Home Management

The Snowbird’s Guide to “Summerizing” Your Home

We’re all enjoying the lovely Sonoran Desert winter. Those who live in Fountain Hills only during this time of year may not be aware of the full extent of the summer heat here. Before you start enjoying those cool, summer evenings back home, you can show your Arizona home some love that will help it survive the summer months without you.

Here is a checklist of things to consider before leaving Arizona.  Use this checklist as a guide and decide what you feel is best for you and your desert home.

  • Roof Maintenance: If you’ve never experienced a summer monsoon storm, it’s hard to imagine the intensity and force.  But, alas, your home will be the target of high winds, fast rainstorms and blowing debris.  Be sure to call your roofer to assess the roof’s ability to survive the strong storm activity.
  • Yard Maintenance: Your Arizona plants LOVE the intense summer heat.  And they will grow like crazy when you’re gone.

– Prior to departing, make sure everything gets an enthusiastic trimming…Do this well in advance so that you can make arrangements to have the yard debris cleaned up prior to your departure: yard debris will dry out and become a dangerous fire hazard!

– And whether you water the yard or not, there will be weeds. Consider a yard care service that will take care of the weeds, do some trimming, mow the lawn if you have one, and check for irrigation system problems while you are gone. Make sure it is a company that you know and trust—obviously the workers will know that you aren’t living in the home.

-Also be sure to do an “audit” of your landscape watering system…check all emitters to make sure heads have not popped off. Your water will also need a heavier watering schedule in the summertime.  Check with your landscaper to make sure the watering times are accurate for your particular landscape plan.

– Before closing the house, you need to remember to prepare your yard for the summer. Any patio furniture that’s cloth, plastic, or wood will be damaged by the summer heat if you leave it outside, so remove chairs, furniture, and decor from your patio or yard.

  • Fire Prevention: If you live on or near a wash, be sure to have desert growth trimmed back away from structures. Summertime often, sadly, is a time for desert fires.  Try to keep your home clear of any desert plants that can catch fire if a fast-moving fire sweeps through your neighborhood.
  • Pool and Hot tub maintenance: If you have a hot tub, do not drain it—the heat will damage the empty tub. Turn off the heating system for the water but leave the filtering system on.  If you have a pool, your obviously have a pool maintenance person.  Make sure to audit the filtering system, pump and check for pool leaks so that your pool runs efficiently through the summer months.  A pool that sits for too long with a broken pump or filter will be green very soon!
  • Flood Prevention: All winter visitors, whether you live in a condo or single-family home, should have a main shut-off valve installed.  Be sure it is properly installed so that it doesn’t affect your landscape but eliminate “live” water in your home!  It’s the best thing you can do for your insurance policy!
  • Home Watch Services: Check with your insurance company, but it is likely they prefer you have someone watching the home on a regular basis while it is gone.  A professional Home Watch company is preferable, with a system to make a thorough report of issues after home visits.  Why is this important?  A home that is not properly tended to may not have the insurance coverage it needs in the event of a large loss.

-Your Refrigerator: One item that is easily forgotten is the refrigerator—start eating the leftovers and cleaning out the refrigerator and coordinate emptying the fridge with your trash and recycling pickup.  Empty the ice tray.

– As you Leave: You’re all packed and you are ready to head out the door. But did you take care of the appliances? You need to unplug the appliances, entertainment units, computers—everything. The lightning from summer monsoon storms can wreak havoc on electrical equipment. And don’t forget to turn off ceiling fans, indoor and out.

– A/C: You also need to turn off the air conditioner or set the thermostat if you’ll be leaving the A/C on. We recommend leaving your thermostat at 87 degrees…you have valuable furniture, artwork, and cabinetry that will appreciate this accommodation!

– Turn the water heater off.

– Open the doors to the washer and dryer, the dishwasher.

– Flush all toilets and run all faucets. Then turn off the water to the house at the main valve. Drain any remaining water from the faucets, long shower head extensions,  and such. Plug all sinks and drains. Some folks recommend sealing their toilets with plastic to avoid traps drying out.

– If you have a soft water system or reverse osmosis water system, determine if any action is necessary on your part before leaving.

– Leave large buckets or tubs of water in each room to provide moisture for your furniture, art, and cabinetry. Leave all the interior doors open so the air can circulate inside the house. Close all the blinds and drapes to keep as much heat out of the house as possible.

  • The Garage: It’s easy to forget about the garage and what is in it, so make sure to do a walk through before you depart. If you are leaving a car in the garage, disconnect the battery. You might even want to cover the vehicle to protect it from dust.

-If you have a golf cart, put water in the battery and unplug it.

-Unplug the garage door opener.

– If you have any, remove propane tanks and combustible/flammable chemicals from the garage.

  • Utilities and Mail: Some items on your checklist will take a bit longer to kick in than others, like changing mail and canceling utilities. A week or two before your departure date you should arrange for your mail and regular deliveries to be stopped or forwarded, notify your telephone, Internet service provider, and cable or satellite TV provider to put your service on hold, and notify any newspapers when to stop delivery and when to resume.

– If there are valuables that you won’t be taking with you for the summer, arrange for storage. For instance, store jewelry or important documents in a safe deposit box at the bank.

-Got houseplants? They probably won’t be alive when you return, so either lend them to a neighbor or take them with you.

-Have candles? Store them in the refrigerator (if you are leaving it on) or put them in the coolest, darkest part of the house.

-Also replace backup batteries in fire alarms, automatic watering systems, thermostats, security systems.

Use this information to create your own personal and permanent checklist. Add contact names and numbers for any professional services that you’ll be using year after year. Hopefully, you will have the preparation down to a science after a year or two, and you can be worry-free about your desert home while you spend the summer up north.

Around Arizona Culture Non-profit Organizations Things to Do

Reigning Grace Ranch: A Story of Redemption

Amanda and Christopher Moore bought two horses and moved to Rio Verde to rebuild their struggling marriage. They had no idea where this was about to lead them.

Amanda watched the wild horses that lived in the Rio Verde area (not the Salt River horses) and started to learn their behaviors.

Maricopa County was responsible for the herd and decided to wrangle them up due to damage they caused to people’s homes and safety issues for motorists on Rio Verde Drive. The Moores stepped into the situation and took in 67 feral horses to adopt out.

While trying to adopt them out, something unusual started to happen. Neighborhood kids began showing up after school to help care for the horses.

Amanda did not know these kids, but day after day, they came and started sharing the stories of their lives, their hardships, and their deep wounds. Amanda noticed that something about the horses calmed the kids and made them feel comfortable.

The Moores decided to honor what was organically coming to life and started their nonprofit, Reigning Grace Ranch, with twelve horses.

Unbeknownst to them, trauma therapists in the area were sending kids to them when they got stuck in their therapy sessions. Amanda and Christopher took heed and got certified to provide the therapy these kids needed.

At the heart of what they do, Reigning Grace teaches kids to love themselves and how to get rooted in their identity so they can learn how to conquer anything.

There is no judgment, and kids from all walks of life are welcome. If the kids want to ride, they must learn how to care for the horses and help with the chores. There is more gratification when they accomplish difficult tasks, and they learn that if they want something, they must work for it.

Reigning Grace serves ages 6-18 in their program. They also offer marriage equine therapy, grief and trauma therapy, and team-building experiences for corporate groups.

The organization relies 100% on donations, most of which come from individuals. People can also donate through the Arizona tax credit program, and volunteers at the ranch are always needed. Their two paid staff members and 137 active volunteers help care for 20 acres and the 65 horses that live there.

For more information, visit

Desert Plants and Wildlife Outdoor recreation Yard and Garden

Birds of the McDowell Mountains: Gambel’s Quail

Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelii) | about animals

Here in the McDowell Mountains, our family looks forward to the springtime when the quail come out with their babies. At first, the tiny babies appear like little fuzzy flurries a bit larger than a bumblebee.

The baby quail are adorable, scurrying to keep up with Mom and Dad and crossing the formidable desert terrain where even a stone can dwarf them and provide challenging obstacles to overcome.

Every once in a while you’ll see a covey try to cross a street or road, and inevitably one of the little guys will find it difficult to scale the edge of the curb, (although you’ll find many streets in the area have gently sloping, rolled curbs, aiding their passage.)

We desert dwellers are so fond of the little guys, you’ll often see traffic stop as someone tries to assist a family on its way.

A Gambel's Quail Nest - Woohoo

Later, the adolescent quail provide more entertainment (as teenagers will!) as they get bolder and test their wings. The entire covey will usually try to cross the street together, chittering and chattering along the way and often right in front of an oncoming car!

When that happens, there’s a flurry of inexperienced flyers who all realize they are in danger and they go everywhere! Experienced residents learn to drive carefully through neighborhoods in anticipation of the wild Quail Dash!

Quail are small, compact birds, with a short, stout bill. The head is often crested, giving the males a very regal look. Their plumage is usually brightly marked with brown, buff, yellow, red, gray, black, and white. They eat mainly seeds and insects.

There are 6 species of quail found in North America and The Gambel Quail is the one you will most often see in the McDowell Mountains. They lay 4-15 white or brown-spotted eggs that will incubate for 21-24 days.

The Gambel Quail builds a nest often under vegetation so as to be shaded at midday or, occasionally, up to 10 feet above the ground in an old nest of a Roadrunner, Curvebill Thrasher, or Cactus Wren.

Real Estate

Year-End Look at the Real Estate Market

Here’s a quick look at how the Valley’s Real Estate Market is going as we wind down 2021. How is the market in your area?

This data was provided by Fidelity National Title Agency.
Culture Things to Do

Best Nearby Places to See Holiday Lights

Do you have a family tradition of driving around to see holiday lights? Lucky for you, Fountain Hills and the East Valley is jam-packed with phenomenal displays that can get anybody of any age excited. Check out these great nearby locations to truly make the most of your festivities.

Avenue of the Fountains

The Avenue is always a great place to get into the holiday spirit. Every year the Lights on the Avenue begins with the Stroll in the Glow, which took place on December 4th this year. Brilliant shimmering displays that climb the trees and take the shape of fun, colorful scenes will cover the Avenue from top to bottom, all the way until after New Year’s Day.

Desert Botanical Garden

Experience the simplicity and beauty of “Las Noches de las Luminarias,” with 8,000 flickering luminarias and twinkling lights throughout the garden. Enjoy a festive drink while listening to fun holiday melodies. The Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden is located next to the Phoenix Zoo at 1201 N Galvin Parkway, Phoenix.

Phoenix Zoo Lights

This is one of the Valley’s most cherished holiday traditions. Zoo Lights is filled with millions of twinkling lights, dazzling animal sculptures, and the Wildlife Lantern Safari, all in the middle of the Phoenix Zoo. Zoo Lights began in late November, and the lights will still be up until January 15th.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The Scottsdale Princess is an absolutely beautiful place to go for an evening in the lights. The entire main pavilion of this luxury resort is completely covered in over 6 million lights. A massive Christmas Tree lights up to the beat of the music while kids line up to see Santa. Not only will you see loads of lights, but you can enjoy a wide range of other fun activities. Roast marshmallows, go ice skating, ride the train, and more. The Princess is located at 7575 East Princess Drive, Scottsdale.

Lights at the Farm

Vertuccio Farms in Mesa is turned into a huge light show from late November until early January every year. It’s a great place to explore with the whole family. There’s even an ice-skating rink! Vertuccio Farms is located at 4011 S. Power Road, Mesa.

Light the Town Holiday Drive

Light the Town is THE Fountain Hills home decoration contest! Drive around town this December and you’ll see scannable QR codes posted outside of each participating home. Once you know which house you want to vote for, just scan the QR code and submit your vote. Dozens of houses participate each year, adding an interactive element to Fountain Hills’ already vibrant culture of holiday decoration. This event is sponsored by the Sonoran Lifestyle Team. Go to for more information.

Desert Plants and Wildlife Yard and Garden

Protecting Plants from the Frost

After last week’s storms brought in the winter, the likelihood of frost increased drastically in our area. Even though it’s not super common for the temperatures to drop below freezing temperature in the Sonoran Desert, it usually happens a few times a year in Fountain Hills. Many of the plants that we keep in our yards and landscapes are vulnerable to frost. To keep these plants as protected as possible, we have some tips that you can try out this winter.

Is frost really a threat in Fountain Hills?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that the average first day of frost in Fountain Hills is December 15th, and the last is February 2nd.

However, this is based on the Fountain Hills weather station located at an elevation of 1581 feet, which is close to the lowest elevation in town. If your home is at a higher elevation, especially on windier hillsides, expect the frost season to start earlier and end later. See for more details.

Common landscape plants that experience frost damage include bougainvilleas, firesticks (and other euphorbias), lantanas, hibiscus, yellow bells, trumpet vines, and even young citrus trees. This list isn’t extensive; consult a plant expert to see how vulnerable your plant is to the cold.

If the temperature reaches the lower 30’s, some frost damage is likely on these plants. This isn’t too much of a problem, as you can just wait until the beginning of the spring to prune back the damaged branches. If the temperature goes into the 20’s or less, then harmful damage is possible.

How to Protect Vulnerable Plants

Frost Cloths are a great way to mitigate damage. Most frost cloths that you can get are able to protect plants down to the upper 20’s. Just make sure you take the cloth off during the day, so you don’t suffocate your precious plants. If you don’t want to buy frost cloths, bed sheets and even towels can help. Just don’t use plastic.

Putting a fresh layer of mulch at the base of your plants each winter is another great way of protecting plants. Mulch helps root systems retain warmth and moisture during cold nights.

Interestingly, giving your plants some extra water the afternoon before the frost can help lessen the damage. Water allows heat to transfer from the ground to the plants during the night when they need it most.

If your plant already has some frost damage, don’t prune it until the spring. According to the AZ Plant Lady, even though frostbitten plants may look ugly, they’re better off with those ugly branches still attached for extra protection until the frost season is over. After Valentine’s Day, you’re usually good to start pruning away. Go to for more seasonal plant care tips.

Around Arizona Things to Do

Ice Skating in Scottsdale: The Coyotes’ Ice Den

We’re a bit far from the famous ice skating rinks of New York City and Chicago, but there’s actually a place to go ice skating right in East Scottsdale! The Ice Den of Scottsdale is a great place to go to experience the cold rinks, the Zamboni, the whole deal!

The Ice Den actually has two locations, one in Scottsdale and one in Chandler. These skating rinks are the official training grounds for the Phoenix Coyotes, Arizona’s NHL hockey team. You can see Coyotes iconography all over both Ice Den locations, inside and out.

The Ice Den opened for the cool season on October 9th for “Public Skate.” Public Skate tickets open up two days in advance, seven days a week. At Public Skate, you get fitted into some ice skates and are allowed to roam the rink.

On the evenings of December 21st and 22nd, the “Holiday Skate” will take place. At Holiday Skate, the whole Den is decked out in lights, colors, and custom holiday skates for an awesome winter wonderland experience.

Other activities include private and group skating lessons, local high-school hockey games and tournaments, and other holiday-themed events.

To purchase tickets and reserve your spots at the Ice Den, go to their website at Be sure to sign up in advance; tickets sell fast!

Faces of Fountain Hills

Check out our 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

Now that we’re at the peak of the holiday season, it’s time to be out getting gifts for your friends and family. Lucky for you, we at the Sonoran Lifestyle Team created a Fountain Hills Holiday Gift Guide!

At, you can find a list of local businesses and our recommendations from each one. Representatives from multiple types of business are on this list, from restaurants to jewelry shops to the River of Time Museum Gift Shop and more.

Click here to go to our Holiday Gift Guide webpage and find the perfect local gifts for your loved ones.

Outdoor recreation Things to Do

Sunrise Ski Resort and the White Mountains

Just a few hours northeast of Fountain Hills is the pristine forested wonderland of the White Mountains. Sunrise Park Resort is one of the best places in the state for winter activities. Even if you’re not into skiing and snowboarding, Sunrise and the surrounding area have something for everybody to enjoy.

Sunrise Park Resort is situated between three peaks of the White Mountains: Sunrise Peak, Apache Peak, and Cyclone Circle. The base of the park is at 9,200 feet, with the peaks reaching up to 11,000 feet. At these elevations, there is often snow at Sunrise over half the year. This contributes to it being a perfect location for a winter sports resort.

By Mtntas12 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

A series of ski lifts take visitors to slopes ranging in difficulty from Green to Double-Black Diamond. If you’ve never tried skiing and want to learn, lessons are offered every day at the resort. The resort also offers gear rentals.

The nearest town to the resort is Greer, a place famous in Arizona for its winter lodgings, restaurants, and amenities. It’s not uncommon for people to stay in Greer’s luxurious cabins before heading out to Sunrise for a day of fun.

30 minutes to the west of the Sunrise Resort is the Hon-Dah Casino. The casino features over 128 luxury rooms, live entertainment, gambling, and a great restaurant.

This year’s first snow fell at Sunrise on September 30th, and the winter season began on December 3rd. You can buy season passes, lift passes, and more at

Community Engagement Culture Local Events Outdoor recreation

Be sure to vote in the “Light the Town Holiday Drive!”

Christmas decorations are going up around town as we get deeper into December, and with that comes the urge to go out on a pleasant evening drive to admire them. A relatively new annual tradition here in Fountain Hills is the “Light the Town Holiday Drive,” a house decoration contest where you get to decide who wins.

Dozens of houses around Fountain Hills have joined this year’s competition. A map of where to find all of this year’s entries will be available at this link from December 13th to 31st. Once you have your route planned out, it’s time to take a nice drive around town!

Houses that have entered the contest will have prominently-displayed signs in their front yards. Each sign should have an original name written on it, such as “Arizona Winter Wonderland,” “Candy Cane Drive,” “Elegance,” etc. There should also be a QR Code that will link you to the voting submission form upon scanning.

The three categories that you get to vote on include:

  • Brightest House
  • Most Creative Decorations
  • Most Traditional/Elegant House

The winners will be announced on on January 3rd, 2022.

This contest is a fun addition to the tradition of driving around to admire house decorations in the days leading up to the holidays. To see more information about the Holiday Drive as it comes out, go to