Tag Archives: Anne Arundel

Repurpose This: Delicious Wallet

I was waiting until the pup was definitely, positively, absolutely past the sneaky chewing stage before I replaced this wallet.

It finally stopped working for the purpose for which it was intended…and when a wallet starts losing money, it’s ready for a “Repurpose This” challenge.

So what can you make from a rectangle of golden yellow leather? I’ve been working on a new collection of Angel’s Share jewelry for Ridgely Retreat, so I am obsessed with accessories right now. Get inspired by these creations, and start thinking.

This stunning “Bloom” necklace by Fleur Fatale caught my eye. What a nifty way to use irregular scraps! Bonus: there’s finally a way to showcase a pretty stud earring that’s lost it’s partner.

Do you have a serviceable, but boring, wallet? Jazz it up with some leather strips like this one from Found By Nicki. It’s too attractive to be stuck in a dark purse…consider adding a strap to turn it into a wristlet.

I toyed with the idea of cutting the wallet into strips to use as cuffs for my own glass cabochons. But I just don’t have the space right now to delve into a new material. This beaded cuff from Junk in the Trunk Studio is just what I had in mind.

This bracelet by Febra Rose uses repurposed copper as well as leather. How gorgeous can trash get?

Finally, feast your eyes on these copper and leather earrings by Melissa Lowery. I admit, I do covet them.

Chime in with your creative ideas for repurposing this sad little wallet.

You don’t have to stick with accessories. The sky is the limit!

As always, I’ll be posting this wallet on FreeCycle later on. But if you are in Anne Arundel County and would like to adopt it yourself, just let me know in the Comment section.

Happy Repurposing!

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Repurpose This: Wallpaper

For the past few weeks, I’ve been a bit stymied in trying to give this wallpaper away. It’s been up on FreeCycle in a few locations, and gotten some interest. I email back and forth to the Freecyclers, and set up a pickup plan. And then…without fail ( well, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing about it now) each one has been a no-show. I’m not sure why the wallpaper has elicited such an unusual response. Perhaps it’s such a visually strong object that it draws people in, people who like it, and think therefore they want it, but don’t really need it. And once faced with car keys, boots, and de-icing the car, are no longer interested in actually acquiring it.

But I’d wish they’d figure that out before we schedule a meeting!

So, with the goal of increasing the perceived value of 3 and 1/2 rolls of premium, vinyl-coated wallpaper, here are some ideas for using it, apart from the perfectly wonderful idea of putting it on the wall.


( this is the wallpaper on offer…very elegant, and with a matte vinyl coating)

Some very simple projects include:
Lining drawers
Matting for artwork
Scrapbook pages
Book covers

Here are some other ways to repurpose wallpaper, which may take a bit more planning, but are quite striking.

From Better Homes and Gardens, decoupage a tabletop. Really pretty! And imagine having a tablescape that links to your wall art or bookshelf….something like this? (also from BHG)

I just think that’s a beautiful way to accent with a bold pattern.

Can you imagine the lovely notes you could write while you were lounging in this BHG-inspired bed…

…and inspired by your repurposed-wallpaper stationery?

(photo courtesy of Singing Mommy )
Too predictable? Okay, how about beautifying the dumpsters in your neighborhood? There may not be enough wallpaper in my offer for an entire bin, but it could certainly provide an eye-catching start. ( Any Community Association rules that specifically disallow that?)

(thanks to CNN for sharing this version of street art)

Jump right in with your ideas, modest or crazy. Let’s create a need for these few rolls of wallpaper, and find a better home for them!

In response to some online coaching tips, this post was written entirely with the WordPress iPad app.  There’s quite a bit of a learning curve, including my struggle to center the images, and add captions.  Please be patient with this student blogger!

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Urban Animals

Although Anne Arundel County is a suburb of both Washington DC and Baltimore, I hardly ever find a reason to visit those cities. I have more than enough to keep me happy and occupied right here in my own little corner of the universe. But sometimes, I am coaxed into their grey landscapes ( in this case, a gift certificate for wood-fired, gluten-free pizza inspired a mini road trip).

While searching for parking in DC, I noticed this whimsical sight amidst all the concrete. It was a quick snap with the camera phone, and a clumsy zoom. But the glimpse of the giant stuffed animals seemingly paying rapt attention to an unseen speaker made me smile.


On the second pass round the block, I noticed that the store was empty and dusty. I don’t know why these animals were there in the window, or how long they will wait. Street-art commentary about the state of Congress or randomly aligned pile of toy store overstock?


Whatever the reason, that small detail of soft acrylic fur within a long wall of hard concrete and glass made me feel just a little bit warmer.

(And the pizza was worth the journey.)

This post has been submitted to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. Please visit the other entries listed below for more interpretations of “Lost in the Details“.

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Filed under General, Wish You Were Here

Walk and Wonder

The pup and I often make the most fascinating discoveries during our nature walks.

This find prompted a flurry of olfactory investigation.

I’m glad my shy girl wasn’t startled by the beady glare.
And warmed by someone’s random act of silliness.

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Filed under General

“Forward” With The White Hamon Sweet

Did you know that there are two kinds of sweet potatoes?  Here, in the Mid-Atlantic area, we are accustomed to the orange sweet.  But there is another variety, for years considered more adaptable to our climate. The white sweet potato lacks its cousin’s beta-carotene hue.  But for those of us lucky enough to taste this heirloom, the white sweet is a favorite for its rich flavor and creamy texture.

For unknown reasons, the white sweet fell out of popularity.  Finding one now takes a bit of persistence.  But the search is worth the effort.  The white sweet potato that you will hold in you hand will have been grown from slips from the best of the previous year’s harvest.  Those potatoes will have been sprouted off the potatoes from the year before that.  Each year takes the sweet potato farther back in time. Each sweet potato that you touch has been touched by hundreds of generations of families.  And each sweet potato that you cultivate will continue forward into time, as long as there are hands willing to keep it safe.


Here at the No Acre Homestead, we were lucky to have four White Hamon Sweets as part of our winter CSA box.  They had been handed down as slips, for generations, by families in Pennsylvania.

We ate one.

It was good.

We ate two more.

Then I immediately set up the last White Hamon to grow.  I didn’t want to risk forfeiting our chance to take part in preserving this treasure for the future.


 Starting a white sweet potato is ridiculously easy (like most things, once you know the guidelines, I’ve found). Skewer the potato with 3 or 4 evenly-spaced toothpicks.  Balance it in a wide-mouth jar, pointy side down.  That is the root side. The rounder end it the stem end, and you still may see a scar where the white sweet was once connected to the vine. New plants, called ‘slips’ will grow from here.

Fill the jar almost to the top with water.  The less chemicals, the better, in both the water and the potato.  Then place it in a sunny window.  Or as in our case, here in the north-facing Homestead, give it the best daylight you can manage.  This actually works.  Can you see in the picture above, in the middle of the jar, a faint horizontal line?  That is the new root growing, after just one day in the jar.

Life really wants to continue.

From this point on, I’m sharing photos from Food Skills for Self-Sufficiency. I have not advanced my sweet potato to the photogenic stage quite yet.

This is what the white sweet potato will look like in a few weeks. The gorgeous foliage is entirely edible. And, yes, it’s the same sweet potato vine that you see in hanging baskets all summer. (photo courtesy of Skills for Self-Sufficiency)

Just keep the water topped off, and be gentle in handling the mother plant.  When the slips are about 5 or 6 inches long, they will easily break off.  That’s when you can plant them, about 18 inches apart into loose soil, if your garden is ready.  Or into pots until the time is right.  Perhaps you’d just prefer to keep them in containers?  A secret weapon for front-yard gardeners, sweet potato vines are gorgeous in their own right. The same potato can be used  to sprout again, if you would like more plants.

How awesome is that?

This was our fall harvest from the same plants

This wheelbarrow-full came from the slips from just one sweet potato. One of these will be the mother for the next year’s harvest. (photo courtesy of Skills for Self-Sufficiency)

For more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge, take a peek at these blogs:

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  4. Weekly Photo Challenge: looking FORWARD to the future | The Voice from the Backseat
  5. Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward | Anotherdayinparadise2′s Blog
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Filed under General, Our No-Acre Homestead

Repurpose This: Glass Quart Jars

Our farm co-op no longer has the room to take back glass quart jars, among other packaging materials. Right now, I’m using all the egg cartons I can get my hands on for seed starting, so that’s no problem. I use the veggie boxes to package items for consignment. The straight-sided jars go into the studio for storage. But these small-mouthed quart jars with shoulders are piling up. I have a zillion ideas for repurposing them, but I am really trying to pare down supplies here. So here’s some pictures to get you inspired. And if you have any more thoughts, fire away! As always, they are available for local pickup, through this blog or through the Anne Arundel Freecycle boards.

20130224-153225.jpgI was trying to stay away from plain-old storage ideas. But this photo from Roadkill Rescue is so enticing. A bit of etching cream and some time is all it takes to create some customized bottles.

20130224-153645.jpgSlow Your Home has a mini-tutorial on turning old jars into hanging candle holders. Gorgeous!

20130224-153953.jpgThis idea from Indulgy is a repurposing trifecta! Jars, candleholders, and lids all find a new purpose as canisters on pedestals. I’m so impressed!

20130224-154342.jpgOver on Etsy, ARTful Salvage creates birdfeeders from glass jars, dishes, and assorted hardware. They’re quite elaborate. Luckily, they’re for sale, as well as for inspiration.

20130224-154828.jpgAnd finally, Rikki Hibbert uses her jars as a really unique way to display photos. Check out her site for details.

Ahhh, if only I had the room and the time, I would try all of these ideas! If you try any of them, please share your results. I’d love to see them.

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Filed under General, Repurpose This

Close to the Dirt, Far From Normal

Confession ( or rather, Stating the Obvious): I’ve been lax about finishing that pesky “About” page. I haven’t yet organized my blog roll. And there are a couple of reader awards that I was delighted to receive, but less enthusiastic about writing the acceptance notes. I intended to participate in at least one WordPress writing challenge per week, and haven’t been consistent.

If the rest of the things on my To Do List received such blatant prompting as the ones I’ve been getting for my blogging, I would be a super-achiever, with a spotless home, flourishing seedlings, and a productive studio. Also, my abdominal muscles would ripple as I accomplished all these things with grace and serenity.

Truly, I do not always arrange the day's harvest in such an artistic manner.

Truly, I do not always arrange the day’s harvest in such an artistic manner.

But the universe today, via the WordPress elves, has asked me to share Six unusual things about myself. Acceptance of the Beautiful Blogger Award requires sharing Seven unusual things about myself. I’m not going to wait for the postman to request Eight items before handing over the mail. I get the message.

The No-Acre Homestead is firmly planted in middle suburbia. On 1/10 of an acre, we have our house, driveway, walkway, two sheds, deck, and patio. And in the spaces in between, we grow as much of our own produce as we can. Year-round, and camouflaged to conform to the community covenants.

The pride of the Homestead is our compost. We add all of our kitchen scraps. Even the dairy and meat. The rule of thumb is to keep those last items out, but we have a secret ally in composting. To our delight, last year we welcomed our first visit of the Black Soldier Fly. Their young, the less-attractively-named Compost Maggot, will eat Anything. I never thought I would love a maggot. But now I think to save some fat or fish heads for them when I am cooking, much the same way I save special tidbits for our other pets.

Do not look away!  There is a hidden beauty in this pile of kitchen waste.  Compost maggots!

Do not look away! There is a hidden beauty in this pile of kitchen waste. Compost maggots!

My favorite scent is clean, rich soil. In fact, that’s the smell of true compost, and the reason that we have been able to have such a huge pile of “garbage” piled between neighboring townhouses. Healthy compost smells good. I don’t think our neighbors even realize that our kitchen waste is piled just a few feet from their deck.

I’m a total convert to raised bed planting. Container gardening works for our tiny nooks and crannies, but the raised beds, made of recycled plastic and filled with our homemade compost, are almost magically productive. I’ve been able to harvest herbs and greens all winter, with pathetically little effort on my part. In fact, by all rights, that parsley should have smothered under the ice-covered plastic sheeting. Due to health issues, I never got around to making cold frames, so things just piled up.

Raised beds and good compost create a productive garden in a tiny space.

Raised beds and good compost create a productive garden in a tiny space.

Health issues aside, no matter how rough I feel, I always wear lipgloss. Even if i am still wearing the sweatshirt I slept in, that spot of color goes on. No matter how busy I am, the lipstick gets reapplied. No matter how dirty I get in the garden, my lips look glamorous. Is that the artist in me, seeking to create a spot of beauty? Or am I channelling my Grandma, who “dressed for work” in a 1950s era department store every day of her life, despite changing styles and her retirement many decades earlier?

As I look out the window just now, I am happy to see the garbage truck come by. And the recycling truck. Every week, I am again grateful for them. I’ve lived in rural areas where I had to haul my own trash ( although some neighbors stored it, or burned it). I’ve lived in cities where the negotiations to dispose of trash were convoluted and expensive. So it may be a bit strange that trash trucks make me happy, but I’ve got my reasons. You’d think that after a couple of decades of living in this County that I’d be over the whole curbside waste perk, but it still delights me.

So there you have it, folks. Another little smidgen of sharing on my part. Eventually, I’ll have enough to write that “About” page without too much effort. And of course, I’ll be wearing gloss on my lips, and have dirt on my hands.


Award process: step 1,share 7 things about myself. Check. Step 2, post the Award image. Check. Step 3, nominate more blogs…check back later on today! The pup needs her walk Right Now!

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Filed under General, Our No-Acre Homestead

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