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 -




North Dakota

     We just returned from our annual trek to North Dakota.  We soaked up the great temperatures, low humidity, family and everything to do with the lake.  You could offer my kids a trip anywhere on the planet and they would choose North Dakota every time.  They love every minute of their time spent with their cousins – most of that time spent doing water sports – tubing, wake boarding, skiing, knee boarding and paddle boarding.
     If my younger self could read this post, she would wonder if I had been brainwashed and had Stockholm Syndrome.  But here it goes anyway…North Dakota is BEAUTIFUL!  Growing up there I couldn’t wait to leave – I hated being cold and wanted to live in a bigger city.  Now I realize how lucky I was to grow up in the best place possible and I can also appreciate the beauty of the land there.  Our lake is tucked in the “Turtle Mountains”.  One morning I woke up at the crack of dawn with my mom and we traveled around random roads looking for some great places to photograph.  Every year I say I’m going to do this and every year I don’t.  Next year I want to photograph church steeples – there are so many old churches in the middle of fields, in the middle of nowhere. Or maybe oil wells – did you know North Dakota is only 2nd to Texas in oil production?  Google “The Bakken Oil” and read for yourself.  People are flocking to my state for high paying oil jobs.
     Enjoy the photos while I assimilate myself back into the “real world” – the one with a job and humidity and kids who don’t start school for a few more weeks…then I will post the finished Beach House photos and tell you about the darling family of 4 who moves in next week!

The Mommy Chronicles


     Sister-in-law recently went on a tropical vacation with my brother.  So my mom…most commonly known as “Grammy”….flew back to North Dakota to babysit my 2 sweet nephews (J and K)  and my darling almost 3-year old niece “Bug”.  You already know that Sister-in-law has Victoria’s secret model hair – what you don’t know is she is also very pretty, she has a true blue P90X body (trust me, you do not want to be within 50 yards of her in a bathing suit or pajamas, or a mumu) and she is so kind, sweet and funny that you can’t even hate her for being so skinny and pretty with silky hair!  She is the best writer – I always tell her she should write a novel or start her blog again.  When we text, I realize I am 100% boring with my responses like “cool!” or “fun!” or “awesome!”.  Sister-in-law is witty in a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch writer kind of way.

     So, this sets the stage for this post.  She sent Grammy her kid directions called “Care and Feeding” – the e-mail said:  “Hi Grammy!  Here’s a little something for you to read on the plane.  Really, if nothing else, use it to doodle on, put your abc gum in, or practice your origami.”  My parents thought it was hysterical (of course) so they forwarded it to me, so I asked Sis-in-law if I could post it to the blog and she said yes!  Here it goes:

     Here are a few particulars regarding your charges.  I/We really hate to insult your intelligence/common sense/general Grammy-ness, but perhaps leaving some semblance of proper care and feeding instructions will help us relax a bit easier, with less guilt.  Bwahaha! Also, I’m keeping the teacher flame burning…

 The Bug:

 1. She’s thiiiiiiiis close to getting out of diapers. (And each ‘i’ represents a month or so. Ugh.) Actually, she sits on the “froggy potty” on a regular basis and occasionally, with a good video, snack, and chapter book, she’ll make something happen. Don’t give it much thought. We’ll figure it out someday.

 2.  She usually wakes up just before we have to leave for school; we both enjoy breakfast and deep conversation after we drop the boys.

 3.  Nap time is still around 1:00, just after lunch.  Most days I have to pluck her out of bed when it’s time to head back to the boys’ school at 3:00.  The monitor has fresh batteries, and the other part of it’s always plugged in and on, behind her recliner. 

 4.  We hit the 3 big B’s at 8:00 pm, give or take 20 minutes or so.  That’d be brushing, books, and bed!  Her toothbrush and paste are in the top left drawer of her bathroom, and she hasn’t yet mastered the spit.  Fair warning.  Books are in her closet, under her bed, in her dresser drawers, and pretty much everywhere else she calls “hers.” That’s the entire house.

 5.  Art class is Wednesday morning at 9:30; don’t feel bad if you don’t really want to go.  She gets plenty of art and stories at home, minus a major rush to get out the door, the toddling germs, and nasty looks from the instructor when Mama brings her giant coffee cup.  Our “art cabinet” is the woven brown thing in the office. Pardon the mess.

 6.  Wouldn’t ya know it, she’s getting over a, uh, bug.  She’s on a teaspoon of medicine (it’s in the fridge) twice a day from now until her own version of eternity.  It’s actually quite tolerable to swill, and smells much, much worse on its way out. 

 The Boys:

 1.  You never need to worry about waking them; J’s up at the creak o’ pre-dawn, dialin’ up ESPN.  It’s habitual.  I guess the co-host of Sports Nation is quite blond and quite cute.

 2.  7:45 is when the whisper of the breakfast bell sounds down the stairs.  I’ve got some waffles, sausage, and–as my grandpa would say–”breakast food” in the freezer.  You may have to look under the discount club-sized bag of green beans.  (By the way, those are so good!  Go nuts!)  The cereal is behind the top doors of the pantry; K is our resident cereal hound.  Wait–I hold that honor. 

 3.  We’re usually out the door by 8:30, as school starts at 8:45 and we don’t want to get stuck behind “Malibu Angel.”  The boys can fill you in/provide warning/sing her special song.

 4.  Backpacks are to be emptied with homework completed right after school (unless it’s Waffle Cone Wednesday!). J’s planner will need to be initialed every night.  I’m toying with the idea of actually “signing my John Henry” one of these days, as that seems to be his teacher’s  favorite line (I’m not saying it bugs me, but you can make your own inferences), and I just want confirmation it actually counts for something.

 5.  Reading commences around 8:20 or so.  We let ‘em read for 20 minutes (give or take a handful) before lights out.  Don’t ask me why, but J chooses to read and sleep backwards. Symbolism?  Ha!

 6.  CCD is Wednesday from 4-4:50 at our church.  The Bug loves to see the water and “movie” towers when we drop off the boys.

 7.  The last game for the Blue Devils is Saturday at 9:00.  The boys’ uniforms and shoes are in their rooms, ready for sweat.  Water bottles and shoes are in their bags, on the hook.


 1.  K wants to take birthday cookies to school on Wednesday; he can just take ‘em in the morning and salivate all day long.  If you care to bring balloons/send a barbershop quartet/scream in with spankings, feel free to embarrass to your heart’s content.

 2.  The Odyssey runs like a dream, but if the starter should begin to chirp, just plug it into the cord dangling from the glove box.  The middle garage door opener is the middle HomeLink button just above the rearview mirror. 

 3.  The boys can grab the mail once or twice; the key is in the van.  K will probably get a package from my dad.  He can go ahead and let ‘er rip.

 4.  If you find yourself having issues with the DVR, see #1 under “The Boys.” 

 5.  The Bug’s hair accoutrements are in her top drawer (the tall chest), along with all her jeans.  Why there?  Not sure.  Oh, and her mix-n-match jammies are in the lower left of the other dresser.  If you go right, see #1 under “The Bug.” 

 6.  Sadly, the Keurig has been put out of her misery.  Now begins mine.  Their  customer service reps have grown weary of me, and  I’m sick of being scolded for using tap water and de-scaling every two days.  Ever drunk hot vinegar with a dash of coffee?  Blech… Anyhow, take as many K-cups as will fit in your suitcase (Bug can show you the stash) and I’ll do the same when we head south.  Just a heads-up about the crummy carafe I’m back to cursing (love me some alliteration; see opening paragraph):  I’m no geometry whiz, but the right pour angle can make or break your morning.

 7.  You’ll find ancillary milk, etc. in the garage.  Please, please, please eat and drink as much as you possibly can.  That’s our policy.

 8.  My phone is totally out of commish when we’re out of town, be it Bismarck or Bismark.  It may share a secret spot in the coulee with the Keurig before too long.  Husband’s phone will be on, but we’re not really sure what we’ll have for service.  We’d love to Skype or Facetime with y’all, so we’ll find a way to call and set it up. 

9.  My folks would love to help out if you want to get away to see les girls or need a few moments of quiet.  You’re welcome to drinks in trailer #1254, or in their almost-rebuilt house, too!  Give ‘em a call if you wish!  (Remember they lost their home in the flood and have been living in a FEMA trailer!)

 10.  Bath toys are in The Bug’s bathroom, in the closet.  Wouldn’t it be much easier to keep ‘em by the tub? Well, yes. 

 11.  Do not use the R/O.  It’s so gross.  I should say STILL so gross.

 12.  Flat Stanely will be going home with you!  Feel free (read:  PLEASE!) show him a good time and document it well. I’m kidding, but if you think of something we may have overlooked (a visit with the mayor?), take the reins.

 13.  I bought an unusually large amount of bananas, even though I know Wal Mart’s produce doesn’t keep.  You’ll find flour, etc. in the spice cabinet.  Just sayin’. 

 14.  Have a great, great time. Please, don’t hesitate to lie to us should we ask how much we were missed.

 15.  Understand just how much we truly appreciate your coming back.  We are so excited to get away, and the kids are practically kicking us out the door to get you in! 

I personally hope Grammy did a good job with Flat Stanely – that is son’s school project and he is beyond excited to see what adventures his nephews took him on!


The Black Eyed Peas Benefit Concert!

Lets Get it Started!!!  I promised you the fun part of my Labor Day Weekend in Minot, North Dakota! Josh Duhamel is married to Fergie and together they organized a benefit concert for the Minot flood victims.  Groups like the Black Eyed Peas play in HUGE concert venues all over the world – they don’t come to small towns like Minot, ND – but how great that they did.  Josh pulled this concert together in only 5 weeks – tickets were $100 each and the website gave the option for people to buy tickets for flood victims.  The concert broke all attendance records for this venue – even beat KISS!  Josh really is a hometown hero for all he has done for Minot.

Before the concert, we were lucky enough to have VIP tickets for the pre-party.  Wait, make that VIPeas!

And I got to meet Josh and yes, he is even taller, nicer and the most gorgeous creature on earth better looking in person!  (Do you think the kids and hubby would mind if I make this our Christmas card this year?!?!)

Inside the VIPeas was food from Josh’s Minot Restaurant, 10 North Main, drinks, live music and an auction of Fergie’s clothes and shoes and an autographed guitar that was played during the concert that sold for almost $5,000!  Fergie’s clothes are tiny and she wears a size 7 shoe.

Before the concert, the jumbotrons were showing photos of the flood damage and victims.  Then the face of the cutest little blonde girl came on the screen and in her sweet little toddler voice said “I just want to go home”.  Followed by a big sigh.  We all had tears in our eyes and chill bumps on our arms.  Remembering we were there for much more than a concert.

Josh came out and started the show and introduced the BEPs.  He said he didn’t do much other than call his wife (loud crazy cheers from the crowd) and asked her to do a concert.  So she called the Peas and within 5 seconds it was decided.  They made the concert very personal and even had a song written for North Dakota.  Fergie did a solo from her album “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and she looked beautiful.  Many outfit changes and a different hairstyle with each outfit.  The concert was awesome – my only complaint was they didn’t play longer.

My mom has spent a good part of the summer sewing blankets.  She is famous for her blankets with her grandkids but this was a whole ‘nother kind of project.  She sewed 160 blankets with a custom designed “Minot” tag inside and with some of her friends, delivered them to 160 relief workers set up on cots in a group of campers.  These folks have come from around the country to help and I know their living conditions are less than lavish.  With winter setting in, I  know how much they will love these blankets.  Thanks, mom!!!


Porky, Peaches and Dog

      My wonderful blog readers – please keep reading until the end to understand this title!  My Labor Day weekend was so incredible, I have decided it will take 2 blog posts to cover it all!  Today’s post will be the serious side of my weekend, tomorrow’s post will be the fun side!  So let’s backtrack to Thursday morning at 9am – the kids have just left for school, I’m in pj’s and ponytail sitting at my computer when my mom calls.  Lets backtrack further to my post about Josh Duhamel and The Black Eyed Peas coming to my flood ravaged hometown of Minot, North Dakota for a benefit concert on September 3.  Well, my mom calls and said she woke up at 4am and  thought this is a once in a lifetime even and Kris needs to come!  So she booked a ticket for me with her frequent flier miles (don’t you love moms!) and just 18 short hours later, I was on a plane with one of my best girlfriends (who is never spontaneous by the way!) and off we were to North Dakota for the concert!  So you guessed it – tomorrow’s post will be all about the concert, my time in the “VIPeas” Suite, meeting Josh Duhamel, touching Fergi’s clothes and the wonderful moments I experienced at the concert.
     But today is the serious side – the aftermath of the horrific flood that destroyed more than 4,000 homes and businesses and most of them without flood insurance.  Many of these people have nowhere else to go – most people do not have money to just go buy a new house and leave their old one behind.  Not to mention there are probably less than 10 homes on the market due to the huge oil boom in North Dakota.  Tent cities are set up, campsites are packed with campers, hotels have zero vacancies, shelters are full and winter is about to arrive.  Winter in North Dakota is COLD – I would not want to live through a winter in a camper.  Schools have been destroyed and temporary portable classrooms have been set up.  No library, no cafeteria, just a teacher, the kids and a portable classroom.  There is so much suffering yet so much spirit, hope and goodwill everywhere you look.
     On Sunday, my sister (I call her Saint Kara) volunteered us to work on a Salvation Army canteen truck to deliver meals to the flood victims.  You see they are out there working on their homes day in and day out.  No electricity, no running water…heck, no windows or doors on their homes!  They use a porta potty and I think the highlight of their day is hearing the honk of the horn of “Sally’s Truck” coming to deliver 2 meals a day.  I promise you – I will never look at a Salvation Army bellringer the same way again.  I will turn my purse upside down and dump it all in.  They really are a salvation.  On Sunday we delivered 178 meals on our route.  Our driver was Bob – he drives along these flood ravaged streets, beeping the horn and the people come out of their houses, covered in dirt and dust and muck and with much gratitude accept a meal and a bottle of water.  Although most of the day was spent with either a tear in our eye, a lump in our throat or a knot in our stomach – we had fun.  And wished we could do more.  So much more.  Bob was driving us down one street and I saw a little girl, probably 8 or 9, come running after us waving her hands for us to stop.  And not far behind was her little brother and her mom.  With huge smiles on their faces, excited to tell us their FEMA trailer had arrived.  Home was back for them – even if it is a small, white FEMA trailer, planted on top of their yard filled with dead grass and trees and next to what is left of their home.  The pride was everywhere – people had already built decks around their FEMA trailer, they put up address numbers on their trailer, a pot of flowers, a mailbox.  Home.
     Here are some photos I snapped of our day with my little point-and-shoot camera, hanging out the back door of the Salvation Army canteen truck.  My sister (Saint Kara) dished up the hot dog and bun and passed it to me.  I dished up sliced peaches and passed it to MK.  She finished with a side of pork-n-beans and topped the hot dog with chili.  So we have new nicknames…”Porky”, “Peaches” and “Dog” and hence the blog title!

This is Dog and Porky

This is me with our trusty driver, Bob – what a great guy!

This is what is left of the Minot Country Club dining room

And this is what is left of the Minot Country Club kitchen

You can see this little boy in the corner of the picture carrying meals we gave to his family.  That is his dad planting rose bushes and flowers by the fence of their bed and breakfast, The Dakota Rose.  It was so poignant to see him planting these flowers when surrounded by dead grass, dead trees and destruction.

I saw this on the Salvation Army truck but we drove by too fast and I couldn’t take a picture.  I went back yesterday, Labor Day, and found the “house” with the American flag.  They propped up their front door so they can still receive mail, they have an incredible sense of humor (for rent) and time and thought to hang up an American flag for Labor Day.  Wow.

Are you still there?  This is a teaser photo of Fergi – stay tuned for that post tomorrow!

 Sorry for such a long post today – I could have written for days.  Want to help?  Here’s how:

Donations can  be made online at, by calling 800-SAL-ARMY or by mailing a check to The Salvation Army,2445 Prior AVE N, Roseville MN 55113. Be sure to designate your donation “Minot Flood.”

Thanks and God Bless Minot!

xo “Peaches”

Vacations and Birthdays – oh my!

I’m happy to say we were on vacation twice in July!  We took a long weekend trip to Chicago so son could see a Cubs Game!  He loves everything Chicago (daddy lived there for 12 years before we married) and every sports team.  He came home with a grand collection of t-shirts and sweatshirts in everything Cubs, Blackhawks, Bears and Bulls.  He was in heaven.  Chicago is pretty great – wonderful shopping and restaurants – but my dogs were barking at the end of this trip!


And here they are at Wrigley Field


And here we are at the River – I looked for Giuliana Rancic and E! News but no luck:

So we had just enough time to get home, unpack, do 15 loads of laundry and pack again for our annual trek to North Dakota.  My parents have a lake cabin at Lake Metigoshe – it is in the far northern part of the state and part of the lake is actually in Canada!  I think if we had our choice of anywhere in the US to vacation, this is where we would go.  We have a family compound of 3 cabins in a row so there are always lots of people and fun!  It stays light until almost 11pm so you really have no concept of time – our days are filled on the boat, on the jet ski and watching the kids tube, wake board and knee board.  My kids think they want to live in ND – funny that they have yet to even see real snow and they complain when it is 40 or 50 degrees in Florida and actually drive to school wrapped in a blanket!

I call this picture “Alfalfa”!

I have a new nickname from the kids…”Safety Patrol” and I am not allowed in the boat when they are tubing.   I can’t handle watching them get whiplash and scrambled brains!

My brother got a new lens and I want it.  I was able to get so close in these tubing pictures.  I wanted to experiment shooting right into the sun (yes, this is at about 10:30pm!) and some of the shots turned out really cool.  I love photography!

Well, the vacations are over and we are back to work.  School starts in 3 weeks so next week we will buy school supplies.  The kids are at camp while we are working.  We have a lot of great stuff going on and some closings coming up.  I am working with some buyers on their own Short Sale Project and fingers crossed we should have an approval letter from the Bank this week.  They are excited about their new beach house and I am excited for them.  I promised them I would take them into a few fabulous homes to give them some design inspiration after they close!

And last but not  least, it was my birthday yesterday and my sister and my friend knew how much I wanted these shoes so I was so excited to open Black Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers!  I love them.  Looking forward to dinner at Caliza in Alys Beach later this week with my girlfriends!