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September 23, 2011

when you make a lot of chili and then you eat a lot of chili, things start to get a bit monotonous and you’re going to need to mix it up. reheated meat and bean and vegetable goodness with the chips and the greek yogurt just wasn’t going to hack it for too long. so i got a little more creative (see above). just boiling some pasta made this chili new again. funky pasta with nooks and crannies works well and i just so happen to think it might even taste better than normal (read: spaghetti, penne, elbow) pasta. mixing together the pasta with the chili, topping it with cheese, and melting it gave me instant chili mac. or maybe it’s a cheesy chili pasta bake (except that i cheated and microwaved it to melt the cheese). either way, shazam! … a whole new meal.



September 22, 2011

there’s pretty much nothing better, easier, and heartier to make on a brisk fall day than chili. i’m rather proud of the fact that i successfully made a killer turkey chili in the spring and proceeded to make it every other week until i grew a little overwhelmed with leftovers day after day. but it was delicious and i’ve had some time to recuperate, so with my stomach growling and a chill in the air, i headed to whole foods on my way to the t after work (armed with my handy livingsocial deal – whoever made that decision was a genius) and a short list of ingredients.

– ground turkey, approx. 1 lb.
– packet of chili seasoning
– tomatoes, fresh or canned
– small onion (already in my fridge)
– red or green pepper
– can of pinto beans
– can of corn
– can of tomato sauce (8 oz.)
– tortilla chips, optional
– greek yogurt, optional

since most of my shopping is done at the sub-par stop & shop in my neck of the woods, i was a little thrown off in my search for a chili packet in the cramped and crowded whole foods. {by the way, i could spend a ridiculous amount of money at whole foods… and too often do, thanks to the prices, eyes bigger than my stomach, and going grocery shopping right before dinner. i take full responsibility for the latter two. and yet, i still continue to veer into the store despite the prices and the customers who truly seem to have never navigated a grocery store before. it gets to me every time… and actually helps me get out of there as soon as possible. at least my wallet appreciates them.} oddly, whole foods did not have any ground turkey in the refrigerated section. whomp, whomp. i picked the ground beef instead and went on my merry way. i was also seconds away from giving in to a jarred chili starter that required much fewer ingredients, but would be a lot less homemade, when i finally, finally found the golden ticket of chili spices. sa-weet! now, get me to the register and the exit.

back in my kitchen, i chopped up a bit of onion and tossed it into a pan with the ground beef.


next, i added a large pot to the stove top and dumped in the can of corn (drained), pinto beans (drained and rinsed), and can of tomato sauce.


i diced the pepper (i went with red, but later wished i had picked up a green one too) and a medium-sized tomato to add to the pot. into the pot they went. i believe the success of the inaugural batch of chili was due to a sizable helping of vegetables, so i later added another tomato.


while the meat was browning in the pan, i opened up the packet of chili seasoning and finally read the directions on the back. turns out, it called for some cumin, sugar, salt, and a little flour; together with the seasoning and a cup of water, i added them all to the pot. in the past, i have used a standard mccormick’s original chili seasoning mix and have always been pleased with the end result. this packet was a little more adventurous, but ultimately, i think i preferred the mccormick seasoning.


so then you’re left with this tasty-looking mixture:


you let it simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. it’s the perfect time to read, watch tv, clean (ha), have a glass of wine, you name it. just hope you’re not really hungry, because it will feel like a very long 30 minutes. i chose the wine and tv to see what shevonne had to say to harvey on tmz.

Photobucket Photobucket

thirty minutes later: moment of truth. i scooped some into a bowl, adding a spoonful of greek yogurt (my favorite sour cream substitute) and some green mountain gringo tortilla chips.


yum. truth be told, a few too many pinto beans for my taste and could use the green pepper that i left in the produce department of whole foods, but all and all, a success. the best part was that i had dinner for the evening, plus four tupperware containers for leftovers to bring to work for lunch or freeze or have for dinner throughout the week. easy, delicious, and efficient.


September 21, 2011

two things i learned about yesterday:

1 – there is a newsies musical (!) and it is playing at the paper mill playhouse in new jersey.
it does not, however, feature christian bale.
2 – this video exists and i find it hilarious. to be noted, i prefer the original, but come on, is that crazy or what?


September 20, 2011

i hope you’ll pardon my absence. well, i guess it’s not an absence, just a slowing down of posts. since fall tends to be such a short season, i’ve put the brakes on and intend to make the season a leisurely, enjoyable one. i’m all about post-humidity/pre-snow activities to indulge in, autumnal (that’s right, autumnal) foods to savor, and cool weather apparel to don. some of those things that i most enjoy are:

when every social media post talks about the change in weather.
teetering on the edge of when it’s acceptable to wear flips flops outside.
(it’s basically until the snow falls, right?)
going apple picking. for real.
(no really, it’s on the calendar.)
warm beverages…
counter-balanced with lots of cold shipyard pumpkin ale.
(cinnamon & sugar rim, optional.)
movie nights, or whole days, curled up under a warm blanket.
foliage and leaf-peeping.
boot season.
(this one’s for voula.)
pashminas in every color.
candles that smell like spices and baked goods.
baked goods.
welcoming my down comforter back into my life.



September 16, 2011

a week ago today, i was watching (vip style, thanks court) incubus perform at the comcast center. here are some iphone shots from the show, starring mr. brandon boyd… or mr. incubus, if you will.










September 13, 2011

mike machargo and i recently found ourselves in similar boats as we left our rock ‘n’ roll days jobs to take on new challenges and although i’ve only had the pleasure of meeting him in person at our annual sales conferences, i soon learned that he rules the world of social media from his home base in ottawa and i became an avid follower (of @MikeMachargo). besides being funny as all get out, mr. machargo has an uncanny ability to create partnerships and make connections within his circles, from hard rock to the twitter world, and within the non-profit community of ottawa. i knew that he had started a non-profit called CHEO BBQ and hoped he would be willing to share more about how he helps his community and how he spreads the word about that goodwill. lucky for me (and you), he obliged… check it what he has to say about ottawa’s largest backyard bbq – CHEO BBQ:

— — —

Looking back year after, I often wonder what happened along the way that keeps me doing this special event time and time again. As I’ve told many people, I do it for the free T-shirt and hot dog! But I want to dig a little deeper, peel back a layer or two. When we started this crazy adventure, none of my friends or I had kids, we just had fun planning a “party”.

As the years went on, we matured slightly, we had different ideas, and a few accidents developed and have now become a part of our plan. But before I can tell you all about what we do – just a quick few words about why we did it.

The event started small; it was originally a birthday BBQ for a friend, and with some good food, tasty beverages and great friends it took an unexpected turn… we decided to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario “CHEO” (by chance that weekend, the local TV station was holding a telethon). That first year we raised $40 and we all felt pretty good about ourselves. I never expected for the theme of this party to catch on like it did. We then had a few years of growth….as the old saying goes, each partygoer would always tell two friends, then they tell two friends, until it became too big for any one backyard to contain it!

{photo credit: r.a. whittaker}

After years of planning this event in our backyards, I realized that this event had taken on its own identity. It was no longer just my friend’s birthday party, it was known as the CHEO BBQ… not a bad name. It stuck and we decided that it was time to take it seriously! So after many years of just calling in our donation I decided to contact CHEO in advance to let them know about what we were up to. This was probably the best thing I could have ever done, as it helped give our event the legitimacy it needed to grow and get the proper permits and licenses. Step one in doing things right, get the charity to be on your side… CHECK!

The next few years was all about learning what not to do… for example, you should probably have more than one Porta-Pottie for a group over 500 people, you should probably serve a non-alcoholic beverage like water just in case, having a first aid team on standby is also a good idea, and when renting/borrowing equipment… overnight security is probably a must if you don’t want things to be stolen. The list goes on and on, but I feel the bumps in the road helped us turn into what the event is today!

Of course, don’t get me wrong, we did a lot right too; we recognized that we could run a successful volleyball tournament during the CHEO BBQ and that it is now one of our main sources of revenue, we realized that if we contracted out the actual cooking of food, we were able to avoid ordering stock, equipment, and staffing professionals, and most important of all, we have been true to our roots – we treat all guests, volunteers, organizers, sponsors, and partners with respect and listen for feedback and suggestions. I still think of it as the party I host in my backyard, and that it’s not that big a deal. But every now and then I will have a surreal moment when a person who has had first-hand experience with the Children’s Hospital tells me what they’ve been through. I had the honor of meeting one little girl who battled cancer by age 2. Sadly she never saw her 4th birthday, but it was the words her father told me that haunt my mind every time I consider retiring from the event – “Don’t stop doing what you’re doing!”

{photo credit: r.a. whittaker}

So if all I am supposed to do is continue planning a fun event that incorporates activity, family, community, local business, and most importantly… the kids, why would I stop? It is late 2011 and we just wrapped the 19th annual event in June, we were blessed with good weather an almost sold out sports tournament, fantastic volunteers, and in all a community that cares. With all that going for us, it has inspired our team to really crush it and plan an incredible 20th Anniversary event!

In the past 19 years we’ve seen our fair share of fun, growth, and smiles. The very first year we raised $40, for 2011 we raised $50,000.00 – our running total for the past 19 years is approximately $370,000.00, and with 2012, I plan to see us break the $400,000.00 mark! My proud moments have come from inspiring other people to do events, raise money for CHEO or their charity of choice – imitation is the most sincere form of flattery you know! But what else have I learned, other than I throw an awesome party?! I’ve learned that if you conduct yourself with dignity, treat people with respect and do what you say you’re going to do, success is bound to be the end result! And with a little luck, you’ll inspire others along the way and create a community of charitable ambassadors.

{mike (center) with the mayor and a rep from the children’s hospital.}

I’m always asked right after “why” do I do it, how did I get so many others to follow me, I’d like to think that others do it for the T-shirt too, but everyone has their reasons and we provide an excellent opportunity for people to give back to the community, the hospital that has affected their lives or a great way to spend a fantastic summer afternoon with friends. Thank you to all my family, friends, co-workers and sponsors from over the years without your involvement we could have never have made it happen.

And Hey… It’s for the Kids 🙂

Michael Machargo
Co-Founder and Director of Awesome
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


September 12, 2011
i present to you the newest addition to my living room… the bar hutch.
(yeah, i know, it could use a better name.)


this bright beauty was the product of a craigslist search. i had been looking for a table or bar or bookshelf to set in the corner of my living room for a small bar area, mostly due to the number of wine tasting glasses i acquired on our rhode island road trip and the lack of space for them on the glass rack in the kitchen. i considered making something myself, but held out hope that i just might find something.

the hutch was listed on craigslist with measurements, but of course, i didn’t measure. i mean, what’s the fun in that? but i did rent a zipcar since it was raining, which saved me having to carry the thing back to my apartment. i would have cried. in case you haven’t figured it out, it was bigger than i imagined. but not too big to make it into the back seat of the car. phew. it just required some movement of other furniture in the apartment.

you may have also noted the bright turquoise color, which i happen to enjoy. i had been getting sick of my living room and the lack of pizzazz within it. having purchased a living room set of black tables and black leather furniture with a previous male roommate, plus having beige walls, all of the furniture pointing towards the television, and a sports photo (which i purchased and do enjoy – go red sox!) taking up one wall, the place has felt a bit like a dorm common area for a bit too long. there are some pillows here and some artwork there, but it needed a girly touch. and something to wake it up. my roommate calls the color “interesting,” but i think the hutch does the trick.

for now, the bar accoutrements are a bit sparse, but it does make a nice home for those tasting glasses, my sakonnet vineyards and boyden valley wines, and a few bar essentials. in time, i plan to add some glass racks underneath, proper drink equipment (aka a shaker), and beef up that wine selection. but for now, i’m enjoying some organization and a new pop of color in the living room.