Lessons Learned in 2017 ❤️

I learned some valuable gems 💎 in 2017…..Some came easily 😊 while others were much more challenging! 😡

Lesson 1:
Blogging is time ⏱consuming and takes dedication, “mucho tiempo” and  lots of patience . But it’s fun and challenging. Weekly posts were way too ambitious for a novice blogger like me during 2017  …..-so during 2018 I’ll shoot for bi-monthly posts- one mid month and one end of each month starting in February 2018.

Tower Gardening
Fresh produce

Lesson 2:
I love ❤ Tower Gardening! While taking a break from it due to tight quarters in our small apartment,  I realized how much I missed growing my own food so come early Spring🌸🌼🌻, I’ll be growing organic food again. 🥦🥒🥗

Lesson 3:
Decluttering and staging a large home 🏠 to sell while building a smaller home to downsize was extremely challenging but well worth the effort.   And, moving twice within a year was really exhausting and stressful ! 😩  But nothing beats building a new smaller home.

Lesson 4:
Buying a fixer upper🔨and gutting it for a complete 🏠 renovation is much harder than it looks on HGTV’s Fixer Upper and Flip or Flop!   R & M’s fixer upper was filled with blood, sweat and tears, but was a true labor of love ❤ worth the sacrifice.   Proud of them for persevering and stepping up to such a challenge!  ❤

Fixer Upper
Beautifully done!








Lesson 5:
Restoring old furniture using Annie Sloane Chalk Paints 🌈 is easier than it looks – thanks to Youtube.  It’s therapeutic, relaxing hobby and the beautiful finished piece is the icing on the 🎂.  I will definitely do it again and  loom knitting baby items is so rewarding.

What lessons did you learn in 2017?   Share your best lesson learned this past year and may 2018 be filled with new lessons and adventures. 

Loom Knitting
Restoring old furniture

I ❤️ Thrivent Financial

Joy of Christmas Toy Drive
Joy of Christmas Toy Drive

Have you ever heard of Thrivent Financial? It’s a top rated financial company that strives to assist its Christian members in helping their community by awarding grants.

Booties and hats for babies in NICU

The project is called Team Action Grants ❤️ and it awards $250 seed money for each project that helps your community. The only catch is that you have to be a Thrivent member and a Christian. You become a member by purchasing products like a Roth IRA, annuities or life insurance.  This entitles you and your spouse (if he is a member also)

to write two Team Action Grants each (yearly -for a total of four) to assist with any project that helps your local community.  After you write the grant and receive approval, you gather friends or family to complete the project.   Once completed you report back the results and take a brief survey.

So far Thrivent Financial ❤️ has graciously awarded $250 seed money for each of these projects to:
✅ purchase organic seeds for a church garden to provide fresh produce to those in need.
✅ purchase 👶 baby yarn for knitting and looming hats and booties for babies in NICU.
✅ purchase turkeys 🦃 for families at school during the Thanksgiving season.
✅ purchase toiletries and non-perishables for the homeless.
✅ purchase toys for our Joy of Christmas 🎄 toy drive.
With so many financial companies out there to choose from it’s often difficult to find one that gives back to its members and their community.  However, Thrivent Financial is that one gem among the many companies out there.   So if you are in the market for financial products be sure to check it out!

Tea Rooms

Do you have a ❤️ for all things TEA!  Lemon 🍋 ginger, cranberry, pomegranate, passion fruit, orange 🍊 blossom, mango, 🍑 peach, cucumber 🥒, 🌴 coconut, 🍍pineapple, 🍎 -cinnamon, hibiscus , chamomile, and spicy 🍐 pear teas are all favorites-never met a tea ☕️ I don’t like.  So trying new teas has become a little obsession as long as they are herbal, caffeine-free and loaded with flavorful honey!
Afternoon tea platter
Lemon ginger tea and honey
Teas and cakes to take home
Cold ❄️ in the summer and hot 🔥in the winter- it doesn’t matter the time or season of the year  just as long as it’s sweetened with plenty of tasty raw 🍯 honey!  In fact, replacing tea for sodas is proven to be a really healthy swap -rich in flavonoids and antioxidants.💋
Royals Tea Room
My quest for that amazing cup of tea at various Florida Tea Rooms ☕️ has become a fun adventure. Of course,  the cream cheese 🥒 and chicken finger sandwiches with fruity scones, Devonshire cream, ham and those tiny bite size desserts make the whole experience absolutely delicious and reminiscent of Downton Abbey! Even Mr. Fitbelo and M have joined me for a delicious lunch at my favorite ❤️ -Royal Tea Room -just 15 minutes from home and owned by two gals from London with beautiful British accents- (a mother and her daughter-in- law)
Another favorite ❤️ The Tea Room Experience in Orlando is owned by two lovely Latinas.  The only drawback is it’s in the ❤️ of Orlando and has both meter and parallel parking 😡!  But “las damas” are super attentive and gracious so it’s worth the trip. If you are out that way make a point to drop in and visit. They even gave me a tiny cupcake to go which never made it 🏡.
So, if you ever have a desire to help promote a small, local, family business be sure to visit a tea room.   Call for a reservation because tea rooms  are
small, quaint establishments that fill up quickly with 👰 bridal and baby 👶 showers!
Enjoy some ☕️ soon!

Athletic Apex Health Club ❤️

Athletic Apex Health Club
Our recent move required several changes in our daily lifestyle.   New neighbors, new cafes 🍱, new shopping 🛒 places, new walking 🏃🏽‍♀️and biking 🚴🏽‍♀️🚴🏽 trails and most importantly a new health club close to 🏡.
Our previous gym 🏋🏽🏸(which will remain nameless) was really over rated and terribly over priced.  Cleanliness was not a top priority nor was basic air conditioning  maintenance 🛠🔧🔨 or class schedules!    If you have ever tried a spinning class 🚴🏽🚴🏽‍♀️🚴🏽‍♀️with no AC you understand how grueling 😰 and awful it can be in the 🌞 Florida heat 🔥.   It’s as bad as a torturous, smelly  Hot 🔥 Yoga class! 😡
Complimentary Towels
Fortunately, we recently found a fabulous new health club in Athletic Apex!  State of the art equipment,  working AC 100% of the time and a variety of classes for all fitness levels is a 👍🏽 great motivator to keep members interested and enthusiastic about working out daily.    But, I absolutely ❤️ its super clean, modern environment, plus the clean towel you’re given as you walk in the club.  The smoothies menu, complimentary toiletries are just the icing on the cake!
Apex Pump, Barre, Boot Camp, Pilates, Soul Spin, Tabata, TRX, Yoga,  and  Zumba-keep it all fun 👍🏽 but super tough and challenging! 😅😬😓😰😫
So far this month…..-Hatha , Restorative and Vinyasa Yoga have been my favorites ❤️ with instructors Anna and Maria. Apex Pump with good-looking Marquis – who is young enough to be my son and easy on the eyes  🤓 has kicked my butt!  But I keep going back for more !  😂
Keep healthy, stay 💪 strong  and keep working out! 👟
Complimentary toiletries
State of the art equipment



Why are so many 👩‍👩‍👦‍👦👨‍👩‍👧👩‍👩‍👦  totally captivated ❤️by Sweden’s 🇸🇪 IKEA concept? Is it the streamlined, clutter-free, sleek furnishings or the fact it’s an inexpensive option for cool home goods.  Unfortunately, several recalls have landed IKEA in some hot water and yield financial woes along with bad press.

However, as for me IKEA’s novelty never, ever wears thin.  As soon as that yearly catalog lands in my mailbox, I am highly motivated  to take a trip to the Orlando store for a day of touching and sampling all things new followed  by lunch!

IKEA Catalog 2017


Browsing through the beautiful, clean smelling aisles with everything accessible to touch and feel-including all things kitchen, pot, pans, dishes, wine cups, butter cookies and even model kitchens on display always puts a huge smile on my face 😋.  IKEA’s organizational gadgets are always my downfall—  just can’t live without them!  It just gives the feeling of all things right with order and peace in my home environment!



This beautiful white desk and orchid were my awesome buy on my last visit to the store.  The July 2018 catalog is due out very soon and so is my yearly visit to IKEA!





Book Review: The Magnolia Story

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
Chip and Joanna Gaines have endeared themselves to millions of viewers who ❤️ restoring, fixing and transforming something old and worn into something new and beautiful—-all within a budget💰!
Their gorgeous kids Drake, Ella Rose, Emmie Kay, and Duke  (yes-I’m all in) and that amazing picturesque🏡 farmhouse make it intriguing to watch those stunning home transformations in Waco, TX.

Fixer Upper 🛠🔧🔩 on HGTV 🖥 propelled their new book 📔 to the New York Times, Amazon, USA Today and Barnes & Noble bestsellers lists for months (making it really difficult for me to snag a copy at my local library-bummer ☹️.)

However,  finding nothing else that  really peaked my interest and  great 🌟🌟🌟🌟 reviews,  I broke down and downloaded an e-copy of The Magnolia Story by the Gaines onto my iPad.
To my surprise, I was not disappointed.  I normally start a book, put it down and seldom return to it because I quickly lose interest.   But this non-fiction beauty 💎 was different,   I was literally hooked from beginning to end- starting with its take on a hilarious ⛵️ boat fiasco,  their love story❤️, followed by who let the dogs out 🐶 and the forgotten sleeping baby.
At times, it did make me laugh, 😂 or cry 😢 and reflect upon those life challenges we all face-marriage, raising kids, and financial burdens–especially during the beginning years of their relationship.
However, it’s evident throughout their journey -an incredible work ethic, ❤️  joy for family and deep Christian faith has blessed them with God’s amazing grace and generosity.

I would highly recommend the book if you are a fan of the show and curious about the charismatic, dynamic duo who have reaped the fruits of their labor!  I cannot wait for their upcoming show Fixer Upper: Behind the Design.


So Blessed and Grateful ❤️

Walk to the beach
Beach to ourselves
As we honor all those dedicated men and women who serve or have served and given their precious lives for the freedoms we enjoy daily, let’s take time to do these three simple things:

Reflect upon the amazing gift 🎁 of living in the 🇺🇸 where we can all freely express our own personal political views and religious beliefs.

Give thanks for the extraordinary abundance of having everything our little ❤️ desires on a daily basis even when we don’t need it!

Ben and Daddy
Rejoice over the joyous blessing of family and friends bestowed upon us by a  merciful, graceful and loving Savior!
Tropical Fruit Pie ❤️
Hoping you’re enjoying this gorgeous Memorial Day as much as we are at the new beach house of newly retired family friends in Cape Canaveral Beach, FL!  We had the beach ⛱⛱⛱ all to ourselves to enjoy a feast of  🍗, 🍤, 🥙, sandwiches, homemade Sangria 🍷and my absolute favorite Tropical Fruit Pie ❤️ !


So simple but beautiful
Why is someone’s old stuff (no one really wants) so appealing yet incredibly expensive?  Well, I’m guessing because  it’s Vintage!    As M and her hubby R tackle a massive fixer upper project on three acres – C & I  are all in with tons of moral support,  constant encouragement,  a little back breaking labor(mainly C) and plenty of unsolicited opinions (mainly me).  Now, don’t judge- cause at least we help out with their two very active  boys 👦🏻 & 👶!
Rustic farmhouse table requires your first born as payment

We recently had our fill of the Vintage experience at The Mill and Adjectives.  These unique 4,000 sq. ft.  stores specialize in repurposing then selling anything and everything your little heart ❤️ may desire both new and old!

Old world lighting

While browsing for a rustic farmhouse table, a farmer’s sink, a stand alone tub 🛀🏼, old looking clocks⏰⏱🕰, decorative signs, and distressed furniture,  a barnyard door and windows, it suddenly dawned on me, we could have opened our own Vintage shop with all the stuff we threw out in the 80s with each of our four military moves.

However, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.  It was great fun to get some ideas💡and inspiration to build a farmhouse table to sit ten for Sunday brunch or dinner.  We also walked away with a brand new sparkling white farmhouse sink, a stand alone tub, three old silver buckets for eclectic kitchen lighting and a really cool looking wooden toolbox for flowers 🌺 🌸🌻 in big mason jars

Repurposed furniture with chalk paint
 Lesson learned on this trip –   ” Don’t throw out your old junk cause it may fetch big bucks $$$$$ in the future! ”  It’s way to late for me but maybe not for you.
More wall sayings

Forest Bathing

I recently read that nature walks 🏃🏽‍♀️have a variety of positive +++ health ❤️benefits.  Benefits include a decrease in blood pressure, anxiety, stress, depression and an increase in energy, mood, brain and emotional health.   And of course-sleeping better.   In fact, the Japanese call therapeutic nature walks 🏃🏽‍♀️”Forest Bathing.” 🌲🌲🌲🌲- immersion in a forest for the purpose of  relaxation and recreation to enhance physical and mental health.

Fortunately, after the move to our new place, we  discovered we are surrounded by beautiful nature trails 🌲🌲🌲🌲 !   So ☀️Saturday morning after breakfast 🍳 C and I enjoyed a walk in the nature trails for some much needed “Forest Bathing.”   We were graced with the coolest weather we’ve had in all of May.   During the three mile adventure,  we encountered several hikers, bikers and runners also making the most of the gorgeous scenery.

In our season of less with more time to enjoy simple pleasures we will definitely be Forest Bathing 🌲🌲🌲🌲 much more often for the purpose of  relaxation and recreation-  the  health benefits will just be icing on the cake.


A New Season of Less


Last month, we sold Casa Martoral – a beautiful 2,500 sq. ft. 🏡 after five months on the market and we are so thankful!   A lovely young couple with three young boys are now the proud owners of our home and a great 👍🏽 community!


Our 12 years of 🏡 ownership in Casa Martoral were filled with many wonderful blessings – Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts, several A+ school celebrations🎉, book clubs🍷📚, brunches☕️🥓, luncheons🌮, dinners parties, birthday parties 🎂, bunco, promotions🥂🍾🍻, graduations👨🏽‍🎓👩🏽‍🎓 and a gorgeous wedding.  All this was topped off by the debut of two gorgeous grand babies – Ben👦🏻 and Eli👶.   And for all these memories and blessings we are forever grateful for God’s amazing grace and ❤️!

Spring time at Casa Martoral

However, the time has come to let go of stuff in order to welcome a new season in our life!  A season of LESS!   Less cleaning, polishing, organizing, mowing, landscaping, less clutter, books 📚, 👗, 👜and 👠 👢👡👞, less furniture, toys, gadgets, decor and most important of all-  less JUNK & STUFF!

Our new season begins now by downsizing and minimizing.  We will now have more time ⏰for church, to relax🏝🏖, to dance, listen to music🎧, grow organic veggies, watch  🌺 🌸bloom, sip sangria or drink a Blue Moon, play with our grand babies,  vacation ✈️🚘🛳  much more often and enjoy the simple things of life that bring so much joy!

Sangria 🍷🍷


Blue Moon with orange 🍊







Spring is blooming
More time to enjoy the island of Puerto Rico.