Don’t Read My Blog While Driving

Do you think that’s a crazy headline? Who would do that? Well someone has! Someone recently commented and said she read one of my blog posts on her phone, while sitting at a red light.

What?! It’s just design, decorating and paint here. It’s not that important. I am happy you are reading here! But please visit while sitting in a chair, couch or bed. Please don’t read while sitting in a car, even at a red light.

You may know me here as a decorating and DIY blogger. But this blog is not my job. My full-time job is … guess it! … preventing distracted driving! I work on preventing distraction from technology like our cell phones and dashboard infotainment systems. I’ve worked on traffic safety for 20+ years and distracted driving for the past 7 years. I’ve reviewed about 600 fatal and serious injury crashes involving cell phones. These crashes really do happen. A lot. So I was shocked to see someone read my blog while driving.

This month, April, is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Nearly everyone knows it’s dangerous to use phones while driving.* So why do people still do it? A lot of people think it won’t happen to them.

And a lot of us are trying to squeeze things in while driving because we’re too busy. We brag about our busy-ness. “How are you?” “Oh, soooo busy!” You know how that conversation goes!

Personally I love that my car is an escape. It’s an escape from the electronic communications coming at me 24/7 from my phone, computers and TV. Research shows listening to music is not very distracting to us (as long as you’re not lip-syncing on video while driving like Sam and Nia, don’t even get me started!) and if music helps you be less stressed or bored while driving, that’s good. I have great speakers and an amplifier in my car and it sounds like a concert hall. It makes driving easier. I protect my time in the car as time to re-charge my energy. It’s a time to take a break from all the communicating.

Why not “Take Back Your Drive” this month? Put the phone away and just drive. Drive more peacefully. Try it for 30 days. You may find there are benefits to that! A lot of skeptical people try it, then find they’re more rested, creative ideas pop in their minds, and if you’re driving with children, it’s a time to connect as family.

If you try it, I’d love to hear how it went, but please don’t comment while driving! ;)


* Nearly everyone knows texting while driving is dangerous. Most people still don’t know that hands-free talking and voice control features are distracting! If you’re curious, click here to learn more about all that.


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2016’s Theme: Living Offline

I saw something on Instagram that made a lot of sense. Don’t set a New Year’s resolution! Instead …

Set a theme for the new year


Now I’m a believer in SMART goals, definitely at work where accountability is crucial. But in other areas of life, maintaining accountability for everything 24/7 can get tiring. And sometimes a focus on a single SMART goal can make you lose sight of the big picture.

For example, losing weight is a common New Year’s resolution, right? A lot of people vow to lose 15-20 pounds by spring, when we peel off the winter layers and feel more exposed. (It’s really easy to hide under sweaters and coats!) But what if you don’t lose those 15-20 pounds? How do you feel? You feel great if you do lose them. But if you don’t, you shouldn’t have to feel like a failure, like there’s something you didn’t achieve. Why not set the goal with more room to achieve it, something more aligned with a big picture. Like, “live healthier.” To achieve this goal, there are many things you can do daily:

  • You can eat more healthy foods.
  • You can sit a little less, move a little more.
  • You can do more things that make you feel happy.
  • You can get more sleep.
  • You can get outside and breathe fresh air more often.

All these things help you live healthier. You can take a different step every day toward the goal. If you really want to build in more accountability, write on a calendar daily — write what you did that day that fits the theme. You get the variety of having different ways to become healthier. And you may find that you also lose weight by living healthier! But your goal is broader. More like a theme

How to Set a New Year's Resolution

Living with a theme and broad goals is more likely to lead to a sustainable lifestyle change. You make little changes in different areas of your life, and over time, they add up to big change. If one of those little changes drops off, it’s okay, you’re still doing the other changes. That’s a success! When we feel successful, we’re more likely to keep doing what we’re doing. This is why the idea of a New Year’s Theme really resonated with me.

So what’s my 2016 theme?

Living Offline

Oh yeah, I get the irony.

I got the theme idea online, on Instagram. I’m writing about the theme online, on this blog. But after this post, I’m logging off! I’m not going to mindlessly visit Pinterest or Facebook or blog analytics. While there are many life benefits we get from being online, there’s a whole life to live offline too. I’m afraid we’re forgetting that between smartphones and laptops and tablets and all the time they demand from us. But it’s our choice to let them take over. Read that sentence again. It’s our choice. Those of us old enough to remember life before 1995 remember a life with no internet at all. Cell phones were car phones. The fact that cell phones are still used in cars is another issue — if you’d like to know what I do with my workdays, I work on preventing cell phone distracted driving including hands-free. Yes hands-free is not risk-free! When we literally can’t put our phones down, it’s a problem. Life shouldn’t be lived through a phone. Or a computer screen. I don’t believe that’s really living all that life has to offer.

Offline, I want to move around more. Sitting can kill you. Yes it can. Go Google it (but not for too long!). I want to fix up more things around the house – like DIYs that actually involve plugging a tool into an electrical outlet. I NEED to get on airplanes more often — big jets and our little four-seater airplane — and go places. I want to paint more. I want to go big with that. Today I’m assembling a 40″ x 50″ canvas, to finally paint an idea that’s been mulling around in my mind. It’s time for it to flow out through the paintbrushes. First, I’m gonna test it on small canvases. I want to paint our kitchen cabinets. I want to build a large patio wrapping around the sunroom on the back of our house.

All these things are Living Offline. Maybe I’ll build the patio. Maybe I won’t. Heck, maybe we’ll finally sell our house this year instead, which we’ve been talking about for years. That’s a big idea and big work. I’ll get some of these things done. And I’ll surely do other things I haven’t thought of yet. By December 31, 2016, I’ll have a whole long list of things I did offline in 2016. That will be a big success!

So … what is your theme for 2016? What change do you want to make in your life?


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Top 10 Easy & Awesome Things to Stencil!

I’ve done a lot of stenciling projects over the years shared here and here. I’m also endlessly inspired by other people. There’s a lot of creativity out there! While I enjoy doing a complex project for the challenge of it, life is also very busy. It’s good to have easy projects too. So I scoured the world (okay, the usual sources like Pinterest, Google Images, HomeTalk, Paint+Pattern but those cover the world!) for some good ideas that are:

  • Creative
  • Easy (and sometimes fast too!)
  • Inexpensive

Often these are practical things that you can make prettier with paint and stencils. These projects are easier because they involve:

  • One stencil
  • One paint color
  • Small surfaces

So here they are, the Top 10 Ideas …

Top 10 Easy DIY Stencil Projects

Stenciled Grocery Shopping Bag

At Mendez Manor, Nicole stenciled these blank grocery shopping bags she found on Amazon and a stencil found at Michaels. This project is easy and super stylish:

Stenciled Lampshade

Turn a plain lamp shade into something really special. Royal Design Studio shows you how to stencil on a lampshade:

Stenciled Lamp Shade via Royal Design Studio

Holiday Placemats

Crazy Little Projects made a cute little project. Holiday placemats could be expensive for only rare use, but it’s fast and easy to stencil a holiday theme on a plain placemat. You could even use them double-sided. Use the stenciled side for the holidays and the plain side the rest of the year:

Cute Little Projects Blog - Stenciled Holiday Placemats

Simple Lettered Signs

Simple signs but big style! These signs have beachy themes, but Donna at Funky Junk Interiors shares many different sign ideas. These are lettering stencils painted on simple planks of wood. Super easy:

Funk Junk Interiors Stenciled Beach Signs

Whoa, Candles

This is a really creative idea. Though I would caution, don’t put much paint on your candle and keep an eye on it while burning it. Just over Thanksgiving, we burned a candle that was heavily coated with paint (much more paint than these stenciled candles) and the paint pooled in the melted wax and the flame shot up. We had to blow it out. I think this idea could be okay on large 3″ diameter pillar candles and if you go light with the paint. This project was done with Mod Podge and sand. There’s a discussion about flammability in the Hometalk comments:

Stenciled Candles by HomeMadeville Blog

Stenciled Mailbox

I thought I’d seen it all. Because I’ve spent way too many hours of life looking at things. But I had never seen this. A stenciled mailbox? Of course. Why not!

Stenciled Mailbox on Hometalk

Stenciled Chair Backs

Stencils are an easy way to add one-of-a-kind personalized style to chairs. These beautiful French chairs were given a new look by Cedar Hill Farmhouse blog, with stencils on grain sack fabric, applied to the backs of the chairs. You just gotta see the before picture. You will never believe the improvement!

Cedar Hill Farmhouse Stenciled Chair Backs

Now, the chair restoration and reupholstery is professional and may be more complex. But the stenciling part is not too hard and it’s something you can do on chair backs in your home.

Picture Frames

From Shanty2Chic, here are easy and inexpensive picture frames. They look like they took a lot more time than they really did to make them! I think these would make great gifts. Paint frames in a color your friend or family would like:

Shanty2Chic Stenciled Photo Frames

Okay. How many is this now? 1, 2, 3 … 8! Here’s two more …

Stenciled Pillows

Pillows are smaller and you can get a great effect with a combo of one paint and one stencil on an interesting fabric. And the nautical theme here by Canary Street Crafts is so fun:

Stenciled PIllows by Canary Street Crafts

Canvas Wall Art

Stencils make it possible for you to create easy wall art. This has a few more paint colors than the ideas above. But this would still be very easy to do. Now that I look at it, this is not a DIY, you can actually buy this set readymade at Michaels! But I leave the idea in because you could do this with stencils:

Canvas Wall Art


I hope some of these inspired you to try some stenciling projects! Which would you try first?


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Design Trend: Detroit! Yes Detroit!

You may have done a double-take at this title? Detroit, a font of trendy design? Yes! I grew up near Detroit. It’s my hometown, and if I can tell you one thing about Detroit, it’s that the grittiness there produces hardy people and a certain underdog’s pride. The city’s fall on hard times forces that. Even though I left back in 2001, I was in my early 30s then, so I spent plenty of years of life around Detroit and its suburbs to see the cycles of economics and how this can make you tough and resourceful.

And so …

I was proud when I heard Genevieve Gorder’s speech about three top design trends in 2015:

  • Texture
  • Vikings (she is Scandinavian after all)
  • Detroit!!

Whaaaaaaat?!?! Yes, Detroit is a design trend and I explain why below.

I warn there’s a few f-bombs in the video, but her talk is entertaining and hilarious and delivers a fast-paced stream of style that’s coming your way. When s0meone gets so breathless because there’s so many words to share, you know they love what they do:

As she says in her talk, if you want to stay ahead of style trends, you gotta accept things when they’re still at the weird stage. But now that it’s late 2015, many things in the video are not a surprise. You’ve seen them all over Pinterest and blogs and Instagram. You may have seen Detroit style too, and not even realized it yet.

Genevieve talks about black and white as 2015 design trends, and I found a Detroit style-setter that combines B&W with “doing good in Detroit” … Better Life Bags. This is the Finley bag:

Better Life Bags Finley Bag

Here’s how it works at Better Life Bags: you custom design your bag, and women in Detroit sew it for you. You can choose your fabric, leather color, types of straps, whether you want a tassel add-on. With some designs you can add exterior pockets. You can even choose whether you want gold or silver hardware. Here’s more about how Better Life Bags helps women in Detroit:

Their laptop bags are useful:

Better Life Bags Laptop

They’ve teamed up with another Detroit style institution, Detroit Bikes, with the Scout messenger bike bag, my personal #1 fav style and I may treat myself for Christmas with the wide black and white stripe fabric! It can be worn as a backpack or slung over your should like a regular ol’ bag:

Better Life Bags Scout Bike Messenger Bag

Detroit has a creative workforce with an eye toward industrial style. It’s a town of steelworkers, auto seat upholsterers, machinery operators … the types of jobs you find in the “rust belt” of heavy industry and assembly lines. So it’s no surprise that out of that atmosphere, the idea for vice grips as table legs would arise! Remember what I said about resourcefulness? Take a found chunk of wood, add vice grip legs from FLOYD and you have a dining table or coffee table, a shelf or a bench:

Floyd Vice Grip Legs

Floyd Vice Grip Leg Dining Table

Floyd Vice Grip Shelves

I think these shelves have potential for hipster boho style perfection – just the right amount of industrial to set off bohemian style. Follow FLOYD Detroit on Instagram for new ideas to make things with their vice grip products, like this stylish table with what looks like salvaged wood:

Floyd Detroit Vice Grip Leg Table

I’m thinking those of us who do crafts need BIG TABLES. And big tables can come with a big price tag. But salvaged wood (doors maybe?) with these vice grip legs would make instant affordable big tables for crafts and hobbies!

Detroit’s decaying buildings are the subject of much ruin porn photography. But one man named Mike Wallace of Wallace Detroit Guitars sees the old buildings were built of wood from old growth forests. Wood with resonance good for guitars. So he makes music from Detroit’s ruins — he makes guitars:

CBS News Mark Wallace Guitars from Detroit

Wallace Detroit Guitars

A really cool product that’s quintessential Detroit is Fordite jewels. Fordite is a colorful stone made from the thousands of layers of paint from automotive plants. !!! Can you believe that? I’m dumbfounded. Maybe some paint from my first car, a red Ford Escort back in the early 90s, is now in one of these stones. Also known as Motor City Agate:

Fordite Motor City Agate

You can find lots of Fordite jewelry on Etsy.

Detroit is a big sports town, home of the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons. The Detroit Strap Co. takes old footballs, vintage and baseball mitts and turns them into watch straps and other products. The straps often show signs of their original lives:

Detroit Strap Co Watch Straps

Another reclaim and repurpose initiative is Reclaim Detroit’s butcher blocks. The butcher blocks are made from the old growth wood found in salvaged Detroit homes:

Reclaim Detroit Butcher Blocks

They say there are about 70,000 abandoned homes in Detroit that cannot be lived in again. They must be knocked down. The structure of those old homes were built with really good old wood. So people are trained both to deconstruct the houses and build new products with the wood.

It’s no secret that Detroit has suffered from violence. I love these products made with melted down crime weapons. These steel cufflinks, available at the Detroit Institute of Arts online shop, have the serial number of the gun that was permanently removed from the streets:

Caliber Detroit Steel Cuff Links

They also make cuff bracelets from the molten down metal.

Another repurpose into jewels is … graffiti material. Yes! A company called Rebel Nell takes graffiti that has fallen off of walls and remakes it into jewelry. Something that some might consider blight becomes beautiful, like these earrings:

Rebel Nell Graffiti Jewelry

Rebel Nell’s pendants are really pretty, like this one:

Rebel Nell Pendant made from graffiti

You even get a map showing the area of where the graffiti was found. Cool! Rebel Nell hires women from homeless shelters who are ready to transition to self-reliance. They have a beautiful way of describing their products and the meaning of Detroit: “We collect this graffiti after it has fallen off of walls.  Initially these scraps of graffiti look a little rough on the surface, just like many people’s first impression of Detroit.  However, after we take it through our process, we’re able to reveal all the beautiful layers that make up the graffiti, just like the intricate layers that make up our city.”

Wow this post got long and there’s still so much to show you! What I said about the underdog pride — it’s not like New York City or San Francisco, cities where people want to go. If you’re from Detroit, you have to fight so hard for people to see the gems and the beauty there.

For more made in the Motor City, follow Instagram hashtag #MadeInDetroit



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