Annie’s House

Annie's House -

     We made our annual trek back to Lake Metigoshe in North Dakota this summer and enjoyed the reprieve from the heat and Destin summer traffic.  While there we attended a concert at the Bottineau Winter Park, which is a winter ski “resort” in the Turtle Mountains.  They just built a new lodge called Annie’s House and I was so touched by the story, that I took a lot of pictures just so I could share with you!

         Ann Nelson was a young 30 year old girl from North Dakota.  Working an impressive job as a bond trader at Cantor Fitzergald.  In New York City.  On 9/11.  So you know the ending without me having to tell you the tragic ending.  Ann’s parents received her belongings from her apartment, including her laptop.  Her mom was too sad to open up that laptop – wasn’t ready to see photos and bits of Anne’s life.  It wasn’t until 2005 and 2006 that she finally was able to make it a part of her daily routine to open up Ann’s files.  In 2006 she opened the file titled “Top 100”.  That file turned out to be Ann’s bucket list – filled up to #36. You can read her entire bucket list here.  You’ll read that her bucket list didn’t include much in the way of material things – no fancy cars or diamonds or Viking ranges – it was about helping others, spending more time with family and to someday own a house in North Dakota.  Annie’s House brings three of these bucket list items to life – (1) to own a house in North Dakota (2) to helicopter ski and (2) to help a charity.  Annie’s House is not only a place to warm up and get some hot chocolate after a cold day of skiing, but it is the state’s first adaptive ski lodge that teaches disabled children and wounded warriors how to ski.

     So, back to the concert – we attended with the all the kids in tow – and even they sat listening to the Celtic music with interest, and looking around at the beautiful surroundings.  My eyes welled with tears a few times, looking at the bucket list painted on pieces of wood in the ceiling beams, thinking that we should all live our lives in such a way that someone would build us an Annie’s House when we are gone.

Annie's House -

Annie's House -

Annie's House -

Annie's House -

Annie's House -

Annie's House -

Annie's House -

Annie's House -

Annie's House -




Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

     giving quote

      I promise I am not one of those people who starts decorating in November!  However, I do start thinking about my Christmas cards in July.  But I digress…  Last year we had the Christmas Miracle Project and thanks to each and every one of you, we were able to bless a family that had suffered great tragedy and we were able to get them everything on their Christmas list!  This year I don’t have a big project, but I think our spirit of giving can bless more families this year.  I received an e-mail last week from a friend about the hungry children at our local schools – kids in our little beach town who don’t eat much outside of their free or reduced school lunch.  We can drop off food such as peanut butter, applesauce cups, canned food, granola bars and even baby food to the school anonymously – each Friday the kids in need can discreetly fill a bag from the pantry and bring it home with them.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our carpool schedule, homework and after school activities that we don’t realize there are kids all around us who don’t have enough food to eat!  I encourage you to find a school near you and see if there are some children you can bless.  Most guidance counselors will be able to give you a list of what needs can be met.  I always believe we should help those who can’t help themselves.

     Now back to Christmas cards – as the resident amateur photographer,  a lot of people ask me what to do for their family photo – and believe me its hard to come up with a new idea each year.  And as the kids get older, they are less likely to be cooperative.  I’m here to the rescue with a few ideas!

1.  Choose your best Instagram photo and have it printed at Persnickety Prints – they will print your photo on card stock paper printed like a Polaroid.  Use an app like “A Beautiful Mess” to add text to your photo.  You can use multiple photos on one card using an app like “Pic Jointer”.  Use your Instagrams to decorate a tree too, or have them turned into calendars or other gifts.

instagram persnickety

2.  Be inspired by where you live.  My cards are consistently either a beach photo or a photo from our summer lake vacation taken by our favorite photographer, Otis and James.  One of our photos is actually a sample on their website for Christmas card orders – I love this photo so much I might send one of all the cousins this year just to use it! #cutestkidsintheworld

Otis and James photo card

      If you are living somewhere cold, there is nothing better than a snow photo.  If you don’t have snow, you can realistically fake it using Pic Monkey!  Here are some snowy photos from my Pinterest Christmas Board to get you inspired…the first one might just be the most beautiful photo ever taken…

snowflake lashes

The next five photos are just candid shots of kids in the cold – use a sled, blanket or a mug of hot chocolate as a prop…

hot chocolate

girl in hat

boy in snow

wrapped in blanket

poinsettia girl

This is a picture I took of daughter last year here at the beach – it was 60 degrees but thanks to some editing, it looks downright cold!

fake snow with santa

I am in love with these photos using a cute little car as a prop – anyone have a friend with a red Mini Cooper?

red car in snow with tree on top

santa in car

silver car with family inside 

car kiss

Here are a few more ideas – just insert your family!

kissing snowman

snow ball

snow at night

santa suit

packages on sled


cold portrait

getting fresh tree

bike in snow

horses in snow

 3.  Fake it!  Buy some fake snow or glitter at Target.  Dress the kids up in coats, hats and gloves and have them blow the fake snow or glitter from their hands and click away…

blowing glitter

blowing snowflakes

child blowing snow

 Happy Monday!


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The Christmas Miracle Project – Delivery Day!

     The response to the Christmas Miracle Project was fantastic – I feel lucky to have such a great group of friends and family who helped me pull this off! I received gifts in the mail from as far away as North Dakota and Maryland – I was stopped in the parking lot of Target where a mom rolled down her window and handed me a check – complete strangers showed up at my door step with sacks of gifts and second-hand clothing.  The experience has been awesome.

     Two weeks before D Day (Delivery Day!), I dropped off the sacks of second-hand clothing to the mom.  Some of it was precious little Christmas dresses and Christmas pajamas so it needed to be given before Christmas.  Every time I see this family, it makes me want to do more, more, more.  I left there 2 weeks ago and decided to do a secret squirrel random act of kindness and I left a bunch of sacks of groceries at the front door when they weren’t  home.  It was lots of kid food, Pull-up diapers, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, paper towels and even a Christmas cupckae mix.  Thanks to everyone who donated cash to allow me to do all of these things and to purchase the more expensive gifts on the kids’ lists!

     The day after I dropped off the groceries, I found out the Father was in ICU with pneumonia and sepsis – when it rains it pours.  He was scheduled for a surgery during this time which had to be re-scheduled for today.  Because of this surgery, I moved up D Day so the gifts were delivered on Friday, December 14.  I was so busy getting all of this ready, I wasn’t watching the news and was blissfully unaware of what was happening in Connecticut.  2 friends called to tell me just as I was about to start the delivery.  I just had to block it out of my head and heart and I focused on D Day.  When I got home and would learn about what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, I think the Christmas Miracle Project helped in some way to bring a small amount of light to the darkest of days.  Daughter came home from school and immediately started asking questions like “am I safe at my school” after she learned about it on Instagram.  Son’s 3rd grade teacher told her kids at the end of the day how much she loved each one of them and gave them each a big hug as they left for the day. 

     I was able to recruit my mom and a friend to help with D Day – it took my SUV and her husband’s truck to deliver all the gifts.  A few agents from my office were already there putting up a tree and decorations.  The Father was at a PT appointment so he left with his condo looking “normal” and returned to full on Christmas!  I must also mention that in addition to the gifts for the kids, I collected some wonderful gift cards from grocery stores, Target and WalMart that I know will be so amazing for the family.  The Father has a brand new live-in caretaker that just moved here 1 week ago and I decided she couldn’t be sitting around watching everyone open these gifts so I got her a nice pair of pj’s and a robe.  Another friend called Cracker Barrel and they are going to donate Christmas Eve dinner which we are going to deliver for them.  They really will get a few hours of normal and fun for Christmas!

 Merry Christmas and thanks to all who helped, donated and prayed for this special family!!!



The “Christmas Miracle Project” starts now!

     I am overwhlemed with the responses I have received so far to the Christmas Miracle Project!  Overwhelmed, but not really surprised because I know the hearts of so many of you.  I have already collected some cash donations but many of you wanted to shop for specific items.  Either way, we are ALL helping a family that really has been through the worst of the worst and hopefully giving them some hope and love at Christmas.  Like I told them, “we’ve got this!”

     I have the list of what is needed for the kids and for the Father’s home renovation.  Once you decide what you would like to shop for or donate, please e-mail me with your name (or initials if you wish to be anonymous), and I will then mark the item(s) as TAKEN on the blog.   Please check back once you  have e-mailed me to make sure your initials are by the item(s) you wish to purchase – I will also e-mail you confirmation and instructions on where to bring/ship the gifts.  You can also offer to pay for a portion of one item and I can group 2 or more of you together to buy one gift.  If you have questions, please comment below or e-mail me!  I have also attached links to where you can buy these items online, but certainly you can buy them elsewhere!

     ***Please do not wrap the gifts.  Please include a gift receipt or regular receipt if possible in case it is needed for exchange, especially for the clothes.***

****E-mail me here when you have selected what you would like to shop for so it is reserved for you!****

****Cash donations will be used to buy the larger gifts – for example, we can pool a few people together to buy the Wii!****


**TAKEN – CKH** CLOTHES – size 10 in shirts and 12 in pants.  Pants must have an adjustable waist.  Really needs shirts and shorts.

**TAKEN – MK & WS**  24″ BOY’S BIKE – with light up wheel kit (The Wheel Kit is sold separately – not sure if it is sold in stores)

**TAKEN**  NINTENDO WII U – black (this is already the HOT item so we need to snatch this up fast!) ($299.99)


**TAKEN** UGG BOOTS, KIDS SIZE 6 – natural tan color ($120)


     I  know the son likes Legos.  I would also like to gather a few extra 9 year old boy gifts/toys that I can keep in the closet of the Father’s house so he has toys and things to do when he is visiting his dad. 

**Legos – AS**


**TAKEN – JK**  Small handheld Leapfrog ($59.97) (this link is an example, you can choose any you want!)

**TAKEN – BUGGY**  -Dress up clothes

**TAKEN by DA and PN** 2 twin XL comforters for the kids’ bedroom ($19.99 at Target)

-2 sets of white twin sheets and 2 white bed skirts

     The rest of her list has already been taken by a local brownie troop who offered to help after my first request!  Collective sigh…I know you were all excited to shop for the little girl!  However, I would like a few additional things that can be left at the Father’s house so she has toys there when she is visting her dad.  She loves things like dress up clothes, play make-up, Dora and dolls – channel your inner 3 year old, its easy!  If you want to purchase these items, please let me know so we don’t end up with too many things!

**Book and Puzzles – TA**
**Pink Boots – KM**
**Color Yourself Cardboard Kitchen – KM**


Christmas Eve dinner (from Cracker Barrel or Fresh Market – I will pick up and deliver that afternoon)

Sack of non-perishable groceries (such as mac-n-cheese, spaghetti sauce, pasta, etc…)

Publix gift card

Fresh Market gift card

Winn Dixie gift card – this is the closest grocery store to his home **KM and KS**

Walmart gift card – **AS and PM**

Target gift card **JK**

Home Depot gift card


Home Depot – Bristol Lane 52″ polished nickel ceiling fan ($159) available at the Destin store

Home Depot – 3 Cylinder mini-pendants by Home Decorators Collection ($79.97) available at the Destin store

Home Depot – Towne 5 light chandelier ($79) available at the Destin store

-Two Twin Sized mattresses and frames for the kids’ bedroom – available at Tuskers, Sam’s Club or any mattress store

-4 saddle bar stools from Tuskers in walnut

-Dining table and chairs from Tuskers – we are working with Cindy at Tuskers and they will let people buy gift cards to pool together towards furniture!


 The future depends on what we do in the present

– Mahatma Gandhi

     Thanks to you all – I promise to post pictures of everything wrapped and ready to be delivered! A friend of mine told me this family would not have had much of a Christmas if not for US – its not about the gifts, its about the love behind the gifts!  The cash I have already collected has been used for 2 purchases and will be used to buy whatever is not collected!



If you missed it, read about the family we are helping here
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The Christmas Miracle Project


     This is a tough one to write.  It will be hard for you to read.  My words won’t do it justice – my words won’t be enough to explain the loss and devastation  that has happened to a family who lives in my town.  I didn’t know them before this happened – but something made me reach out to them.  Not really expecting them to need me – but they did.  I have written briefly about them before.

     Let me tell you the story of this family.  It started with an accident this spring that left a young father paralyzed from the neck down – he has limited motion in his left arm, but is otherwise paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, unable to do anything for himself.  Imagine if you suddenly could not feed yourself or even brush your teeth.  This young father was an EMT and firefighter who loved to surf and  is married with 2 children, a daughter age 3 and a son age 9.  You can imagine the heartache this injury has caused for the entire family, extending to grandparents, siblings and friends.  Through donations, the family has been working on making their small home handicap accessible – I have been lucky enough to help this family from a decorating and design standpoint.  I have seen how hard their life has become – its one of those “but for the grace of God go I” situations.  This is a picture of him taken before the accident:
     Less than 3 weeks ago, I found out their marriage is ending.  Another layer of tragedy in this already difficult story.  But we can’t judge – they were both  thrown into unthinkable circumstances, apparently with a burden too heavy to bear.  I feel for her too – there was no decision that was easy or joyful.
     Earlier this week I met the father back at the house – to try to get the project back on track and to help get him in the house as soon as possible.  Another layer of heart break – home health care (which is apparently very hard to find in our area) is going to cost a minimum of $3,000/month that is not covered by insurance.  I can’t fathom the worry of a mortgage payment and home healthcare payment when confined to a wheelchair without a job.
     This is where I ask for help.  I told him “we’ve got Christmas“.  And by WE, I mean all of us!!!!  I told him to send me a list of what everyone wants for Christmas and I will see to it that Christmas is taken care of for ALL FOUR of them – gifts will be wrapped and cards will be written to and from whomever they ask.  The look on his face when I told him this was shock and disbelief.  Imagine your 1st Christmas after being paralyzed from the neck down – you are unable to drive, shop for or wrap a gift and you can only imagine the feeling of hopelessness and despair.  And no one deserves to feel hopeless at Christmas.  And these 2 kids deserve a great Christmas after all they have endured.  They deserve some extra love, wrapped up as legos and princess dress up clothes!
     I sent an e-mail to my friends and family, asking them if they want to help perform this small Christmas miracle.  The response was overwhelming – everyone wants to help.  We are really going to be able to bless this family – at a time when they really need it.  My goal is to not only cover Christmas, but to help him with the needs he has in his home.  Right now it is a construction zone – there is no drywall or cabinets or floors.  After Christmas is covered, I want to get dishes, pots and pans, beds for the kids, lights for the bathroom vanities, ceiling fans and towels.  I would love to get the dining table we had picked out that allows his wheelchair to fit perfectly underneath.  And comforters for the kids’ beds and a few tv’s.   I want him to move back in his home and for it to feel like a home.
     If you want to bless this family for Christmas, please let me know.  If this story touched you – please forward it to your friends and family.  Many of us already adopt families from giving trees or from church – I just can’t imagine a family or a person in more need this Christmas.  The week after Thanksgiving I am going to post a list for everyone to sign up for what they’d like to shop for or what they’d like to donate.  If you would like to donate, please contact me here and I will give you the mailing information or I can direct you to the fundraising site the firefighters have set up and have used to raise money as well.   I will post photos of everything we are able to do and will be a diligent record keeper – 100% of what I receive will go back to this Father.
     I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help and prayers for this family as they endure the unendurable..

It Takes a Village

“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”    
-Mother Teresa     


I  know most of you come to my blog to see pretty pictures and get decorating ideas, but I’m going to mix it up a bit and every now and then add my two cents on kids, parenting, grand-parenting, etc.  Even if you don’t have kids, it really does take a village to raise a child and we are all parents in some cosmic sense to all the children of the world.

You see, I have been feeling this tug lately.  Have you ever been tugged?  I think it is someone from up above, (tugging) pointing me to where I need to be.  Well, that tug was more like a push in December.  I took the kids to Grand Boulevard to have their annual visit with Santa.  Decorating the park were a bunch of Christmas trees, each sponsored by a different charity.  That tug pointed me to the Guardian ad Litem tree.  I have always wanted to participate in this program but for one reason or another, never actually signed up.  A Guardian ad Litem serves kids via the courts who have been abused or neglected…and many are in foster care or looking for a home.  I would have to visit them at least once a month and go with them to court – be a voice for them.  Did you know many of these kids navigate this all alone with no one to speak for them?  Or listen to them?  Or help them?

 When I saw the tree, it had letters some of these children had written to Santa.  They can say it much, much better than I can:




I think that tug I am feeling also applies to this blog and what I write about – I’m not writing this to toot my own horn, but rather to spread the tug around.  I haven’t even made a final decision on where this tug will lead me – I am still exploring the many options of how I can help those who can’t help themselves.

 I hope you enjoy these beautiful quotes from Mother Teresa as much I do – these really tug at you:

 “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

 “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”

 “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

 “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

 “A life not lived for others is not a life.”

-Mother Teresa

Be kind today – someone really  needs it.