Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012, It's nice to meet you.

Well, here we are again, knocking at the door of another year. Does it seem like each year goes by faster than the next or is it just me? This one, while fraught with highs and lows, was a blissful blur.

From the marketing high of scoring a spot on the Weather Channel back in July to the October Blizzard slash blackout and resulting ice cream Armageddon, this year was one wild ride.

While the cool rainy Spring made for a sluggish start, the stellar dry, warm, but not too hot Summer weather made for another record year of cone sales. Thanks to all of you who were part of that. I do this gig to pay my mortgage and a couple other bills, but the pleasure of making people happy with what I do is where the real satisfaction lies for me. Rarely does it actually feel like work, and for that I'm the luckiest guy I know. It's demanding and the hours are long, especially from May through October, which explains the need to claim January to recharge the batteries, but it's still great fun, so into year nine we go!

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't give credit to my awesome scoop crew for all their hard work and kind-hearted service all year. People often compliment me and Mt. Tom's about how nice the people are that work here. That one always makes me feel good (of course so does the one where people tell me they like my ice cream better than that other place in Northampton ;), because I really do want people to have an enjoyable experience when they come here.

Special thanks to Hannah, Mimi, & Amy for allowing me to have at least a little bit of a life during the Summer.

So as I sit here and reminisce over all that's happened this year, it's easy to let the news get you caught up in all the bad things that happened. tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, notable deaths. I'm sure we've all made a choice or two we'd like to take back. But as they say, what's done is done. And with the turning of the clock at midnight tonight, a shiny and untainted new year arrives, full of hope and expectation. What does it have in store for us, well, that is unknown.

And as I learned from a quote on a chai tea bag given to me by a good friend, 'When you are in tune with the unknown, the known is peaceful.'

May the new year bring with it all your heart desires, and may the unexpected turns that make you stronger do only that.

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Finding the Holiday Spirit.

Season's greetings from my little ice cream workshop here in Whoville. Dogs are barking Jingle Bells on the shop radio. The Festivus and eggnog flavors are stocked and ready for scooping. I'm surrounded by half-eaten Christmas cookies and a small stack of holiday cards while behind me hundreds of jars full of sweet colorful goodness anxiously await the hands of many Santa's helpers. Before I get to the pepermint stick, er candy cane, ice cream pie making, I thought I'd jot a few thoughts into the trusty ice cream diary.

I'm sure you too are right now immersed in the sights and sounds and events that make this time of year so hectic. It's no wonder the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas go by so fast. Just too much to do - presents to buy, wrap, and ship. Cookies to bake, box, and share. Parties to plan and attend. And if you're in retail, this is it for you, make or break. That's a lot of pressure all around. No wonder why it can be such a stressful time of the year.

Having said all that, I also think it really is the most wonderful time of the year. And here are my whys...

It's a time when people think about others more than themselves.

What should I get for Mom? I just need one more little gift for my brother. A gift for the boss. At the surface, it may seem commercial and perhaps it's your least favorite part of the holidays. But thinking about everyone but yourself for a week or two can't be a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

Christmas day is the ultimate 'being in the moment' moment.

I remember when I was a kid, I looked forward to Christmas morning so badly it hurt. It was just about all I could think about. Is Santa going to come through for me? Was I nice enough for that Death Star Lego Set? Time seemed to move backwards for those days leading up to C-day. And when you finally woke up on Christmas morning, well before the sun and probably even before the dog, and dashed down to the living room to see what treasures lay beneath the tree, it just didn't get any better than that. And Mom and Dad always seemed to take forever to get out of bed. Once the eggnog began to flow and the gift opening frenzy finally began, it was pure and innocent bliss, even though it was over in an instant.

Christmas morning is the time when you don't wish for any other moment. You're in it. You're not thinking about the day before or December 29th.

Christmas makes living in the moment look easy.

People are generally a little nicer. At least when they're not fighting for a parking space.

If you consider Facebook a virtual mood ring as I do, there seem to be less status updates of woe and bad politics and more of an uplifting nature this time of year. Like the one I just read about a friend who was in Rite Aid with her young son. He was playing with a little Matchbox car in line until they got to the checkout counter where Mom made him put it back. When she began to pay for her items, the cashier told her the man ahead of her in line had left money for the little matchbox. By that time, he was long gone, never even turning back for a thank you. How can that not make your day.

People make time to spend time with their families.

When I was a kid, our family would go to Grandma's in Fitchburg every Christmas eve. Dad's entire family would congregate there for a day of winter holiday fun. Sledding and snowball fights served as appetizer for a giant Finnish dinner, culminating with the arrival of Jolly Ole Nick, usually in the form of a poorly disguised missing uncle. With all the predictable fanfare, Uncle Santa would ho, ho, ho across the lawn as he shook a belt of bells, giant pillowcase of presents slung over his shoulder. As a young believer, it was a brush with greatness. Eventually, it became more of a warm and entertaining photo opp, played out in the same way every Christmas eve shortly after the consuming of the roast beast and Lanttulaatikko. Santa would stay just long enough to pass out a single present to each person.

When his pillowcase was empty, Santa would stand up, wish everyone a very merry one, and dash out the door, disappearing back into the darkness of the backyard like a ballplayer in Field of Dreams.

Soon after, my brothers and I would be tucked into our action figure sleeping bags in the back of the station wagon, and home we would go. All along the way, we'd gaze out the windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa's sleigh darting across in the sky. I remember thinking we saw him once, only to later be told by Dad when we got home to our still unvisited home that it was probably just Skylab.

It's a Wonderful Life.

What would a holiday season be without watching that timeless classic at least once. The line "No man is a failure who has friends" pretty well sums it up for me.

We dress up our houses to look bright and cheery.

You may think it's crazy the way some people cover their entire house and yard with lights and inflatable animated holiday characters, and perhaps you'd rather weed your lawn for six hours on a 90 degree day in August than stick a giant snowglobe on it. I will say, though, that I found myself last Christmas eve, sitting in my brother's SUV, over on Lawler Street, with he, his wife and their three kids, watching the thousands of lights flicker in time to the music playing on the car radio. I know it made me feel warm and Christmassy and a bit like a kid again. If you don't believe me, I recommend you do a driveby tonight yourself.

Our houses smell like the forest, only warmer.

A Christmas tree is the original aromatherapy.

While it's nice to receive, most of us really do find it better to give.

I don't know about you, but when I've found that perfect gift for someone, even if it's just a three dollar whoopie cushion for my brother to use to compete with the sounds his six year old son makes with his mouth on the side of his arm, it's way more enjoyable than opening up one of my own.

People reach out a little bit more to those less fortunate.

If only homeless shelters and food kitchens had as much help on a cold day in February as they do on Christmas or Thanksgiving day, this world would definitely be a better place. I suppose the same could be said about church or other structures of worship, but that's a whole 'nother topic. While it's hard to knock anyone for wanting to do something good on any day, wouldn't it be great to discover a way to harness that awesome giving spirit a little longer, even just to help get us through the cold New England winter.

A shiny new year is just around the corner, ready to offer up a fresh start.

Much more to say on that topic, but perhaps I'll wait until next week for that one.

In the meantime, I hope the spirit of the holiday season finds you and immerses itself deep in your soul right through into next year.

Life is just a precious collection of moments, and may these holidays bring with them a few more for yours.

From the entire crew and myself, Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 09, 2011

A Sunny Thanksgiving.

As the wrath of winter continues to elude us (hope I didn't just jinx it) and December rolls on somewhat uneventfully, I thought I'd post up a few photos from my recent trip to Florida for Thanksgiving.

It was a quick but very fun long weekend full of quality family time, amazing food and drink, beaching, and even a trip to the zoo.

I hope yours was equally as fulfilling. And if not, there are a couple other holidays just around the corner to get it right.

I thought I might share a few in hopes that it might give you a brief respite from the doom and gloom of your daily news and status updates. Worked for me anyhow.

After all, life is just too short for gloom.

My niece living in the moment...

Come here often?

Such a cool zoo that lets you pet the giraffes. Just don't linger or you'll feel the fury of the crazy lady in the red shirt..

Five nephews/niece and counting..

Cousins out for a sunday drive...

Table under the mango tree..

We may never know whether he was pushed or just fell into the pool during the group shot. In any event, the rest of the kiddos got a good laugh out of it..

Rock, paper, scissors, shoot...

I know these next few weeks get pretty hectic with shopping, parties, wrapping, trimming trees, and making cookies, but I hope yours are only the best kinds of hectic. Full of good family, friends, and cheer.