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Video Recap of Our Travels to the Gulf Coast

In early December, a team of our BlueMountain.com employees partnered with United Way and traveled to Bayou La Batre, Alabama in hopes of bringing Christmas joy to the families affected by the BP Oil Spill. Using conributions from fundraisers, we raised enough money to throw a joyful and memorable Christmas celebration for 60 wonderful guest-of-honor families!  Bayou La Batre, thanks for welcoming us with open arms, sharing your stories and touching out lives.  You’ve provided us amazing memories we won’t soon forget!


Video Recap of Our Travels to the Gulf CoastVideo Recap of Our Travels to the Gulf CoastVideo Recap of Our Travels to the Gulf CoastVideo Recap of Our Travels to the Gulf CoastVideo Recap of Our Travels to the Gulf CoastVideo Recap of Our Travels to the Gulf Coast

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BlueMountain.com Visits Bayou La Batre, Alabama

BlueMountain.com Visits Bayou La Batre, AlabamaTwo days prior to our trip, there was an odd sense of peace that overtook the group.  We still had camera equipment to prep, gifts to buy, presents to wrap, crafts to set up, and a hall to decorate.  But despite all of this, there was peace.  This was a tremendous precursor to what laid ahead.

Friday morning came faster than expected.  Before we knew it, we were on a plane to Alabama – it’s really happening!

BlueMountain.com Visits Bayou La Batre, AlabamaAt 11:30 a.m. we arrived at the Mobile airport, and after dropping our bags off at the hotel, we needed to make a quick stop at the United Way of Southwest Alabama.  It was time to finally meet the team that diligently helped us for so many months!BlueMountain.com Visits Bayou La Batre, Alabama

After loading up the vans at United Way with presents, crafts, and decorations, we drove 45 minutes to the small coastal town of Bayou La Batre.

Once there, we met David and Grace from Boat People SOS – a community-based organization whose mission it is to help the numerous families devastated by the Gulf Oil Spill.

We unloaded the vans as quickly as we possibly could!  After that, we eagerly jumped back on the road to catch a glimpse of the Bayou before sundown.  David and a few of his friends from Boat People SOS walked us through the havoc wreaked upon this once thriving Alabama town.  First Hurricane Katrina, and now this.  What more could Bayou La Batre endure?

BlueMountain.com Visits Bayou La Batre, AlabamaFrom inside the vans, we could see water in the distance.  As we started our way across the draw bridge, everything was somber.  There were abandoned ships, closed boat making facilities, and closed oyster and shrimp cleaning shops.  The Bayou was a ghost town.  The devastation that we heard so much about was now staring us in the face: sixty percent of families without jobs and nowhere to go…


The next 24 hours were a blur- we were setting up and decorating the hall, gift wrapping presents, prepping the craft stations, setting up Christmas movies to play on a big screen, and making sure Christmas music could be heard by all.  By midnight on Friday, we were almost completely set up.  Exhausted and emotionally drained (but excited at the same time!), we drove back to our hotel in Mobile to get a few hours of rest before Saturday’s event.

BlueMountain.com Visits Bayou La Batre, Alabama
7:00 a.m. came bright and early. Time to regroup with the team for breakfast (we’d need it!) and to go over the final details of the event!  Craft tutorials, last minute purchases, snack table setup, and photo station prep…

At 2:00 p.m. the event started.  Needless to say, everything couldn’t have gone more perfectly.  We had a blast helping the kids make soap snow balls, edible Christmas trees, Christmas angel ornaments, and greeting cards.  We’re pretty sure the kids enjoyed it too BlueMountain.com Visits Bayou La Batre, Alabama

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Dinner was delicious, Santa was merry, family photos came out great, presents were well received, and fun was had by all – the holiday party was a major success!  And the best part, we got to hear some amazingly touching stories of heartache and triumph from many hard working Alabama boating families.

Thank you for following us through this uplifting experience – and stay tuned for great video clips from the entire trip!

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Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!

Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!

Blue Mountain Blog

The BlueMountain.com Oil Spill Response team leaves for Bayou La Batre, Alabama Friday morning.  Follow the team LIVE as they spread a little Christmas joy to families of Bayou La Batre!

Once an hour, the team will be posting an update on what they’re doing, what they’re seeing, who they’re with, and more!  If you look at the top right of the blog, you will see a “Follow us in Alabama” link.  Under this, you will be able to read the most recent updates the team is posting via Twitter.

Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!

If you would like to read more, you can click through the link to go to the team’s Twitter page to see all the posts.

Come along for the experience – it will be a Merry one!

Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!Follow the BlueMountain Oil Spill Response Team LIVE!

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Oil Spill Response Team

We present to you the “Blue Mountain Oil Spill Response Team” !

We asked each team member 3 questions:

  1. Why did you get involved with the oil spill response project?
  2. What is your Christmas wish for the city of Bayou La Batre, Alabama?
  3. What’s your favorite thing to do at Christmas/the Holidays?

PATTY PRICE

Oil Spill Response TeamI’m Patty Price and I’m from Strongsville, Ohio.

Why?: There are many, many reasons I became involved with the oil spill response project.  I always wanted to make a positive impact in the world somehow, and this is definitely my biggest opportunity yet!

Your wish?: My Christmas wish for Bayou La Batre is that they see many things positive come from something so negative – and in hoping that our help is not the first or the last of those.

Favorite Christmas activity?: My favorite thing to do at Christmas is sit around the kitchen table with my family and eat an amazing home cooked brunch.

KIMBERLY GILCHRIST

Oil Spill Response Team

I work in the Marketing Department here at BlueMountian.com and I enjoy practicing yoga, trying new and fun restaurants, and spending lots of time with friends and family.

Why?: I got involved simply because I wanted to help the families affected by the oil spill. The Gulf Oil Spill has affected, and will continue to affect, so many families and businesses and I’m so happy to be part of the oil spill response project.

Your wish?: I wish for Happiness and lots of smiles!

Favorite Christmas activity?: I love to make homemade pasta with my family (and then eat lots of it of course!)

GEORGE DAVIS

Oil Spill Response Team

I’m a native of Chicago and a lover of people…and a hater of oil! (just kidding)

Why?: The oil spill was a true tragedy for the Gulf Coast and the surrounding regions. When presented with the opportunity to go and possibly make a difference, possibly put on a smile on someone’s face, I couldn’t refuse.

Your wish?: My wish for the city is continued growth, progress, and prosperity. I wish they become an even stronger city than they were before the tragedy.

Favorite Christmas activity?: My favorite part of the Holidays is spending time with family. I don’t get to see them often, so anytime together is a great time.

DAVID NOYES

Oil Spill Response Team

I’m a web developer at American Greetings. In my spare time, I ensure far off planets have the benefit of stuffed animals and waffles.

Why?: Several months back, the notion of wanting to reach out hit me like lightning on the way to work. I felt it so strongly that I had to put the idea out there.

Your wish?: My wish is that Bayou La Batre knows there are people who care, and that they’re not alone… and that people are willing to extend a hand.

Favorite Christmas activity?: I love watching the snow fall at night with nothing but Christmas lights or candles lighting the room. I also love the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Setting up and then karate kicking snowmen is pretty cool  too.

PENNY ADAMS

Oil Spill Response TeamPenny is a nature photographer from Tennessee who enjoys taking photos in the great outdoors and playing soccer.

Why?: Volunteering is in my blood and making a difference feeds the soul. I’m a big believer that giving is far more rewarding than receiving. I really appreciate the opportunity to help those affected by the oil tragedy directly.

Your wish?: I wish that after this terrible tragedy, despite all obstacles, the members of the community continue to keep the spirit of Christmas in their hearts all year long.

Favorite Christmas activity?: I really enjoy the light displays around town with my family and of course eat lots of Southern cooking.

JAMES ROWE

Oil Spill Response Team

I’m a programmer, amateur music producer/rapper who enjoys being a Geek.

Why?: I want to help others. If everyone lived to help others then the world would be a better place.

Your wish?: Hope, Peace, and Prosperity.

Favorite Christmas activity?: I love finding something worthy (of being given this life to live) to do.… last year I adopted a cat from the local animal shelter.

KIER SELINSKY

Oil Spill Response Team

I am a father, husband, and outdoorsman.

Why?: I got involved because I’m an environmentalist and a humanitarian.

Your wish?: In addition to a speedy economic recovery, the events of this year create a previously unforeseen opportunity for prosperity for the people of Bayou La Batre and the Gulf Coast.

Favorite Christmas activity?: Volunteering.

NOHA YOUSSEF

Oil Spill Response Team

I’m a 25 year old Marketing Interactive Coordinator. When I’m not at work, I enjoy my time the most when spent with family and close friends.

Why?: I got involved with the oil spill response project, because knowing I could help make someone else feel better is very rewarding.

Your wish?: My Christmas wish for the city is for them not to feel any less fortunate because of the devastating oil spill that occurred.

Favorite Christmas activity?: My favorite thing to do during the holiday/Christmas season is to spend a lot of time with family, eat a lot and listen to tons of Christmas music!

STEPHANIE KINDER

Oil Spill Response Team

A native Blue Ridge Mountaineer; I enjoy rock climbing, snow boarding and anything outdoors… I enjoy dancing and singing and being super random and goofy with my family and friends.

Why?: I got involved because I couldn’t sit back and watch another disaster occur on the coast and not at least try to do something to help out.

Your wish?: My Christmas wish for Bayou La Batre is that Christmas occurs in their spirits not just their living rooms this year.  They’ve been through so much; my wish is for fulfillment, peace and hope of a prosperous future.

Favorite Christmas activity?: My favorite thing to do at the holidays is bake cookies and listen to Christmas music on snowy days.

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Chili Cook-Off Winning Recipes

After tasting all 25 chili recipes at the Chili Cook-off ranging from mild to wild, and everything in between, we’ve decided to share the mouthwatering, award-winning chili recipes with our Blue Mountain foodie friends.  We hope you love making these chili recipes as much as we loved tasting them!

Chili Cook Off Winning Recipes

Chili Good

Prize: Best Chili  Chef: Chris Pemlot

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 lbs. beef short ribs, bone-in
  • 3-4 TB. CHILI 9000, divided
  • 2 lb. chorizo sausage
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 tsp. dry MINCED GARLIC
  • 1-2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans puréed tomatoes
  • 4 Cups water
  • 1/2 Cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 375°. Wash short ribs, pat dry. Rub on all sides with CHILI 9000, using about 1 tablespoon. Place on a foil-lined baking pan. Bake at 375° for 1 hour. Remove the casing from the chorizo sausage and place in the pan with the short ribs for the second half hour of cooking. This removes a lot of fat from the meat and gives the chili great flavor. Remove the meat from the oven and place in a large stockpot. Add the onion, remaining CHILI 9000, GARLIC, salt, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to break up the tomatoes. Spoon off the fat (if any) as it rises to the top. Half an hour before serving, remove the beef short ribs from the pot, cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and place back in the pot. Discard the bones. Toss fresh cilantro into the pot for the final 10 minutes of cooking or top each bowl with a sprinkle. Serve with your favorite chili toppings. (recipe from penzeys.com)

Uncle Wilbur Scoville’s 6-Pepper 9-Spice Short Rib Chili

Prize: Creativity of Ingredients  Chef: Deborah Smith

Ingredients:

  • 6-7 small dried red chili’s, seeded, and torn into rough 1-inch piecesFresh Chili’s:
  • 3 Poblano chilies, seed and dice *
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, seed and dice
  • 2-3 Hot Cherry chilies, seed and dice*
  • 2 Hot Banana chilies, seed and dice *
  • 3 Jalapeno chilies, seed and chop finely (2 Jalapeno’s for Chili mixture* – 1 Jalapeno, for garnish

* keep pepper ribs and seeds to the side and add back to the chili, if you want more heat

  • 5 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed of silver-skin and excess fat
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 whole anchovy filets
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, toasted, then ground
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds, toasted, then ground
  • 4 whole cloves, toasted and ground
  • 2 star anise, toasted and ground
  • 1 tablespoon extra-finely ground espresso coffee beans
  • 1 ounce chopped unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced in large chunks (about 2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 2 (16 oz. cans) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (16oz. can) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Hot sauce, preferably Death Sauce

Toast the Spices: Put cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves and star anise (broken into pieces) in a sauté pan. Heat until fragrant and toasted, stirring frequently. Cool the spices and then grind until they are a fine powder.

Add dried chilies to large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stock pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly darkened with intense, roasted aroma, 2 to 5 minutes. Do not allow to smoke. Remove chilies to small bowl and set aside.

Season the trimmed short ribs on all sides with salt and pepper. Add oil to Dutch oven and heat over high heat until smoking. Add half of short ribs and brown well on all sides (it will be necessary to brown ribs in batches, depending on size of Dutch oven—do not overcrowd pan), 8 to 12 minutes total, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke excessively or meat begins to burn. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet or plate. Repeat with remaining short ribs, browning them in fat remaining in Dutch oven. Once all short ribs are cooked, transfer all rendered fat into small bowl and reserve separately. Allow short ribs to cool at room temperature.

Meanwhile, return Dutch Oven to medium-high heat and add 1 cup chicken broth, using flat wooden spoon to scrape browned bits off of bottom of pan. Reduce heat until chicken broth is at a bare simmer, add toasted chilies to liquid and cook until chilies have softened and liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer chilies and liquid to blender, add anchovy, tomato paste, ground spices (cumin, coriander, etc. from above), coffee, and chocolate, and blend at high speed, scraping down sides as necessary, until completely smooth puree is formed, about 2 minutes. Set this chili puree aside.

Trim meat from short ribs bones and hand-chop into rough, 1/2-inch to 1/4-inch pieces (larger chunks are better), reserving bones separately. Add any accumulated meat juices to chili puree.

Heat 4 tablespoons rendered beef fat (if necessary, add vegetable oil to reach 4 tablespoons) in large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add fresh chilies, garlic, and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add chili puree and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot until chili mixture begins to fry and leaves a coating on bottom of pan, 2 to 4 minutes. Add chicken stock, chopped beef, beef bones, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, scraping bottom of pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting, and cook, with cover slightly ajar, for 1 hour. Add diced tomatoes, cider vinegar, and cook with cover slightly ajar until beef is tender and broth is rich and lightly thickened, 2 to 3 1/2 hours longer, adding water if necessary to keep meat mostly submerged (a little protrusion is ok).

Using tongs, remove and discard bay leaves and bones (at this point, any excess meat still attached to the bones can be removed, chopped, and added back to the chili, if desired). Add red kidney beans, black beans, vodka, and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Season to taste with cayenne pepper, hot sauce, kosher salt, ground black pepper, and additional vinegar.

For best flavor, allow to cool and refrigerate overnight, or up to 1 week in sealed container. Reheat, and serve with desired garnishes.

Green Dog Chili

Chili Cook Off Winning Recipes

Prize: People’s Choice Chef: Allison Jagunic

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized Butternut Squash
  • 2 cans of Kidney Beans
  • 1 can of Great Northern Beans
  • 1 can of White Hominy
  • 1 can of Petite Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies
  • 2 cans of Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 of a jar of Banana Peppers
  • 2 medium white onions (not pictured here)
  • Minced Garlic (not pictured here)
  • Optional: Butter Beans

Step 1: Chop 1 Butternut Squash (leaving the other for later) – into cubes, salt heavily with sea salt, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes, at 375

Step 2: Chop the 2 onions to desired size, and start cooking those over medium heat

Step 3: Chop the other Butternut Squash into cubes (should take you about 10 minutes)

Step 4: Add as much garlic (I used 4 heaping spoonfuls) and ALL canned ingredients to the onion mixture

Step 5: Add the chopped butternut squash (just the one – remember – the other squash is cubed and roasting in the oven ) to the onion/garlic/canned mixture

Step 6: Add spices.  I used a very fair amount of cumin, chili power and garlic salt – and just a sprinkle or two of crushed red pepper

Step 7: Once the pot is squared away – start browning 1lb of lean ground turkey

Step 8: After the meat is browned – add it to the pot – give it all a good stir – and then bring it to a boil.  Once it’s boiling, reduce heat and let it simmer for another 20 minutes

Step 9: Right around then – the timer for the roasted squash should be going off!  Remove the amazingly delicious looking squash from the oven

Step 10: Add the roasted butternut squash to the mix

Step 11: Let it sit overnight so all the flavors really meld, and then bring it in to your chili cook off at work – and WIN THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD!

Though the flavors of Chili Cook-off are long gone, their legacy will forever remain in our recipe books.   Thanks to all our chili contestants and winners for a deliciously successful fundraiser and to our fabulous winners for allowing us to share their winning recipes with our favorite Blue Mountain friends.

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Chili Cook-off Fundraiser to Support Gulf Oil Spill Response

The BlueMountain Oil Spill Response team hosted another successful fundraiser!  Participants in the Chili Cook-off were invited to bring a pot of chili made from their favorite recipe for a chance to win some great prizes donated by local restaurants.

Chili Cook off Fundraiser to Support Gulf Oil Spill Response

Oil spill response chili cook off fundraiser photos

There were 25 participants with homemade chili recipes that included ingredients ranging from traditional classics like chili peppers to wild additions like venison and pineapples! There was even an apple dessert that came with ice cream (which was a great way to cool down after sampling 25 chilies ranging from mild to very hot)!

Guests and eager samplers were able to test each for a donation, and the fundraiser wound up raising almost $700 to add to the Oil Spill Response team budget!  Thank you so much to all our participants and guests, it wouldn’t have been so successful without you!

To view photos from this event and other fundraisers, check out our photo channel. Or visit our BlueMountain.com YouTube channel to see videos!

Chili Cook off Fundraiser to Support Gulf Oil Spill ResponseChili Cook off Fundraiser to Support Gulf Oil Spill ResponseChili Cook off Fundraiser to Support Gulf Oil Spill ResponseChili Cook off Fundraiser to Support Gulf Oil Spill ResponseChili Cook off Fundraiser to Support Gulf Oil Spill ResponseChili Cook off Fundraiser to Support Gulf Oil Spill Response

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Cornhole Fundraiser to Support the Gulf Oil Spill

Members of the Blue Mountain Cares Team recently hosted a Cornhole Tournament to raise money for their Oil Spill Response initiative. The support from everyone at the Blue Mountain office was tremendous! Over 40 people (that’s 20 cornhole teams) came out and competed for some pretty awesome gifts and, of course, the ultimate prize – bragging rights! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sport (as it was very new to me when I joined the Blue Mountain family), take a look at the pictures below. They give a great illustration of how much fun this game really is:

 

For more information about the Oil Spill Response initiative, read here.

Cornhole Fundraiser to Support the Gulf Oil SpillCornhole Fundraiser to Support the Gulf Oil SpillCornhole Fundraiser to Support the Gulf Oil SpillCornhole Fundraiser to Support the Gulf Oil SpillCornhole Fundraiser to Support the Gulf Oil SpillCornhole Fundraiser to Support the Gulf Oil Spill

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Introducing the BlueMountain.com Oil Spill Response

It all started with the news of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  About ten of us from BlueMountain.com started talking about how we could get involved to help the people, the animals, the clean-up effort, or in any way we could.  We explored a number of  options, but ran into several roadblocks –helping the animals requires a license and helping to clean up would take away even more jobs from the communities affected by the disaster.  So the team decided to fly to Alabama to offer encouragement and support to affected families there.  The BlueMountain.com Oil Spill Response Team will be in Alabama the first weekend of December to spread some holiday cheer.  We will be posting updates, photos, and even video from our fund raising to our final trip.  So stay tuned to hear all the details!

Meet Stephanie Kinder (right) & Patty Price (left) from the BlueMountain.com Oil Spill Response team.  They are members of the BlueMountain.com Marketing Department, and talk a little about the start of the oil spill response team effort in this informal interview:


Do you know someone affected by the devastation in the Gulf?  They’d probably love to hear from you.  One way you can show your concern is by sending them well wishes with a BlueMountain eCard.

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