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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Anna Maria Island: Where to go in Florida by Fran Joyce

Beautiful Anna Maria Island

I’ve visited beaches in Florida, California, Hawaii, Mexico, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Cape Cod, New Jersey and even Sweden, but after growing up near Anna Maria Island, no other beach feels like home.

Living on the west coast of Florida, I spent many happy hours walking along Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island collecting sea shells and swimming with my friends in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. On the rare occasions I get back to Florida, I try to sneak out to the island to feel the sand between my toes, take in the smell of the salt sea air and let the gentle breezes take me back to a much simpler time.

When we moved to the Pittsburgh area, I found a kindred spirit. Denice McDonough’s father was a Pittsburgh developer who did several projects on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key; she grew up vacationing on Longboat Key with her family.  After her brother moved there in the 80’s, her parents eventually settled permanently on Longboat Key. Denice and her husband Ken vacationed on Anna Maria Island with their children.

In 2011, Ken and Denice bought a townhouse there. By 2012, they were spending more time at their Florida townhouse than their home in Upper St. Clair, PA.

Shortly after Denice’s dad passed away in 2015, Denice and Ken decided to buy a fixer upper near their Florida townhouse for rental income. The project proved to be especially therapeutic for Denice and her mom.

“We built our own house in Upper St. Clair,” said Denice, “so, I knew we were up for the challenge. Because we spent so many years vacationing on the island, we had the advantage of knowing what people looked for in a rental and what was available. Ken and I worked on the house together. We decided to put in a pool. My mom and I made selections for the décor and shopped for furnishings and household items. The house was finished and ready for rental by Christmas 2015. We named it ‘Sea U Soon’.”

After its completion, “Sea U Soon” was booked solid for five months. It is a popular vacation rental in the Bradenton Beach section of Anna Maria Island for people from the Pittsburgh area.

Ken and Denice, along with her mom and brother, recently purchased another fixer upper on the island. “This one already has a pool,” she said. “Ken and I will start the project after we return to Florida. It’s in much better shape than the first property, and we hope to be finished in time for Thanksgiving rentals.”

“Sea U Soon” is rented through a rental agency, but it is also on, house #4087239.

Check out these unbelievable before and after photos of the house and its new interior.

Money Matters

What to do When the Furnace Eats Your Vacation Fund by Fran Joyce