Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month: Q&A with Artist Jazmin Harms

There’s no such thing as a “disability” when it comes to creativity or work ethic. A sense of purpose runs through all of us, and that force is strong with Jazmin Harms. Jazmin is a resident artist at the SlingShot Art Studio and Gallery in our hometown of Santa Barbara.

We’re big fans of SlingShot since it’s not your typical gallery: The art on the walls is created by 40 in-house artists with intellectual disabilities. A branch of the mission-driven Alpha Resource Center, SlingShot provides a sunny, open studio space to encourage creative expression and a modern gallery for artists to sell their art in the heart of downtown.

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Jazmin Harms is this month’s featured artist at SlingShot’s latest gallery show, ROAR. Her use of graphite on paper brings life to the animals she loves. SlingShot Teaching Artist Mike Blaha sat down with Jazmin to ask her about some of her favorite things.

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Where is your favorite place in nature?

Jelly Bowl in Carpenteria. I walk to the Beach. It takes about 20+ minutes but I like the journey to the beach. I bring my phone to take pictures. My favorite subject is the sunset. I look for the “golden hour” when the sun just disappears and there are dolphins. 

What kind of art do you create?

I draw only animals all the time. I pick pictures that I can depict honestly and are true to their forms. Big predatory animals are the most interesting and big cats are my favorite. 

What medium do you use?

I use graphite because I like the way the shades of graphite renders the animals. 

What time of year is your favorite? 

I like summer evenings the best because I can stay at the beach for longer. I time my arrival to catch the “golden hour.”

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Taking photographs of the sunset seems challenging, how do you do it? 

I like using foreground objects like rocks, driftwood and surf to accentuate the sunsets. I love seeing whales and dolphins. My favorite colors are the oranges and yellows. 

What else do you like about the beach? 

I like to go alone to feel a strong sense of nature. I hike up and down the beach to collect sea glass. Finding blue is my favorite. I have quite a large collection of sea glass. I get a calming effect that lasts the rest of the evening. I go as often as I can.

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To see Jazmin’s amazing work, check out the ROAR show at the SlingShot Studio. We held a pop-up fundraiser for March First Thursday (which is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, btw), and we can say firsthand that all the art is stellar!

For more on our mission to create and support opportunities for people with disabilities, check out this letter from our CEO. A portion of every Toad&Co purchase directly contributes to our mission.

Hemp Yeah, Man

There has long been a common misconception about hemp. No, it is not (just) something your older brother used to smoke out behind the garage, nor is it only good for making rope. As it turns out, hemp is a wonder weed. Its sustainable, durable nature makes it a great material for clothing. When made into clothes, hemp can be softer than traditional cotton and offer an elevated sense of comfort with high marks (pun intended) for breathability and fast drying capabilities. Aside from hemp’s awesome material qualities, it’s a sustainability all-star because growing hemp uses considerably less water than conventional cotton. All our hemp is grown to organic standards and processed using non-toxic methods. We regularly include hemp in our fabrics and are upping our usage season after season. Here’s why making hemp clothing can help save the world.

Hemp is Strong Like Bull

Hemp is three times stronger than traditional cotton and is one of the most durable natural textile fibers out there. Using hemp fibers ensures our clothing stays on your back year in and year out.

S18-Day_02-Toad_HandlebarCoffee_080_InblogHemp feels so good! Featuring the Toad&Co Men’s Epique Crew Sweatshirt

Hemp is Water Conscious

Did you know that conventional cotton requires a TON of water to grow and process into clothing? From irrigation to cleaning to dying, conventional cotton sucks up water during every step. But superstar hemp relies primarily on rainwater for irrigation, giving us yet another reason to love it.

Hemp Is Technologically Savvy

You’re an adventurous person, so there no telling what you might get into in your Toad&Co clothing. Whether you’re breaking a sweat (or the person next to you is…), it’s always nice to have clothing that works with you. Hemp is a natural bacterial inhibitor that helps decrease odor (score!) and wicks moisture away. It’s also a dense fiber so it provides UV resistance – no matter how lightweight your hemp blend shirt is.  That’s a whole lot of tech in a natural package!

So, have we convinced you? Keep an eye out for our organic hemp styles, and remember, hemp yeah man!

S18-Day_04-Toad_Tacos_443_For BlogKeep it comfy in hemp. Featuring Toad&Co Women’s Couvert Hemp Hoodie

Spread the Love

With many embracing it, some downright denouncing it, and others indifferent, the only thing we know for sure is Valentine’s Day is approaching at a rapid pace. It happens every year. You look up from Christmas and New Years, ready to catch your breath and BAM! Valentine’s day hits you with a frantic mid-week dinner reservation and a hefty expedited flower delivery receipt. We say it’s time to reset the dial on all Valentine’s days expectations, and focus on what’s really important: spreading the love!

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What says I love you more than a Valentine’s Day card made from re-purposed desk supplies? We searched high and low in our office for the most card worthy desk decorators, and spruced up some old resume paper to look like the real deal. And although these Valentines turned out pretty darn well if we do say so, we did our best to drive home our true take on the day: it’s a lot more about the love you are spreading than the cards you are giving.

So this Valentine’s day, take it upon yourself to spread the love. Whether it’s making a slightly blue coworker smile, or just letting that fellow motorist merge in front of you versus the old box out, embrace the spirit of Valentine’s Day by spreading love to everyone, regardless of relationship status. And don’t forget, true love can just as easily be relayed through sticky-note hearts and a half drank bottle of tequila.

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Spreading the love comes in many shapes and sizes. Recently, our little community on the central coast of California was struck by not one, but two, natural disasters. Although the disasters are over and the news trucks are gone, there are many people who could still use your help. If you’d like to spread your love to the people of Montecito, please donate to this link to help out a community facing a long road to recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Pumpkin Keg 

You say Jack-o-Lantern, we say Pumpkin Keg. With a love of beer and a handful of random kitchen supplies, we looked at a pumpkin and saw opportunity. Advancements were made, limits were pushed, and the results were beyond our wildest dreams: a more sustainable, more portable, more festive keg. Follow these steps to make your own Pumpkin Keg. Medium size pumpkin holds a six-pack.

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Step 1: Cut out the stem of the pumpkin in a hexagonal shape, with a slight tilt to the knife (you don’t want the top to fall in). Cut an opening large enough to fit your hand.

Step 2: Remove all of the pumpkin innards. Be diligent! The more seeds and insides you take out, the less floaties you’ll have in your beer!

Step 3: Carve a hole for your spigot* on the lower half of the pumpkin. The hole should be slightly smaller than the spigot diameter. Shove the spigot in the hole with as little adjusting as possible. Should be nice and tight.  (*We used a spigot from an old punch dispenser. Waste not, want not.)

Step 4: Pick your poison (or your favorite adult beverage) and fill up your pumpkin keg. “Tap” your keg and cheers to your ingenuity. Happy Halloween, kids!

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Shop the Men’s and Women’s Indigo Styles and BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin.)

Norah Eddy:  Our Sustainability Soul Sister

 

From the fish you eat to the clothes you wear, informed choices are the best choices.

Our friend, Norah Eddy, is a boisterous case in point. “Knowledge is change,” Norah says. “The more you know, the greater an impact you can make.” Wave whisperer and overall sustainability badass, Norah has made it her mission to change the way we eat and source from the Mighty Blue. Her solution? A smarter kind of seafood. In 2014 she co-founded Salty Girl Seafood, a line of sustainable seafood products that are 100% traceable, down to the name of the fisherman who caught your fish.

It all started with a solid understanding of the way humans rely on natural resources. Norah grew up in a small fishing town in Rhode Island, watching fishermen make a living from the sea. She spent her formative years cutting her chops in Alaska’s expansive fisheries and a few years later she went back to school to study marine resource management at University of California Santa Barbara (that’s how we got hooked up with Norah!).

In 2012 Norah came across a study that found a third of all seafood sold in the U.S. was mislabeled. Something was fishy. “Clear traceability is the key to truly sustainable practices,” Norah says. That’s why all the seafood Salty Girl sources goes through a rigorous 6-Point Sustainability Assessment. The result? 100% traceability. For every package of Salty Girl Seafood, you can find the location where your fish was caught, the gear used to catch it and a short bio on your fisherman.

Here’s Salty Girl’s 6-Point Sustainability Assessment:

  1. Management: How is the fishery managed and enforced?
  2. Certifications: What certifications has the fishery received?
  3. Habitat Impacts: What is the gear type and its effect on environment?
  4. Bycatch: What is the effect of gear on bycatch and how is it dealt with?
  5. Socioeconomic: Are there any human rights, social or political concerns in the region?
  6. Population and Monitoring: What kinds of population monitoring and data analysis are in place?

More than a seafood company, Salty Girl is a platform on which to educate consumers and change a flawed fishing system. “You may not think much of changing the way you order fish or shop for clothes, but many splashes create a big ripple effect,” Norah says from aboard a fishing boat in San Felipe, Baja. “When you support sustainable products, you’re casting a vote in support of sustainable practices.”

In the commercial fishing industry, sustainable practices can be a matter of life and death for some species. “Keeping a healthy resource healthy is the key to sustainability” Norah reminds us, “but that cannot come at the expense of another resource.” In the Gulf of California off the coast of San Felipe, the vaquita, a small porpoise, has become an unfortunate bycatch of local fisherman. It’s a problem that’s gone so unchecked that the vaquita is now the most endangered marine mammal in the world, with an estimated 30 vaquita left. “It comes down to knowing the difference between long-term benefits and short-term gains. When you know what’s at stake, the responsible choice becomes pretty clear.”

Whether it’s understanding healthy vaquita populations or the effects of carbon emissions on climate change, it’s our job as consumers and citizens of the planet to understand the impact of our choices before we make them.  For more on Norah’s work, check out her interview on the Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast.

Ending Apparel Waste with The Renewal Workshop

 

Like it or not, we all have to wear clothes. As an apparel company, we’re committed to making clothing as responsibly as possible – from the beginning to end. That’s why we’ve partnered with The Renewal Workshop to keep Toad&Co clothing out of the landfill and in the market as long as possible.

They say, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” and the Renewal Workshop has taken that adage and applied it to business. In warehouses across the country, apparel is piling up because it’s been returned, slightly damaged, or over-produced. Most unused clothing eventually ends up in a landfill, contributing to the 14 million tons of apparel and textiles that get tossed each year. But like we said, The Renewal Workshop is working to turn that trash into treasure.

In a state-of-the-art facility in upstate Oregon, the folks at the Workshop are taking our slightly damaged, excess and returned clothing and turning it into wonderful, fabulous, and renewed clothing. Here’s how it works: We send them Toad&Co clothing that, for whatever reason, we can’t resell. The clothes get sorted into two camps: clothing that can be renewed or clothing that can be upcycled into new fabrics. It’s cleaned in a zero-waste Tersus washing machine that uses CO2 to get deep into the fibers of the garment. There’s no water wasted, all byproducts are captured and reused and it will never, ever shrink your sweaters.

The rips and tears are fixed, buttons are sewn back on and broken zippers are replaced. The renewed clothing is co-branded, packaged with recycled paper, and made ready for resale on the Renewal Workshop website. Good as new, but far better for the planet. Treasure, indeed.

To find renewed Toad&Co clothing, visit RenewalWorkshop.com and search for Toad&Co products by gender. When you buy renewed clothing, you can trust that you’ve done something great for the planet and the apparel industry. Extending the life of a garment means less water, less carbon and less waste in a landfill. Together we can change the apparel industry from a linear one to a circular one. Together, we are a force.

5th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

 

Over the course of human history, food has taken on different meanings for different people. For some, food is simply the fuel that drives the body. For others, food is an art, creatively crafted to please all of the senses. And for an even smaller group, food is the centerpiece of a competition that knows no cosmic limits. A competition so vast that it’s been said that contestants prepare for weeks, fine tuning their creations, testing daring new recipes and sometimes even the limits of science itself… Born out of bread, cheese and boldness, the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown is a culmination of visionary chefs, experimental ingredients and the desire to create one grilled cheese to rule them all.

The Competitors Table: A place of battle waged with bread and cheese.

Now in it’s 5th year, the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown started in 2011 as a modest competition between Toads and friends. The goal? To create the greatest grilled cheese sandwich in the known universe. Over the years the competition has grown, just like our bellies on the night of competition. In its second year, the Smackdown escalated with the addition of the Golden Spatula, the highly coveted trophy awarded by an elite team of judges. The Smackdown grew considerably through its third and fourth years, but nothing could have prepared us for the epic clash of carbs and dairy that was the 5th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown held at Toad HQ in the early days of April 2017. 

The real winners in this competition? Whoever got to eat this.

Undoubtedly, the best part of the Smackdown (besides the heaps of cheese consumed) is the support from our Santa Barbara Community. This year teams representing Alpha Resource Center, Santa Barbara Fire Department, Salty Girl Seafood, UCSB’s Bren School, Ontraport, and Visit Santa Barbara joined the competition. Toad&Co represented with three teams including past winners Nina and Ian. The judges had their mouths full this year with two 30-minute heats and 9 grilled cheeses comin’ in hot! And as much as taste will win over a judge, presentation turned out to be just as important this year. Contestants plating their sandwiches on everything from fine china to polished wood platters, and many sandwiches were accompanied by a specialty cocktail. In the case of SB Fire Department, a straight shot of tequila was the perfect garnish. Because getting the judges a little liquored up is surely a good way to win them over. 

Team Santa Barbara Fire Deptartment bringing the heat with their spicy grilled cheese dubbed En Fuego.

As contestants crafted their delicacies, onlookers drank in a delicious pale ale from local Telegraph Brewing and fought off the evening chill with Tuscan Tomato Soup from non-profit Organic Soup Kitchen. As sandwiches began to take shape, hungry masses gathered round to snap up samples and compare notes. Even though the esteemed judges award the Golden Spatula, the crowd was tasked with picking the People’s Choice Grilled Cheese by the end of the night.

As attendees mingled around sampling the various specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, one sandwich began to emerge as the crowd favorite. Pure Cheese,  a delicious combination of pepper jack and cheddar cheese, spinach and mushrooms, created by Alpha Resource Center, quickly racked up votes for this year’s People’s Choice Award.  More than just a killer grilled cheese team, Alpha Resource Center is a shining star in our community – they’re a multi-faceted service center providing support and information for families of persons with developmental disabilities . Part if our mission is to empower adults with disabilities, so we couldn’t be more appreciative of all the great work Alpha Resource Center is doing to empower and integrate adults with disabilities in our community. Grilled cheese smackdowns, local park maintenance, rock bands, community volunteering – there’s nothing the Alpha folks CAN’T do! 

Organic Soup Kitchen kept everyone full with their delicious Tomato Soup.
For those of us with a more traditional palette, the make-your-own grilled cheese station was a hit!

As an evening breeze began to whisper through the trees, the judges huddled around more for warmth than secrecy. Choosing between all of the cheesy goodness must have been a challenge, but a winner had to be crowned. In third place, Phil and Billy from Santa Barbara Fire Department  Got the “Overall Hottest Award” for their spicy En Fuego sandwich. In second place, Toad’s  Nina and Ian got accolades for their tres chic, artisanal sandwich, The French Onion. With second and third place announced,  a hushed silence fell over the crowd (minus our Ops Manager Neil who was far more interested in finishing off the keg). Weeks of experimenting with recipes and cooking methods had led up to this moment: The Golden Spatula went to Natalie and Danielle from Visit Santa Barbara for their exquisite and entirely local-sourced Fromage de la Riviera! 

3rd Place – Phil and Billy representing Santa Barbara Fire Department. Living up to their “Overall Hottest” Award, indeed.
Previous winners Ian and Nina ended up in second place this year. From the looks of it, they will be back with vengeance!
1st place – Natalie and Danielle representing Visit Santa Barbara. You go girls!

For anyone who’s ever been to the Toad&Co Grilled Cheese Smackdown, you know grilled cheese sandwiches are more than just food. They are shining effigies of the two greatest things on earth: bread and cheese. And when those most perfect things meet in the holy confines of a griddle, it’s pure magic. The 6th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown will be here before you know it, so everyone better start practicing now. Practice makes perfect, and that means lots of test-runs eating sample grilled cheeses. You know, in the name of science. 

Friends, grilled cheese, and beer – good times guaranteed.

People’s Choice Recipe from the 5th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

 

At the end of March we proudly hosted our 5th annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown. For those of you who are not familiar with this event, the Grilled Cheese Smackdown is the biggest cooking competition west of the Los Padres Mountain Range. With competitors prepping and practicing their grilled cheese creations for weeks before the competition, attendees and competitors alike are treated to mouthwatering creations where bread, cheese, and butter are just the beginning. With so many delicious sandwiches premiering at the Grilled Cheese Smackdown, we couldn’t keep all of the cheesy goodness to ourselves.

To win the Golden Spatula at the Grilled Cheese Smackdown means that you impressed the judges more than any other team in the contest. While that is all and well, impressing the attendees of the Grilled Cheese Smackdown may be even more of an accomplishment. To recognize such an achievement, the People’s Choice award is voted on by anyone in attendance and can be awarded to any team that makes a sandwich in the competition. This year it was none other than the Alpha Resource Center who took home the People’s Choice Award. Their sandwich Pure Cheese featured a touch of spice from pepper jack cheese as well as the satisfying taste of sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and garlic. Rather than making you salivate by thinking about the sandwich, Alpha gave us permission to share their recipe so you can make Pure Cheese for yourself! Comfort food secured.

Pure Cheese by Alpha Resource Center

Ingredients:
1 slice of pepper jack cheese
1 slice of Cheddar Cheese
2 teaspoon of parmesan grated cheese (spread across the challah bread)
1/4 cup of mushrooms
1 teaspoon of fresh cut garlic
2 slices of challah bread
Two teaspoons of butter (spread on the challah bread)
8 leafs of spinach
A pinch of chives

Instructions:

  1. While the grill is heating up, dice up the mushrooms, garlic, and slice the challah bread into two pieces, then spread butter over the outside of the bread.
  2. Press the buttery surface of the bread with parmesan to ensure that every bit of the bread gets some cheesy love!
  3. Both bread slices and both types of cheese go onto the grill. Once the cheese is soft, sprinkle a teaspoon of parmesan in to add some of that salty taste.
  4.  Use a little of the oil coming off the cheese, or a dab of butter on the grill to assist as you put the garlic, spinach and mushrooms on the side. Don’t let them mix yet, giving them a chance to get good and roasted before bringing them all together.
  5. Press the cheese down to ensure it’s frying, then scrape away the excess oil to prevent it from being absorbed by the bread which will make it soggy.
  6. Put one piece of bread on top, and use a spatula underneath to get everything off the grill, then complete the creation by resting it down on the other piece of parm grilled bread. Sprinkle a pinch chive on top, let it cool for about 3 minutes, and you’re ready to experience Pure Cheese!

Winning Recipe From The 5th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

 

For those unfamiliar with 5th Annual Toad&C0 Grilled Cheese Smackdown, it’s the biggest cooking competition west of Paris and it happens at Toad HQ. With competitors prepping and practicing grilled cheese creations for weeks before the competition, it’s the finest iteration of bread and cheese in the known universe. With so many delicious sandwiches premiering at the Grilled Cheese Smackdown, we couldn’t keep all of the cheesy goodness to ourselves.

This year’s top honors went to Visit Santa Barbara‘s Fromage de la Riviera. Fun fact about the name, ToadHQ is located in the Riviera neighborhood of Santa Barbara. Way to know your audience, Natalie and Danielle! Aside from an aesthetic masterpiece, Danielle and Natalie’s sandwich packed a serious punch of flavor. Who knew a mix of caramelized onions and mushrooms could be so tasty? Top it off with gruyere and swiss cheeses and you’ve got a winner on your hands. Permission to share winning recipes is rarely given (ok, not really), so take advantage and make yourself a Golden-Spatula worthy grilled cheese!

Fromage de la Riviera by Visit Santa Barbara

Ingredients for 2 sandwiches: 
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin (about ¼”)
½ cup of butter, softened and room temp
1/2 up of white wine
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced 
2.5 oz. gruyere cheese, shredded
2.5 oz. swiss cheese, shredded
4 slices of local sourdough bread
Salt and pepper
Parsley
Rosemary for garnish, chopped 
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Instructions:

For onions:

  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and toss in sliced onions. Stir onions until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Spread onions in an even layer, cover pot and reduce heat to low. Stir every 5 or so minutes. Continue until onions are nicely caramelized, about 25 minutes. 
  3. Increase heat to medium-high, add about 3 tablespoons of wine to deglaze the pan, and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom. Once all the liquid has absorbed, about 1-2 minutes, turn off heat and let onions sit. 

For mushrooms:

  1.  In separate saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium/low heat. Add 2 garlic cloves (chopped) to pan and sauté for about 1 minute (Don’t let garlic brown!)
  2.  Add sliced mushrooms to pan and stir to coat with butter/garlic.
  3. Add about a 1/3 cup of white wine (a splash) and bring mushrooms to boil then reduce heat to simmer and cover. When wine has almost absorbed, remove lid and add chopped parsley for color and flavor. 
  4. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper then set aside.

Turn it into a grilled cheese: 

Preheat skillet to medium heat. Butter both sides of bread, lay buttered side down on skillet and cover with a layer of swiss cheese, top with a handful of caramelized onions and mushrooms, then a layer of gruyere cheese, and top it all off with another slice of buttered bread. Cook until cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown (about 3 to 4 minutes per side). Add pinch of chopped rosemary to each side and bon appetite! 

For more winning recipes, check out The Overall Hottest Award (spoiler alert: Firemen and chilis are involved) and the People’s Choice Award (which we’re fairly certain won because it had grilled cheese on the OUTSIDE of the sandwich. Ya. Think about it). For more on the event, check out our video recap!

The En Fuego Grilled Cheese

 

For those unfamiliar with 5th Annual Toad&C0 Grilled Cheese Smackdown, it’s the biggest cooking competition west of Paris and it happens at Toad HQ. With competitors prepping and practicing grilled cheese creations for weeks before the competition, it’s the finest iteration of bread and cheese in the known universe. This year the Santa Barbara Fire Department let the fire burn with their sandwich, aptly named En Fuego! A combination of spicy peppers, two types of cheese, and tequila-buttered sourdough (yes, tequila butter), the only thing hotter than the sandwich was the firefighters themselves! Spice things up but proceed with caution – this delicious combination of bread, cheese, and peppers is highly flammable!

The En Fuego by Santa Barbara Fire Department

Ingredients:
Tequila-lime-cilantro butter
Sourdough bread (fresh made is best)
Homemade guacamole
Fire roasted pasilla chiles, red peppers and green jalapeño peppers
Queso fresco
Mexican cheese blend
Jalapeño mustard

Instructions:

  1. Combine 1 shot of tequila, 1 stick of melted butter, and finely diced cilantro. Whisk together and let sit until butter firms up.
  2. Liberally apply butter to two pieces of sourdough bread.
  3. On the non-buttered side of bread, evenly apply a moderate amount of jalapeno mustard
  4. On top of the jalapeno mustard, liberally apply homemade guacamole.  
  5. Press fire roasted pasilla peppers and jalapenos into the guacamole.
  6. Add queso fresco and mexican cheese blend to the top of the guacamole.
  7. Gently sandwich two pieces of bread together.
  8. Grill until cheese is melted and bread is crispy. Ole!