Vendor Reviews

Quickie Around the House

Quickie Around the House an occasional series of helpful homeowner tips. The series name has changed over time but it’s always focused on making your life easier.

This Quickie is courtesy of Moxie Girl, a personal concierge-type service that you really should check out.
Frustrated when cleaning scorched food from your stainless steel cookware? Add a squirt of ketchup or tomato sauce to the still warm pan when you are done cooking and watch the burned food magically disappear!

Moxie Girl offers an alternative approach to home services by combining the duties of a house cleaner with the touches of a personal assistant. Moxie Girl provides you with more than just a clean house; We provide sanity in your home.

Moxie Girl offers these services and more:

  • home organizing

  • home cleaning

  • personal assistance, errand running and concierge services

  • home/pet sitting and vacation checkups

  • event hosting

  • new baby services

  • home maintenance

Friend Moxie Girl on Facebook, or visit the Moxie Girl website. You’ll be glad you found them!
Disclaimer: Moxie Girl did not provide any services, products or discounts to or its owners, Chris Butterworth and Heather Barr. This review is provided only because we know the folks who run Moxie Girl and we think their services are pretty darn cool.

You can see other entries in the Quickie Around the House series, here.

Save money on your phone bill

I stumbled on this money saving tip by accident this morning. Do you have a land line telephone in your home? I do. Never use it. It exists only to keep my TiVo happy and full of programming data.

I called the phone provider - who is also my internet provider - and asked them to drop the line. Almost immediately, the phone company offered me a 25% discount off the price of the phone portion of the bill, good for six months. In hindsight, I probably could have negotiated for a bigger discount.

So I guess if you're seeking savings wherever you can find it, you might benefit from a quick call  to your land line phone provider.

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.

Fast Lane Motors – an Honest Mechanic in the Northwest Valley

Here’s the thing – when you drive a 13-year old truck with 260,000 miles, you’re going to need some help now & then.  So I was happy when someone referred me to Dave Dunch (owner of and mechanic at Fast Lane Motors).  And I’ve been even happier as time has passed.

Since many of us are keeping our cars a little longer than normal in this economy, I thought you might need someone you could trust, too.

I can say all sorts of nice words about Dave, but I’d rather share my first experience...

Leaving money on the table.

My car was sporadically not starting - not in a slow-to-turn-over way, but in a “click” way.  I couldn’t find a loose wire and both battery terminals were secured, so I went to Checker.  The guys at Checker thought I might need to replace my battery cables, but “unofficially” recommended I talk to Dave before spending $350 at the dealership.

I pulled into Dave’s garage, and he stopped what he was doing to look at my car.  He found some corrosion, and thought he might be able to do a quick fix rather than replacing the whole cable harness.  5 minutes later he had spliced & crimped a new connector onto the existing cable & my car was fixed.  When I asked how much I owed for the work, he replied “it’s a $5 part – don’t worry about it.”  (I opened my wallet anyway and guiltily gave him the lone $20 bill in there)

He could have charged me whatever he felt like, but he didn’t.  Wow – that was a surreal experience!

Good Guy; Good Work

Since then I’ve had Dave work on my alternator, starter, power steering fluid pump, catalytic converter, and probably a couple other things I’m forgetting.

My experience is always the same. Dave’s upfront & honest.  He’s a guy, rather than a corporation, so he can juggle his workflow easier to deal with emergency situations.  He stands by his work.  He offers multiple solutions to a problem (“I can fix it the Toyota by-the-book way for $700 or I can use a different part, just as high quality, and do it for about half the cost…”, or “I can jimmy it for you so it’ll work fine, but you’ll never pass inspection – you’ll have to come back to fix it for real before your emissions test – at least it’ll buy you six months to save up if you need to…).  He listens, explains, and teaches.  And he doesn’t intimidate by using words I don’t understand – he makes it all seem so simple.

Overall he’s a guy I trust, one of the good guys.  Having a car break down is at best inconvenient.  Having to worry about whether the mechanic is ripping you off is just extra stress nobody needs.  Here’s Dave’s number – put it in your phone today just in case you need it tomorrow.

Fast Lane Motors

Dave Dunch

23004 N 107th Ave, Peoria, AZ, 85383


(** no payment or quid pro quo favors were received for writing this review.)

Your happy to spend $300 on repairs a couple times a year in exchange for not having a car payment Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Customer Service Reminder follow up

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how NOT to do customer service (special thanks to Howard & Blum for providing this fine example.)

Today I want to follow up with the rest of the story…

I was in between appointments one day and had a few minutes to kill, so I poked my head into W R Williams Fine Jewelry in Arcadia, on the northwest corner of Indian School Rd and 48th Street.  My goal was the same as before – switch the two watchbands on my same-sized, same-manufacturer watches.

By now I had been carrying the two watches around in my car for too long, and I just wanted it done..

I asked if this was something they could do for me, and Mishell responded with a smile on her face - “sure – give me 10 minutes.”  I told her I would run next door to get a sandwich, and that I appreciated her help.

I came back 20 minutes later, and Mishell handed me both watches.

Mishell:  I think they look better this way.  Also, it looked like the black one had some water damage, so I opened it up and gave it a good cleaning, then tightened the seal as good as I could.  Hopefully it’ll stay water-tight for you.

(she made no motions towards the register or a receipt or anything like that.)

Me: Thanks.  (reaching for my wallet)  How much do I owe you?

Mishell:  Nothing – my pleasure.

Now, both jewelers lost out on their $12 repair fee.  But one jeweler also lost out on all future business and received a bad write-up online.  The other jeweler gained a customer and a referral source.

What can customer service do for you?

Your happy to see people doing it right Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

A Customer Service Reminder

Sometimes we get a reminder to show us what customer service is all about.  (or not about, as the case may be…)  Yesterday I had one of those reminders.

I have a couple of watches where I wanted to switch the bands from one to the other.  Same size watches, same manufacturer – should be an easy task, right?

lacking customer service

I stopped by the local “fine jeweler” yesterday to see if he could do it for me.  (Howard & Blum is next door to The Java Grounds – a great coffee cafe near my house.)  The conversation went something like this:

CB: Can you switch these two watches’ bands for me?

H&B: Maybe.

CB:  What do you mean, maybe?

H&B: I won’t know until I take them off & look at them.  It’ll cost $12.

CB:  Wait – I have to pay the full price, even if you don’t switch them?  (at this point I’m just fishing; who knows what he’s going to say, right?)

H&B:  Takes me the same amount of work.  You don’t work for free, do you?

CB:  laughs.  Sometimes. – I’m a Realtor.  I work my butt off & give everybody my best effort, all the time, and I only get paid if or when a transaction successfully closes escrow.  So I only get paid for successful results.

H&B:  Pauses and looks at me for a minute with disdain.  Then pushes the watch back across the counter at me and grimaces before muttering “fix it yourself” and walking away.

Thanks, Howard & Blum.  I needed that little reminder of How NOT to Win Friends and Influence People.

Your stunned and shaking his head Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

It's a Grind in Peoria

I need to be in Old Town Peoria this morning at 8:00, so I leave the house at my usual way-to-early time in the morning and head that way.  I like to get where I'm going before traffic gets bad, and I can always find a coffee shop to work from, right?

This morning I criss-crossed South Peoria for 20 minutes before finding It's a Grind on Thunderbird and 84th Ave.  (technically it's probably considered north of South Peoria, but it's the closest I could find!)

Its a Grind 2

The quick review:

a clean, wobble-free table, a strong cup of coffee, a friendly girl behind the counter, free wi-fi, blue-sy music at a reasonable volume, and the only option in this part of town..!  Overall, better than average in just about every category, although nothing stands out to me as outstanding, or very different from any other coffee shop.

ps. Safeway at 83rd & Cactus displays a big sign advertising their cafe inside.  Here's a tip: what Safeway calls a 'cafe', other stores refer to as a deli.  sheesh.

Your grateful for this cup of joe Realtor,

Chris Butterworth


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Help Around the House

A couple of weeks ago I met with Amanda Thomas who is the head of Moxie Girl. I was really impressed with her and with Moxie Girl’s services.

Moxie Girl provides all kinds of home and personal “helper” kind of services. They do the kind of stuff that fills up your days but doesn’t add any value to your life. Their motto is “Providing Sanity”. Think of them like a personal concierge.

  • Kids’ playroom over-run by unused toys but don’t have time to sort through it all and create a “Donate to Charity” pile? Moxie Girl will do it for you.

  • How about getting ready for entertaining at home during the holidays? Or gift wrapping? Moxie Girl does that.

  • Every noticed that your grocery shopping list is filled with a few staple items that you have to replace week in and week out? You always need milk, bread, eggs, butter, etc. Moxie Girl can take care of that for you. They’ll send someone in to assess your fridge and pantry, confer with you, and next thing you know those staples will be there every time you need them.

  • Can’t spare 15 minutes to run pick up the drycleaning? Moxie Girl’s got your back.

  • Moxie Girl also provides traditional maid services and fix-it handymen type services.

Times are tight for a lot of folks these days, but you might be better off spending face time with your family instead of running to the drycleaner, deep cleaning the house or picking up milk and bread at the store yet again.

Give Amanda of Moxie Girl a call (602-705-3144) or check out their website. Moxie offers hourly rates and pre-paid packages.

Note: This might sound like a paid endorsement. It’s not. I just happen to like Moxie and some of our clients have used them successfully. doesn’t accept anything in return for mentioning vendors on our site.

Local Fave Vendor, Scramble

The North Phoenix area has a new breakfast joint and it’s in a neighborhood that sorely needed more & better breakfast food. I’m so excited! Partly over the food, partly over the wi-fi, and partly because I know someone who knows someone who’s a co-owner of the spot, so I got to go to a pre-opening tasting.

Free Wi-Fi

IMG_1644Yep, that’s my mobile gear. I’m sitting in Scramble as I type this Local Fave Vendor review. In addition to the free wi-fi signal, there’s a long breakfast bar with comfy stools and power outlets aplenty.

The food

The dishes I’ve tried so far are so good that I wanted to lay down and roll around in some of them.

Brizzas are the house specialty. A personal sized, deep dish style pizza with scrambled eggs baked into the dough. Four toppings choices: smoked gouda & cherrywood bacon, country ham & cheddar, chorizo & peppers, or garlic spinach, thyme & mushroom. I tried the chorizo & peppers version at a pre-opening  tasting event. The chorizo was just the right amount of spicy and in addition to the pizza cheese there was another house specialty, jalepeno cream cheese. Ohh! After a while I gave up on the brizza and just kept eating that spicy cream cheese! It’s addictive.

IMG_1622 IMG_1623 Don’t miss the homemade cinnamon rolls. I actually licked the takeout container to get all the icing when I was done with the roll. (I waited until I was home alone to do it, natch.)

IMG_1617 For the health-conscious, try the steel cut oatmeal or multigrain pancakes (pictured). Ask for the “Scramble butter” with your pancakes. It’s butter blended with secret spices. I taste cinnamon, nutmeg and another spice (or two) I couldn’t identify. It’s yummy!

The breakfast meats are all from local legend Schreiner’s. These include cherrywood smoked bacon, sausage patties and even a turkey sausage (pictured, behind the pancakes). The turkey sausage looks a little odd – orange tinted and thicker than you expect – but it tastes amazing.

I also tried some of the lunch options, including the Tomato Florentine soup and the Ultimate BLT. I’m not even a BLT fan but Scramble’s version is so good I could have eaten 2.

Decor, Hours, Location and Service

The decor is casual, hip and fresh. Dark wood, brushed silver and a shade of lime green that’s somehow energizing and soothing at the same time. Five flat panel big screens are scattered throughout the small space, keeping you hooked in to the news, sports and even cartoons for the kiddies in the mornings.

The service is friendly and helpful. It’s casual dining setup like Sauce or Pei Wei – menus on boards at the door, order at the counter and take your plastic order number to your table. The waitstaff brings it to you when it’s done.

Scramble is open daily from 6am to 2pm, serving breakfast, brunch and lunch. Located at the NW corner of 7th Street & Mountain View in the Sunnyslope neighborhood of North Phoenix. Call them at 602-374-2294 or visit them online to check out the full menu. Come on by and support another Local Fave Vendor.

They're a wee bit pricey but the food is truly fabulous and it's huge. I rarely leave without a doggie bag.

To read another review (written by someone who did her homework on the joint, as opposed to just gorging herself on the food like me) check out ChowBella, a Phoenix New Times blog, talking about Scramble.

ThePhoenixAgents doesn’t receive anything in return for our reviews. No kickbacks, no payment, no in-kind services. Nothing. We call ‘em as we see ‘em.

Eoconomic Downturn Hits Home in the Valley

Have you ever heard a Realtor say, "I got a guy for that [insert household repair job here]."  I say it to my clients so often that I make a joke out of it, complete with a fake Brooklyn accent and sweeping hand gestures: Hey, no worries. I gottaguy!

Most of my Guys are small business owners (and obviously they're not all men). They don't do fancy TV advertising or make millions of dollars. Their businesses thrive through word of mouth because they're reliable, knowledgeable and professional. They don't overcharge and they don't perform services that aren't needed. Many of them still give free estimates and work weekends.

The Valley's economy was hard hit by the housing downturn as everyone knows. But amidst the headlines, it's easy to overlook one truth: small businesses suffer, and suffer deeply, when the economy slumps.

I wanted to take a moment to say a public Thank You to two of my Guys. They've both had to quit doing the work they loved, turn their back on the business they built from scratch, and find a more dependable paycheck by becoming someone else's employee.

Lowell Buchanan of Mustang Refrigeration was my go-to air conditioning Guy. He's got dozens of years' experience  climbing on roofs to service the Valley's A/C units. He'd go anywhere in the Valley and worked weekends when he found a homeowner sweating it out with a blown A/C unit. Mustang was a family business; his wife answered the phones and handled the back-office paperwork.

Once I called Lowell at around 3:30 in the afternoon while at a home inspection which had turned up evidence of a possible A/C problem. My problem was the buyer's inspection period ran out that day. The buyer fell in love with the house, but I couldn't let him buy it if there was an unknown A/C problem. Knowing it was a long shot, I called Lowell to see if he could squeeze us in. I caught him on the roof of another home, an hour away and nearly done working for the day.

You know what's coming: 55 minutes later, Lowell was propping his ladder against the side of my buyer's dream house, and stepping up to check out the A/C. He gave it a clean bill of health - after cleaning out the secondary drain line at no extra charge.

It's hard to find folks like that these days. But when I say, "I got a guy," I almost always mean they're men and women like Lowell. Or like Dwayne Nau of All Area Lock and Safe. He's another small businessman, paying the bills and raising a family doing the locksmith work he loved. I just found out today that Dwayne truly loves his job. He said he's proud of being able to help homeowners know for certain they're the only ones who have keys to get in their home.

Dwayne has been my regular locksmith Guy for 4+ years now. Remarkably, we've only met twice. Once he met me and knew he could trust that I wasn't calling him to change the locks on a house my clients didn't own yet, Dwayne and I operated solely by exchanging voicemails. I'd call and leave him a message including the home address, the number of locks, and a date and time the new homeowner would be there to let him in. I'd usually end my voicemail by reminding him to mail me the bill, or reading off my Visa card info so he could charge it to me.

Dwayne's lock changing service became my standard closing gift to new buyers. He always showed up on time, quietly did the job, and left a great impression behind. Just yesterday I called Dwayne to save my behind. I waited too long to call him and he came to the rescue anyway.

Very long story short I had a landlord who's home security alarm system continuously sounded the moment you turned on the circuit breaker for the kitchen. Landlord never used the alarm, didn't have a security keypad code, and the former tenant lost the key to access the main control panel. You could either have the electric on in the kitchen and a siren blaring in your ears, or quiet but no electric in the kitchen. Makes it a wee bit hard to find a tenant.

Somehow we did find a tenant though, and she scheduled her move-in for today. Eleven A.M. yesterday I finally got a spare minute to call Dwayne. I left him the standard voicemail with address, details and payment info.

He called me back to say he could help, but I should know he'd quit the biz. Another small business man with a family, Dwayne worried about sustaining his business in an uncertain economy. When Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant offered him a position as one of two locksmiths, he jumped.

Lucky me, Dwayne still does service calls on weekends. Not only did he help with the lock and rekey the control panel, he stuck around to help me disable the alarm system by disconnecting 4 of the approximately 9,347 teeny-tiny wires on the main circuit panel while the rep for the alarm manufacturer (another local company, Arcom) talked us through it by phone. Dwayne's charge? The standard lock-change fee of $79. Nothing extra for mileage, for a Saturday call, for a rush call, or for services above and beyond.

Like I said, it's hard to find folks like my Guys.  I have two big holes in my roster of Guys now, where "A/C" and "locksmith" belong. I'll find replacements, slowly. And if at all possible, I'll find two more folks who are small business people.

It's nice to deal with real, local people. People who take pride in their work, and do an honest day's work for an honest buck. People who answer the phone themselves, so you don't have to go through another infuriating round of "press 1 for service, 2 for sales, and 3 if you want to wait 40 minutes talk to a real person," (who happens to be in a Bangalapore, India).

If you need a Guy for a service job around your house, feel free to call or email me. My Guys aren't reserved for my clients alone. You need an honest job done, and I've got guys and gals who want to continue running their small business through these hard times. And if you know a good Guy in any field, leave a note in the comments.

Related Posts

Fresh and Easy in Phoenix

There's been a mini-explosion of new construction in the metro Phoenix area, in the form of about 2 dozen new Fresh and Easy food markets.

Think of them like a cross between Whole Foods and Trader Joe's - quality food at discount prices.

There are 3 new F&E markets within a 10 minute drive of my home alone. Find a Fresh and Easy near you on this map.

With the motto "A simple shopping experience with everything you need right in the neighborhood," F&E aims to make shopping easy and affordable again.

One of F&E's main goals is to open food markets in neighborhoods traditionally underserved by markets selling fresh produce, specifically low income neighborhoods.

The company's mission statement:

  • We create value for our customers so they will come back again and again.

  • We treat people how we like to be treated and nobody tries harder for customers.

  • We think fresh, wholesome food should be accessible and affordable to everyone.

  • We're a neighborhood market, so it only makes sense that we care about our neighbors and our environment. READ MORE

  • People who are valued are better able to value our customers, so creating a rewarding workplace is very important to us. READ MORE.

Personally, I like the Fresh and Easy near me and have shopped there several times. I also shop at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Safeway and Fry's. My rundown of the pro's, con's and personality of each:

Trader Joe's - earthy-crunchy-granola. Offbeat items, lots of organic foods, great wine & beer selection. TJ's caters to the hippie inside you with items from small, independent producers you can't find elsewhere. They're also a great source for pop in the oven quickly snacks for a party. My biggest beef? They don't carry Helman's (Best Foods) mayonnaise. They've got some wacky soy based "nayo-naise", a sunflower mayo and so forth, but not the real deal. What I love? I feel good when I leave there, like I got some great quality food and supported the local Mom and Pop food producers too.

Whole Foods - upscale organics. Tons of organic grocery items, meat, fish and poultry that can't be beat for quality, and they carry the largest selection of macrobiotic-friendly items I've ever found. My biggest beef? They're expensive. What I love? The huge selection of oganic produce. Organic produce really does taste better. Lettuce has a taste. Believe me. Try the organic varieties and you'll see what I mean.

Fresh and Easy - convenient quality. Many ready to heat-and-serve items, prepared lunches for busy bodies on the go, and a good variety of packaged foods and groceries in convenient small family sizes. Fresh and Easy carries a full line of products from groceries to health and beauty items. They have 2 to 5 different brands of each item they carry. My biggest beef? Their packaged salads wilt after 2 days in my fridge. What I love? Their self-checkout aisles. Scanners that read your items easily, a conveyor belt that speeds along without hurting your precious produce and friendly employees right there to help you if you need it.

Safeway and Fry's - traditional grocery supermarkets.

Many people will say that Safeway is a 'step above' Fry's in quality and selection but I'm not sure I agree. Fry's quality & selection can be spotty, depending on the location of the store. The Fry's near me is my favorite shop spot for everyday staple items. It's near the village of Sunnyslope, which is a heavily Latino neighborhood. Hence, they carry a lot of ethnic foods, unusual produce and packaged goods brands I've never heard of. A friend who lives closer to Desert Ridge says she never shops Fry's because the produce stinks, but the veggies in my Sunnyslope Fry's are the best around, without question. Many Fry's locations also carry household items and furniture, much like a Target or K Mart. Fry's also has a separate division called Fry's Electronics, and I'm certain you can guess what they sell.

Safeway is known for their friendly customer service: employees are always standing nearby ready to help and if you ask where something is located, the employee literally takes you there and asks if you need any other help. My particular Safeway's produce doesn't hold a candle to Fry's but I have friends who swear by their local Safeway. Find your local Safeway or Fry's by clicking the links in this sentence.

Hope this is helpful to new Valley residents!

Favorite Local Vendor, Sweet Republic

This post by guest blogger and my good friend Pat E.

I visited Sweet Republic last Saturday between soccer games with friends (Trudy and Liz) & their 14-year-old sons (Noah and Spencer). While I've been to SR twice and have loved it, I'm nervous  about their future because it has been empty both times. Why, oh why do the good die young?

SR offers artisanal ice creams and yogurt made with organic and local ingredients. The 10 or so flavors include blue cheese (only for the brave), salted butter caramel, and (on the day we were there) pumpkin.

Both Noah and Spencer selected the Pumpkin which was the best Thanksgiving day pie taste you can imagine (pumpkin-ey and spicy, very spicy) only frozen and creamy. When asked if they liked it both boys managed to look up long enough to nod. I think that for teenage boys this is a resounding positive response.

Trudy and I had the frozen yogurt which is lovely and light and tangy, like really good Greek yogurt that you can find at specialty stores. Fabulous!

Liz had the salted butter caramel (which I had on my first visit) and OMG. If you like salty/sweet you'll love this. The vanilla is super creamy, the caramel is decadent and the dash of salt? it puts you over the edge.

I wish I lived closer, but then I'd gain 20 pounds each month.

The interior is bright and cheery (think IKEA, only even more hip) but not imposing. The staff at both visits were friendly and helpful.

The owners Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung are former investment bankers turned ice cream mavens.  They opened the shop over Memorial Day weekend 2008 with a goal of providing high quality, natural ingredients and tastes you can't get in other ice cream shops (think Basil Lime and Chocolate Ginger). But they also serve classic favorites like mint chocolate chip (with real mint, naturally) and Rocky Road (home made marshmallows!)

The Phoenix New Times voted Sweet Republic "Best Ice Cream 2008." You can read a review of the shop by the Arizona Republic. Find more information on the Sweet Republic website, or visit them at:

9160 E Shea Blvd
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Store Hours:
Mondays to Thursdays: 11am-9pm
Fridays and Saturdays: 11am-10pm
Sundays 12-8pm

You can see the entire Favorite Local Vendor series here.  Want to suggest one of your favorite spots for inclusion on this blog? Email me at

Want to receive new blog posts by email? Shoot me an email with "subscribe" in the subject line. Or you can sign up for the RSS feed at the top of the screen.

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Rainbow Donuts, a Local Favorite

Wondering why a real estate blog has restaurant reviews? First, I love to eat. Second, I work with quite a few out of towners buying Phoenix real estate for the first time and they almost always ask for restaurant suggestions. Eating my way through Phoenix, just to serve! ;-)

Rainbow Donuts
15834 N Cave Creek Rd
, Phoenix, AZ
(602) 867-9502

Rainbow Donuts is located on Cave Creek road just south of Greenway Parkway. There are 2 other shops in town with the Rainbow name but I learned today they're independently operated. You can also find Rainbow on 1347 E McDowell Road and at 8714 N 7th Street.

The Cave Creek road shop has been there for about 6 or 8 years and is run by a two-person team. Gina runs the front of the house, and her partner does the baking overnight in the back. They open at 4:00 am and there's even a drive-thru!

A note about the pics - These are camera phone pics and are blurrier than I'd like. Thought the phone would be less conspicuous than the camera. Turns out I forgot that ordering 4 donuts and then aiming my phone at them would kinda give me away. ;-)

It's all about the donuts here at Rainbow. The big glass display case up front is all donuts, all the time, without any unnecessary frills. Think Dunkin' Donuts, not Starbucks. Joe Sixpack would be completely comfortable here. So would Joe the Plumber, but I think he's kinda busy these days.

The shop is tidy, neat and really clean. Gina uses tongs to grab your chosen pastry delight, and while the tongs get a little gummy with glaze, who could really complain about too much glaze? Besides, there's none of those disposable plastic gloves to clog up our landfills.

Rainbow offers an assortment of other morning needs, including milk, soda, super-caffeinated drinks and bottled water for those who don't drink coffee. Talk about coffee! This stuff is good and strong, served piping hot. If you need a pick-me-up to get you through the day, a size Small will suit you fine. Need to pull an all nighter to cram for exams? Try the Medium. For those who stir stuff into their coffee, Rainbow provides sugar, sugar substitutes (pink, blue and yellow), half-and-half and powdered non-dairy creamers in various flavours.

I tried the above-mentioned Small coffee and 4 donuts: plain glazed, sugared (both yeast style), apple crumb and chocolate glazed (both cake style). Gina has 2 employees helping her in the morning rush hours and they willingly offered to photograph me with my pastry stash. Hmmm, reminder to "do" my hair before doing another restaurant review.

The cake style donuts were really good - not too dense and not too light, with a little hint of lemony zing in them. I thought the chocolate glazed could use more glaze, but then again that's me. I'm pretty sure I'd eat cardboard if it had enough chocolate glaze on it! I liked the Apple Crumb quite a bit too, especially because of the little whiff of cinnamon spice in the crumb mix.

The yeast style donuts were excellent and the plain glazed rival the defunct Krispy Kreme variety in my opinion. KKs were so overly sweet they made my teeth hurt. Rainbow's plain glazed are just right.

Gina reports that while she's got lots of regular customers, the current economic downturn has slowed traffic a bit. So get out and support independently owned restaurants in Phoenix - go taste the Rainbow.

Read Google reviews of this Rainbow Donuts shop.

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Favorite Local Vendor - Ductz

There's some disagreement in the general public about whether cleaning your home's ducts is actually worthwhile. Some say the air circulating through the ducts surely cleans them out. Others swear by duct cleaning, saying it improves overall circulation and even prevents the build up of microbes and mold inside the ducts.

I won't weigh in on the debate, but will say if you're going to clean your home's ductwork, at least use someone who's certified to do so. Recently one of my sellers agreed to clean the ducts during a buyer's inspection negotiation, or BINSR period. We used Ductz Indoor Air Professionals and I recommend them. Here's some of the info from their brochures:

  1. Children are more likely than adults to be affected by polluted indoor air (Dept of Consumer Affairs)

  2. The EPA claims indoor air has been found to be up to 70% more polluted than outdoor air

  3. Air ducts contain more germs than chicken coops (American Lung Association)

  4. A build up of 0.42 inches of dirt on a heating or cooling coil can result in a decrease in efficiency of 21% (EPA)

Vince DiVarco handled the duct cleaning for my seller and I; ou can contact Vince at 623-466-8625. He was a good communicator, very knoweldgeable about his job, and extremely careful to protect the seller's home from his equipment. Vince set up a portable generator and the hosing systems needed to attach to each duct in the home. Vince brought along rubber corner protectors that he placed on the corners of the bookcases. He wore paper booties to protect the flooring from tracking unwanted dirt inside. The whole setup took about an hour or so for a 1900 square foot, 2 story townhome. The cleaning actually took less time than the setup and tear-down of the equipment.

The Ductz brochure indicates the benefits of a good cleaning last 3 or 4 years. The cost was $395. Ductz also offers additional services: duct sealing, deodorizing blocks that suck odors out of the air, dryer vent cleaning and air duct sanitizing.

Did it work? I can't say. Vince & Ductz have the statistical information to back up what their claims about how important clean ducts are. I'm sure there will continue to be people who think duct cleaning is a silly thing to do. But the Buyer was happy. Given our current marketplace where it's so incredibly difficult to sell a home, I count that as a success.


Favorite Local Vendor - Sleep America

I realize that Sleep America isn't really local in the sense I usually use the term "Favorite Local Vendor". They have 40 locations across Arizona and I usually reserve the term for local, one-store only, Mom-and-Pop shops.

Today I wanted to highlight the excellent customer service on display at the Biltmore area Sleep America. One recent hot day I spent the day fussing arout getting a new listing staged. The owner/seller happened to have a bunch of model home furniture (long story) and wanted to use it, rather than renting furnishings from one of my favorite local staging companies (Staging Solutions, LLC).

Movers brought the stuff in, but I had to place it all and put the beds together. Started on the beds after several hours shuffling the rest of the furnishings around. Yikes! I realized I didn't have the proper sets of bolts and so forth. I'm a total girl, I don't know what these things are called. bolts? screws? nuts? I'm sure they weren't nails. But I digress.

I went around the corner to the local Sleep America store, thinking, "surely they sell these bolt thingys that I need, they're a bed store, right?"  Well, no. NotSoMuch. Duh! I should have known I needed to go to a hardware store. But it had been a long hot day. I plead exhaustion and dehydration.

The very nice man manning the counters told me they didn't sell bolts. But then he said, "Come on back to the register. We've got a toolbox full of spare parts. Maybe we'll have what you need." In the end, the exceptionally nice crew of the Biltmore Sleep America sent me on my way with a free set of 4 bolts and washer thingys plus an ice-cold bottle of water. That's customer service!

Need help picking a new bed set? Visit the Biltmore Sleep America crew. They do customer service the way it should be - above and beyond. They offer products by Sealy, Simmons, Serta, Tempur-pedic, Select Comfort (the "sleep number" people), Kingsdown and Stearns & Foster. Deliveries 7 days a week. Plus they're green! Sleep America will donate your old mattress to the St. Vincent de Paul Society upon your request and provide you with the tax deductible receipt.

Sleep America - Biltmore
Jim Rogers, Area Sales Manager
2112 E Highland Avenue
Phoenix AZ 85016

Home Care Tips by Jason Farrier

From one of my favorite home inspectors, Jason Farrier of Elite Home Inspections, LLC. You can reach Jason at (602) 793-0123. Or try Jason's custom home building skills out when you're building your dream home.

Consumerism is the name of the game in the US, and people who have been participants for any length of time usually end up with more things than they can comfortably fit into their living spaces. So the items which are no longer in regular use but are too valuable to toss or give to good will often head for garage storage.

This system, however, has one major drawback; if enough things make their way to the garage, the garage stops being a garage and turns into a garage storage unit. It may become so overloaded that it cannot even be closed, or have pathways between boxes and furniture by which people can access what they are looking for.

Eventually, however, most homeowners with overstuffed garages surrender to the reality that they need to do a garage storage cleanup. And those who do will help themselves a great deal by realizing that if they haven’t used some of the things in the garage since they were tucked away months or even years ago, they are not likely to use them in the future. It definitely makes the throwing-out process much less painful.

Getting Started  -  If your day of reckoning with your garage storage problem has finally come, arm yourself with the biggest, strongest trash bags you can find, and prepare to be merciless. If you have a van or truck into which you can place each bag as it is filled, even better.

If you have someone who can drive the truck or van to the nearest good will center as soon as it is filled, even better still. The more distance you can put between yourself and the things which constituted your garage storage problem, the easier it will be.

Re-Organizing  -  When you have eliminated all the things you can no longer use from the garage storage equation, it’s time to re-organize the rest. If you find things that really belong elsewhere in your house, put them in cartons marked with the names of their final destination, and get them out of the way.

Break down the remaining garage storage items according to their uses; place like near like. Paints, thinners, brushes and roller pans can go together; grass seed, lawn feeder, and other gardening necessities can go together. Just keep going until you have a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

When you’ve reached that point, you’ll be in a much better position to determine if its time to upgrade your garage with new garage storage cabinets and wall shelves. More importantly, you’ll have the room to do it!

If you know someone in need of a home inspection please contact Jason Farrier at 602-234-9233 or visit Elite Home Inspections LLC on the web.

Favorite Local Vendor - Nails by Carrie Chairez

Ladies, have you been looking for a great nail tech? Look no further (at least if you're in the North Phoenix area). Carrie Chairez at Knotty Image Salon is an acrylic nail artisan. She doesn't use a drill, ever. Carrie does it all by hand, from scratch and with an eye to detail that you just can't hardly find anymore.

I've had trouble over the years with the nails lifting, which Carrie just recently helped me figure out was due to my obsession with applying cuticle cream during the day. But before we figured that out, Carrie took the time to adjust the acrylic solution, the undercoat, the primer, and the length, shape and thickness of the nails. Essentially Carrie's been doing my nails differently every time, for months now, all because she really cares that they're right.   Plus, she guaranteed my most recent full set for 2 weeks against breakage.

The price list and contact info is below. If you need a reputable nail tech in the North Phoenix area, you can't go wrong with Carrie Chairez.

Knotty Image Salon
602 W Union Hills Dr #6
Phoenix AZ 85027

NE corner of Union Hills & 7th Street

They do hair, tanning & waxing as well as nails. Prices are:

  • Acrylic full set  - from $40

  • Fill in / Back fill - from $25/$35

  • 1 Tan - $6

  • 5 Tans - $25

  • 20 Tans - $75, monthly package available

  • Eyebrow Wax - from $12

  • Leg Wax, half/full - From $30/$70

  • Haircut, Mens - From $15

  • Haircut, Womens - From $20

  • Haircut, Kids ages 10 and under - From $10

Favorite Local Vendor - Integrity Carpet Cleaning

Travis & Angela from Integrity Cleaning Systems are my favorite carpet cleaners in town. Integrity does a bunch of other services too. Call them at 602-486-3966 if you're in need of:

  • Carpet Cleaning

  • Upholstery Cleaning

  • Tile & Grout Cleaning & Sealing

  • Natural Stone Honing, Cleaning, Polishing & Sealing (stone counters, anyone?)

  • Area Rug Cleaning

  • Allergy Relief and Mattress Cleaning

I used Travis to clean my own carpet within the last year. He’s great! He did minor furniture moving for me, and includes steam-cleaning the baseboards in the cleaning package I ordered. He uses industrial strength blowers to help shorten the drying time too. My carpet was grey when he started, and beautifully white and clean when he finished. Best of all, it was dry that evening. He even worked around my cats! Integrity Carpet Cleaning is a locally owned & operated, and I’ve never seen a guy work harder to ensure customer satisfaction.

Did You Know? You should clean your carpets every 6 months. Call Travis to find out what kind of gunk builds up if you wait longer than that. It ain't pretty!

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Tips for choosing interior paint colors

My good friend Chris Butterworth has a great post about how to paint a razor-sharp straight line when you're painting with bold colors.

For several years, the interior paint trend has been sliding down the in-store color chips, towards bolder, bright, more saturated hues. Home buyers are demanding more windows, higher ceilings, and "light and bright" has become so overused in MLS ads that it's almost the sort of trite 'code' where buyers have learned to read between the lines.

"Charming" means exceptionally small. "Plenty of cupboard space" means galley kitchen. And "light and bright" means you can probably navigate through the house without turning on an industrial strength spotlight.

In any case, if you want to try today's hipper, bolder colors on your walls, read Chris' advice post first.

Wondering what colors will look good? One of my go-to painting contractors in metro Phoenix is CertaPro. See below for a list of popular paints chosen often by their customers. Or for the easily overwhelmed, visit their website to see Certa's expert-recommended color palettes, a collection of 4 different families of hues that mix & match well.

These are all Dunn Edwards brand paints. Click here to locate a DE store near you. Note: most paint stores (including Home Depot and Lowes) can color match for you.

Want a bold brown? Try Cup of Cocoa (taupe-y), Florentine Clay (reddish), Pumpkin Butter (less orange than the name implies and really pretty). Ready to really get your brown on? Opt for the double bold by choosing Warm Nutmeg (taupe-y), Traditional Leather (almost the color of a Hershey bar), or Cinnamon Spice (a bit on the reddish side and a shade darker than actual cinnamon). Another fabulous brownish hue for the Southwest's strong sunlight is Peanut Butter, which is made by Behr (their color code is 270F-4).

Seeking a soothing blue? Quiet Moment, Provence and China Pattern are popular choices. Quiet Moment is the palest, and a little on the warmish side. Provence is a clear robin's egg blue and China Pattern is the deepest.

Going for the green? Certa Pro gets a lot of customer requests for Soothing Celadon (a cool pastel) and Lime Juice (a warm pastel). Good mid-range greens include Crisp Celery (a warm yellowish green), Green Tea (coolish mid-range green), and Dried Chervil (a neutral medium green). For bolder greens, choose Herbal Scent (clear green), Sage Green (grayish blue) or Rosemary Sprig (the darkest of the bunch, and what I think of when someone says 'library green').

A great way to test paint is to buy a quart of the color you think you'd like. Paint 1 or 2 walls in the chosen room with a swath of that color measuring about 4 feet square. Live with it for a couple of days; check it out in different lights. Like it? Go buy Blue Tape, read Chris' post again and go for it. Don't like it? Grab a primer, a new quart of bold colored paint, and try again.

Green Pools and Mosquito Eating Fish

Once in a while, the software vendor who provides our local area MLS uses a popup window to provide Relators and others using the MLS software with what they think is critical information. The info is rarely interesting but usually useful. Today it was both.

It's probably no surprise that green pools are becoming a hazard around the Valley. The number of foreclosures, lender-owned, and otherwise uncared for vacant homes with icky pools is growing. Green pools are breeding grounds for mosquitos, which are carriers of the West Nile Virus.

Maricopa County Vector Conrol (I'd have thought it was Pest Control or even Animal Control, but it seems not) has a hotline for information. Plus they have mosquito eating fish to stock your neighborhood green pool with. From the press release:

"Drain the pools or use mosquito eating fish at foreclosed homes and help Maricopa County "Fight the Bite". Standing water attracts mosquitoes, and non-operational decorative ponds and "green pools" can dangerously become potential mosquito breeding grounds. This year, Maricopa County recorded it's first confirmed case of West Nile Virus in a human in March. That was the first identified case in the nation for 2008. Contact the Maricopa County Vector Control office to pick up Gambusia fish, a door hanger and fence sign stating the pool has been treated with mosquito eating fish. Then report the treated pool to the County. For assistance or more information on West Nile Virus, please contact Vector Control at 602-506-0701 or visit Maricopa County's West Nile Virus website."

However, see also this website, which claims that Gambusia fish are a nuisance in their own right. Me? I'm worried about fishies "breathing" chlorinated water. Hope Vector Control has thought of that. By the way, I'm also concerned about the County's press release writer. I edited the paragraph for run-on sentences, mis-used commas, and noun-verb disagreement before posting it. But then again, I'm weird like that.

Related Post

Chris Butterworth of Thompson's Realty on dealing with vacant foreclosure homes near yours