Sunday, May 31, 2009

Springtime In Easthampton.

Hope you got to enjoy some of this fine spring weather this weekend. Went out for a little spin on Saturday morning before opening up shop. Thought I'd share a few shots from my handy Pentax.

First, but not least, one of the always impressive blue heron, catching brunch in the 'green pond' (click on photo to get the full effect)...

A couple families of Canadian geese enjoying the day...

Tadpoles, lots of tadpoles. Down at the 'town beach'...

A perfect morning for a graduation. Congrats to the Williston Northampton School Class of 2009...

One more of the pond, back to life once again...

Hope you had a great weekend. See you soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Talking about Ice Cream.

It is called the Ice Cream Diaries, after all, so sometimes I really do talk about ice cream. After spending the bulk of the past six days in the weeds, thanks to a stellar long weekend of weather perfection, today has brought things right back down to Earth. A light drizzle and a brisk 53 degrees is no kind of May weather, even for we New Englanders. But, like I mentioned, if the weather is going to go north, happy to see it happen midweek and not mid-long weekend. Like most things in life, I think it all evens out over time anyway.

So with the lull in the action today, I took the opportunity to make up a few flavors that have been swirling around in my head for a while. The first, Mimosa sorbet...

In case you've never enjoyed this fine breakfast treat, a mimosa is champagne with orange juice.

And for those that prefer a more hoppy adult beverage, I also got a chance to make another beer flavor today. It's not exactly the Guiness beer ice cream you may have tried here around St. Paddy's day and a couple other times a year, but it's close.

It seems an inspiration for a new flavor can strike at just about any time and any place. As might seem obvious in about three sentences, this flavor began brewing in my head while I was across the street at my favorite local pub, The Brass Cat. They have a little 'contest' going right now that involves checking off a number of different fine (and not so fine) beverages, most of which are in the genus and species of beer. You've got months to finish 'your list', and from what I've seen it's been great for Mike the owner's biz.

Kudos for creativity during these 'challenging times'.

In any event, the beer that came up on my list on this particular night was a chocolate stout. It was a treat, dessert in a mug. About three sips into it, I was certain my next batch of stout beer ice cream would be a chocolate one. And I was right.

Both will be out for sampling and indulging this weekend. I hope you can swing by. And if you're not over 21, or just don't like the idea of mixing happy hour with dessert, perhaps the latest cake batter offspring might tempt you. Last week it was cookies n' cake batter, then birthday cake batter (with marshmallow swirl), and up right now it's cake batter sundae.

Cake batter ice cream with marshmallow swirl, fudge swirl, and rainbow sprinkles (as seen above). Have to credit ace scooper extraordinaire, Lauren, for this one.

Of course, there are 52 other flavors to choose from too...

And, as always, don't hesitate to suggest one of your own.

See you soon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Easthampton becoming the next Easthampton.

An interesting read in this week's Valley Advocate...

Jean-Pierre Pasche, owner of Easthampton's Eastmont Custom Framing, in his monthly arts newsletter about all things Easthampton arts, addressed in April a notion that keeps bubbling to the surface in the burg next to Noho/Hamp: Does Easthampton have the potential to become the next Northampton? It's shorthand for the real question: will Easthampton become a mecca for arts, music and "culture"? Read on...

My favorite quote from the piece, from JP Paschue, "Easthampton is having a great time becoming the next Easthampton instead of Northampton."

...If Easthamptonites tread carefully, the place could become a viable, unique destination in the Valley's seemingly unstoppable artistic spread. And, just as Pasche claims, the more its identity is its own, the better. The Valley doesn't need Eho—it needs a vital Easthampton that incorporates old character and new energy.

And with Open Studios coming in a few weekends, and the much anticipated Bear Fest public art extravaganza right on its, dare I say, paws, Easthampton is getting set to show off what a cool mecca for arts, music, and culture it's already become. And you can still buy a tombstone downtown.

What more could you ask for in a small New England town?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Memorial Day Weekend to You.

Hope you've been enjoying this fine Memorial Day weekend weather. The weather people warned us of rain pretty much all weekend, but not a drop to be seen in this part of town. Which has made for a great weekend of ice creaming. As I like to say around mid-July, I'm a bit tired, but it's a good tired.

In any event, thanks for coming by for a fresh cone of lavender or M&M pretzel or your usual mint chocolate chip.

With a brief break in the action, I got to thinking about what to blog about besides the 'cool in a small town kindof way' Memorial Day parade here in Easthampton, and after a crazy couple of days at the batch freezer, blogger's block set in almost instantly.

So I walked out to the pond in the backyard, stared at the new American flag, just hung by Mayor Mike & a wingman, and thought about Memorial Day.

I didn't get much further than wondering to myself, so why is there a Memorial Day and a Veteran's Day anyway? And what's the difference? I was pretty sure I could guess the answer, but I had to make sure. So in case you were wondering, here's the answer (from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs site)...

Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty. A complete history of Veterans Day, and why it is observed on November 11, can be found on the Veterans Day History Web page.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and feel free to stop by. We'll be here regular hours (noon 'til 9:30).

Feel free to bring an extra burger from the grill...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bear Fest Ice Cream

As you've hopefully heard by now, Easthampton is soon to be visited by 35 bears. The bears you see above are the 'canvases'. Local artists were chosen from among over 130 proposals, ranging from astronaut bear to Patty O'bear, and many themes in between. Artists are hard at work on their bears, getting them ready for the big 'unveiling' party on June 13th. The big bears will find homes in high visibility spots throughout town. Smaller, tabletop bears are also being prepared by local school children and Riverside Industries folks. These bears will be placed inside local businesses. Mt. Tom's will proudly host a bear, as will many other local businesses.

As you can see at the Bear Fest website, the Easthampton City Arts team have worked tirelessly not only to raise the funds to bring the bears to town, but to also plan some great events to celebrate this summerlong public display of art.

I, for one, think Bear Fest is going to great for the city. Once word gets out how cool these bears are, people will come from miles around to check 'em out.

In addition to parties and concerts and artwalks, Opa Opa Brewing Company is creating a Bear Fest brew. They will be 'unveiling' that at a benefit party on June 3rd.

And here at Mt. Tom's, we've got an ice cream flavor contest going right now. I'm letting the kids invent the flavor for a Bear Fest flavor! All kids 10 and under got entry forms at school. Entry forms are also available here at the shop. We've asked them to come up with the ingredients and the name. The winner gets a free cone a week for the entire summer and a $25 giftcard! 2nd and 3rd get giftcards too. The contest runs until May 31st. Winners will be notified by the 5th. And the first batch will be made shortly after that, with the winner helping out and getting the first 'taste'. We've already received a bunch of entries, and definitely some keepers in the stack...

The new Bear Fest flavor will be served at the 'unveiling party' on June 13th at 2pm. That will be held at the public parking lot on Cottage Street. Hope to see you there.

I'll be posting the winning flavor here on June 5th.

Stay cool and tuned...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

JJ Dushane Memorial Basketball Courts.

As promised, a few shots of the finished product. Pretty sweet. Congrats again to the entire team for making it happen. I understand, in addition to costing significantly more than the $72K estimate, the JJ Dushane Memorial Fund will continue on, with scholarships and other great causes in JJ's name. So I hope you will continue to support this inspiring effort.

I think it's safe to say these courts will get plenty of use...
Speaking of fundraising, here's one coming up:

BRUCE JACQUES is coming this Friday May 22nd to put on a show and play some music.Check him out at What a fun night it will be, come join us for the antics and dancing at the Pulaski Club Hall on Maple St in Easthampton MA. 7pm till midnight.
Tickets available at the door.($20)

Proceeds to Benefit The JJ Dushane Memorial FundSponsored by Florence Savings Bank

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Dad sighting on Ebay!

Those who have been following the ice cream diaries from the beginning, way back when it came in the form of an emailed journal entry, will remember my Dad, my ice cream mentor, and all around good guy was one of the original premium ice cream makers, a founding father, if you will. His ice cream flavor inventing days came years before those guys Ben and Jerry were even thinking about turning that old gas station into a homemade ice cream joint. My Dad worked for Howard Johnson's, you know that place whose name was synonymous with the Mass Turnpike back in their day.
I remember our home freezer when i was a kid was always full of Dad's 'mistakes' from his lab at the Hojo's factory in Brockton, Mass. Peppermint stick that was just a little too pink. Cookie dough with too many chips and not enough dough. Of course, being a kid, there's no such thing as bad ice cream or bad pizza. I have great memories of going to Dad's lab on a Saturday morning when he had something to check on. He was also the quality control guy for the factory, so he was probably going in to check bacteria counts on something, but again I was just a kid and I was going to a giant ice cream factory. And I remember his lab being full of all the great stuff that went into ice cream. Giant boxes of chocolate chips. M&M's. 5 gallon pails of chocolate. Paradise for an eight year old.

I particularly remember the paper hats he made us wear when we had factory tours with our Cub Scout den and such. In fact, when I started doing lessons and tours at my shop twenty-five years later, that's the first thing I got...

Of course, back then I wanted to be an astronaut not an ice cream guy. Little did I know this is where I would end up. Turns out, I am the acorn that fell near the tree. Sure, I did get the engineering college degrees and went the traditional big company, cubicle route enroute. And that was great too, in different ways (weekends off were nice, in hindsight). My Dad went the traditional big company route too before he jettisoned himself off the ship to start his own gigs, first 'The Ice Creamery' in Randolph, Mass. Then later 'Dave's World of Ice Cream' in Foxboro, Mass. He and Mom are happily retired now and completely content to play the visiting grandparents role to my little place, Mt. Tom's. Dad gets to pop in during the summer, have some free ice cream, and rummage around my ice cream kitchen just like I used to when I was a kid. There's something kindof cool about that.

Speaking of cool, one of my customers is an avid EBay'er and Howard Johnson's paraphernalia collector (of all things). He was poking around Ebay the other day and came across a bunch of Hojo listings of old company magazines. And wouldn't you know, he found this, and recognized the name. Sure enough, my Dad, hard at work back in the old Hojo days, circa 1981...

Hojo's is an interesting rags to riches to rags story. They were ahead of their time in many ways (premium ice cream, cool flavors, Ground Round) but somehow ended up getting left in the dust. All that remains are a few hotels, a row or two of mac n' cheese boxes in the grocery store freezer, and a bunch of vintage collectables on ebay. Perhaps I'll write more on that topic, although I'm sure many an MBA school business case study has already been written.

Just before they were sold and never to be heard from again, I seem to remember their prices going through the roof while at the same time their quality and cleanliness sinking into the basement. Tough to survive with those strikes against you, even if you do 'own' the Mass. Pike.

If you are curious, here are a few interesting links, mostly grabbed from the wink. site...

Well, must go make some ice cream now, just like Dad taught me. Stop by for some. There's plenty to go around.

Enjoy your weekend.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tiny Valley - The Show.

Probably should have posted about this before the actual opening reception during this past weekend's ArtWalk, but I didn't want to bump the JJ Dushane entry before that event. The good news is this past weekend's ArtWalk was a big success, crazy downpours be darned, and Chris Evans' show here at Mt. Tom's was great. And more good news, Chris' show will be here right through until the next ArtWalk on June 13th. The show is called 'Tiny Valley', and it's a very cool collection of Chris' favorite images of scale-model-like scenes from the Pioneer Valley. He used a technique called 'tilt shift', which allows you to focus sharply on a specific aspect of an image while blurring the rest. You get a bit of an idea from the image above, but the best way is to come down and see the images on the wall in full 16x20 living color.

When you look at them, you really do think they're models, but they're not.

Laura Merwin graciously covered the event at one of my favorite blogs, Bay Road Photo over at Patrick Brough even got a shot of Chris and I being interviewed by videographer Jon Persson,as part of a documentary being put together in conjunction with Easthampton City Arts, the upcoming Bear Fest, and local cable access channel 5.

If you weren't able to do the ArtWalk thing this past weekend, I hope you can still stop by and check out Chris's show. Ice cream and gummy fried eggs are optional.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

JJ Dushane Memorial Basketball Courts.

After many months of tireless hard work and fearless fundraising, the friends and family of JJ Dushane are proud to announce the dedication of the new and amazing JJ Dushane Memorial basketball courts. From their website...

The JJ Dushane Memorial fund was established to honor our son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend who tragically lost his life this past January. JJ was a beautiful and caring young man who touched the lives of many as attested by the more than 1,400 people who paid their last respects to him. He played and excelled in local sports as a youngster all the way through his varsity career at Easthampton High School. Although he excelled at soccer, baseball and football (his blocked punt which resulted in a touchdown sealed the win for Easthampton's first Super Bowl victory in 2005), his passion was basketball. He believed in mentoring younger players and young children. He always knew how to “Lighten Up” people, how to make them laugh and how to enjoy life no matter what the situation was.

The family and friends of JJ Dushane are trying to raise money to build a memorial in his name and to create an atmosphere where the community, especially the kids, can gather and play basketball. JJ spent a lot of his time playing basketball there and we know in our hearts he would want us to complete this project. We have the support of our City Officials, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Easthampton Basketball Association, Easthampton High School Athletics and of course our Family and Friends.

The ‘opening’ ceremony will happen this coming Sunday at 1:30, right at the site of the new courts. In case you haven't been following this touching tribute to JJ, the new courts can be found right at the entrance to Nonotuck Park right here in Easthampton.

Here are a few construction shots of the courts. The group was able to raise the over $72,000 needed to get the courts built. Fundraising came in all forms - from raffles to car washes to poker and golf tournaments to trivia nights. An impressive feat and just goes to show if you put your mind to something, there's nothing you can't accomplish, bad economy be darned.

Obviously, nothing can erase the unimaginable pain of losing a son, but I think his family can find a bit of solace in the heartfelt support they’ve received from Easthampton's fine folks. A great story, and I'm sure those courts will be enjoyed and appreciated by generations to come.

I hope you can stop by the new courts on Sunday at 1:30 to show your support and admiration to JJ’s family and friends. Rumor has it, they’ll be cake and (Mt. Tom’s) ice cream for all…

In case you’re out with Mom or otherwise booked on Sunday, I’ll try to get some shots of the new courts and post ‘em up next week.

Congrats to the JJ Dushane team for providing such a great gift to the city of Easthampton.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Ah Choo Choo. Gazundheit.

Fellow Easthampton'ers will recognize this somewhat scary shop facade from good old Cottage Street. It's the strange pawn shop-looking place sandwiched between the church and Rene's TV repair shop. I can't tell you how many times people have come into Mt. Tom's and asked, 'Is that Choo Choo place ever open?' My usual reply is, 'not that I know of'. I've always assumed it was serving as someone's downtown storage unit, just with big windows and a tacky sign. I must admit, though, there are some interesting collectables sitting just behind those giant aquarium windows. So I suppose I can understand one's desire to 'gain entry' when that life-sized lighted opaque Mickey Mouse they've always wanted waves at them tauntingly as they walk by, enroute to their next sundae.

So how surprised, intrigued, and morbidly curious was I when, as I set up the sidewalk chairs this morning, I noticed the door to Ah Choo Choo standing magically and majestically open for all to enter. I knew I had to go inside. Anxiously, I waited for my scooper to arrive so I could pass over that threshold that so many have longed to cross, yet so few granted the opportunity.

In case you didn't notice the activity outside the 'Choo' today or catch a glimse of the 'tag sale' sandwich board (got a permit for that? good thing it's sunday...), I'm going to give you a quick glimpse into the promised land, that peak at the little wizard of Oz behind the forboding curtain. Welcome to the world of Choo Choo...

I was trying to be all stealthy and clandestine on this first shot, hence the angled shot of mostly ceiling. I gained confidence going into this next one...

The world as seen from inside the ACC...

You're probably wondering, well, did you buy anything? I was tempted by the giant Mickey, but that was heartlessly snatched from my grasp by another patron just as I was wandering over to it. I was really tempted by the Habitrail shaped like a steam engine, but nixed that idea when I remembered I haven't owned a hamster since I was 6. Blue lava light, already have one. Wait a minute, what's this? Could it be? Sure enough. But five bucks is too much, hmm. I glance over to the sign on the wall, 'make us an offer'. I pick it up and casually wander over to the counter, being purposely cautious soas to not draw unnecessary attention to my potential purchase.

'Will you take 3 bucks for this?'

The man at the counter says, 'Will you be hanging it in your shop? (my Mt. Tom's T-shirt and apron give me away every time). I reply, 'ahh, probably not.'

He took my 3 bucks anyway.

As you may or may not remember, I have a bit of a running gag gift thing going with some family members, and it happens to involve the cow theme. Who's to be the lucky winner this year, hmm...

Now how much do you wish you were on my Christmas shopping list?

Not sure how long the big Ah Choo Choo tag sale extravaganze will continue, so best you get yourself down to Cottage Street as soon as you can before all the great? stuff is gone.

You might notice the 'For Rent' sign in the window too. I realize the ACC will be a tough act to follow, but hopefully it might become home to something new and interesting. Will keep you posted.

Well, I'd better end it there. It's raining. The shop is quiet. And there's an old Kerplunk! game I just can't get out of my head. If anyone's looking for me, I'll be over at the Choo.