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Critically assessing open science – the CAOS meeting.

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The “Critical Assessment of Open Science” meeting, or CAOS, was
convened by Sage Bionetworks in New Orleans in early February. About
30 open science practitioners and advocates were invited by Sage to a
day long meeting in New Orleans to consider the last 10 years of
progress and failures in open science. The meeting was attended by
scientists, policy experts, funders, and others. While the emphasis
was on the biosciences, many themes were discussed in a broader
context of all of science.

You can read more about the motivation for the meeting, and see a
series of summary blog posts,

This post is my attempt to summarize the entire meeting, based on notes
I took during the meeting.

The meeting was organized in a series of
“call and response”
engagements, in which two participants “called” for 5 minutes to one
of five broad themes, and then a responder summarized, contextualized,
and responded to their call. There were multiple such calls &
responses in each session, for about 5 sessions. Audience
participation was lively!

The meeting was held under
Chatham House rules,
so below I am reporting my takeaways without reference to specific
individual comments or revealing details. There should be some form of
publication output in the future so you can see who attended and get a
more global view of the meeting; I’ll link to that below when it is

Thank you to Sage Bionetworks for coordinating this meeting & inviting me!

Main themes that emerged (for me)

We hoped that open science would lead to new and better practices; what
we too often got was practices that fed into the same broken system.

As the value of analytics and data becomes ever more apparent, there
is ever more interest by commercial interests in capturing that value
in closed systems. Often, the data creators and/or owners seem to be
unaware of this capture, especially when the data is secondary to
their primary mission (e.g. in universities). This lack of awareness
Has Consequences.

Governance and sustainability of open institutions (especially open
source projects) is on a lot of people’s minds. Sage has a large
team focused on this! (John Wilbanks says “call me!”)

We talked a fair bit about the challenge of convincing individuals and
groups that increased opportunity for unpredictable serendipity
was worth giving up predictable (but smaller) gains in

The invisibility of successful “open” came up repeatedly – the modern
data science ecosystem is built on R and Python, preprints in the life
sciences, open & FAIR data, and open source especially. That
successful open practices achieve near instant adoption is wonderful;
that they are not highlighted as successes of open in the open science
community is unfortunate; and their invisibility means that their
sustainability is often not strongly considered.
(You can see a longer blog post by me on this topic, here.)

It was great to see multiple statements about how the idea of one
consortium/community building THE platform for analysis in an area was
a non-starter. Functional interoperability, collaboration, and
ecosystem thinking within and across platforms is seen as critical,
even by the most senior researchers.

In concert with that, I see that every functional system is a
compromise between various requirements and design
considerations. Therefore building multiple differently functioning
systems is a good ecosystem bet.

Several different people referred to the increased attack surface
that open practices offer: e.g. by making your methods and data open,
you increase the ability of others to attack your conclusions. While
this is an important aspect of open science, it is also something that
discourages everyone, with disproportionate negative impact on already
marginalized populations. Sharing within “club” structures, or gated
communities, was seen as one possible solution.

We noted the need for & challenge of placing “do no harm” restrictions
on use and reuse of data; community codes of conduct were discussed as
one example of a governance structure that (combined with
not-entirely-open communities) could enforce such restrictions.

Diversity and inclusion was a frequently mentioned topic. Lack of
diversity in communities can be seen as empirical evidence of missing
structure in communities that is not clearly visible from within; I
think this is important when it comes to formal governance discussions
that can externalize internal culture (hopefully accurately).

Another interesting theme was the extent to which some saw that
grassroots communities of practice could be an antidote to the
“monkey’s paw” or “shitty genie” of requirements generation. Often,
engineers building infrastructure want detailed use cases and
requirements specification, which then leads to the wrong thing being
built (and the associated blame), while if the engineers are brought
into the community of practice they are more likely to build the right
thing due to shared understanding and iterative/continuous

The challenge of analyzing all the interesting data sets was
frequently mentioned. While not discussed at the meeting, in my view,
training is a way to bring prepared minds and hands to tackle the
analysis of interesting data sets. This training needs to be built in
rather than bolted on to projects, however.

My own POV: the critical role of communities of practice

Again and again, I saw that communities of practice presented a key
ingredient to solutions for problems in governance, training,
infrastructure, methods, etc. Communities of practice bring the people
to the problems! Fundamentally, I think open systems do not work
without a community of practice underpinning them.

Creating, growing, and sustaining these communities is, I think, one
of the most important tasks to be tackled. More on that as I have
time to write.

Concluding thoughts

One of the organizers closed out the meeting by asking everyone to
highlight one theme that surprised and/or dismayed them. This was a
productive if depressing way to extract essential takeaways!

“The cavalry isn’t coming.” One of the more sobering conclusions from
this part of meeting was that, given the seniority of the people in
the room, we had no one but ourselves to blame for failing at open in
the next decade. If we couldn’t figure out how to coordinate and
incentivize open, then it was unlikely that someone else would step in
to help us out. We are the cavalry. (And existing, closed,
institutions are more resilient than we realized.)

Consumers are often very happy to trade data for convenience. This is a
challenge for open!

Open science can be weaponized by opponents of science, e.g. reproducibility
challenges can lead to the conclusion that all science is wrong; there
are many politicians eager to attack science. The dangers of further
deligitimizing science in the eyes of the world are real!

While scientists always start in and often revert to competitive mode,
they can also switch to cooperative mode with ease, given the proper
incentives and structure. (I personally recommend reading Kathleen
Fitz’s book Generous Thinking, which focuses on this issue!)

A generational (?) concern was that DIY biology will eat all of biology,
and that this meeting could be viewed as a bunch of PDP-11 engineers
discussing the intricacies and importance of time sharing system design.
I personally think millenials are more sophisticated about data ownership,
more invested in sharing (and more sophisticated about its tradeoffs), and
are likely to seriously upset current apple carts, but I’m an optimist :).

There was a repeated concern that open biomedical science has to
translate into better outcomes, and a shared concern that open science
is an ideology built on practices that don’t really work 80% of the time.

My own (depressing) conclusion was that it is not possible for open to
be truly open, and that completely open institutions are extremely
vulnerable to attack (for my previous thoughts on this in open source
projects, see
“How open is too open?”). There
are gates that must be kept (hodor)! I’ll expand on this theme in
another blog post when I have time!

In general, I’m happy to expand on themes as time permits, if people
have questions!

Immediately after writing this, I happened to revisit Denisse
Alejandra’s article,
“Reimagining Open Science Through a Feminist Lens”,
and I was encouraged by the overlap and relevance of a lot of what was
discussed at the CAOS meeting to this reimagination!


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How Behavioral Science Sprinting Across Finish Line

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Finding the energy for any difficult project in the workplace may make you feel like you are running an actual marathon. These two activities seem completely different, yet behavioral science can be applied to both situations to help motivate and spark greatness.

According to Charlotte Blank, Chief Behavioral Officer, and PeopleScience.comcontributor, key principles such as framing your goal can help propel you across the finish line, not only at work but life in general.

 Here are 5 tips from Charlotte on how to motivate yourself to achieve your goals:

  • Choose a thoughtful goal: When choosing your goal, pick something achievable (truly impossible goals set us up for failure, which is super demotivating), but be honest with yourself. You can probably do more. If you’re progressing well and have the energy to spare, push yourself with a stretch goal.
  • Commitment: Hold yourself accountable – Goals matter. We’re wired to find a way to hit our target, even a random one.
  • Feedback:  A crowd support has a significant effect, as science shows runners run faster when running with others. And encouragement from others is uplifting. 
  • Reward yourself: When you achieve your goal, it’s important to reward yourself! Rewards feel good by nature, and they serve an important purpose. They help to solidify good behaviors into healthy habits.
  • Retrospection: Running a marathon, launching a business, hitting a tough sales goal – they all require pain for gain. Thankfully, our brains are biased toward the sweet accomplishment at the end, encouraging us to repeat and build upon our most difficult, yet most rewarding, the experience.

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5 Important Tips for Effective Business Management

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It’s essential, when you run a business, that you have a streamlined system in place; from the purchase of raw materials through to the delivery of the final product. The larger your corporation is, the more complex logistics for your business can be become, which is why you’ll need to have a good planning strategy in place. Without looking at the finer details, it’s likely you could encounter some serious problems along the way. This guide will give you the best tips on ensuring your supply chain runs as smoothly as possible. Check out the tips below on how to achieve effective business management within your business:

  1. Hire a logistics manager with excellent personal skills 

    There may be those unfortunate occasions when logistics go haywire, but rest assured this is normal within most businesses at one stage or another. To help ease any disputes between the supplier through to the client and keep the process running like clockwork, it would be good idea to hire a specialized logistics manager (otherwise known as a supply chain manager) with good personal skills to manage relations, as well as making sure that the supply chain is running accordingly. The individual should have the correct knowledge and experience to get your business out of trouble when it comes to poor logistics planning.

  2. Purchase your raw materials from high-quality suppliers

It is important when running a business that as the manager or owner of the business that you choose to buy from high-quality suppliers to make your products for customers. For example, materials such as metals and steel are best purchased from Avocet precision metals as they have over 20 years of experience dealing with steel strips, precision metals, and more. By purchasing from a company such as this, you will ensure that anything you create is also of top quality.

3. Opt for automation instead of manual handling

In the technological world we now live in, it would be a big mistake not to use automation to increase the efficiency of your organization and particularly, your logistics. Specialized automation software has the ability to provide updates on the movement of goods from the supplier through to the final destination. Automotive companies, for example, would benefit from being informed digitally on when raw materials have been dispatched from the supplier; through to the delivery of the finished product to the final destination. Automation will save a significant amount of time and confusion within the production line and reduce the amount of manual handling, which can often be far less accurate.

4. Warehouse management

Warehouse management is a crucial step in effective logistics, but the type of operation will all depend on your business industry. Food industries have a heavy focus on the correct storage of food and keeping an eye on perishable products; while automotive companies need to ensure they have the correct number of components and equipment to build vehicles. Moreover, the storage space within the warehouse should be correctly utilized for maximum production, while staff should be correctly trained to deal with warehouse operations.

5. Consider transportation

Finally, the method of transportation you use will play a major part in determining g your customer’s satisfaction, so is a key factor within logistics management operations. There are several factors to consider when it comes to transportation:

  • Decide on the best delivery route: For your product to be delivered quickly, it would be in your best interests to choose the shortest and safest route; whether that be by vehicle, ship or plane.
  • Package your goods properly: To ensure that your products reach their destination in one piece you need to ensure that they are packaged properly; this means making sure they are waterproof.

Hire a transportation service: If you haven’t got enough staff or the correct facilities to carry out deliveries, you may need to think about hiring an external company to do so for you. A professional transportation service should be able to provide a service to package your products safely in large containers while arranging bulk shipments and the transportation of project cargo if necessary.


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New Aurora Wall Sconce from Tivoli Lighting

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With more than 50 years of innovation and linear lighting leadership, Tivoli Lighting introduces its Aurora Wall Sconce, a slim-profile fixture available in four unique Deco designs, multiple color temperatures and sizes to provide beautiful form with functional lighting for commercial, municipal and residential applications.

Aurora Wall Sconce features a slim 2 3/16-inch profile in Diamond, Maze, Spectro and Level designs.  Tivoli Lighting also offers optional custom designs to fit specific lighting needs. The wall sconce has a light output range from 661 to 2170 lumens and is compatible with TRIAC 120V dimmer to meet a wide range of illumination requirements.

Available in 3000k, 4000k, 5300k and 6500K with an 80+ CRI operating at 100-277 VAC, all of the Aurora Deco designs come in 12-, 24-, 36- and 48-inch fixtures lengths and feature a proprietary adjustable wall mounting system for quick and easy installation.

Delivering long performance life, Aurora Wall Sconce maintains 70 percent of its lumens at 60,000 hours and comes with a five-year warranty. The fixture is ETL listed for product compliance to North American safety standards. For more information about Aurora Wall Sconce, contact Tivoli Lighting at 714-957-6101 or visit

About Tivoli

With more than 50 years of innovation and experience, Tivoli continues to lead the linear lighting industry with its award-winning architectural and theater LED-based products that offer improved appearance, quality, performance and energy saving advantages. Tivoli’s team continues to strive to incorporate innovation, color quality, and longevity of life into every product it manufactures and engineers for high quality performance and extended service life.


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How To Design A Room (Online For Free) – One Room Challenge Week 3

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Week 3 of the One Room Challenge has started off with lots of great progress! Last week, I talked about the importance of starting any home remodel project with a plan. Let me show you how far along we’ve come with that plan and walk you through the next element: How to design a room step by step. Not only that, but I’m going to share how you can design a room online for free using free online apps and design software.

Designing a room might seem difficult but I think it’s something anyone can do. Read on for the 4 exact and easy steps I use, from where to begin to decorate a room, the room layout apps I use, and the order in which I decorate.

Welcome and thanks for stopping by! If you’re new here, I’m a Toronto-based blogger and plaid enthusiast who mixes DIY with traditional design. Catch up on Week 1 and Week 2 of this guest bedroom remodel.

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The room is looking fresh and bright. Here’s what we’ve done so far:
  • demolition of old closet and removal of old trim
  • installation of new closet system
  • reframing of closet door
  • installation of bifold doors
  • installation of door and window trim and baseboards
  • painting walls and ceiling
The walls are Paper White OC-55 from Benjamin Moore. It is a cool soft white with just the slightest hint of grey. Because we have a cove ceiling here, I knew I wanted to paint the walls and ceiling all the same colour to make that architectural feature disappear. The room isn’t that large so having everything in one shade of paint would make the room feel much more expansive.

how to design a room, design a room for free online, design a bedroom, small bedroom design, design bedroom layout

Here’s what the room looked like Before. I don’t miss those red walls at all. Not one bit. Now, the sunlight bounces around the room and gives the room that calm and peaceful feeling I wanted this guest bedroom to have.

So let’s dive deeper into that feeling… how did I decide what I wanted this room to look like? How did I design this room in 3D? What free tools and process did I use and how can YOU be your own designer?

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How To Design A Room Step By Step

The first step to designing a room is assessing what you have to work with. That begins with a floor plan.

1. Create a Floor Plan of the Current Room

I create two plans:
  • a rough hand-written version showing all the room dimensions and location of windows, doors, and other architectural elements. You can use my FREE Download: Current State Checklist found here which contains grid paper for this task.
  • take that rough sketch and translate it into a digital floor plan. For this, I like to use Urban Barn’s Room Planner, a FREE online room planning tool. This is my favourite app to design a room layout for free. With this tool, I can create the room and then place and move furniture around until I settle on a design I like. Note: Though this tool is built to work with the furniture Urban Barn sells, you can create “generic” furniture and alter the dimensions to match any current pieces in your own home, or match any new furniture you’re considering purchasing. You can even change colours and patterns to give you a more realistic visual layout.
Here’s the empty floor plan of our guest bedroom I created in the Room Planner:
how to design a room, design a room for free online, design a bedroom, small bedroom design, design bedroom layout
You can see the window and door locations, the width of the bifold doors, and the small wall bump out in the top right corner of the room. With this 2D floor plan, you can proceed to design a room layout. But before you do that, you need to know how your room functions, and know what furniture is going into the room.

2. Determine Your Functional Needs

Every space, from a kitchen to a closet, has a function. Good design is built on satisfying functional needs. What needs or tasks does your room fulfill? What is the role of this room?

Two things you should also consider: You want to think about what currently doesn’t work in the room and also any new functions this room can perform. Can the room be more multifunctional? The planning stage is when you easily build the design to suit your needs.

For our guest bedroom, the needs were simple:

  1. To provide sleeping room for guests
  2. To store clothing and linens
  3. To provide a small sitting/reading area
  4. To be well lit and a usable room in our house

3. Identify Your Furniture

Once you’ve determined your functional needs, you can identify what furniture is needed to help fulfill those functions.
In our bedroom, we were able to eliminate the existing dresser by putting drawers into the closet. Taking into account this new free floor space, we wanted to bring the following into the room:
  • the existing Double bed
  • a side table
  • a desk or console
  • an armchair for additional seating
  • a rug

Using the Room Planner, I identified different bedroom layout options. It’s easy to design a room layout using free online tools like this. Simply pull different objects into the room and move them around. Change the dimensions of the objects if you can to approximate the “real life” furniture you’re using.

how to design a room, design a room for free online, design a bedroom, small bedroom design, design bedroom layout

A room layout will help you identify different ways you can arrange furniture . It gives you an idea of what feels cramped or spacious, what looks good and what looks awkward. In a small space, every inch counts so you’ll want to think through your floor plan, Most importantly, it gives you a sense of scale.

How to Create a Room in 3D Online for Free

Scale is one of the hardest things to assess in design. It refers to the size of an object or space in relation to the human body. Scale also considers how the objects relate to one another in the same room. Essentially, scale means looking at your space in three dimensions or 3D.

To help with scale, you can also draw a rendering. This can be an elevation (or forward facing view), like this one we did for our old master bedroom showing the panelled accent wall. Sean created this plan using an architectural program, CAD:

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You can also create a hand-drawn rendering. To do this, take a photo of the existing space, print it out, and then lay tracing paper on top to draw a rendering of the new space. It will help you see what things will look like in 3D.

Another option is SketchUp, a 3D modelling software. They have a free version which will allow you to design a room online in 3D for free, but beware, there is quite a steep learning curve with SketchUp.

4. Create a Moodboard or Design Scheme

When people think of a “design plan”, this is the step that most people think of. How things look in turn impacts how they feel. The visual scheme of a room is the first thing you encounter when you enter a space so it’s no wonder that this part in the process gets all the attention. But how do you create a moodboard? Here’s three things you can do to pull your design scheme together.

Create A Virtual Inspiration Board on Pinterest:

Use Pinterest to gather ideas that show a finished look you are inspired by. Examine the images you’ve gathered and ask yourself what exactly it is in the image that you like? Is there a specific element, colour, or product? Usually, you’ll start to see some commonalities in the images you save and those are the elements that you can replicate in your own room.

Put Together A Pin Board

Using a pin board can help you visualize how things will work together. Pin up fabric samples, paint chips, and images torn out of magazines that inspire you. If you have furniture spec sheets, floor samples or tile samples, gather them together in one spot.

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Create A Moodboard For Free in Keynote

A Keynote Moodboard is the tool I tend to use most. If you have a Mac computer, the Keynote program comes free installed. I’ve talked in depth about how to create a moodboard in keynote on this post. I’m re-sharing the video here as it’s really easy to follow:

You can easily swap furniture pieces in and out on your Keynote moodboard. Here’s a few of the design schemes I created for this room:
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These designs aren’t drastically different from one another. Change out the rug here, try a different desk there. The possibilities are limitless. Selecting the individual pieces can be daunting and you might be wondering in what order do you decorate a room.

Here’s the order I typically use:

Existing Furniture: Rarely will I buy everything new for a room. Typically, I’ll have existing furniture, art or decor pieces that I’ll want to reuse. In this case, the bed, side table, some bed linens, printed curtains, and rug are all things I already own. To keep this room budget friendly, I’d like to reuse what I can, but I’m not opposed to switching some of them out for newer items if the design works better.
Hard Goods: Furniture pieces like sofas and chairs, desks, beds, and tables tend to be the largest pieces in any room. They are an important part of the design scheme so spend time thinking about their shape, colour, and texture. These hard goods convey your room’s style – is it modern or farmhouse? Is it bold and energetic or muted and calm? The bold Velvet Swoop Arm Accent Chair in Green from HomePop is a focal point in this space and intentionally livens up what would otherwise be a neutral decorating scheme.

Art: The Berry Branch Botanicals from Rainsford Company are the elements that tie this entire design scheme together. I fell in love with these art pieces and wanted to use their colour palette as inspiration for the room. I was really drawn to the verdant greens and blues and the black frames and you’ll see those colours repeated throughout my mood boards.

Lighting and Hardware: I consider these “metal” elements as one group. You can certainly mix metals in a space but don’t overdo it. In this room, I’m going with a mix of black and gold. The black hardware will tie in with the black metal bed and gold keeps things feeling modern and fresh.

Soft goods and accessories: These elements are the easiest to change and so they fall to the bottom of the priority list. Use your soft goods and accessories to complement your larger elements and colour scheme.

In the end, there is no right or wrong to a room’s design. By following these steps though, you will end up with a room that makes best use of the space, meets your functional needs, and whose design reflects your style.

If you’d like more decorating know-how, design inspiration and style tips sent to your mailbox, signup for my weekly newsletter:

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    Join me again next week where I talk about the next phase, the Work Breakdown and Timeline. For now, hop over to the One Room Challenge blog and see all of the other inspiring Guest Participant projects.
    Thank you to Hudson Valley Lighting, HomePop and Rainsford Company for providing products for use in this project. Thank you for supporting the brands whose quality products I bring into my home and who make this blog possible.

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    10 Creative Uses for Silicone Molds

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    You may have never noticed, but silicone molds are a part of your everyday life in today’s society.

    They can serve as amazing life-hacks, solve minor dilemmas in our day-to-day operations, and can be an underappreciated source of fun for the family!

    Whatever the case may be, you can use them for optimal organization and preparation.

    Need more proof? Here are 10 amazing uses for silicone molds and how they can turn an everyday task into a job that sorts itself out!

    1. Organization for Small Utensils

    Sure, there’s plenty of ways to sort your silverware and other supplies within the cabinets of your home… but what about the smaller stuff, like the rubber bands and paper clips in your house?

    Even if you neatly organize them within a desk drawer, you’ll find them disorganized again after opening and closing that drawer a few times.

    How can you eliminate this problem for good? Silicone molds… that’s how!

    All you need to do is create or find a silicone mold that’s small enough to fit into your desk or kitchen drawer. Then make sure it has enough spots in it to fill things like paperclips, sewing pins, etc.

    Voila! Your disorganization of small materials is kaput.

    1. Bath Bombs

    Who doesn’t enjoy a good bath bomb? Simply dropping one into your tub ensures a soothing bathing experience.

    However, it’s not so smoothing to see the price you’re paying for such a luxury… until now!

    Now, thanks to silicone molds, you can create your own bath bombs in whatever shape you desire.

    Simply take the ingredients you’ll need and pour it into the silicone mold of your choice and you’ll have a bath bomb that’s entirely individualistic in both shape and scent for your bathing enjoyment.

    1. Save Your Leftovers

    Nothing like making grandma’s famous homemade fettucini alfredo family recipe that everyone loves so much.

    The only problem is that you end up wasting all of the cream you don’t end up using. If only there were a way to save that cream until the next time you needed it…

    Well, you can use a silicone mold that has steady compartments (similar to an ice tray) and pour that cream into it until the next time you need it.

    Take it one step further and measure out the mass of each compartment. That way, you’ll know how much is in each “cube” the next time you go to use it.

    1. Impact-Absorbing Pads

    Do you have a need for securing fragile objects and the styrofoam packaging isn’t cutting it?

    If so, silicone molding is the optimum material to use for handing your equipment and items either in-transit or during storage.

    Simply use these architectural molding materials and form a perfect pad for any item you desire. No more worrying about the integrity of your packaged belongings thanks to the use of silicone molds.

    1. Snack Tray

    Everyone has been a victim of walking the tight rope known as snack time.

    If you eat too much, you won’t be hungry for dinner time, but if you eat too little, you may not make it to dinner time at all.

    However, it’s always risky to put out the entire box of Cheez-Its, because then, before you know it… the entire box is empty.

    Use silicone molds to categorize a few healthy snacks for yourself. Sure, grab a few of those Cheez-It’s, but follow it up with grapes, pretzels, nuts, etc.

    1. Soap Bars

    Are you seeing the need for starting to create your own soap bars over the store-bought soap bars?

    Perhaps the body wash is getting a bit too harmful on your skin? Never fear, for DIY silicone molds are here!

    Now, you create the scent you want without risking the harmful chemicals of those you’d find in-store. You’ll no longer have to wonder what goes behind making it smell amazing, and you’ll have yourself to thank for it!

    1. Food Preparation

    We all know the Martha Stewarts and Barefoot Contessa’s of the world that organize their recipe’s ingredients in cute, individual bowls for appearance.

    However, it slows you down at home to have to do the same.

    Next time you’re making a recipe, have a silicone mold tray there to properly organize your necessary ingredients. Now you can measure out the correct amounts without getting out 10 separate bowls to do so.

    1. Reproduction of Items

    Do you have a project at hand where you need to reproduce several of the same items in one fell swoop?

    If so, silicone molds can help create an efficient process for copying the item to match it’s original’s exact specifications.

    Whether it’s a fine art sculpture, a concrete slab, or another hefty item, silicone molding can help you match it to the “T”.

    1. Jello Molds

    As previously mentioned, silicone molds have several fun assets to them as well.

    Now that you have silicone molding on your side, you can create jello in any shape that you’d like.

    Make a Christmas tree-shaped jello mold for Christmas parties, or pull a Jim Halpert and stick your coworker’s stapler into jello. Whatever you have a taste for, the door has now been opened to your creativity.

    1. Water Stoppage

    Perhaps you have some unwanted leaks or are just looking for a new way to clog the bathtub drain (since the tub drain stopper keeps disappearing).

    Silicone is often used as a sealant to make something waterproof, so now that you have silicone molding at your disposal, it can provide the same service for you.

    Maybe you’re just looking for a waterproof pad. That can be done as well.

    Gone are the days of letting water affect your work project, silicone molds can help!

    Uses for Silicone Molds in Everyday Life

    These are just a few of the copious amount of uses for silicone molds that you now have at your disposal.

    What’s better, you’ll now find even more uses for it now that your eyes have been opened to the ways it can help.

    Be sure to check back with Fox 34 frequently for up-to-date news and helpful tips you can apply to your life. Best of luck with your silicone molding endeavors, your life will be much more efficient with silicone molds on your side.

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    DIY Acrylic Lap Desk

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    this easy DIY acrylic lap desk takes less than an hour to make, and the materials cost under $30! Learn how to make a simple lap desk or DIY acrylic tray yourself right here.

    young boy drawing a picture on an acrylic lap desk

    Ever since we reached the point in the moving process where I can’t really change anything in my house (since, you know, someone has pledged to buy it as it is and it’s time to start thinking about things like packing, not renovating), I’ve been itching to just make something.

    I’m used to having projects that I’m doing all the time, and this lack of stuff to do has been getting to me. So, this weekend when I had the idea to create a little acrylic lap desk for Jackson to play LEGOs on or use to draw, I was thrilled to have the chance stretch my creative muscles a bit.

    Ever since Jackson started school this year, he’s been really into drawing, labeling things, and creating. He’s always loved coloring, but his creativity has really blossomed in the last few months and my home is littered with pieces of paper with random Pokemon and Minecraft characters all over them.

    Of course, like most 5-year-old boys, he’s also super into LEGOs. He’s been doing a ton of building lately and has finally reached the point where he can actually keep his creations together and they don’t immediately get destroyed. We’ve been using the lids from the baskets in his room as little trays for him to keep his creations on (so they’re easier to continue playing with later), but that means that his baskets no longer have lids. Which, let’s be honest, drives me nuts.

    So, a lap desk was the perfect solution to give him a place to store whatever he’s currently playing with, and also for him to bring in the living room and use as a little table to draw on while we’re all hanging out together.

    The bonus is that when Grant suddenly becomes interested in whatever it is he’s working on, it’s really easy for him to pick it up and move to higher ground!

    little boy drawing on an acrylic tray with text overlay - "easy do it yourself acrylic lap desk"

    This post is sponsored by Wagner.

    This little acrylic lap desk took me only about an hour to put together, and the only real materials cost was the acrylic, which was about $30 from the big box home improvement store. Not bad for a totally customizable (and adorable) acrylic lap desk, no?!

    This is one of those projects that is so easy it almost doesn’t need a tutorial, but I’ll share anyways. I promise this is something you can do yourself in no time, and your kid will love it!

    DIY Acrylic lap desk

    Materials & Tools

    • 18X24 clear acrylic sheet (mine is 1/4″ thick)
    • Circular saw (you could also use a table saw or jigsaw)
    • Wagner Furno 500 Heat Gun
    • Scrap wood (I used one long piece and one smaller piece)
    • 2 clamps

    Cut your acrylic to size

    First up, you’ll want to cut down your acrylic so that it measures 12″ wide by 24″ long. I tried to do this just by scoring it with a utility knife, but the 1/4″ acrylic was much too thick, so I had to grab the circular saw. You can see my tutorial on how to use one right here! You could also easily use a jigsaw (here’s that tutorial) or a table saw. You can also have them cut it for you in-store at most hardware stores for free! There’s a plastic and glass cutting station right next to the acrylic at our store, so if you don’t have the tools or don’t want to do it yourself, just have them take care of it for you.

    Set up your workstation

    Set up for DIY acrylic lap tray

    The next thing you’ll want to do is set up your work area so you can be safe (heat guns are, um, hot), and work quickly so you don’t crack the acrylic.

    Let me break down what’s happening in the above setup:

    • At the bottom, there’s a cardboard box on my table (just to protect it from scratches or heat)
    • On top of that, there’s a long, skinny box that is being used just to hold the entire thing up a bit.. As you can see, the clamps hang below the scrap wood, so I just needed something to prop it all up. You could also use scrap wood for this, I just grabbed what I had.
    • Next we have a big piece of scrap wood that is acting as my work surface and a place to clamp to.
    • Then, I placed the acrylic on top and clamped the smaller scrap board on top – this is the piece that acts as your corner for folding. More on that below.

    Measure and clamp down your acrylic

    Once you’ve got your work area set up, you’re ready to clamp your material in place. Line your acrylic piece up with the board on bottom (so you can be sure that it’s straight), and then place your smaller scrap board so that it covers the back 3 inches of the acrylic. Be sure to measure from both sides so you know it’s straight across, and clamp it into place, as pictured above.

    Grab the heat gun!

    woman's hand using a heat fun to bend plexiglass
    woman applying heat to plexiglass using a heat gun

    Now, you’re ready for the fun part. Grab your heat gun (here’s the one I use), and apply heat directly to the area right next to where you clamped the wood. You want to keep it as close to the edge of the wood as possible (I actually rested the metal part of my heat gun on the wood to ensure I stayed steady as I worked) and keep your hand moving at a slow and steady pace.

    I found that it worked best when I had my heat gun set to about 800 degrees and applied heat for about 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I just set a timer and slowly moved the heat gun back and forth right where I planned for the bend to be. Be sure not to rush this – if you try to bend it before it’s ready, it will crack!

    Once you’ve applied heat for about four and a half minutes, your acrylic should be ready to bend. Set your heat gun aside (be sure to turn it off!) and grab the end of the acrylic closest to you. Sloooooooowly fold it all the way up. I used my speed square to hold the acrylic at a 90-degree angle for about a minute while it cooled off, but I wish I would have let it be a slightly more gentle bend so that the legs aren’t straight up and down.

    You only need to wait for about 30 seconds to a minute before the tray is ready to be un-clamped.

    A quick note: I’ll go ahead and take this moment to recommend that you save your scrap piece of acrylic and use that to get a feel for the project before you do it with the main piece. This is what I did and it’s the best way to get a feel for how the acrylic bends, how you know when it’s ready, and all that other good stuff!

    woman bending plexiglass to make DIY lap tray

    Repeat on the other side

    Carefully flip the entire thing around and do the same thing on the other side. Be careful to measure the exact same length from the edge (we did 3 inches) so the legs are the same length.

    young boy playing on an acrylic lap desk in his bedroom
    close up of a young boy coloring on an acrylic lap desk

    And just like that, you’re done!

    I used a sanding block to sand down some of the rough edges from cutting, and then I turned it loose to Jackson. He immediately started rattling off all the different ways he could use it (many of which had never crossed my mind), so I think it’s safe to say it’s a success.

    He’s already used it a ton, and I have a feeling this is going to become a staple of his day-to-day play time. I love that I was able to make something he’s going to use so much and I also love that it’s actually really cute!

    If you’re on the fence about if it’s worth it to grab a heat gun for a project like this, you should check out Wagner’s list of over 100 different ways to use it. Seriously, you’ll find yourself reaching for this little thing way more than you expect! You can grab one from their site, and from most home improvement stores. Be sure to let me know if you try this project – I’d love to see!

    The post DIY Acrylic Lap Desk appeared first on Love & Renovations.

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    Combating Rising Construction Industry Suicide Rates

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    While the construction industry is thriving financially and making a major contribution to the U.S. economy, the industry as a whole struggles to deal with workplace stressors. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, male construction and extraction workers had the highest suicide rate among American workers.

    September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As an industry, construction leaders need to take action to change this staggering statistic. Though many factors contribute to the increased risk of suicide, the high-pressure nature of schedule, budget and quality performance, coupled with potential for failure that’s tied to the employee’s livelihood, are especially anxiety-inducing. Employers and employees in the industry must know how to identify, cope with and prevent stress from consuming them – especially when the end result for many is suicide.

    Identifying Stress

    Employers and construction site leadership must be skilled in identifying sources of stress. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide prevention, their employees are not likely to express their feelings of stress and overwhelming depression. Though not everyone shows stress in the same way, some changes in employee behavior are more noticeable. According to The American Institute of Stress, some of the changes that may manifest include: calling out of work more frequently or unusually aggressive behavior.

    Although it is important for construction industry leaders to be able to identify stress in their workers, employees must also be able to identify signs of stress internally. Construction workers may notice an influx of insomnia, headaches or a loss of appetite.

    In an industry that contributes nearly $1.3 trillion in annual revenue to the U.S. economy, stress may not seem like a big deal. However, when this stress continues to add up and remains unaddressed, it can easily spiral into the suicide epidemic we are currently witnessing within the industry.

    Coping with Stress

     Construction employers should extend the protection of their employees beyond the requirements set in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). Instead, employers should also strive to create a space for mental wellness. Though there are limitations to the number of stressors an employer can prevent, no action is too small to make a tremendous impact on the livelihood of their employees. The most important and impactful thing an employer could do is to be understanding by noticing the changes in a worker, listening to their concerns and making meaningful changes based on these conversations.

    According to Dr. Sherry Benton, a psychologist with more than 25 years of experience and chief science officer of TAO Connect – a digital health company aiming to make behavioral health therapy more accessible and efficient – there are numerous ways construction workers can cope with their own stress.

    “When you’re stressed at work, it’s hard to remember your purpose. To help prevent and alleviate the impact of this stress, things like physical activity, support from friends and family, a creative outlet, or simply doing more of what you love can make a significant difference. Actively working on your life balance is key to staying healthy and recovering,” said Dr. Benton.

    Preventing/Reducing Stress

    Investing in mental health yields a positive return on investment for construction companies when it is compared to the financial impact of ignoring the signs. As a construction company, it is important to ensure that your workplace has a culture of mental health promotion and suicide prevention. Employers could implement employee assistance programs meant to promote mental health awareness in the workplace. If a construction company already has a relevant employee assistance program in place, it is a good practice to openly promote it to employees, because many are not aware of the benefits available to them.

    Stress is not 100% preventable but learning to deal with it in a healthy way can be the difference between life and death for many in the industry. According to Dr. Benton, these are some of the ways to reduce stress:

    • Exercise is not only beneficial in reducing disease, it has been proven to reduce stress. Participating in aerobic exercise helps with stress, moodiness, sleep and self-confidence.
    • Find balance by engaging in activities outside of work that give your life a sense of meaning. It can be difficult to prioritize these activities at first, but its effect on mental health is incredibly beneficial.
    • Lean on your support system and let them in on your struggles and stressors. Simply being heard makes a difference.

    Instead of dealing with work-induced stress through toxic behaviors like addiction, mood swings and suicide, the construction industry should work to find healthy coping mechanisms. As the demand for new developments and renovations increase, so does the importance of these healthy coping mechanisms.

    About the Author:

    Michael Wright is CEO of RedTeam Software. With a background as a commercial general contractor with hands-on experience in all aspects of commercial construction, Wright developed RedTeam as a comprehensive cloud-based solution for construction project and accounting management built by contractors for contractors.


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    Easy DIY Vent Hood Cover

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    I’m helping my parents with a quick kitchen makeover and we kicked things off by installing a new vent hood and building a custom DIY vent hood cover – I’m sharing the tutorial today!

    white vent hood cover in an in-progress kitchen

    Over the last few weeks, I’ve been helping my parents with a little makeover in their kitchen. They have lived in their home for more than 25 years now and, aside from replacing the vinyl sheet flooring a few years back, they’ve never done anything to the kitchen to upgrade it. At all.

    So, the stove is 25 years old. The laminate counters are 25 years old. Everything is 25 years old, and the entire space really needs some love.

    They’ve been talking about doing some work to it for years now, but it kept getting pushed back. We got a really fun opportunity to work with Home Depot for a something we couldn’t use in our own home (more on that soon!), and I decided to gift it to them and help them transform their kitchen in the process.

    This isn’t going to be a huge, dramatic makeover – no walls are being knocked down, the cabinets aren’t being replaced, and we’re really only focusing on half of the kitchen right now and will tackle the rest later – hopefully before Christmas.

    I’ve been sharing some inside looks at the process on Instagram as my dad and I have been working, and I had a lot of requests to share some of the tutorials on the blog! So, today I’m sharing the first in a quick little series of posts about my parents’ kitchen makeover and I hope you enjoy it!

    Here’s a little peek at the before of the space…

    kitchen makeover before

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    One thing you might notice is missing (and has always been missing – for 25 years!) is a vent hood! My parents have never had any sort of vent in their kitchen, and it has driven me a little crazy every time I’ve cooked over there for as long as I can remember.

    We knew that if we were doing any work in here, adding a vent hood would need to be one of the first things that happened. So, they snagged this affordable option and after my dad and I installed it, we built a DIY cover to make it look a little more custom.

    Today, I’m going to show you how you can do the same! It’s a really simple project, but it makes a huge difference in how the entire space feels – it really upgrades things and makes the entire kitchen feel a little more custom.

    Of course, you’ll notice that the kitchen is still very much a work in progress! It has already come a pretty long way, but these are by no means official “after” photos – those will come next month once we’ve actually finished aaaaall of the projects!

    close up of vent hood cover with text overlay - how to build a DIY vent hood cover

    How to build a DIY CUstom vent hood cover

    Materials needed:

    Step One: MEasure

    The first thing you’ll need to do is measure to determine the size of your vent hood cover. This will vary depending on what vent you have. Start by measuring how far out it comes from the cabinets at its furthest point, then measure how far down it sits. You’ll want to add a couple of inches to the measurement for the sides to account for the arch!

    vent hood installed over stove

    For example, our top shelf comes 10″ out from the cabinets, and the vent hood cover is 8″ tall.

    step tWo: Cut the top piece

    Once you know your measurement, you’re ready to start cutting pieces. We used the table saw to rip our board down to 10″ (we had a 12″ board because we weren’t sure of the sizing, but you can just grab a 10″ board instead), and cut it to be just over 30″ long (the vent hood itself is exactly 30″ long, so we added about 1/8″ so it would fit snugly.

    We also had to cut a small notch out of the top board to account for the vent on the top. It’s not visible at all once it’s hung, but it allows the air to escape, and the shelf is still functional.

    top piece for vent hood cover

    Step three: Cut the side pieces

    Next up, cut the side pieces. They should be the same width as the top piece was, and the length will vary depending on the size of your hood. Ours were about 8″.

    We determined the size of our side pieces by measuring how far down the vent hood went and then adding 3 3/4 inches. We wanted the cover to sit a couple of inches below the hood (so it’s fully covered), and then we added another inch so that we could add an arch to the front. The additional 3/4″ is because the side pieces will sit flush with the top of the cover, so you need to add on the thickness of the top board.

    Step Four: Assemble the vent hood cover

    Now you’re ready to begin assembly!

    We simply assembled our vent hood cover with some wood glue and nails. Be sure to use a speed square to ensure that your side pieces aren’t angled at all. We used corner clamps (they’re much easier for this kind of project!), but you can make do with regular clamps if you don’t have any corner ones on hand.

    vent hood being assembled with corner clamps
    partially assembled vent hood cover

    Step five: Cut front piece and finish assembly

    Now you’re ready to cut the piece for the front. You can just take measurements off your vent hood cover to determine the width and height you need to cut to (the height should be the same as the side pieces).

    Once you’ve got the base shape cut out, you can add the arch. I wish I had a genius tip for how to do this, but we really kind of winged it. We decided we wanted our arch to start 3″ in on either side, and only go up 1″. So, we made those marks on the hood, then we used some string and a pencil to draw a small arch. We cut it out using a bandsaw (you could also use a jigsaw!), and then sanded it until it was smooth.

    It’s not perfect, but you’d never know the difference!

    Step Six: Add Trim and Paint

    man adding trim to front of vent hood cover

    Finally, you’re ready for the finish work! We added some trim to the top, and (at the last minute) decided to add a square to the front with some smaller trim – I love that it adds some detail and emphasizes the arch on the front.

    We painted the whole thing with our sprayer (see how to use one if you don’t know!) and once it was dry, it was ready to be hung!

    Step seven: Hang it up!

    We hung the vent hood cover using pocket holes. Dad added one pocket hole at the bottom on each side (to attach to the cabinet on either side of the vent hood) and four along the top (to attach to the cabinet above the hood).

    Once it’s all in place, it looks a little something like this:

    completed vent hood cover
    in-progress kitchen with DIY vent hood cover

    This was such a quick and easy project, and I love how it turns out. This is, of course, just the first project in a whole series of fun projects we’ll be doing in this space over the next month, so be sure to stay tuned to see what’s next!

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    Unfortunately, Juliette is in a stage where she will only sleep in her crib, and not for lack of trying either.  I’ve driven home in the middle of the night on two camping trips and on our last journey to the lake she wouldn’t go to bed until the sun came up. So…We left the kids home, and enjoyed some much needed adult time at Lake Powell last week. 
    I remember being a child and thinking to myself, “why would grownups want to go on a vacation without any kids?!! How Boring!”. hehehe.  It definitely wasn’t boring, but there were moments of down time. The downtime you don’t enjoy until you’ve grown up. 
     I took a kayak out into the lake and waited until no one was around, stopped rowing and admired the breathtaking scenery.  I couldn’t help but thank God under my breath for this picture of perfection.  There have been times in my life when I have questioned his very existence, and undoubtedly I have a similar experience and realize there is no way this could all be a coincidence. It’s just too beautiful.