Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hillary Helps charity and plays games -- you can watch!

Hillary is participating in an awesome charity event this weekend! watch her and her husband and her friends play games from now until 8 am tomorrow with no breaks!  If you like what you see, donate to extra life (link on the stream page), a charity that benefits children's hospitals. The money goes straight to the birmingham children's hospital and neither meepletown nor extra life gets a cut.
The stream is live right now!!!!
watch us and tell your friends!!!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Graffiti Part Deux - The Change is here

Today Hillary was inspired by a video she saw to revisit an old subject.

 Today I came across this amazing video featuring some graffiti artists.

It amazed and inspired me to see people who are supposedly the dregs of society creating something so beautiful.  Graffiti artists represent a very interesting part of our culture because what they do is often illegal but yet is some of the most amazing art out there.   They could very well create "socially acceptable" art and yet typically choose to make their work known to the world outside the system in a way that is often considered vandalism.  I believe that graffiti artists want to push the bounds of acceptability and challenge our ideas about how we should be allowed to create. They may not know that this is what they are doing,  but they are absolutely, in their own subtle way, affecting social change.

In fact, I wrote about this idea of how they were affecting social change a long time ago on a now defunct blog for a now defunct jewelry business.  In that old post, I said that I felt that graffiti artists represented that part of us that wants to value creativity over societal norms and working 9-5 and profit margins, and I said that I felt a social change coming with people changing focus to expressing themselves, and finding ways to do what they love or incorporate individuality into their daily lives.  In the 2 years since I wrote about this subject, that social change has blossomed in some amazing ways.

While both kickstarter and Indiegogo existed at the time that I wrote that post, they were not mainstream platforms like they are now.  Between the economic crunch in the last couple of years, the trend in corporate America toward treating employees like robots with nothing better to do than grind out product for the man, and the tremendous sociopolitical movements we have seen lately, more and more people are turning to places like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other to get emotional and financial support to pursue their passion.

Of course kickstarter projects aren't the be all, end all of this change, but they're a very visible representation of the idea that, more and more, people want freedom to do their own thing, and that we as a society understand and are ready to support that.  Because of places like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, we all have a place to connect over things that make us passionate and platform to try to make it happen.  It's amazing that if I want to create art the raises awareness about bees (for example), I can create a page and ask people to help.  But the bigger thing that these platforms highlight is the fact that people are helping. It's not just that, more and more, ideas are coming out into the open rather than being secreted away in the back of someone's mind while they write another line of code or sell another burger for the man; it's that other people are accepting this change and supporting these ideas by loving them, by sharing them and by funding them.

Because of platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others, musicians are able to publish albums outside of the old record company system that forced them into contracts where record companies had ultimate control and could choose to do things like leave a whole album on the cutting room floor or take a cut of album sales for an album they didn't help pay a dime to produce, artists are able to fund a gallery show without being "discovered" by the right person with deep pockets, and entrepreneurs are able to open any kind of business or create any kind of amazing contraption without begging for a bank loan and putting their possessions up for collateral.  It's an amazing change, and I think that we owe a lot of the thinking that led to major changes like this to the original "outside the system" thinkers, like graffiti artists.

While society may outwardly shun them, as individuals, many of us get what graffiti artists are all about. More and more we are quietly finding ways to follow in their footsteps. More and more, we are using the lessons they taught us to affect change in the system.  More and more, what used to be "fringe ideas" are leading to beautiful and innovative creations that never could have happened in the old system.  This is all happening because someone dared challenge the idea that the system is always the right way and that conventional beauty is the only beauty.  I love the change I see and I wholeheartedly thank the individuals who pushed those boundaries and the innovators who took those ideas to the next level and the creators who embraced it and ran with it... all of you, but especially graffiti artists.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Creation Sunday - Tortilla Soup

We're glad to be back after a long break!  Today Hillary is going to share a great recipe!!!

I haven't posted in a long time.  But, of course, I haven't stopped cooking or creating.  That leaves me with a lot of recipes and a lot of stuff to tell you about.  So, to kick off the first "creation sunday" in a very long time, I am going to share with you a new favorite soup recipe.  If you've followed this blog before, you're well aware that my favorite thing is "convenience gourmet" style recipes where I take something very simple and make it taste homemade.
My husband LOVES chicken tortilla soup, and, one day I wanted to make something special for him but didn't have a ton of time and really didn't want to go through the multiple steps that a typical tortilla soup involves... and hubby is kind of picky so the typical long list of vegetables in a tortilla soup would definitely not suit his taste.  So I had to do a lot of searching and sifting, but I finally found this excellent recipe from Plain Chicken which uses rotisserie chicken and primarily canned ingredients.
OF course, me being me, I modify it every time I make it. However, the modifications are fairly simple, so I'll just list them rather than re-writing the entire recipe:
-I use a small can of mexi-corn instead of a full cup of corn
-I sometimes add some vegetable broth in with the chicken broth. At most, I will substitute a cup of vegetable broth for a cup of chicken broth.  I like the extra flavor it adds, but it's not necessary.
-I use the low fat cream of chicken soup.
-I use a variety of spices depending on what I have in my cabinet.  Depending on the day, my soup can include any or all of the following: chili powder, cayenne powder, powdered garlic, dried cilantro, black pepper and "cajun seasoning". I just keep adding stuff and tasting until it seems right.
-I use half a can of mild rotel tomatoes instead of a whole can of regular rotel.  I usually make rotel dip with the other half of the can but the normal amount of cheese.
-I have found that Boar's head Chipotle gouda is a delightful garnish for this soup and adds a nice smoky, spicy flavor without being overwhelming.
-If you're a spicyholic, unlike me, you could try regular or even "hot" rotel and you could try the boar's head three pepper colby jack cheese.  I tried this cheese once, and while I'm sure it tasted lovely, I really couldn't tell because of the jet engine it ignited in my mouth.

This is a great recipe that takes maybe 30 minutes to make including picking the chicken apart and the extra time that I take to taste, re-season, taste, re-season, etc.

We hope you enjoyed Hillary's recipe and encourage you to check back for more updates soon!

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Year's Holiday Charity Fundraiser!

This year for our holiday charity fundraiser we are going to donate 20% of sales from now until December 31st to  Castles & Chemo.  ”Castles & Chemo, Inc., is dedicated to raise money for cancer research and support in an effort to make cancer a relic of the past through the use of tabletop role playing games, both by publishing game supplements and organizing & running fundraising events, both in the United States and abroad.” This amazing charity both uses the creation of RPG books nad events as a fundraiser as well as tries to keep those affected by cancer just a little bit happier through RPGs and even board games.  To that end, they are running an RPG book/board game drive to benefit Smilow Cancer Hospital in Connecticut.

In addition to the charity drive, we are currently running a sale.  All items in both stores are 30% off if you use the code CASTLES2013 at checkout!  You can even get the discount on custom items!  So you can design or purchase a one of a kind jewelry piece and help out a great charity at the same time!!!

We hope that you will join us in supporting this amazing charity either by donating a book/game or by purchasing items from our shop or our sister shop.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas tree ornaments and Fundraiser!

It's the holiday season again and, once again, Hillary has decorated her tree with festive Happy Hippy ornaments! We also wanted to remind you of our annual fundraiser for Child's Play, a charity who helps out children's hospitals around the world.  Until Dec 30th, 20% of all sales will be donated to Child's Play.  In addition, if you use the coupon code childsplay2012, you will get 25% off your order.

I love decorating my tree and I love super bright, super colorful christmas decorations but, as you can see, I also love small trees.  As a result, I need my ornaments to be light weight and somewhat small but still vibrant, significantly noticeable and beautiful.  This is where my ability to create my own ornaments really comes in handy.

I create each of my beaded ornaments by hand, carefully selecting beads and using creative wire working, just like I would for my pendants.

If you like what you see here, and would like your own, you can purchase one from my shop.  We hope you enjoyed seeing the ornaments.  I would love to see your awesome trees and handmade ornaments as well.  You can email pictures to!


Friday, November 30, 2012

Interview with D. Antonia Truesdale of The Midnight Orange

Today we are featuring an interview with D. Antonia Truesdale, a talented artist whom Hillary discovered one late night on etsy.  Hillary was immediately touched by the beauty and openness of the art and was even more touched by the stories shared on her page.

First, please tell everyone what you create.
I'm a sculpture artist and through clay I create small figurines that aim to depict life journeys which mold us into who we become as people. My sculptures capture life, love, loss, fragility, and triumph and allow us to define our personal experiences with something tangible and touchable which we can relate to.

 Where did your journey with art start?
As with any artist, I think we see our roots emerging in early childhood. That said, my journey truly began when I was 16 years old. I was emancipated from my parents and living on my own without government assistance. I did work a part time job while finishing high school, but it was not enough money to make ends meet so I began making jewelry and small altered art pieces which I would bring to school and sell at the lunch tables. At that point it really became part of my livelihood and vital to who I was. Once I graduated college and got a full time job, I no longer needed the income I earned from it but at the same time I sensed I *needed* to create artwork, as much as I needed sunlight. Creation helps me thrive and balances me as a person. 

Why clay? Have you tried other mediums/art forms?
I have worked in many mediums and liked them very much, but I never loved a medium like I love clay. There is something very therapeutic in the process and clay has been the easiest and most natural form of expression for me. 

Your sculptures tackle a variety of subjects, some that seem very personal and some that are often considered taboo. Please tell everyone some of the subjects of your art and why you sculpt those things.
My subjects vary and touch all aspects of life, and I aim to face my art with honesty and bravery. This approach at times brings me to the darker areas of life that people have either experienced or been lucky enough not to. Along with my brighter sculptures, I do create some that pose as healing pieces for grief and child loss, physical and sexual abuse, heartache, and depression. While many of these pieces appear to dwell in sadness, I found that having these emblems to relate to is important and necessary. The next question is a good way for me to segue into why I feel that way. 

How did you get to this personal, emotional place with your art? Was it something that happened immediately, or did it develop over time?
In 2008 I struggled in my own darkness and felt no one could relate to me in my rawness. Many people expected me to heal on a timeline and I felt very isolated. At that time I didn't work too much in clay but I had a couple blocks in my studio. I didn't know what would come out of that session but I watched it unfold in my hands and once the creation process was finished I saw that I sculpted a very small figure in a grief position, curled over with head in hands. It was startling and slightly unnerving. I found though that I was able to put it on a shelf and walk away from it, and felt I had taken some of that darkness out of me, acknowledged it and made it tangible, then left it behind. It was a profoundly healing moment. That night I made another and listed it in my shop, vulnerably uncertain if anyone else would connect with it or even like it but since something remarkable had happened in me I was keen to share it. When I awoke the next morning, the piece had already sold and my buyer had written me a note saying that she was a counselor who worked with abused children and planned to use it in her sand tray. She went on to write: "I wanted you to know it will help many young children in their healing process. Please know that each and every time your figurine is chosen, the child and I will thank it when we put it back on the shelf--a nice way to send you some healing energy you helped create."This was more than enough validation for me to see that this line of creation could touch other people's lives as it had my own, and I kept going. 

In addition to your art being personal, I have noticed that you seem to share a lot through your blogs and other social media outlets. You talk about your personal losses and triumphs seemingly without fear. How did that develop and why aren't you afraid like the rest of us?
The truth of it is that I am scared every time I post personal writings of my journey. Always within them lies the inherent fear that "Maybe this time I've said too much". Again it goes back to my commitment to approach life with honesty and bravery. What is really important to me in the telling is not to dwell in self pity but to bring a message of survival. There is merit to saying "This happened, it felt awful at the time and is only slightly less awful now, but I am not an awful person because of it. I am a STRONG person because of it." The amazing thing that happens when I write publicly is not what I've written, but the messages that people write back to me, sometimes privately. When someone tells me that I've inspired them to be able to move past something while still allowing it to be a part of who they came to be, then it reinforces in me that all my vulnerability was worth it. 

What is your favorite accomplishment, personal, artistic or otherwise?
Without question, my daughters. They make my life more vibrant than anything else in this world. Daily I look at them and am amazed that they came out of my body. I still cannot believe I made them. 

Recently, your artwork was used for the images in a book about child loss. Can you tell us about how that came to be and what that process was like?
I would love to tell you about that! In 2011 I was contacted by award winning author, Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes regarding a book she wrote on child loss after struggling through her own personal losses. Melissa is an amazing person and incredible writer and I was very moved when I read what she had written. It was soothing and reassuring while recognizing the experience of total loss and heartache. So beautiful. I got right on board with her and we spent months going through images and carefully choosing which sculptures partnered with the imagery of her words, and in the end we were able to present a very profound piece of visual and literary art. "Your Baby Is Safe" was published by Olo Books in November 2011 and is available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

What advice do you have for other artists trying to make it?
I am always asked this question and the answer is perseverance. It can take a long time to gain momentum and it is so important not to lose hope while things are slow. In my first year of business I made 67 sales. I've been in business almost five years now, and last year alone I made over two thousand sales. That did not happen overnight and if I threw in the towel early on I never would be where I am today. The first two years it took A LOT of work, hardly any sleep, and believing in my dream but I made it. Don't give up.

Finally, where can we find you and your art?
My artwork is only available for sale in my etsy shop at
I have an active fanpage on Facebook and can be found here:
And my blog is at I somewhat neglect my blog but when I do post there it is on something highly meaningful to me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Child's Play fundraiser and SALE!

Today is the day! 20% of All sates at and will now be donated to Child's Play and go toward helping children in hospitals all over the world!  In addition, if you use the code childsplay2012 in my etsy shops, you will get 25% off!  I even have some new pieces to put up to kick the sale off... if only I can find my camera ;)