Aranda Family Vacation

In the early 1970’s (not THAT long ago), my parents packed the car and loaded my brother and I for a family road trip.  We paved the roads from Texas to New Mexico to Arizona and back.  We visited the Hoover Dam, we took photos with Fred Flinstone (at the Bedrock campground), we braved the Grand Canyon and made our way to Circus Circus in Las Vegas.

Here we are, almost 40 years later… I am the oldest of four (and yes, the shortest)  😉

In this photo, I’m standing with my parents and two of my three “baby” brothers.

It was our turn to load up our vehicles for a Family Road Trip.  It was special to see how our family has grown over the years.  A sister-in-law, three nieces, two nephews (who couldn’t join us), and significant others.  Not everyone could make this journey, but they were with us in spirit!

Our final destination… MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego, California to visit my baby brother #3.  Brother #3, Diamond Justin, was graduating from Marine Corps Boot Camp… this was a trip we would NOT miss!

The road trip from Texas to California wasn’t really planned out.  The only thing “planned” was our arrival in San Diego.  We wanted to check-in by Wednesday and prepare for graduation on Friday.  No plans… no itinerary.  All we had was a GPS!

We left on a Sunday night and on our way to California, we decided to detour through the Grand Canyon.  In route to the Canyon, I caught a quick glimpse of Fred Flinstone waving at me!  I kicked my heels through the floor board and stopped in my tracks… I made a U-turn (probably illegally) and drove straight into the campground.  WOW!  What a flashback!

I stood still… I was in awe… I pictured myself holding my kid brother’s hand.  I couldn’t keep my jaw off the ground.  My parents had taken us to this very spot over 30 years ago.  They photographed us with Fred, Dino and the gang.  We still have those photos somewhere… we’ll have to compare pictures!

We hit the road again and made our way to the Grand Canyon State Park.  We bunked for the night and waited anxiously for the crack of dawn!  While the sun peeked over the walls of the canyon, we flashed our cameras like paparazzi photographing every moment!

The Canyon was a magnificent sight!  I realize it’s so cliche to ask “with something so large, how does God remember me?”  But it’s exactly what I was thinking!  There is so much beyond our scope of understanding.  There is so much to be thankful for.

Agent ValI am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for the world around me.

After our chilly 28 degree morning at the Canyon, we hit the road again.  Next stop… San Diego?  NOPE… we broke away from the map, again!  Dad and I (with just hand gestures and facial expressions), signaled for another detour.  Next stop… LAS VEGAS!

“SURPRISE!  We’re in Vegas!”  We checked into the Excalibur Hotel & Casino.  I walked the Casino floors with amazement.  I was mesmerized with the sounds of slots and the smell of money… it was spectacular… it was overwhelming!  Of course the “smell of money” was my dollar getting swallowed by the machines!  🙂

All-in-all, this trip was just what I needed.  I spend so many days working and concentrating on other families (clients) that I tend to unplug from my own.  During this trip, I fell in love with my family all over again… I reconnected.  I didn’t realize how unplugged I was until I plugged myself back in.  Thank goodness for LONG extension cords!  😀

My greatest memory during this road trip is how we ended up on the same route we drove back in the 70’s.  We re-visited the Hoover Dam, we high-fived Fred Flinstone, we stood on the Grand Canyon and we walked the streets of Las Vegas!  This venture was “accidental,” but not.  It was unintentional, but perfect!  I don’t think we could have planned it any better.


We arrived in San Diego just in time for “Family Day” with our new Marine!  I’d like to introduce to you… PVT. D. J. Aranda, USMC.

My dearest brother Diamond, the world awaits you.  You have such a journey ahead of you.  Thank you for your sacrifice… we are so proud of you!  Semper Fi!  ~Your Sis~

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.



The end of the year is near.  Many of us will be making new resolutions for 2011.  This next year, I’m going to focus on home maintenance!  My little “to-do” list is getting a little too long.  Power-washing, paint touch-up, new bedroom set and maybe a new refrigerator!  I love my home.

Around this time of year, I also receive several inquiries about home buying.  It seems that a lot of single folks, young couples and growing families make HUGE resolutions for themselves… they set their fears aside and go for the plunge… they make their decision to STOP RENTING!     Everyone knows renting is pretty easy… it’s safe… and it comes with only a 6-12 month commitment.  Not much maintenance, not much “ownership” … trust me, I understand COMPLETELY!

Home ownership, on the other hand… there’s nothing else like it!  Continue reading “RENT-VS-BUYING”

Giving Thanks

The Thanksgiving Holiday seems to refresh my spirit with “thanks,” with “love,” with “forgiveness” and much more.  Although I try to renew my spirit throughout the year, there’s something spectacular in the air this time of year.  I’m sure the early Christmas music has something to do with it!

This festive holiday season had an unusual start, though… a sad start.  I read a post from my Aunt on Facebook… she was going to head home from the hospital in “just a few days.”  Recovering from a foot injury, no one was prepared for the phone call just hours later announcing that she had passed away.  My darling Aunt Nina, who was only 51, had a cardiac arrest and died with no one by her side.  Her sons (my cousins) live out of town and her beloved husband had been waiting for her at the pearly white gates.

The Ancira boys (my three fairly young cousins) rushed into town with their families.  We all shared tears, tight hugs, stories and laughter.  We brought them into our home and catered to their every need.  These fine young men have always had a special place in my heart… and without thinking twice, we made sure to tell them they have a a special place in our lives!

This Thanksgiving Season, I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to give back.  I’m thankful God provided us with just enough to give to those who walked through our door.  I’m thankful for my family and for my friends.


——— Val J Aranda (ever so grateful) —————

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.


Does this home look familiar?

Can you guess the movie?

(click on the link for the Animoto Slideshow of this home for more clues)

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.


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Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

The Texas Renaissance Festival

TX Ren Fest
“Dragon” me far, far away…

I put down my pen and I picked up my sword…

I traveled to Sherwood, where no one is bored!

Magnificent trees and cool Texas breeze…

Too bad the pollen made some of us sneeze!

The weather was fair despite the down-pour…

It lasted two minutes, no need for uproar.

Ded Bob” was too funny, he had a new song…

Rudolph the Reindeer… “Deer Soup”… SO WRONG!

We walked through the shops and followed our quest…

Looking for Puzzle Rings, put our friendships to the test.

Our pals were so helpful as we wandered the park…

I promise next time, we won’t get lost in the dark!  😉

Our tummies were happy with all the good eats…

Turkey leg, ice cream, “Kings Nuts”… WHAT A TREAT!

We saw a Magician who has a short fuse…Arsene Duprin

He doesn’t say much, but he’ll surely amuse!

If you are late, he will pick you right out…

He’ll steal your shoe & embarrass you, NO DOUBT!

His tricks are so easy; no need to ponder…

But how does he refill that pitcher, I wonder?

Dear Renaissance Festival, I give you the glory…

Can’t wait for next year, I’ll have a new story!

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

24-Hour Real Estate Advice

Val-A-Homes San Antonio, TX

[Use your smartphone’s Bar Scanner to scan the bar code/image.  You’ll be taken straight to my web site…]

  • Texas MLS Access (Homes, Condos, Townhomes, Duplexes… FOR SALE NOW)
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I’m on the clock… even after everyone else, “clocks out!”

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

The Oldest Home in the United States

No matter where I go or what I do… in the back of my mind is Real Estate! I recently took a road trip from San Antonio to Albuquerque to Santa Fe then back home to San Antonio. While in Santa Fe, we came across “The Oldest House in the U.S.A.!”  This was the “Pot O’ Gold” at the end of the rainbow for me!  I was standing inside history, I walked through the oldest doorway framed by wood, clay and hay.  I walked through the rooms where stories were shared.

Oldest House
The Oldest House in the U.S.A.

The walls of the exterior were cool to the touch.  The adobe, the clay… I was able to see the hay still protruding from the structure.  The doorways were short and narrow.  I certainly felt taller than 5′-1″ standing next to them.  The single-story structure was once a two-story home for three families.  The rooms were tiny yet functional.  The fireplace had an opening too small for Santa Claus!


Much to my surprise, there was a coffin in one of the living areas.  It had an opening where you could take a look at its contents.  There appeared to be human remains and hanging above the eerie choice of decoration was a story… the tale of two witches, a desperate man and a spell!

The Coffin

Once upon a time, there lived a man… a man who was so in love with a woman, he was desperately seeking her affection.  In his attempt to capture her heart, he visited the “Brujas” of this De Vargas Street house.  The Brujas were witches who offered spells to their patrons.

With his bar of gold, the man (Juan Espinoza) made his request and purchased a Love Spell for the woman he was after.  The Brujas took the gold and worked up their magic.  Whether the stars were misaligned or the moon was not full enough, whatever went wrong… the Spell did not work.  This beautiful woman married another… and this man… this heart-broken, desperate man grew furious!

Displeased with the results and unhappy with his purchase, this fierce customer returned to the Brujas demanding a refund!  He wanted his gold bar back!  Well, it must not have been posted on the walls, but the policy was… NO REFUNDS!  NO RETURNS!

The Remains
The Remains of Juan Espinoza

The Legend
The Legend Of Juan Espinoza

The man pulled out his sword and lunged toward the Brujas.  One of the witches made a swift move and tripped him… he fell to the ground and lost grip of his sword.  A witch grabbed the sword and in self-defense, separated the man from his head!  They were never charged!

Moral of the story?  Ask about the refund policy ahead of time and get it in writing!  🙂  Another tip to grasp from this story… while it may make for an interesting story, a coffin in the living room may not be the best piece of furniture for staging!

THE OLDEST CHURCH – The Spiritual Side of the Road

Just across the street from “The Oldest House,” is “The Oldest Church.”  The San Miguel Chapel is said to be built around 1610 A.D.  The inside of the church is quaint with original artifacts and artwork.

The San Miguel Chapel
San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe

San Miguel interior Balcony

The Altar

Now that my New Mexico journey is over, I can now announce that I’ve walked the OLDEST HOME and I’ve toured the NEWEST HOME in my twelve years of Real Estate!  From sticks and stones to bricks and limestone, I’ve seen an array of construction, design and architecture.

If you plan to build a home in Texas… if you plan to construct an Adobe in San Antonio, call on someone you can trust!  If you don’t have a personal Realtor, I hope my name pops into your mind!  I coach first-time home buyers and sellers and I’m always on-call.  Even when I’m on “vacation,” I’m just a call/text/tweet/facebook message away!

~Val J Aranda, REALTOR® & Traveler~

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

Val on Vacation

Dawn Patrol, Albuquerque, NM
Dawn Patrol: First to Ascend for Safety

I placed my business on Auto-Pilot and took a little vacation!  Thanks to my Assistant, I was able to keep my laptop in my suitcase!

Our destination… Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We loaded the Hummer and spun our wheels for twelve hours!  Our main target was the annual Balloon Fiesta… the spectacular sight of hundreds of Hot Air Balloons over head.

Our first night in New Mexico, our friends treated us to authentic New Mexican food.  “Red or Green?” is the question asked with every order.  Red Chile or Green Chile… known for their Green Chile, I tried it with almost every meal!  (That heart-burning story might end up in another blog!)

Our dinner and evening walk took place in “Old Town.”  A fantastic little plaza with shops, restaurants and VERY strict parking regulations!  Eighteen inches away from the curb?!?  You’re welcome, New Mexico… we just donated $40 to your City’s finest!

Red Ford Truck
Old Ford Truck… I noticed HE didn’t get a ticket!

Old Town Shopping
Old Town Shopping – Chili Peppers Everywhere!

Morning Sun Balloon

Our first morning waking up in Albuquerque… we were greeted with the bright morning sun!  Not even at the Balloon Fiesta yet, the balloons hovered all around us.  The special shapes of each aircraft totally blew my mind!  The details, the colors… the physics!  All I could say was, “WOW!”

Being the house and architecture fan that I am, I was also intrigued by the homes in the subdivision we were visiting.  Adobe-style homes with Stucco exteriors matching the hue of the surrounding desert land.

Albuquerque Homes
Stucco Homes in Albuquerque

Tomato Plant
Tomatoes sprout from desert land

The yards were xeroscaped and held so much beauty in their simplicities.  The fences between the yards were short stucco structures allowing such openness between neighbors.

The “Lawns”… No grass; just graveled yards with easy-maintenance plants and trees.  Needless to say, I was surprised to see sprouting tomatoes in a garden of pebbles!


One thing about this trip… which is VERY unusual for me… not much was “planned!”  The ONLY thing planned (to some extent) was our visit to the Balloon Fiesta.  I knew we would pay for parking, hunt for parking, pay for entry and find our way to the balloons.  We really didn’t plan beyond that.

So, we were pleasantly surprised with the V.I.P. treatment we ended up with.  We were invited to join a Balloon pilot and his crew.  Our visits to the Balloon Park included free parking, free entry and a personal escort to the Balloon Field!  The “green acres” of land was the backyard of the Balloon Museum.  The field was rimmed with large tents of Turkey Legs, Funnel Cakes, Donuts, Coffee, Hot Cocoa, Souvenirs and much more.  One area of the tents was reserved for a Wood Carving Competition.  Tree trunks and chain saws… rugged, manly men carving magnificent rustic creations.

Carving Competition
Wood Carving Competition – Balloon Fiesta

During our first visit to the Balloon Fiesta, the air was chilly and the wind was gusty.  The evening “Balloon Glow” was canceled because of the strong winds.  But, we did enjoy a great display of fireworks.

The second evening’s visit we FINALLY witnessed the Balloon Glow up close and personal.

Ahh-mazing!  The envelope of each balloon was inflated with a large shop-type fan.  Once the opening was large enough, the burners were ignited for the flaming heat inflation.

During the dawn of our third trip to the Balloon Fiesta, we witnessed an enormous Sponge Bob, a threatening Darth Vader, a spooky Haunted House Balloon and a buzzingly beautiful Bumblebee family!

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

A “Lot” to Invest: For the Next Generation

Once upon a time, loving and thoughtful parents used part of their savings to invest in Real Estate so that one day their children could build their own dream homes.  But lately, I’ve been listing those pieces of land handed down from one generation to another.

Just recently, I met a retired Military man who purchased one of my lot listings.  It was his second Residential Lot purchase in one week.  He shared a little piece of his story with me saying that he was buying the land so his kids, “will always have somewhere to come back to.” In my mind I was thinking, “sir, they’re just going to sell it!” Of course, I refrained from speaking since I was representing the Sellers.  But when I left the buyer, I couldn’t help but think about his noble intent.

Later these “children,” who grow into adults, will sell the property with no intention of building on that piece of land their parents sought out for them.  A part of me feels bad for the parent, because I know how much effort goes into investing for the future.  Of course, I also hold sentimental value when it comes to a gift from a parent!

The truth is, the land-purchasing parents are on the right track! The parents and grandparents who place their hard-earned money into real estate, are the people who earn great equity in their investment!  Nowadays, a Savings Account or a Mutual Fund might yield a 1.20% – 17.00% return (respectively) annually.  In other words, deposit $1,000 into a regular savings account, and you MIGHT earn about $12.00 by the end of the year. Hmm… ok?!?  Deposit and save $5,000 into a Mutual Fund and (if you’re lucky) you may earn about $8,500 in ten years!

WHAT’S THE RATE OF RETURN ON REAL ESTATE? Well, many brilliant parents who spent $5,000 on a piece of land ten years ago have earned more than four times their initial investment (regardless of what the stock market did)!  That’s $20,000 in ten years!

So what does this mean for their “children?”  Looks like the new generation of home buyers are selling their inherited properties and profiting from their parent’s humble investment.  AND THE GOOD NEWS IS… With the money they are making, they are paying off debt, helping their parents and YES… they are building their dream homes after all.  It may not be on that piece of land Mom and Dad bought, but it’s close by!  🙂

…and they ALL lived happily ever after!


P.S.  I don’t feel bad for the parents anymore!  They knew what they were doing… they are wise and their children are ever so grateful!

————- PAY IT FORWARD———–>>>

Want to invest for your next generation?  Here are a few links to help get you started.

Land in Elmendorf, TXLand in Downtown San Antonio, TXLand in the State of Texas

Texas law requires all real estate license holders to provide the Information About Brokerage Services to all prospective clients. TREC’s Consumer Protection Notice.

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