AMC Esplanade 14 movie theater will re-open as posh Fork & Screen

fork and screen logoBiltmore-area movie-goers have undoubtedly noticed that the  AMC Esplanade 14 movie theater at 2512 E Camelback Road has been closed down this summer.  In August, the Esplanade will reopen as the latest site of AMC’s newest concept, the upscale Fork & Screen.

With this renovation, AMC is trying to attract the posh “dinner and a movie” crowd to the Biltmore location. The new movie venue will offer luxe décor, top-shelf cocktails, wait staff and bartender service and even private suites in which to watch the movies.

Oh, and for all you jobseekers out there, AMC is currently hiring wait staff, bartenders, back-of-house people (dishwashers, cooks, etc), and even a theater manager. Search available openings on, using the employer name “TD-AMC Dine-In Theatre”.

Sources & Links for this story:

Make your own non-toxic bathtub cleanser

I found this recipe on Apartment Therapy (they credit Natural Home magazine with originally publishing the recipe). Seems to me you could go green AND save a bunch of money using this to clean your bathtub, instead of buying expensive commercial brands of cleansers.

Silky Bathtub Scrub

1 cup baking soda in a medium-sized mixing bowl
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
5-10 drops of antibacterial essential oil, such as lavender, tea tree or rosemary (optional)

Pour baking soda into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add liquid soap a little at a time, stirring continuously. Stop adding the soap after the mixture begins to resemble cake frosting.  Mix in drops of essential oil.  Store in an airtight jar for up to 1 year.

This sounds really interesting to me! I'm going to give it a go, this afternoon. Would you ever think about trying it? Do you have any money-saving or green tips for household cleaning tasks?

Hiking tips for Phoenix, Scottsdale visitors

It's gonna be a hot one today, folks! The metro Phoenix area is slated to see 98 degrees Farenheit today.

If you're visiting the metro Phoenix-Scottsdale area and you're considering hiking some of our beautiful mountain trails today, take note...  it's hotter than you think, and the trails are steeper than you think.

Remember that our firefighters routinely pull tourists (and sometimes even locals) off the mountain trails on stretchers and take them to the E.R.

Here are some tips to keep you safe when you're hiking the desert mountain trails of the metro Phoenix-Scottsdale area. Tips courtesy of the Scottsdale Parks department and the Phoenix Parks Department, and you can see more tips on their websites.

  • Always tell someone where you're going, when you'll be back, and stick to your plan!

  • Hike with a friend; it's safer and more fun.

  • Bring lots of water, three or four times as much as you think you need. The Scottsdale Parks department recommends at least one gallon of water per person, per day. I personally think that a standard-sized 16 to 19 ounce bottle is enough for about 15 minutes when it's really hot outside.

  • Wear a hat! If you've forgotten a hat, cover your head with whatever's handy

  • Wear and carry sunscreen, SPF 15 at minimum. Reapply more often than you think you need to.

  • Wear closed toe hiking shoes, or at least wear sneakers.

  • Rest 10 to 30 minutes for each hour of walking, depending on your overall level of fitness.

Get some info on the trail before you go. The Phoenix Parks department has a wonderful online library of information about the trails, their length, their degree of difficulty, locations of Park Ranger ramadas, etc.  The City of Scottsdale also has a wonderful online resource about their hiking trail system.

Trail etiquette

  • ALWAYS stay on a designated trail. City ordinances prohibit trailblazing.

  • Learn to share the trails with all other users.

  • In general, bike riders yield to both hikers and horseback riders; hikers yield to horseback riders. However, for all trail users, downhill yields to uphill. Use common sense and courtesy while on the trails.

  • Announce your intentions and slow your pace when passing someone on the trails

Well dear reader, I hope you have an enjoyable experience hiking our desert southwest trails! I'll be out there on South Mountain, sweating it out with the rest of you today, April 1, 2011.

Just wondering... have you ever thought of buying a vacation property in the metro Phoenix region? I am a Realtor, after all, so I tend to talk about property values all the time. Can I ask what you paid for your seasonal rental? I know, it's a pretty personal question. But we're on the Internet, so nobody will hear your answer. Did you know that you can pick up a vacation condo in the metro Phoenix area for as little as $25,000 to $50,000? Really. And after 3 or 4 years of price declines in Phoenix, it is possible to pick up a small home in several metro-Phoenix communities for about $100,000, give or take $25,000.

Want to do a little online home browsing? Search Phoenix-area homes for sale, online. When you're ready for a Realtor's help, contact us, The Phoenix Agents at Thompson's Realty. Real people, making real estate, real simple.

The New Normal: save money on laundry detergent

A while back I re-posted a money saving laundry tip from the blog HomeEc101. It mentions the many ways white vinegar can help you save money when you do your laundry at home. See the original money saving laundry tips there and over here too.  Then the super-awesome Sarah Cooper of CoopCrafts dropped by and mentioned that she makes her own laundry soap.


I was baffled, and intrigued. I googled around her site and found the CoopCrafts recipe for homemade laundry soap. I got more intrigued. I went shopping. I decided to give it a whirl.

[caption id="attachment_8858" align="alignleft" width="105" caption="retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner"]retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8857" align="alignleft" width="107" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer "washing soda" laundry additive"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8859" align="alignleft" width="109" caption="Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap"]Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8860" align="alignleft" width="79" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda"]retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda[/caption]

First you grate the bar castile soap very finely (this is especially important for cold water washing).

I used the smaller of the 2 lemon zester options on my kitchen box grater.

[caption id="attachment_8861" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="box grater for kitchen use"]box grater for kitchen use[/caption]

Then I mixed the soap crumbles with 1 cup each of the Borax, Washing Soda,  and baking soda.

Et voila! Laundry detergent.

Estimated total cost for about 5 cups of detergent = maybe $2.00.  Use 1 tablespoon per laundry load, 2 for big loads or very hard water.

GoogleCalculator tells me that's 80 loads of laundry worth of detergent... for about $4! I stored it in my laundry room, in an old heavy-duty plastic bucket with lid.

retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap
retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap

Dr. Bronner's isn't the only castile soap out there. It does come in many scents, but it's a bit pricey at a little over $4 per bar. I found a cheaper version at my local supermarket where Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap is about $1.39 per bar.  I found all the ingredients I needed locally, at my regular supermarkets.

I also have begun adding about 1/3 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water and gave up my regular fabric softener. Holy laundry revelation, Batman! I can hardly even begin to describe the positive difference: Soft, fluffy towels. Super clean and clean-smelling laundry. No static cling. No more chemicals going down my drain into the public water supply. No more rendered animal fat on my clothes.**

Making my own laundry detergent and using white vinegar in the rinse water has been a revelation to me. I can't believe I spent a fortune for all those years on commercial laundry soaps.  Never again will I buy All, Cheer or any of the others.

You should try this at home. It's a ridiculously easy way to start if you're baffled by how to live a little greener and reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. Plus your laundry will come out cleaner with no static cling.

**you do know that fabric softener is largely made of rendered animal fat, don't you? that's a bunch of dead, boiled animals all over your clothes

disclaimer - I do not own sticky-stain-makers, otherwise known as children. Your mileage may vary. Parents, you might want to try this on your own laundry first and work your way up to the truly nasty piles of laundry-like filth kids can create.

Where do people who move to Maricopa County come from?

This is a GREAT map.  (hat tip to John Wake for finding it.)

We often talk about the number of “net new” people who move to Maricopa County each year, and our gut feeling tells us most of them come from the Midwest and Northeast.  But I’ve never been able to confirm that.. until now!


Click on the map to view an interactive version, where you can see the population shift for any county in the country!

Your lost a days’ productivity to checking out counties Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Save money on laundry

Image ID 1078391 by Stock Exchange user coptaFound today’s money saving tip on HomeEc 101, a nifty blog about all the things you were supposed to learn in your high school Home Economics class but probably didn’t pay attention to.

You can use Borax or vinegar in your laundry to save money. I never knew this, did you?

  • Vinegar is a cost-conscious alternative to liquid fabric softener.

  • Borax in the laundry water gives you soft water. This is especially helpful for many folks in the metro Phoenix area, since we have notoriously hard water which causes detergent buildup.

Do you have any great laundry tips? Or other household tips? Thanks to the New Normal economy we’re all struggling living through, every money-saving and time-saving tip is very, very welcome. Post your comments below!

Disclaimer: this blog does not currently provide paid/sponsored reviews of products, services or blogs. This blog post author received nothing of any value in exchange for writing this post.

Snow in Phoenix

Although it’s rare, sometimes we Phoenicians have to protect our desert plants from freezing temperatures. Our Tucson branch manager, The HouseChick, a.k.a. Kelley Koehler wrote about prepping your cactus for the few freezing nights. Click on over to see  cups on cactus and the new trend, bags on cactus.

Thinking of visiting the Phoenix-Scottsdale area to get away from cold, snow and ice? Don’t despair. It’s rarely this cold in the Valley of the Sun. predicts we’ll be back to our usual sunny and warm 75 degrees by about the first full week of January 2011.

Need a vacation rental? Thinking about buying a winter vacation home and want to look at a few Phoenix or Scottsdale homes while you’re here?

Contact us. We’re Realtors, we’ve been helping buyers and sellers in the metro Phoenix area for a combined 10 years. We routinely help buyers find vacation homes, and we help investors choose appropriate rental homes, as well as handling typical residential real estate sales. Check out client testimonials, then give us a call.

video courtesy of (“Snow Falls on Phoenix Suburbs”, by Jennifer Thomas of AZ and originally published December 30, 2010 at 3:14pm)

Phoenix's reverse traffic lanes: vote!

Image ID 1280927 by Stock Exchange user bredmaker (image credit to Stock Exchange user; hat tip to Downtown Phoenix for leading me to the survey)

The City of Phoenix is offering a survey on the usefulness or danger of their “reverse traffic lanes” on 7th Avenue and 7th Street.

I personally think these reverse lanes are an innovative method of handling Phoenix’s growing rush hour automobile congestion. Other people contend they’re dangerous and should be eliminated.  Go, cast your vote.

Vote on Phoenix’s reverse traffic lanes here.

Arizona crime rates up? Not really.

Yesterday a local talk radio station aired a long interview with a local expert criminologist and a 20-year veteran Sergeant of the Phoenix Police Department.

Campaigning local politicians talking about a rash of murders in the desert, but the FBI Crime Index shows crime sharply down statewide and in Phoenix since 2005.

The FBI statistics measure two types of crime: property crime and violent crime. Violent crimes include murder, negligent homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes include burglary, theft and car thefts.

  • In Phoenix, violent crimes are down 22% since 2005.

  • Phoenix’s homicide rate has dropped by 50% over the past 4 years.

  • Phoenix area property crimes are down 30% since 2005 while auto theft fell by 50%.

  • Statewide the numbers show a 24% drop in property crimes and a 14% drop in violent crimes.

Despite the widely perceived need for SB1070, Phoenix police have been checking the immigration status of people they arrest since 2008. A review of arrests since 2008 shows no significant increase in arrests of Hispanics, the majority of illegal immigrants in the area.

If you want facts instead of election season hyperbole, listen to the interview on Arizona’s falling crime rates.

Furniture and appliance stores in North Phoenix area

Image ID 1161184 by StockExchange user kirobuch.png (photo credit, kirobuch at StockExchange)

Clients of ours need to furnish an entire home – their new vacation home.  They asked for local recommendations on retail sources for appliances and furniture.

Thought I’d pass on the insider tips to our loyal readers. All four of them.

For appliances, I recommend either B&B Appliances in Sunnyslope or Spencer's Appliances or even Best Buy. If you tell them you're buying a combo pack of appliances of some kind, most stores will give you a discount or interest free financing or something like that. 

For furniture, I guess I'd recommend IKEA first. They're in Tempe and have all kinds of styles. It's not just Danish modern anymore. 

Also good (and local!) is Pruitt's down on Thomas or Indian School and about 20th Street.

Pruitt's "scratch and dent" section can be quite a good bargain, because their idea of a scratch or dent is usually VERY minimal and possibly un-noticeable.   Ashley Furnishings is also good.

The Room Store also gets very good press around town for discount pricing.

And if you just want to browse in person, you can visit what I call The West Bell Road "Furniture Row". This is a group of a half-dozen or so shops on West Bell Road in the Northwest Valley. They're mostly on the north side of Bell Road, out west at about 69th Avenue out to about 75th Avenue. They include Thomasville, Oasis Bedrooms, Creative Leather, Razmataz, Design Source Furniture, BBQs Galore, Paddy O’Furniture, the Ethan Allen Design Center, the Stool & Dinette Factory, etc. They're all in a row, just east of the Arrowhead Mall on Bell Road. Good shopping!

If you’re made of money, go to Robb & Stuckey in North Scottsdale. For the rest of us mere mortals on a budget, the retail shops above are a good bet.

Note: Blog authors post vendor reviews and retail recommendations from time to time. Blog authors are not compensated in any way for these reviews and/or recommendations.

Sometimes it’s just too much

indulging our kids.png

This was taken with my Blackberry, so the color tone is ‘off’. I didn’t capture the whole closet because I was trying to avoid showing anything personally identifying (it’s not my kid, or even my clients’ kid, and the house is currently for sale).


I saw this in a home I was showing last weekend. It’s the walk in closet belonging to a child who is about 4 years old, based on the pictures of her in her room. It measured about 5 or 6 feet square. (perspective: many starter homes built in the early 2000s have bedrooms about 8 or 9 feet square)

Sometimes we indulge our children a wee bit too much.

I’m not judging, I swear. I have too many material things in my life and I’m on a blitzkrieg campaign to simplify, small-ify and generally reduce my life/budget/waistline. I’m just wondering if this picture isn’t a perfect reflection of how so many of us got into so much debt.

When to *not* re-do a kitchen

FLB201 Stove

When the kitchen is vintage and the building is “mid-century modern”, and it’s a condo, there’s a good argument to be made for not re-doing the kitchen.

This is kitschy and cute and “period”.  Long time readers may have deduced by now that I am a sucker for the mid-century modern look. And I even fall hard for the untouched, true vintage homes from the 1950s and 1960s. We are a small but passionate group.

Sometimes when you’re selling your home/condo and your kitchen looks like this, you don’t have to remodel. You just have to find the few, passionate lovers of the vintage 1950s and 1960s look.  Look for lovers of Mad Men online at sites like You’ll find your home buyer there.

Resources for this style

Phoenix’s online hub for mid-century modern is

The Mid-Century Modernist


MetroRetro Furniture

Vintage Swank (they cover the 1970s and early 1980s too; true mid-century modernists will recoil)

All about the Phoenix monsoon

This is a reprint of a post from summer 2009.

When I was a kid and we moved here in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the knee-jerk reaction answer to "When's the monsoon?" was “August”.

With the heat island effect, it seems like the monsoon arrives earlier and lasts longer each year. In 2008, the National Weather Service announced they would date the monsoon season in Arizona from June 15 to September 30 each year. In prior years, the weather services had dated the beginning and ending of the monsoon season based on meteorological readings of the barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, etc.

According to Wikipedia:
The North American Monsoon (NAM) occurs from late June or early July into September, originating over Mexico and spreading into the southwest United States by mid-July. It affects Mexico along the Sierra Madre Occidental as well as Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah,Colorado, West Texas, and California.

Monsoon With a Dust Storm Chaser

Monsoon with a dust storm chaser originally posted on Kathy Anderson’s AZ Active Retirement Living blog
Monsoon Clouds Over Phoenix Skyline

monsoon over downtown Phx image courtesy of The Downtown Phoenix Journal
Monsoon near Quartzite Arizona, 1976

AZ monsoon near quartzite, AZ 1976 CDouglas Stockdale on DouglasStockdale DOT com photo courtesy of, and copyright by Douglas Stockdale
Video of Monsoon Storms

Here’s a really exciting video about Phoenix monsoons created by the local CBS news affiliate, channel 10 (hat tip to Kathy Anderson for linking me to it). The video clip is undated but it appears to be a retrospective of the 2008 monsoon season, which was one of the Valley’s 10 worst.

In the video, CBS reporters talk to a hi-rise condo owner in downtown Phoenix who shot video of the August 28 (2008?) storm as it swept across town, blew out the windows in his condo, and then proceeded to dump cherry-sized hailstones into his living room!

At about the 6:28 minute mark of the video, there’s a mind-boggling shot of a huge dust storm surging across the Valley. It reminded me instantly of the videos of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami.
Just the Facts, Ma’am

Are you the type who likes detailed statistical information instead of shocking videos? Here’s the National Weather Service explaining the meteorological in’s and out’s of monsoons. Local news AzFamily Channel 3 has some more great statistics on wind speeds and dollars’ worth of damages during monsoon season.
Related Posts and Information on Other Sites

Did you know? We're huge.

Just an interesting little factoid I found today while looking for something else.

Did you know that Maricopa County (which includes most of the Greater Phoenix metro region) is one of the largest counties in the entire country?

Maricopa County covers 9,228 square miles! Within that are literally thousands of miles of land that are in a floodplain. Yep, floodplain. . .   in the desert. (information courtesy of The Flood Control District of Maricopa County)

See pictures of Phoenix area monsoon flooding here and here

Read articles about the Phoenix area monsoons and the after effects here and find out when is monsoon season in Phoenix.

New house, same old lot

sometimes your neighbors hate you

Sometimes making the most of the livable space available isn’t quite as important as not pissing off the neighbors. -- real estate wisdom by Heather

(picture credit,’s “Houses We Love” contest. NOTE that the caption is mine, not theirs! Three of the finalist homes are in Arizona, and were designed by merzproject. Voting continues through June 27, 2010. Despite my snarky caption there are some uber-cool houses on display on Dwell's website. Check 'em out.)

Recommended blog and handyman

Psst...  I found a really outstanding blog and an excellent craftsman who does home remodeling projects in the Greater Phoenix area: The RemodGeek. I can't say enough good stuff about him, but his resume actually speaks for itself:
…spent years in construction, residential and commercial, and remodeling from foundation to punch list. I have been a Union  Carpenter, (both wood and steel stud), Remodeling Contractor, Crew Foreman, Superintendent, Project Manager, Cabinet Maker,  (both custom and production) Professional Drywaller, (from single family houses, and commercial drywall, including fire safety renovations, multi-hour drywall assemblies, elevator shafts, lead-lined radiation rooms, and fire rated partitions. If it can be covered in drywall, I have probably done it, multiple times.

I worked in the auto recycling (junkyards) and bodyshop business for 9 years. When I am not remodeling, I build websites, specialty computers, and networks for my internet clients.

Remodeling for Geeks masthead

That’s his blog masthead; it's him reflected in a shiny engine block. It's a good example of the creative level of photography the RemodGeek posts.  In the funny way of the Internet, RemodGeek and I haven’t met in person, yet. We've emailed, and his blog's in my feed reader.

No matter. The high level of quality craftsmanship he puts into his remodeling projects is crystal clear. If you need remodeling work done around the house, or just need advice on your next Do It Yourself project, check out his site.  <link :>

Note: Author was given nothing of value other than goodwill in consideration for writing & posting this piece. Whenever you're hiring people to do work on/in your home, do your homework: references, licenses, Better Business Bureau, Registrar of Contractors, etc. ThePhoenixAgents recommends vendors from time to time because we were impressed by them, not because we guarantee their work.

Weekend fire restrictions in Tonto Nat’l Forest

Image ID 501779 by Stock Exchange user mailsparky

Getting out of the unbearable heat town this weekend? If you’re heading to the Tonto National Forest, take note: there are fire restrictions starting Friday (June 11, 2010) at 8:00 pm local time.

The restrictions begin at 8 a.m. Friday. Campfires and most types of fire-causing activities will be banned across the entire forest. Charcoal-burning devices also are off limits.

Violating the restrictions is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Petroleum stoves, lanterns and heating devices are allowed.

See the fire restrictions press release on Tucson KGUN9 radio station’s website.

National Get Outdoors Day is June 12, and the staff at the Tonto National Forest is planning a day of family-related activities. Read more on the Tonto National Forest Forest website.