Monday, September 29, 2008

Market Whoa! & a Blog with Better Headlines.

I just thought the sight of a Deer Trax ice cream pie might offer just a few seconds of relief from the pit in your stomach you might be feeling from the stock market dive today. Ok, so perhaps you have to work a few more years before retirement than you anticipated. Or maybe you have the smartest investment advisor in the universe, and you shorted everything you could think of, and now you can retire by wednesday. I'm just hoping the market will behave somewhat like it did last week, continue its rollercoaster ride as the news oscillates between bad and good on a daily basis, but ultimately lands not so far from where it all started to go bad. If what you read in the news is even half true, however, things seem pretty dire, and alas, it may not be so simple.

My advisor tells me to 'stay the course', and if you believe common wisdom that suggests you're supposed to view the market as a long term thing, that short-term stock market timing is basically gambling, he's probably right.

Much easier said.

Enough said. Things will shake out the way they must. Greed and uncontrolled markets will get their due, lessons will be learned (hopefully), corrections made, and we can all get back to worrying about things that matter, like the Sox' playoff pitching rotation, what's up with Heather Locklear, and gosh I hope the new Mexican place next door can make a good burrito.

Moving to more cheerful topics, I've been meaning to start an intermittent series of blog entries about some of the blogs I read on a regular basis. I have a computer sitting on a table just a few feet from my ice cream making operation, which often helps me pass the fifteen minutes 'cooking time' in the batch freezer. If I'm not setting up the next batch of ice cream, you might find me surfing around, checking email, keeping up on all that's news, lurking around in the ice cream forums, or just reading the latest blog entries on my short list of 'regular reads'.

To get things rolling, I thought I'd start with one of the 'happy' regular reads - Truthteller. It's written by a guy named Eduardo who lives somewhere in Canada. I've never met him. I don't even remember how I stumbled upon his blog. Perhaps while I was Googling 'NLP', 'quantum physics', 'The Secret' or some such. In any event, I find his blog refreshing (especially after a miserable news day such as today), and upbeat. It's updated pretty much daily, and it's all about life and the simple pursuit of happiness.

It's a little over the top in spots, but I have to respect a guy who spends a portion of most of his days reading and writing about all topics relevent to helping people find ways to enjoy their life more.

Today's topic...

"what you think about most is what you attract into your life" (read it here)

Another recent headline.. 7 Steps to Happy

Or How to Make your Dreams come true

Definitely more cheerful than today's regular headlines...Dow posts record drop, Housing Market Bubble Bursts, Rare Hurricane Hits Canada...

More blog links to follow, but in the meantime, stay positive, enjoy the early days of the Fall foliage, and not to get too 'Eduardo on you ', remember that negative news sells papers, and happiness is a state of mind, so try not to let the doom get you down. Life is just too short.

That's my pep talk for the day. Hope you enjoyed it.

See you soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rainy Day Projects & Chocolate Redemption.

Well, I'm sure you don't need my front window to look out your front window to see how raw, rainy, and nasty it is out there today. Perfect ice cream sundae weather if you ask me. But I suppose I'm a bit biased. In any event, I hope you're enjoying this fine little Nor'easter. Before you know it, Nor'easter will take on a whole new meaning...

So what's to do in a lonely ice cream shop on a rainy day in late September you wonder? There's no shortage of projects for me. Restock. Reorder. Organize basement. Pay bills. Then there are more interesting projects... Sort thru candy catalogs for ideas. Make some new JimArt cards. Blog.

Or dig out the Halloween decorations from the basement. Good idea. I'll have to get back to you with a shot or two of this year's display of gouliness, so for now let me just distract you with a few confectionary delights of the season...

Candy Bats...

Candy pumpkins...

And my favorite, the pooping tricky kitty...

Many more on the way...

Turning to hopefully more interesting topics, I wanted to share a link to a great new local blogger's blog....

Adventures in the Pioneer Valley: Watch Out Herrell's - Here Comes Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream!

In her blog 'Adventures in the Pioneer Valley', Valleywriter talks about her first visit to Mt. Tom's this week. It's a great little review. Made my day. And gave me a small feeling of redemption on my chocolate ice cream after the review in this summer's Hampshire Gazette piece that called my chocolate 'not the chocolatiest they'd ever tasted'. When I read that review, my defensive side stuck to its guns that they wouldn't know a good, classic homemade chocolate ice cream if it melted into their lap. But a part of me said, ok, so you (and perhaps a few others) want a really dark, strong, knock your socks off chocolate, I'll give you one! So I did some homework, tinkered in my kitchen, and came out with my very own 'double-dark chocolate'. I'm sure you've read my rants on this topic. So when I read Valleywriter's review of the new chocolate...

"Mr. valleywriter's chocolate fudge brownie was also rich, creamy and more chocolately than any other ice cream I've ever tried."

That made me happy. The pumpkin pie ice cream was a hit with them too...

"My pumpkin pie ice cream was super rich and creamy with just the right amount of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and allspice to evoke many a wonderful Thanksgiving memory. Actually, it tasted a lot like my favorite pumpkin cheesecake recipe (stayed tuned for that later this week). To boot - the pumpkin pie ice cream even had soft little chunks of pie crust sprinkled throughout! "

Thanks to Valleywriter for the kind words (and for the future Valley Advocate Best of vote!).

And one final word on the chocolate ice cream topic, and I promise not to rant about it any more. I invited my friend Trace back to the shop to try my newest 'chocolate experiment #1' and to offer up a quote to describe the experience. If only it had been Trace who wrote that Gazette article this past July. Here's what he had to say about the new DD chocolate vs. the original Mt. Tom's recipe...

'The new dark chocolate is flamboyant, colorful, bold, and satisfying...but the 'classic' is the subtle, nerdy, intriguing wall-flower that I fall for every time.'

Who would have thought ice cream could be so picturesque.

I hope you and your basement stay dry.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A (half) Day at the Big E.

What was anticipated to be a typical Monday morning filled with typical things like coffee, a run, ride or gym workout, and a trip to Big E's for bananas and other ice cream shop sundries, turned out to be a completely spontaneous trip to the 'real' Big E, the Eastern States Exposition. If you're a western Mass'er, I'm sure you've at least heard of the biggest fair this side of the Mississippi (I'm guessing). Chances are, you've walked through the state buildings, checked out the 4H contests involving prize sheep, cows, and other fun farm animals, and perhaps even ridden a ride or two on the midway.

If you've been reading the ICD for a while, you might remember last year's Big E adventure. Bre introduced me to what the Big E really is all about. Food. Bad for you food. And plenty of it.

Well, today's morning jaunt with Bre to the E was no exception. It all started with a giant baked baked potato from the good state of Maine. Loaded like the last guy out of the Brass Cat on a Tuesday night. Breakfast of Champs indeed.

Course two immediately followed, just next door in the Vermont building. Homemade apple pie. Ala mode, of course. The Vermont cheddar cheese option is also darn good, but in the spirit of my livelihood, I opted for the homemade vanilla ice cream as the topper.

Don't mind my pasty white skin. No hiding how much I worked this summer. Not to mention it was freezing at the fair, my hoodie offering no assistance as it sat safely tucked away in the car.

The third 'must stop' food stop involves maple cotton candy in the New Hampshire building. Mmm. Almost makes me want to add a cotton candy maker to the shop's arsenal.

Ok, I'm full now. Time to check out the non-food faire at the fair.

New this year, sea lions. Cool.

I felt like one of these after our feast in the foodway.

Runts rule.

Like working in a tollbooth I suppose but without the fumes. And lemonier.

Perhaps a more tender scene from a Cormac McCarthy novel, steers in love...

Oxen pull competition in the coliseum building, cool stuff. Makes me glad to not be a pulling horse though. I can think of easier ways to earn your hay, even if you mostly work in ten second bursts.
Don't worry, I wasn't this close to the llama in the petting zoo. Zoomed and cropped and nobody got hurt.
baaah.I knew there had to be something sculpted out of butter at this year's fair. Sure enough. A little tough to see with the refection, but I suppose some might say it adds an artistic touch to the image. But then again, it is just a giant cow made of butter, sitting in a refrigerated case.

Well, there you have it, a few highlights from this year's Big E visit. It's open until the 28th, so gather up your family or friends and check it out. Good fun. You may need to eat salads for the next week to recover your insides from the 'not so good for you but still good' food, but a lot of fun to be had.

And so with that last thought, I leave you with a hearty plateful of cheese curds. They may not sound like heaven in a basket, but I must admit they are to die for (ironic), and if they don't completely put you over the edge will be the thing you look forward to most between now and next year's fair.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Where's Mt. Tom?

Biked by the Pond this morning on the way to the Festival and couldn't help but notice something was missing...

No Photoshop tricks here folks.

Fear not, once the low 40's became low 60's, the fog lifted, and Mt. Tom returned to its usual chill spot.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chocolate, mmm.

Been trying my hand, er eye, at food photography this week. Thought you might enjoy a few shots of the latest additions to the gourmet chocolate cabinet. Above and to the left of the image are 'half-dipped maples' - maple candy dipped in dark chocolate. Above and to the right, milk chocolate toffee, think Heath Bar but with better chocolate.

And below, back in the fold after its summer hiatus, the cashew turtles...

You know you want some.

Enjoy your weekend, and if you're looking for something to do tomorrow (sat.), check out the annual Fall Festival at the high school... here and here for the schedule of events & hours.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

3rd Time's the Charm? Here's Hoping...

...for the killer, 'authentic' burito. They've got some bad restaurant karma to overcome, but all will be well with the world if they can just give Cottage Street and Easthampton a good place for good Mexican. At least the name is better than the last one, and it's pretty safe to say there won't be any Johnny Depp posters on the wall.

Welcome to the neighborhood, La Casita Azteca, and we look forward to your opening up shop.

I'll be sure to pass along a grand opening date when I hear one.

Gracias por la lectura.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zen Ice Cream.

Not sure how I feel about this one yet, but it's intriguing and somewhat intoxicating nonetheless. It's cool, but a bit like a nightmare I might have involving thunderstorms and power failures. The music is soothing though. But I have a feeling it'll be what plays in my head the next time I'm running power chords to my gas generator...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thoughts on Chocolates?

As we roll along through September and into Fall, I begin to lean on other parts of the shop to start pulling their weight (translation: help pay my bills through the long, cold off-season). First up, gourmet chocolates. If you haven't let your eyes wander past the expanse of ice cream tubs in the dippers, perhaps you've never even noticed the chocolate cabinet that looms at the end of the row. There's some great stuff in there...gourmet truffles, chocolate-dipped M&M pretzels, buttercreams, maple creams, sugar-free and regular cordial cherries, to name just a few.

As I like to say, 'they're homemade, just not in my home'. Simply not enough hours left in the day after making ice cream, although I'm definitely intrigued to try my hand at chocolatiering someday. Even bought a 'Candymaking for Dummies' book, so who knows.

In any event, the chocolates are from a couple of respected and renowned providers and are delicious. Not to sound too salesy, but they do make great gifts (a white box and silk ribbon is free for the asking).

So is this just a shameless blog commercial or what?

Actually, I'm looking for your help. As we roll into prime chocolate season, I'm gathering suggestions to help spice up the chocolate counter. As you can see above, it's not a giant display cabinet, so I have to be strategic in my offerings, making it even more important I fill it with what y'all want.

So all you chocolate lovers, let's hear it. Drop a suggestion or three into a blog comment below, or feel free to drop me a line via the Mt. Tom's site (click here)

FYI... Cashew Turtles, Almond Bark, and other things nutty are back this week too!

In the spirit of 'continuous improvement', to quote an old corporate cliche, I thank you in advance.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Gina Lucido

Now that you're home from all your summer weekend adventures, and the kiddos are back in school, it's the perfect weekend to get back into the ArtWalkEasthampton thing. It's 5-8pm tomorrow night (Saturday). There's lots to do - here's the printable map

And while you're out art-strolling, be sure to drop into Mt. Tom's and check out a photo show by Gina Lucido. We might even put out some free chocolates and java...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Feels like Fall. Tastes like Fall.

There's a nip in the air.

The weatherbug is calling for a chance of our first frost tonight. Can't say for sure if that'll happen. What I can say for sure, though, is we'll be scooping the first batch of pumpkin pie ice cream tomorrow (Thursday). People have started asking for it. The calendar says it's September. And sales of Orange-Pineapple, Watermelon Sherbet, and Peach are waning. If that and my weariness are good signs, it's definitely time to start bringing in the Fall flavors!

So here we go. Pumpkin Pie ice cream is on! Straight thru until the end of December. If you've been missin' it through all these watermelon sherbet months, why don't you fire up your scooter and buzz on down.

Remember, we close at 9pm now (9:30pm on weekend nights) for September. After Columbus Day weekend, we shorten the hours a little more, but we won't worry about that now.

See you soon.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I know it's just a game, but darn it!

A collective sigh can be heard throughout New England today as Pats fans' worst fears have been confirmed via an MRI of Tom Brady's knee. Compared to wars and famines and hurricanes, I suppose losing our MVP quarterback for the season isn't literally the end of the world, but it certainly puts a damper on Fall football watching here in the northeastern states. I think most of us during the preseason, even for just a brief minute, contemplated a Patriots season without Tom at the healm, as he nursed a bad ankle for all the summer dress rehearsals, but with so much good karma shining on New England sports teams these past few years, it just didn't seem possible.

So it goes, albeit a knee not an ankle.

Enter Matt Cassel, a guy who hasn't started a game since high school. He was backup at USC and has been backup to Tom since 2005. So just like that, he's the man of the hour, just as Tom Brady was when Drew Bledsoe (remember him?) went down back in the old days before the Patriots won super bowls. It's hard to say how things will go from here, but he did ok this past sunday against Kansas City as he led the Pats to their first win of the season. I"m sure the Pats are calling around to see who might be employable to jump in if Matt doesn't get it done, but for now, he's finally a starting quarterback.

Here's what he had to say after the game...

"There is a number of times when I've been thinking, 'What the heck am I doing here?' " Cassel said. "It's been a long wait. But it comes down to just perseverance. You continue to push and you continue to work hard and you eventually believe that time is going to come. Yesterday was a great illustration of you keep preparing, you keep working hard because you never know when that opportunity is going to come. I woke up yesterday morning thinking, 'Oh gosh, I hope I get in late in the game. I hope we're beating them by a lot of points,' to be completely honest. Little did I know I'd be in there in the first quarter and I'd have to go down and score some points and lead the team."

Keep on working hard because you never know when that opportunity is going to come.

Gosh, you have to admire that attitude from a guy who's played backup for the past seven years.

Time will tell whether Matt becomes the next Tom or leads his team to a few losses and himself back to backup status, but all we can do is hope for the best and see what he and his boss Bill can do to keep up their winning ways.

In the meantime, here are some new shots from the Mountain View farm to calm your nerves...

Hope that made you feel better, at least for a few seconds.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dark Chocolate Experiment #1.

If you've been hanging around my blog for a while, you might remember a rant I wrote a while back about chocolate ice cream. Dad taught me to make mine from scratch in a big stainless double-boiler, cauldron in my ice cream kitchen laboratory.
It's the classic way, is a lot of work, and can get downright messy. You'd know what I mean if you saw one of my cocoa-covered scoopers after loading up a new batch. One of the nice benefits of this method, though, is a shop that smells like a slice of aromatic heaven in the form of a chocolate factory in full operation. What results is a distinctive but not overpowering chocolate, to quote again my friend Trace,
"There is something inscrutable and "wine-y" about it, like a complex Sumatran coffee versus an espresso roast. "

Still, I get the occasional, 'can you make something 'chocolatey'er'.

Enter chocolate ice cream potion #1 and #2. You can tell right away something's different. It just looks more chocolatey.

I made a couple batches of the 'double dark' (1) and a couple 'just dark' (2). If you've been in the shop during the past week, you might have seen them on the board. The double dark is Dark Chocolate Experiment #1 and #2 is the regular dark. Still in the chocolate tubs, albeit a bit nervous, is the chocolate 'classic'.

Both #1 and #2 have been getting strong reviews. Each has a similar chocolate taste and texture, but the double dark's chocolate kick definitely lingers longer. Not yet convinced to ditch the classic approach, but I'm pretty sure I've found a great dark chocolate recipe to add to the repertoire. I invite all you chocolate lovers to stop by and give them a try.

Thanks in advance, and I look forward to your feedback.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Easthampton Laundromat Gallery.

Speaking of art in unlikely places, starting today Easthampton artist San Huxley opens a show she calls, 'Sometimes Art Can Be Useful (aka when I do laundry, I am a star.). The show consists, appropriately enough, of intriguing images in the form of self-portraits shot inside, you guessed it, the Easthampton Laundromat, as well as another local l-mat, The Lost Sock.

In case you can't wait until your next laundry run, or if perhaps you're lucky enough to have your own personal washer & dryer, here's a peak...

As you can see, the Easthampton Laundromat isn't the most exciting place on earth, so I think it's actually pretty cool that she not only had the creative insight to set up a shoot in such a familiar yet typically unremarkable setting, but that she also decided to hang the show there too. All I can think of is, why didn't I think of that? And where can my camera and I wander to for my own version of 'Useful Art'. Hmmm.

Dirty laundry or not, check it out at 66 Cottage Street, just up the street from your favorite ice cream parlor.