Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008: Some parting thoughts.

Sunset over the Nashwannuck (Dec. 28,2008)

Well, if the calendar on my fridge is telling the truth, it seems another year is about to be put to bed. Can you believe it? Is it me, or are the years accelerating? They all go fast, but this one flew like the wind. I hope 2008 has been your friend. And if not, that 2009 brings whatever 2008 left you wanting for, and then some.

I'm not really looking forward to this year's batch of 'highlights of 2008', 'top 10 lists' etc., because I fear they'll be full of the same doom and gloom we've been fed from the news on a daily basis all year. Personally, I believe things are only as bad as you decide them to be. Headlines and newscasts seem determined to remind us of all that's bad in the world. If you ask me, front page be darned, there's still a whole lot of good out there. It's all about what you decide to focus on. Let me get you started...

Gas prices topped $4.00 this year.
I paid $1.54 a gallon yesterday.

Housing prices dropped 18% in October.
More people can afford houses. They're buying only as much house as they need. Even I can afford a house now.

Foreclosures are way up.
Interest rates are at an all-time low of 4.5%

Retail sales 'plummeted' 4% this holiday season.
4%? Is 4% really a plummet?

Recent ice storm costs cities millions.
Neighbors and strangers came together to help each other get through days without power and heat.

The Patriots didn't make the playoffs.
11-5 without Tom Brady and many others. Their games were actually more fun to watch this year.

Red Sox didn't win the world series.
Yah, but how about that comeback game against Tampa Bay.

I think you get the idea.

On a lighter note, if you're not wandering around Northampton during First Night tomorrow, might I suggest popping down to Cottage Street just before midnight. Sure, it's hokey. Sure, it's over in 10 minutes. But like I always say, the ball drop from the wall of the Brass Cat is one of the coolest small town events of the year.

And if you happen to be warmed up and in your running gear, I invite you to join me and the gang for our annual 5K NYE midnight run. If the current weather report holds, it may be more of a frozen slide this year. It starts right after the ball drop outside the Cat, and here's the route. It may seem like a crazy thing to do at midnight on NYE, and it definitely is, but it really is a great way to start the new year. (Note: It's actually the 4th annual).

Speaking of New Years rituals, did you know?:

A Spanish New Year's Eve custom is to eat 12 grapes at midnight, one piece of fruit to bring good luck for each of the months ahead.

Eating noodles on NYE is a must for those of the Buddhist faith in Japan.

In Great Britain: a household's luck during the new year is said to be determined by the type of person who first steps foot across the threshold after the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve...

A dark-haired man is thought to be the ideal visitor for bestowing good luck. Unlike St. Nicholas, the early morning caller is particularly welcome if he leaves behind a lump of coal--or better yet, a coin--both considered tokens of prosperity.

To keep evil away, many in Japan observe the New Year by stretching straw rope across the fronts of their homes.

It Peru, it's custom to stand in a doorway and throw 12 coins over the left shoulder for each strike of the clock at midnight. This is believed to bring the person financial prosperity.

You may not have 12 grapes around or a dozen coins in your pocket at midnight, but I always thought this was a good one to end a year on...

During Tashlich, the Hebrew ritual for Rosh Hashanah (New Year), those of the Jewish faith throw bread into moving water as a symbol of releasing the previous years's transgressions. The bread feeds the fish and birds, so it is also a way to connect to all of God's creatures.

However you choose to usher out 2008 and greet 2009, I hope you enjoy, and that 2009 brings with it all you desire and a little bit more.

And if you're throwing bread into the pond tomorrow night, give us a cheer as my frozen friends and I jog by...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

4 Seasons in one Week.

Seems like only yesterday we were buried in snow, suffering with windchill factors below zero, and building snow lanterns while towns all around us frantically tried to restore power after being ravaged by one of the worst ice storms they'd ever seen.

Three days of rain, Christmas, and a balmy breeze from the south, today it's pushing 60, my outdoor chairs are on the sidewalk, and people are actually sitting in them and eating ice cream by the cone...

Gotta love New England. My brother in southern California never checks the weather because it's always sunny and 70. I'm tempted to stop checking the weather because five minutes after you check it, it's all different.

In any event, I hope you had a happy and relaxing holiday, Santa was good to you, and you're still enjoying an extended holiday break.

Speaking of breaks, we've got one coming up. Mt. Tom's will be closing up shop from Monday, January 5th thru Monday, January 26th, reopening Tuesday, January 27th. A much needed chance to chill, recharge the batteries, and reflect on another great year of making ice cream for y'all.

In the meantime, here are the hours between now and then...

Monday (Dec. 29th) 1-6pm

Tuesday 12-8pm (regular hrs)

Wednesday 12-6pm (New Years Eve)

Thursday - Closed (New Years Day)

Friday-Sunday Regular hrs (12-9pm)

Come on down for a stock-up, to break in that new Mt. Tom's Giftcard, or to just enjoy a tasty sundae during this nice little early winter thaw.

Thanks for making 2008 another tremendous year. I must say I'm looking forward to a break, but it's very much a good tired. The pleasure continues to be mine.

Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays to you and Yours.

May your holidays be awash with tidings of great joy.

And that new Ipod Touch you've been asking for.

Haven't caught sight of jolly Nick yet, but rumor has it, he's on his way... Santa Tracker

"Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence." ~ Joan Mills


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

There's still time...

To pick yourself up a tasty holiday dessert at your local scoop, gourmet chocolate, christmas stocking stuffer central shop.

The creation above... peppermint stick ice cream with a cookie crunch, topped with dark chocolate fudge...mmm...

We're open until 9pm tonight (tuesday) and 10-6pm Wednesday.

Hope all your holiday plans, shopping, and cooking prep are coming together nicely.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Lanterns.

The snow may have made your weekend travel plans a bit more challenging, and if you're a procrastinator like me, your back is against the wall with the holiday shopping. Seems people were out on Saturday, flurries be darned, but yesterday hunkering down won the day.

It's all good though, we get to enjoy a winter wonderland, albeit a bit wind chilly. The sun is shining, and it really is beautiful out there.

In the spirit of cool winter scenes, I thought I'd share a little scene from last night. Hopefully, to be repeated the next few nights or at least until a couple kids decide to have their way.

My good neighbors at the Nashwannuck Gallery, Marlies and her cousin, Leena, were having an equally slow day, and decided to bring a cool little Swedish tradition to our humble snowbanks.

Snow Lanterns and tiki torches.

Check it out... Better yet, swing by tonight...

Check out the secret melting techniques...

The great Macy's window-like holiday display in the Gallery window...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Storms into the Room.

It may not officially be here for a few more hours, but old man winter is definitely in the building. With another storm waiting in the wings, it seems winter means business this year. It wasn't great for biz, but it certainly was beautiful out there today though. A heavy snow last night, followed by a light snow all day today, Easthampton took on a ski village feel, twinkling trees and all. If that holiday spirit hasn't found you yet, I'd be surprised if the fresh blanket of white didn't do the trick.

And if you need one more kick to kick your holiday spirits into high gear (I should have been an ad man), how about a delicious dish of Festivus ice cream?...

Brown sugar and cinnamon with gingerbread pieces and a caramel swirl. Sounds a bit odd, but it's really good. We ran out this week, and I got phone calls asking when it would be back. So, I'm happy to report, it's back.

And in case you're in the dark on the whole Festivus thing, here's a primer, straight from the source...

Ben & Jerry's made it for a while, then retired it to their flavor graveyard. But fear not, it's alive and well here at your favorite local scoop shop.

Speaking of stocking stuffers, reindeer food anyone?

I realize the weather has made holiday shopping a bit of a challenge this week, so Mt. Tom's will be extending our hours a bit this week...

Holiday Week Schedule:

Monday: 1-6pm
Tuesday: 10-9pm
Wednesday: 10-6pm
Thursday: (Christmas) Closed
Friday - 3-9pm

See you soon, and if not, I hope you and yours have a wicked good holiday.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It appears the snow has arrived.

Not that this should come as any surprise to you, since this storm, as is usually the case with the first of the season, has been hyped all week. Hopefully, you're not still at your desk, or if you are, it's that desk in your home office. If not, best be on your way now. The roads already look pretty quiet, so I assume people have already hunkered down for the evening.

Enjoy, throw another log on the fire, and don't worry about that shoveling until tomorrow. Looking forward to a morning stroll with the trusty camera. Stay tuned for a few wintery shots.

In the meantime, here are a few from the week...

A field full of geese in Leeds (I realize they are difficult to see, but I thought the shot was interesting in all of its barrenness)...

From a little photoshoot by Dani from Dani Fine Photography, in Eastworks...

And a little tempter...these just in, homemade, handmade truffles from Carl's Bakery (Sunrise) next door...

Plenty more where that came from. Stay warm.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Serving-ice-cream dot com.

The folks at slick, new (at least new to me) ice cream website, http://www.serving-ice-cream.com/, recently wandered into my Ice Cream Diaries blog. After perusing it with interest (they are all about serving ice cream after all), they asked if I'd be interested in answering a few questions for a profile on their site. How could I say no. So here it is... MT.Toms on Serving-ice-cream.com

Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite local ice cream shop ;)...

The site seems geared toward anyone who enjoys ice cream, from shopkeep to ice cream customer to home kitchen ice cream maker. You can find links to buy all kinds of ice cream gear, read articles about all things ice cream (japanese ice cream anyone?), and gather recipes to use for your home ice cream maker (although I recommend you just come to Mt. Tom's ;). Check it out.
And if spending a little time there leaves you hankerin' for a sundae, I'm open until 8...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Icy Wonderland on the Mountain.

Well, it seems while we were enjoying a couple inches of rain Thursday night, the top of Mt. Tom was getting shellac'ed with ice. A couple of friends hiked up to Goat Peak last night to watch the simultaneous sunset, full moon rise from atop the Goat Peak fire tower. Even though it's become a monthly event, it seemed silly to attempt yesterday with the clouds and freezing cold wind whipping up a storm. Not to mention the fact that sunset is now around 4pm, and most of us had other plans. In any event, the few that made the trek were rewarded with an amazing and breathtaking icy wonderland. After seeing their photos, the rest of us were crazy jealous.
Especially me, photo-taking freak that I am.

So what do I do this morning? Of course I grab my cameras and hiking boots and make for Chapin Street and the trailhead to Goat Peak. With just an hour and a half to make the ascent, catch some shots, and safely return to open up shop by noon, I think I actually jogged a few of the flat spots. All I can say is, wow. The effort was more than worth the workout to get there.

Although the photos don't exactly do it justice, I still think they're pretty cool. I put them up on Flickr so you can get the full effect. Just click on the arrow to start the slideshow...

I even captured a little video. I shot another one from atop the fire tower, but wouldn't you know, my fingers were so frozen, it seems I didn't hold the button down long enough to make it work. Big darn on that one. Oh well, here's the next best (I like the sound of the wind blowing through the frozen branches)...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ice Storm? No thanks.

Well, it seems most of Massachusetts is frozen solid and in a state of emergency, but somehow we seemed to have dodged Mom Nature's first winter bullet. This image above is from somewhere in Worcester. Check out some of the other crazy shots from around N.E.

Just got a call from a woman in Hawley, Mass. (I guess it's somewhere near Ashfield.) She was supposed to pick up an ice cream cake yesterday. She said it's the worst she's seen in fifty years! Phew, that was close.

Instead of a huge sheet of ice, we got to wake up to a nice little Ansel Adams-ey scene...

We did get our share of rain. Seems the pond is all filled up again.

And there's whitewater on the spillway...

A few more for you...

Enjoy your weekend. And don't forget about this month's ArtWalk Easthampton. Here at Mt. Tom's, it'll be watercolor paintings from local artist, Joyce Yoffa. Stop by and check it out if you can.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Few Images for your Rainy Day.

From this past weekend, a small group of birthday party ice cream making assistants wait patiently for their batch to be ready for its eagerly anticipated taste testing...

Introducing the latest addition to the Mt. Tom's staff, Kyla...

Tis' the season... Just out today, Eggnog Ice Cream (Sorry, no rum in this batch)...

A couple more images from my stroll around the pond last weekend when I first noticed the banks getting longer (Note: It seems all this rain today has basically refilled the pond to its original level, hmm). The first one's not so remarkable, but...

I thought this one was pretty cool. Bits of snowfall captured during the last of their days...

And finally, a scene from Ice Cream Shop musical perhaps...

Enjoy your day.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mt. Tom's is now on Facebook!

Yep, it's true. I finally took the plunge into Facebook. Not quite sure how I feel about the whole experience yet, (my crew probably isn't quite sure how they feel about me being on it either),still testing the waters right now. I did want to mention, though, that I've now got a Mt. Tom's group set up (with the help of Bronwen Hodgkinson, ace web designer (see her handywork at http://www.mttoms.com/). Still trying to figure out how to make it a cool and useful place to go for all things Mt. Tom's. Feel free to check it out, and I hope you'll join. We've already got 76 members in just the first week!

I'm not sure if this link will work for you... Mt.Tom's Facebook group , but if not, I'm sure you Facebook pros can find it in about six seconds.

Thanks, and hope to see you there.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dredge Report - Issue 1

Well, from the looks of things, it seems the spillway valves have been opened to kick off the pond draining/dredging project. Walked by the pond today, and it was noticably lower. With temps heading toward the single numbers over the next few nights, it would make sense, since I would imagine water drains easier than solid ice.

Here's the spillway going under 1 Cottage Street. One would expect Lower Mill Pond will be rising soon... Didn't see any trout making the dash for fuller ponds, but hopefully as the water gets lower in the Nashwannuck, they'll take the hint to get out of dodge.

The drop isn't that noticable here, but I think tomorrow may be a different story...

Ice Cream Diaries, your source for everything dredge.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mt. Tom's Enchanted Village - Year 2.

If you've been hanging around this blog for a while, you might remember a post around this time last year about the holiday window display I started. It humbly consisted of two little buildings and an ice cream truck with headlights that lit up.

Well, three or four after-Christmas clearances and one pre-Christmas sale later, the Mt. Tom's enchanted village has expanded signficantly. I didn't really have a master plan or a smart growth strategy in my head as I accumulated all the new buildings and figures. I just went to stores like Michael's and A.C. Moore, looked at their displays, and said 'Sure, a taco stand would be great in my little holiday town!' Or 'Every mini-town needs a mobile cotton candy wagon.' Throw in a little artificial snow, pop in a few batteries and Voila!...

You should be able to click on the images for a closer look...

If you look to the sky, you might even see a mini Santa and his reindeer crew...
Next time you're bored in traffic on Cottage Street, maybe you can glance over and take a look. Better yet, you're welcome to stop in for a visit anytime.

Or at least twelve to eight, Tuesday thru Sunday.

Don't forget about the holiday stroll and Christmas Tree lighting festivities. Friday, December 5th, 7pm. Starts at Maple School.

And it's also Open Studios weekend. Check out all the amazing artists and artisans in town. Friday 12-5, Saturday 10-5, Sunday 12-5. Most of the studios in the 1 Cottage Street Mill (home of Riverside Industries) are only open 2 weekends all year. This is their biggest event all year. Not to be missed.