It started, Mark Penxa says, as a tribute to his grandfather -- an artistic "journey through American sports lore" that featured special renderings of famous athletes, and ones long forgotten.

Called Stealing Signs, the first part featured baseball: 100 paintings and sketches, similar to the Derek Jeter. Then came hockey: 76 of them. All offered special elements -- stats, names, other items -- and their slightly abstract style set them apart from straight-up portraits.

Now Penxa, a Detroit-area native who also works at a screen and printing shop, is embarking on his most ambitious project yet: a visual "road trip" from state to state, inspired by stories and suggestions from readers and fans who were touched by his original works. He's going beyond baseball this time, too. All sports are open. All eras, too.

Recently we caught up via email with Penxa, who has "visited" Pennsylvania so far on his trip. New Jersey is underway. New York is coming in July.

And he knows he's got a long, long way to go to get through all 50 -- it'll take years. So suggestions are welcome on his Facebook page (portraits can be purchased, as well).

Tell me about the beginning of the project.

The project started off as a thank-you card to my grandfather. He had been sick for a long time and getting worse. Baseball was the center of our conversations since I was little, he took me to every Tigers game that he could and we would watch every game together.

There was a gap where I wasn't around very much because of traveling and work and the usual day-to-day stuff. I hadn't watched a game with him or heard one of his stories in a long time, and now his memory was really bad and communication was limited to handshakes, hugs and tears. So, I painted a portrait of Al Kaline (seen below is a remake of the original), then Jim Northrup, Hank Greenberg, Norm Cash and so on, to serve as visual flash cards. It was the only way I could think of to still talk about baseball.

After I did those initial paintings, I couldn't stop making them and before I knew it, I had over 100 of them scattered across my apartment floor. So, I put them online on my personal site just to have new content and one day [ESPN Playbook writer] Paul Lukas mentioned it on his Uni Watch blog. The next thing I knew, I was receiving emails from all over the world with people telling me their stories about what their dads and grandfathers told them. It was amazing.

Click HERE to read the rest of this story on ESPN (dot) com!

We asked bloggers nationwide to share can't-miss, off-the-beaten-path summer destinations in their home states. Here's the ultimate list of sites to see, places to shop, and plans to make before September.

Honor & Folly, a tiny inn in Detroit's historic Corktown, charms guests and locals alike with its creative design, great location, and even cooking classes. The two-bedroom apartment sits above popular eatery Slows Bar-B-Q and is decorated with goods made by Detroit- and other Midwest-based designers and artisans — much of which is for sale.

"The food and drink options aren't limited to barbecue — there's a craft cocktail bar (The Sugar House), an independent coffee shop (Astro Coffee) that sells out-of-this-world baked goods, and a gourmet burger joint (Mercury Burger Bar) across the street," says culinary adventuress Noëlle Lothamer, of Simmer Down.

2132 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI; for inquiries and reservations, email

Click HERE to read more: Things To Do This Summer - Plans and Destinations for Summer from Country Living!

Hatch Detroit has announced it will accept applications for its 2012 retail business competition beginning June 1 through Aug. 1.

The contest is open to anyone with an idea for opening a retail business within the City of Detroit.

This year, with support from Comerica Bank, the competition will continue to work toward building a strong community and creating vibrant and dynamic retail businesses in Detroit. Applicants must provide a summary that describes their business idea and its potential impact on Detroit, as well as background for each team member. After all the applications are submitted Aug. 1, Hatch will narrow down the pool to 10 applicants and the public will vote on the $50,000 winner. In addition to the cash prize, the winner will receive a package of services including legal, marketing and advertising and IT support. Finalists will also be exposed to potential investors, collaborators and the community at large.

“We are excited to kick off the second year of Hatch Detroit. The ideas are endless and the opportunity for participants is even bigger this year with the help of Comerica Bank and the generous support they’ve contributed to fund the next winner,” said Nick Gorga, co-founder of Hatch Detroit. “Being a part of the contest helps inspire entrepreneurs to pursue opening a retail business in Detroit with community support.”

“Comerica is committed to supporting small businesses in the City of Detroit,” said Thomas D. Ogden, president, Comerica Bank-Michigan. “We hope that our investment encourages others to find creative ways to improve our region.”

In addition to the competition, Hatch Detroit plans to support retail businesses in several Detroit neighborhoods with grassroots improvement projects during the next six months.

All applications must be submitted online. For complete submission guidelines and contest rules, visit

Hatch Detroit launched its inaugural competition in 2011 with overwhelming success. Hatch received more than 250 applications, and through social media and grassroots efforts, the public helped select the winner – Hugh, a home furnishings shop featuring classic bachelor pad style. Hugh received $50,000 in addition to a suite of donated services from individuals and companies to help the business “hatch” and thrive. Hugh will open in fall 2012. Many of the 2011 finalists are also in the process of opening retail stores in Detroit.

Hatch Detroit is a Michigan based 501(c)(3) organization that champions and supports independent retail businesses in Detroit through funding contests, education, exposure, and mentoring. Hatch Detroit was co-founded by Nick Gorga and Ted Balowski, Detroit natives who are passionate about the revitalization of the city and inspiring others in the community to create change.

Just before crowds of music fans gather from across the globe to attend the Movement: Electronic Music Festival in Hart Plaza, the party begins when the Detroit Historical Society pays tribute to those who have shaped the city’s musical past.

From 8-11 p.m. on Thursday, May 24, all are invited to Woodward Plaza outside of the Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward Ave., to share in one of Detroit’s most treasured stories as the birthplace of techno. The Movement and Renovation Kickoff will be set to the sounds of World Class DJ and Planet-E Communications founder, Carl Craig and opener Keith Kemp. The pre-Movement party and the Detroit Historical Museum will be open to the public and admission is free. 

Following the event, the museum will temporarily close to the public to undergo a 6-month project that marks the first major renovations on the museum since the 1960s. The renovation is part of the Society’s $20.1 million Past>Forward campaign. By Thanksgiving, visitors will explore new and expanded exhibits, enjoy technology upgrades and experience educational offerings at the Detroit Historical Museum. Among the new exhibits will be the Allesee Gallery of Culture, which will include significant artifacts from Movement festival artists.

When the museum reopens to the public Nov. 23, admission will be and remain free to all. “This is a redefining moment for the Detroit Historical Society,” said Executive Director Bob Bury. “The renovations will allow us to better tell the region’s stories and to connect with our members and visitors in new and innovative ways. We are so pleased that, through the support of our donors, we will have a chance to provide increased access to all those who want to explore the newly renovated museum and all it has to offer.”

The Detroit Historical Society’s Past>Forward campaign includes the creation of Detroit Legends Plaza, on the grounds of the Detroit Historical Museum. The outdoor destination where this party will be held will transform to honor Detroit’s stars of sports, entertainment and media. It is set to be unveiled in September 2012.

In preparation for Detroit Legends Plaza, influential Detroit electronic artists have been invited to cast their handprints and signatures in cement during the Movement and Renovation Kickoff. Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Eddie Fowlkes and Carl Craig will take a moment during the festivities to complete the castings. These performers’ handprints will join such noted Michigan celebrities as Martha Reeves, Gordie Howe, Al Kaline, Elmore Leonard and Lily Tomlin.

"I'm excited that something like this is taking place,” said Craig. “To see something like a Detroit Legends Plaza happen, is to see a dream come true." Featuring Carl Craig during the event, who made a name for himself here in Detroit and whose songs are known around the world, seemed a fitting tribute for a celebration that will preview not only the Movement festival but also a widespread renovation of the Detroit Historical Museum. A cash bar will be available during the Movement and Renovation Kickoff and Garden Fresh will provide snacks for party-goers.