chat with the Mayor.

Courtesy of Kelsy over at Mayor Mike answers the questions on people's minds right now - like why will it cost $400K to fix the Manhan Trail sinkhole, what will be the effect of Gov. Patrick's budget cuts on Easthampton, and what's this about your boardwalk around the pond project...Interesting listening...

Interview with Mike

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Silver Lining found to Sox-less World Series.

Aside from not having to lose sleep nearly every night for the next week, there's one other good thing I've discovered to come out of the Sox valiant but just short effort to win the American League pennant and participate in another World Series.

It sits on a shelf in the beer & wine section at our own local supermarket, Big E. There's a whole stack of them actually, and as a result of the Sox now dusting off the golf clubs and not brushing back Phillies batters, you can get yourself one (or a few) for 3 bucks off. At $7.99, that about 6 bucks off the suggested retail from the official site. And proceeds go to the charity of the slugger's choice. What's not to like about that?

Hopefully not the taste of the wine. We'll have to get back to you on that one.

I opted for the Vintage Papi, a nice Merlot, Cabernet blend. Looking forward to pouring a glass and offering up a hearty 'we'll get 'em next year.' toast. Sleep or no sleep, it would have been cool to see our Sox in another Series, but they gave it a good go and provided some great playoff moments this year. Just can't quite figure out who to root for now. Maybe I'll just skip it and pick up a good book.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grand Central Freeze.

I can't say I really miss this part of my bygone corporate cubicle days, but I definitely remember the more than occasional (and occasionally) funny emails that found their way to my daily inbox. Most were barely worth a glance and the two calories I burned hitting the delete key. Once in a while, a keeper would drop in. And once in an even greater while, I'd get one that not only did I think was cool and/or funny, but I actually thought my buddies and family members might too think it was cool and/or funny, rather than be left questioning the mental stability of their friend/son/brother for forwarding such a thing.

Since I've left my cube for ice creamier pastures, I feel somewhat disconnected from the joke email chain, but sometimes a note with a link to the latest SNL skit, crazy mountain biking stunt gone awry, or politically-incorrect Halloween costume still finds its way to my e-inbox.

The good part is I know I can't get fired for clicking through one of those emails and happening to land in a place not fit for the 9 to 5.

In any event, it's my turn to do my part and pass along one I found cool and interesting. In the interest of full disclosure, however, it was my buddy David who tipped me off to this cool project -captured and posted on YouTube.

If you're one of the 13 million who've already seen it, sorry for being redundant. If not, I think you'll think it's a pretty cool idea, and thanks for letting me relive a corporate moment. If you have a minute before your next meeting, maybe you can throw a link to it in an email and send it along its company email way? Don't worry, I won't tell your boss.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Perfect Fall Foliage Weather & A Go Sox!

Well, tomorrow morning or if you're reading this on, we'll either be looking forward to another Red Sox World Series or simply feeling almost satisfied with the valiant and nearly historic effort from our favorite hometown team. Since those cards have not quite fallen as I write this, rather than get all worked up and nervous about tonight's game, I thought a few foliage shots I've added to my collection over the past few days might be a better way to go. Hope you got out to enjoy the display. A bit brisk, but what sweet Fall weather and amazing color it's been.

Swing over the leaf blanket...

Football Practice...
The Williston School Pond..

In fact, I think I'll grab my camera and see if I can grab a few more right now...

Go Sox!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sweet Night & The Sweetest Day.

Let's face it. Was there really anything else to talk about today? I hope you stayed up late enough to experience it. We here in Red Sox Nation have been lucky enough to enjoy some pretty great sports moments in the decade, and I have to say this one ranks right up there with the best of them. No matter what happens on Saturday and/or Sunday, no one can take away Thursday night's amazing and nearly inconceivable come from way behind way late in the game 8-7 win by our beloved Sox.

I could go on and on about that one, but this isn't a sports blog (although somedays you might wonder). We'll leave that to my favorite Sox blog, Red Sox Monster to do it justice.

All I can do is relate a quick story from last night's event. I'm sitting in the usual Sox watching sweet spot, the Brass Cat, with a couple buddies. The Sox and the game had continued where the last two lifeless and listless Sox performances left off. Few people were actually even paying attention anymore. Heck, it was 7 to zip in the sixth. Lights out. Let's get out of here and beat the traffic. In fact, the jukebox was turned up and the TV announcers down.

Until all of a sudden, a giant defibrillator fell from the sky and brought our comeback kids in red and white back to life.

All heads returned to the flatscreens as the score became 7-3, 7-4... At which point, someone in the crowd yells, 'Turn off that Jukebox'. Before Sam the bartender had a chance to reach for the volume control behind the bar, a guy from Brass Cat Red Sox Nation yells out, 'Don't you dare touch that jukebox!' Seems die-hard fans are a superstitious bunch. Sam left that jukebox rocking right through to J.D.'s walkoff single. For exactly the same reason Manny Delcarmon wouldn't let Dice-K come out of the clubhouse to watch the come from behind.

I'm pretty sure the Brass Cat jukebox isn't responsible for the Sox' historic win last night, but there are a few guys I know that might argue things might have turned out differently if not for one quick-thinking, beer-guzzling, Red Sox jersey wearin' who will go nameless but for the 'Pedroia' on his back, Brass Cat regular.

In the chaos that ensued, I hope someone remembered to buy him a beer.

Oh well, looks like I'm out of time for now. Guess my 'Sweetest Day' rant will have to wait until tomorrow.

Go Sox!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jim Gets a Life.

I was planning to write a cool blog story of my day at Fenway on Monday. Early train in with a long-time buddy from my Boston days. Our wander around the city, through the Common, stops at the old haunts - J.J. Foleys, burgers on the deck at Joe's on Newbury, a quick stop at the Cask before finding our seats somewhere in the sea of Sox jerseys and ballcaps commonly called the 'bleachers'. From there, we would enjoy nearly four hours of baseball in Red Sox Nation paradise on a perfect and warm October afternoon. After which, finally finding our way to the exits, horse from screaming 'Here we go Red Sox' and singing 'Sweet Caroline', but content with an easy Jon Lester win safely tucked into our souvenir programs.

Alas, as we all know now, it was just not meant to be.

Nor was an unexpected stellar performance from Tim Wakefield yesterday.

The ship, it seems, has lost its steam.

As I drove back the next morning from Boston, I savored the cool day in the big city, the short respite from ice cream-covered elbows, content in the knowledge that a bad game at Fenway still beats a good day doing a lot of other things. And with the parking lot that was the Mass Pike during my return trip yesterday morning, I had plenty of time to think of things that aren't as fun as a bad game at Fenway, not the least of which being sitting in traffic on the Mass Pike.

Moving right along, I also got to take in the Ashfield Fair this past weekend. If you've never been, it's actually a cool little event. Been wanting to get there for years, and wasn't really even planning on it this year either, but as luck would have it, Bre and I were doing some leaf peeping and literally stumbled upon it.

Here are a few quick shots from the visit...

Elmer's Store...gotta go back and check this place out someday...looks cool...

In case you thought I was the only one that thinks fairs are all about the food...

Here I am, back in true Big E form, enjoying a loaded baked potato. In case you were wondering what I ate. We were regretting the stop at the Williamsburg General Store for that giant Raspberry Pull-apart on the way...

Another place to go back and check out...

No, I didn't try this...
Hope you're out enjoying this fine day, sounds like things will finally start to cool off around here tomorrow. Hopefully, the Sox will decide to stop being cooled off tomorrow too!

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's ArtWalk Easthampton Time Again.

Watercolor by Liz McDonald. It's part of her show, 'A Moment in Time', and it can be seen right here at Mt. Tom's during this weekend's ArtWalk Easthampton and until November 6th.

Yes, it's the 2nd Saturday of the month again, and that means a cool night of art strolling to be had by all. As usual, lots of great shows featuring the talents of local artists, live entertainment, free snacks, and even a sneak peak at Easthampton's newest eatery - Casita Asteca, the new Mexican place on Cottage Street.

And rumor has it, there's a scavenger hunt that you can partake in during your scouting of all the ArtWalk venues. Here are the details from the site...

The October 11th Art Walk includes the first ever "Get a Clue" Scavenger Hunt. Participants will be provided a map and list of riddles, which can only be solved by visiting Art Walk venues. The Scavenger Hunt will begin on Cottage Street and progress through town to a final, secret location where prizes will be awarded. The shuttle bus schedule, rules and list of clues will be available at 5:00 on Saturday, October 11 at participating sites.

It goes from 5-8pm Saturday night. Hope you can check it out. Best of all, it's free.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Morning Nature Shoot.

Instead of turning on the news and my email, I decided a morning bike ride would be better for my mood and sanity. Of course, my camera came along. It was only my little point&shoot Pentax, but I still managed to catch a few keepers, thanks to a light fog and a few colorful trees on the Nashwannuck Pond.

I even shot a little 45 second movie of my morning zen moment at the Easthampton town beach. I especially like the part at the end when the Canadian geese make their grand exit. Turn up the volume for that part (except if you're still at work)...

A short for you, hope it provides at least 45 seconds of relaxation for you from the rest of the day's headlines...

And if you're wondering how the parking lot facelift project is coming along, here are just a couple more shots.

My cat eyed the construction activities with a keen interest, almost as if she thought they were building a giant litter box just for her...

Voila!, the finished product. Nice job. Still dusty and dirty, but smoother for sure...

Hope you get out to enjoy this stellar stretch of weather.

See you soon.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Feels like Fall Now for sure.

Just thought I'd share my first foliage foto of the season with you. Perhaps I'll call it, 'Fire Underfoot'. Still a little early for us to be enveloped in the annual explosion of color that makes New England the best place in the world to live this time of year. Fear not for the peak line is slowly creeping its way southward. A few more days and nights like today, and it'll be game on for leaf peeping and photo shooting. Looking forward to it. Hope to have some interesting and colorful images to share over the next few weeks.

In other exciting local news, the back parking lot is getting a facelift...

Seems the past few torrential rainstorms have made it clear the softpack dirt floor of our back lot just wasn't cutting it. According to my landlord, they're not going the whole way and actually putting in an asphalt parking lot, but a 'hardpack' is on the way, which I suppose has to be better than the perpetual mudpit my truck spends most of its time in right now.

Ok, so parking lot excavating isn't the most exciting topic ever, but hey, it is Monday, and it's certainly less draining than most of the rest of today's news. Would you rather talk about the stock market?

Did you ever see the day when you'd rather read about excavating and parking lots than politics and stock tips?

Then again, you probably thought you were going to read about ice cream here anyway.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Mt. Tom's Inc. turns 5!

Five years, wow. Time truly does fly. It was October 2nd, 2003 that I officially took over ownership from Carl the baker of one 'Sunrise Sweeties' candy store on Cottage Street in Easthampton, Massachusetts. I was fresh back from two years of walkabout and various forms of R&R after an abrupt ending to my first career as a supply chain process engineer. I don't need to rehash the whole story of my career metamorphosis, since you've probably already heard it eighteen times. And if not, you can read all about it here

When I started this new gig, I told myself '5 years', then see where I'm at. Give it your all - your heart, sweat, and soul. Then at five years, if you're still having fun and making a few bucks, keep it going. If it isn't one, the other, or both, you can always go back to engineering. Or try a new field, like Reiki or radiology. I'm happy to report, Mt. Tom's is a success, I'm still having fun (maybe working a little too much), making a few bucks, and I've put myself in a position to make people happy on a daily basis. No need to change course. Full steam ahead, mate.
Sure, it'd be great if I could find the perfect part-timer to assist with the operations, but we're still hopeful there too.

They say 95% of business fail within five years, so I feel pretty good about this little mile marker on the side of my entrepreneurial road. I remember those early days like they were last week. Putting together the business plan and pitching it to moneyman Mark Grumoli at Florence Savings. Closing the deal with Carl, and getting the keys to the castle. Meeting my first employee 'Betty'. Being the boss of Betty and trying not to let her see how little I really knew about retail in those early days. Heck, I'd never even stood behind a cash register before. I was truly 'faking it until I was making it' as a candy store owner and operator. Exciting times through uncharted territory.
As for the ice cream part, point the spotlight at my Dad.

Just about everything I know about the fine art of making and peddling ice cream I learned from him (of course Mom helped too, especially with the cake-making and bookkeeping). It was that time period from October 2nd, 2003 to November 27th that Sunrise Sweeties was transformed into what you now know as Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream & Candy Store. Here's what the back room looked like back on October 2nd, '03, my first day in biz.

Enter my carpenter Uncle Jim, with sweat equity provided by Dad and me.

Before you could say 'health inspection', the new kitchen was born.
The first batch of homemade ice cream came out of the batch freezer the day after Thanksgiving in that year of 2003. I'd hoped to be up and running for Thanksgiving, close but no bubble gum cigar. I didn't want to change the name on the door until I was actually a homemade ice cream shop, so that first day of ice cream making also included scraping off the 'Sunrise Sweeties' logos from the front windows and replacing them with what you now see.
So why no 5 year anniversary party, giant sundae giveaway, press releases, fireworks displays, and giant sidewalk spotlights shooting into the sky?

The answer to that question is simple. Today is an important day for me in that it truly was the day I officially launched the ship into the great unknown. But it wasn't until November 28th, 2003 that Mt. Tom's was born. Not sure if I'll actually rent a giant spotlight, but I am definitely planning to commemorate it somehow. Details to follow, so let's stay in touch.

In the meantime, I'll just savor that five year mark since I started working for me.

As my buddy Mark aptly put it, my baby is now around kindergarden age. Plenty more growing to do, and I can't wait to see what she'll try next.

Thanks to Mark & Marissa Kosiba for the generous balloon display delivery. You guys are the best.