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.