Tag Archives: Annapolis

Walk and Wonder

The pup and I sometimes explore other neighborhoods. This was on the edge of a nearby park. What do you think is going on here? This Underwood typewriter was in lovely condition. And just perched there, on the curb, between parking lot and playground.

20130215-192108.jpgSo mysterious.

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Filed under General, Wish You Were Here

Why I Love FreeCycle

We (as Back Creek Design) renovate two to three neglected properties each year. Sometimes we find that the houses have been completely stripped.  Not only appliances, but plumbing, wiring, and architectural details have been ripped out without regard to preserving the remaining structure.

Sometimes the houses are full beyond belief with the accumulation of a lifetime.  Or more than a lifetime…it seems like more properties we find these days have been havens for hoarders, who have passed on and left the comfort of their possessions.

In either case, stripped or crammed, or even in that rare condition of ‘broom-swept clean’, we find things that we don’t need, can’t use, and which have no resale value.


Sample portfolios of roofing and siding material. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

I usually can find a treasure or two for our own home or garden.  I’ve gotten some great mixing bowls, flower pots, and even an unopened bottle of premium tequila by sifting through debris.  But I try hard not to accumulate clutter. (Yes, it’s a very hard challenge!)  We donate what we can to Habitat for Humanity, but often the condition or quantity of the debris is not worth their limited shelf space.


Just a few squares each of three sizes of ceramic tile. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

We in Anne Arundel County are so fortunate to have curbside trash, bulk trash, and recycling pickup included in our County budget.  So sometimes it is almost too easy to toss things out. And yet, I hate to throw things in the dump.  (There are three county landfills in AACo.  That’s a lot of trash!) That’s just shifting the junk from one location to another.  Out of sight, but not beyond my responsibility.


A few square feet of tile in a discontinued color. Useful, but too small for any of our needs. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

As we renovate each property, we accumulate odds and ends of material.  I’ve saved the scraps in our shed over the years, with the intention of using them ‘in the next house’.  But invariably, there’s no place for that tile, or the color of the paint won’t work with the existing woodwork, or….

And so the shed becomes full, as well as the back of my car, and the back porch, with samples, scraps, and good intentions, as we work through each project.

Thank goodness for FreeCycle.

I try to join a group nearest to each project to keep driving to a minimum.  Staying local, besides keeping things out of the landfill, is part of the FreeCycle philosophy.   Anne Arundel County is fortunate to have many active locations.  I usually gravitate towards Annapolis or Severna Park.  But Odenton and Glen Burnie are also hopping.  There are lots of crafty, thrifty, and creative people in this part of the world.  Have you seen my ‘Repurpose This’ series?  Stuff gets snapped up through FreeCycle for uses that I would never have imagined.  Sometimes the number of responses for this ‘junk’ gets overwhelming.  Thank goodness I can keep up a steady stream of empty CBRC coffee cans!


This pile of ‘garbage’ is just a portion of what was re-homed through FreeCycle in one afternoon. You can see the sought-after CBRC coffee cans in the lower right. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

All the items pictured here were picked up, quickly, in one afternoon by fellow FreeCyclers.  And there were more things that I didn’t think to take pictures of.  Just read the great ways that these are going to be reused…

The ceramic tile is going to be used in a mother-daughter project.  All the scraps are in the same color family, so they are going to mix and match them to make a custom mosaic backsplash for their kitchen.  Mom promises to share pictures when they are done.  Love it!


There are probably a half-dozen different patterns of tile in this pile. Creativity and patience will turn these scraps into a gorgeous backsplash. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

The coffee cans went to two places.  A garden club is going to make a project based on the “Garden Edition” post.  I am so happy!  And an art teacher in the local elementary school will be using some cans as storage for supplies.

The portfolios of roofing and vinyl siding samples will be torn down to use as craft supplies…final project as yet undetermined.  Whatever it is, it will last for a long time…there’s a 20-year warranty on that material.  A really good reason to keep it out of the landfill!

Do you have a Freecycle near you?  Did you know that you can request free items, as well as post offers?  I have met people who have patiently completed an entire renovation project with material and furnishings entirely from FreeCycle.

What a wonderful way to be part of the community.


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Filed under General, Repurpose This, Wish You Were Here

The Creek in Winter

It was bitterly cold when the pup and I set out this morning.


A skin of ice clung to the edge of the creek.


The pup, of course, was still interested in taking a dip.

This did not happen.

I spent several long seconds being snubbed.


A few yards inland, and the marsh mud was frozen solid.


We climbed up an observation tower to see above the Phragmites.


The higher we climbed, the more blue sky we could see.


Warm weather was creeping towards us.


Back home, the earth was softening in the sunshine.


Pink and yellow emerge from  brown and grey.

20130210-135214.jpgAnother morning,

another walk,

another season has begun.

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Filed under General, Wish You Were Here

Repurpose This: Brass Courting Candleholder

Want proof that this mechanical oddity is a candleholder? Just take a look at all the melted wax coiled on the saucer.


Such an interesting device. Besides a candleholder, what could you make of it?

Courting candles were used in earlier times as curfew devices. When a suitor came to call, a girl’s parents pulled the taper up through the clamp and lit the wick. When the candle burned down to the metal, it would go out, and the date was officially over.

I don’t have any examples for repurposing it. But I can imagine it working as a holder for a taper candle, or a single flower. It’s clamp and spring design make it perfect for post-industrial decor. Could it work as a unique incense burner?

If you are clever with candle making yourself, perhaps you could fashion another coiled candle and return it to its original use.


A courting candle in all it’s original glory ( photo courtesy of the Sundance Catalog)

I’m always interested in our ideas, so brainstorm away! Let me know if you’d
like to pick it up in the Annapolis area. I’ll post it on FreeCycle as well.

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Repurpose This: Broken Pottery

Yes, it’s been a long and crazy week here, and I’ve neglected the blog for a few days. Rest assured, however, that cooking, eating, and rummaging have gone on during my Internet absence. I’ve got some new recipes, and new thoughts, to share with you later on. But for now, can we think of a use for this treasure-in-the-rough? It’s presence on my kitchen table over the past few days has me feeling guilty.

Originally a very well-made candle holder, it is crafted from very sturdy pottery. (Although not sturdy enough, apparently, for whatever extreme mishap it underwent once upon a time…the cup to hold the taper has broken off and gone missing) About 6 inches across and with a very deep bowl, it could be used as a pillar candle holder with the addition of some pebbles or sea glass, I’m sure.

It is glazed with a transparent taupe color. The cobalt blue details are thickly applied, and have dimension. It’s really quite lovely, and except for the handle, seems almost Japanese in shape. I am aware it’s most probable future is to be smashed with a hammer and used for mosaic, but I’m still wondering what ideas you have for using it intact.


As always, it’s available for pickup in the Anne Arundel area. I will also share it with the local FreeCycle group. But even if you are not local, your creative thoughts are always welcome!

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Toes that Shine (Lotus)

I look forward to my sort-of-monthly visit to Lotus. Tarragh does my pedicure, my single girly secret in my workpants-and-hoodie world. Although I am older than her parents, and wobble when I walk, she still talks to me like I am a real person. The pedicures that used to be an easy luxury for me are now a dear necessity, yet another thing for which I need to ask for help.

Tarragh has a family and a full-time career. Still, she tries on other lives part-time. “Like me, when I was younger,” I think, but never say. I don’t worry that she would be offended by the connection. I just have yet to accept that “when I was younger” is a part of who I am now. Once a week, she becomes a nail technician at this cozy, organic day spa. But unlike me at any age, she is wise beyond her years.

I am very early for my appointment today. Tarragh peeks out from the spa room. I stand in front of the wall of tiny bottles, holding one after another up to my skin. I apologize for interrupting her. “I need time to pick a color” I explain.

Tarragh steps through the doorway and laughs.

“Don’t worry, I understand”. She hands me a familiar inky-blue bottle. “You always want to make sure you know your options. But you almost always choose the same one.”



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Repurpose This: Coffee Cans, Garden Edition

As I mentioned last week, I was surprised, and thrilled, to find out how popular the topic of upcycling coffee cans has become. I am a super-achiever when it comes to creating empty coffee cans! But after honest self-assessment, I realized that all my fantastic ideas for repurposing them myself would not come to fruition unless I was also able to achieve power over the laws of time and space. Thank goodness for creative blog-readers and FreeCycle for giving these nifty cans new homes.

These are the Best Coffee Cans ever...smooth sides, paper label, and metal lid. The coffee's pretty good, too. (photo by Back Creek Design)

These are the Best Coffee Cans ever…smooth sides, paper label, and metal lid. The coffee’s pretty good, too. (photo by Back Creek Design)

With time drawing near to start planning spring planting, here are some ideas for using coffee cans in the garden.


Hanging planters made from coffee cans. I love how there are two cans per chain, slung over a rafter. Dynamic! (photo courtesy of Dishfunctional Designs)

There are a zillion garden storage uses. The CBRC cans I have come with metal lids. They can last for at least a season exposed to the elements, and make a great place to stash plant tags, twine, and gloves.


Another version of hanging planters, with all the cans strung on one line. This is so cute, and makes fresh herbs so accessible. (photo courtesy of Cheap Crafty Mama )

I also use them as vessels for seedlings, and for planting cuttings to use as gifts. With the ends removed, coffee cans make sturdy plant guards to protect tender seedlings from traffic and prowling kitties.


I love this wall of flowers! The skinniest space can get dressed up with an arrangement like this. (photo courtesy of Happy Sleepy )

Coffee cans make handy scoops for compost and soil amendments during transplanting. And don’t overlook the pre-garden prep work…a lidded coffee can makes a great compost bucket in the kitchen.


Add some screws and a handle, and some empty cans become a lovely flower caddy. (photo courtesy of Under the Table and Dreaming)

So put on that thinking cap and those garden gloves, and share some more ideas for coffee cans in the garden. Spring is just around the corner, I promise!

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Local Treasure: The Skating Rink at Quiet Waters Park

We are now a few weeks into Winter, the holidays have passed, and the chill is setting in. Rather than hiding from the season, why not celebrate it with an only-when-it’s-cold-out adventure? For the next few weeks, the reflecting pool at Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis will be transformed into an old fashioned skating rink.

Old-fashioned Winter fun at the Skating Rink. (photo courtesy of AACo)

Old-fashioned Winter fun at the Skating Rink. (photo courtesy of AACo)

Normal park entry fees apply most days until 5:30pm, but the rink is open until 9pm. Visit the Rink website for more information, including skate rental and lessons.

And if ice skating itself doesn’t entice you, the nearby Visitor’s Center with art gallery and Cafe makes a great perch to enjoy the activity while staying warm.


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Filed under General, Wish You Were Here

Still Shopping? I’m Listening.

I wish I had the resources to grab my displays and put on a full-out trunk show for everyone who is asking about Angel’s Share fused glass. What a fun whirlwind that would be! And the appreciation and support is really heart-warming.

My glass-making skills outstrip my photography skills.  Still, you may get a glimpse of the deep color and glow of these handmade gems.

My glass-making skills outstrip my photography skills. Still, you may get a glimpse of the deep color and glow of these handmade gems.

Alas, once again I am constrained by both the laws of physics and my own physical limitations. So for those of you in Anne Arundel County and neighboring areas, who are still looking for last-minute gifts, and would love something made locally and by hand, by a real person with a face and a name, I’ve added links to the right sidebar  where my work can be found. Hopefully, that list will grow, as each outlet has its own vibe, and they’ve chosen different styles to showcase.

Lillie Pad Studios features my Artifact line, with raw edges and mixed materials.

The Angel's Share Artifact series is always changing, depending on what materials I've foraged. These three pieces include salvaged window glass, copper mesh, electrical wiring, steel cable, and ground glass powder, as a start.

The Angel’s Share Artifact series is always changing, depending on what materials I’ve foraged. These three pieces include salvaged window glass, copper mesh, electrical wiring, steel cable, and ground glass powder, for a start.

There’s a lot of repurposed inclusions in these pieces, scavenged from houses undergoing renovation. And owner Michelle Lillie is an amazing glass-blower, with a great variety of her work available as well. The upstairs Gallery features work by several local fine artists, including paintings and sculptures. For a really unforgettable gift, package a pair of Angel’s Share earrings with a voucher for one of the glass-blowing or ceramics classes offered at the Studio.

Ridgely Retreat in West Annapolis is showcasing my Angel Stacks this winter.

I try to nudge the colors for the Angel Stacks, but really, the outcome is up to the whim of the kin gods.  Yeah,  I know there's science in there too, but I prefer to believe in magic.

I try to nudge the colors for the Angel Stacks, but really, the outcome is up to the whim of the kiln gods. Yeah, I know there’s science in there too, but I prefer to believe in magic.

Tailored in shape, yet full of fire and color, these pieces will bring a sparkle to the grayest of days. Ridgely Retreat is such a warm and peaceful place, consider it a gift to yourself just to drop by and enjoy a cup of herbal tea while you shop. And in the spirit of loving-kindness, couple an Angel’s Share pendant with a certificate for a massage or a yoga class offered on site.

And both locations have abundant, free parking! How’s that for taking the stress out of last-minute shopping?

Happy Holidays, and wishes for the most wonderful of New Year’s.

This sign from an Annapolis shop says it all. (photo courtesy of South Jersey Locavore)

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Filed under Angel's Share Glass/Metal/Fire/Art, General