Thursday, December 9, 2010

Disneyland: When to Go

If you've ever hit Disneyland in Anaheim, California, on an off-day, you feel like you've won the lottery. Short lines and near-empty thoroughfares make it so much more enjoyable especially with impatient little ones.

I always try and check the local public schools' vacation calendars before I plan a trip. If local kids are out of school, the amusement park is packed.

Some of the calendars are available as pdf files, so click on the district name below and look for the school calendar link on the website.

Orange County Public Schools

Anaheim Unified High School District

Anaheim City School District

Los Angeles Unified School District

Irvine Unified School District

Tustin Unified School District

Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pampered in Paris in the Press

I'm always thrilled to receive some good press! Here's a mention on Journeywoman, "the premier travel resource for women," under a piece titled "Ten Travel Books to Give or Get for the Holidays."

Pampered in Paris: A guide to the Best Spas, Salons and Beauty Boutiques...

Where do chic and savvy Parisians go to pamper and indulge themselves? The culture of well-being and beauty thrives in Paris, not only at the instituts of internationally known product brands but in the hands of individual practitioners who work in smaller, more unassuming settings.

Author: Kim Horton Levesque
Kristyn Moore
Publisher: The Little Bookroom
ISBN: 1-892145-86-3

Juicy Tip From This Book: With three locations in Paris, Manucurist is known as one of the best spots for American-style nail service. In a city where heading to a salon for a pedicure is often a seasonal event, Manucurist stays busy year-long. It is a modern space, with bright lacquer colors, black tables and a hip youthful vibe. The Castellane location near Madeleine has four manicure and two pedicure stations. The shop features more than two hundred colors of Essie and Orly brand polish - everything from classic to neon hues. Manucurist is the spot for 'Le French,' an airbrushed French pedicure. The service is friendly and treatments are superb. 4 rue de Castellane, 8th arr. Website:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paris Apartment Search

The time to search for an apartment for my research trip has finally arrived--at least it's getting close. I'm hoping the debt crisis in Europe causes the Euro to drop like a hot rock in January and I will be able to find more for my money.

Finding an apartment in Paris for a couple or a small family is relatively easy and almost always a better value than a hotel. Having a third child in our case, and a grandparent or two coming to help with the kids, however, narrows our options in a city like Paris (or any other big city where space is at a premium) and the search becomes incredibly time consuming.

Here are a few websites I'm using at the moment. I've rented from 3 different agencies and my favorite experience has been with Paris Attitude. I've also rented directly from an owner. I was nervous about not having the safety net of an agency, but spent a lot of time cross-referencing the apartment and the owners on google and other sites. It looked completely legitimate so I went for it; it was one of the best apartments I've rented.

Even if you're not traveling overseas in the near future, it's fun to look through these sites to see where Parisians live and at what price.

Agencies I've used (no problems with any of them). These sites are all in English:

Paris Attitude


Ah Paris!

A few more:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cranberrry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I haven't been in writing mode for the past few weeks. Actually, I have been working rather frantically on my day-job writing, but small-batch travel has taken a backseat. We took the kids to Disneyland a couple of weekends ago, so I will post on that--but for now, here's a recipe.

Fall is here and all I want to do is bake! Baking is quiet, focused work--a moment of stillness in my noisy, kid-filled home. It's work that provides almost instant gratification and is enjoyable even in my perpetually sleep-deprived state. I made these cookies last night and they were a hit!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use a whisk, spoon or mixer to blend these ingredients together:
1 stick salted butter
1 stick unsalted butter (both at room temperature)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated raw sugar
2 eggs

Stir in:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. pure vanilla
1 cup dried cranberries
12 oz. white chocolate chips

Use a small scoop or tablespoon to place on cookies sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. I like these on the lighter side.
(photo: acorns & apples)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Small-Batch Post Follow up!

Here are a few follow ups to some previous Small-Batch Posts.

1.Packing for Kids

I recommended using packing cubes to keep better organized in this post. I personally have ebags' packing cubes, but I mentioned a less expensive option from Rick Steves.

My good friend purchased the Rick Steves' for a trip. She said there was such a strong chemical smell on the cubes when they arrived that she decided to rinse them out. Unfortunately, the color bled terribly and stained her bathtub black! She is still trying to remove the stains! Don't buy the Rick Steves--go for the ebags brand.

2. My Two Favorite Coffee Stops

I shared my love for the iced coffee at Crave Café in this post. I had sampled an affogato which was delicious, but never a straight espresso. I ordered one at Prado, the resort's restaurant, a few weeks back. Sad to say, it was no bueno: bitter, chalky, just not good. I broke with habit earlier this week and ordered a peppermint mocha at Crave and it was TERRIBLE. The kind of tasteless sock juice you can only toss in the garbage. My husband stands by the drip coffee, I am still a big fan of the iced coffee--but be careful if you venture beyond these two choices.

3. Charlotte in Paris

The Flora and Henri silver Zepplin sneakers in this post are still too cute for words. Still, at $150, I wouldn't buy them. If you have children, you know how quickly their feet grow. It's just too extravagant for me, so I found some less expensive options. All three of these can be found at You can get an extra 30% off of these prices if you google Shoebuy coupon codes before buying:

4. Travel-friendly Baby Food

I featured organic baby purées from Ella's Kitchen in this post. Since then I've found two more options:

Plum Organics sells flavors similar to Ella's for $1.39. I've found Plum at Whole Foods and Target for the same price.
Happy Baby makes this organic purée pouch. I found them at Target for $1.08, which makes them the least expensive.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Travel Accessory: Dark Circles After the Long Haul, Touche Eclat vs. Neutrogena

I'm not a huge makeup person but after a grueling long-haul flight with a baby who screams for 7 hours straight (yes it did happen on one trip and I pray it was a singular experience), you don't look your best. The sleep-deprived mom/zombie eye brightener isn't on the market yet, but YSL's Touch Eclat is.

I discovered Yves Saint Laurent's Touche Eclat while researching Pampered in Paris last year. YSL describes it as "a luminizing pen that brings light and radiance to the skin, immediately erases any signs of fatigue, and brightens the complexion." I find its light, feathery texture effective at brightening shadows around the eyes, but YSL's description is definitely hyperbole.

My circles are not super dark and I've read many reviews that for epic circles, this is not the product, especially at $40 for .1oz. That said, according to YSL, a unit of the product sells every 20 seconds. I was advised to use it on top of whatever else you are wearing--for me it's usually a light brush of mineral powder and then Touche on top.

This video demonstrates how to use it:

When I heard about Neutrogena's Skin Brightening Eye Perfector at $12, I had to try it. I like that it's supposed to work as a concealer and brightener and includes SPF25. It comes in a click pen with a brush just like the Touche. I so wanted to like this product but I couldn't get beyond the thick, tacky texture. I tried to use it for weeks. It doesn't blend well for me and its gooey texture makes it settle into fine lines.

Cosmetics are not always the answer for dark circles. They can be hereditary, a symptom of a liver or kidney imbalance (per traditional Chinese medicine), or just a benign reminder that you need more sleep.

I've read about a few other products that sound like they are worth a try, if you have any experience with them, please comment:

Givenchy Mister Bright Touch of Light Pen, $32
The Balm, Time Balm Concealer, $18
Clinique Airbrush Concealer, $19.50 or Clinique Line Smoothing Concealer, $14
Benefit Erase Paste, $26
Guerlain Terracotta Touche Glow-Enhancing Perfector for tanned complexions, $40

Friday, October 8, 2010

Charlotte in Paris

I wish we were going to Paris this fall but alas, it will have to wait until next summer. Fall offers the best clothes for little girls. As I was looking online this week for some warmer duds for Charlotte, my daydreams turned to Paris.

If I were taking little C on her first trip to the city of lights, here are some of my picks for her. To my mother’s chagrin, I would probably dress my kids in gray every day. It looks especially good when the sky decides to coordinate.

I like to buy things that she will wear over and over again and eventually ruin or wear out; If I fear for either of those happening, I’m not allowed to buy it. If you're looking for more inspiration for children's clothes, check out the site: It features hundreds of designers and stores on one site.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Phoenix: My Two Favorite Coffee Stops

I'm going to keep this short and simple. My top two spots for coffee in the Phoenix metro area are Lux in central Phoenix and Crave Café at the Montelucia resort in Paradise Valley. I am always on the lookout for exceptional coffee or espresso in the valley, so feel free to send suggestions.

Crave uses Lavazza coffee for their drinks and they know how to brew it--my personal favorite is an iced coffee with a splash of cream and touch of agave ($2). The iced coffee is much stronger than a latte--something to do with the way it's prepared here. Try the gelato made on site at Crave, it is amazing. The affogato is a traditional Italian dessert and worth tasting-it's a scoop of gelato with a shot of hot espresso poured over it($6.50).

Crave Cafe at the Intercontinental Montelucia Resort

4949 E. Lincoln Rd.

Scottsdale, AZ 85253

Second stop on the coffee train is Lux coffee on Central avenue and Highland. I'd say it's a mac-friendly crowd at this trendy little joint. Lux can get pretty groovy on Sundays with a live DJ who mixes up everything from R&B to techno for background music.

I wasn't always a mocha drinker, but Lux has me converted. Ask for a dollup of the homemade whipped cream with your drink--it's unreal.

I generally like to taste a café's espresso to get a real sense for the quality of the coffee, but I haven't had one yet here. My husband will vouch for the drip--he says it's stellar.

Towards the back of the main area, there's a small room with an older victoria lido roaster. Beans are roasted on site in small batches almost every day. Lux offers delicious locally-made baked goods, better than what a great at-home baker can make. I also love the yogurt and fruit--ask for a side of fresh granola to stir in.

LUX coffee bar
4404 n central ave
phoenix, az 85012

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Be There!: Barnes & Noble Kierland Book Signing, this Saturday, September 25 at 1pm

Please stop by to say hello if you can--this Saturday at the Barnes & Noble Kierland, Scottsdale location from 1-3pm! B&N told me they will have a table set up by the café and travel section. Thank you! (photos: mark1554, flyer6757)

Meet Kim Levesque, Author of Pampered in Paris!

Author Signing, Author Event
Kim Horton Levesque is a travel writer and French translator who lives in Phoenix. In Pampered in Paris, you'll find profiles and photos of more than 50 of the city's premier spas, beauty salons, perfume boutiques, and thermal baths.
Saturday September 25, 2010 1:00 PM

Kierland Commons

7030 E Greenway Parkway Ste 150, Scottsdale, AZ 85254, 480-948-8551

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Little Love...from Paris

The relatively obscure 'I Love You' wall, le mur des je t'aime, can be found near the metro stop Abessess in the Montmartre district of Paris. It is easily missed, so check the signs for Square Jehun Rictus as you exit. The words 'I Love You' are written over 300 times in 250 languages in this inconspicuous little corner dedicated to love.
(photo credits from top to bottom: robseye76, ConstantineD,GooGaBu, h-i-jack)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stay off the Grass! Pelouse Interdite!

The French are such awesome spazzes about their precious, green lawns in public parks and squares. Here are a few signs telling everyone to 'KEEP OFF THE GRASS', something you will encounter everywhere.

Imagine the scene: you've been trekking around the Louvre for 2 hours and the kids are ready to let off some steam. A brilliantly green and inviting public lawn sits before you--then you see the dreaded sign 'PELOUSE INTERDITE.' You send your children out to run anyway and within seconds a policeman or park attendant appears from nowhere and very sternly warns you 'PELOUSE INTERDITE, Madame!'

Paris' city hall has an entire page on their website dedicated to warning folks that they will incur the wrath (at the very least) of the gendarme (police) if they step foot on the grass. Once in a while you will stumble upon 'PELOUSE OUVERTE'--open/accessible lawn.

Il est très agréable, le printemps venu, de s'allonger sur les pelouses des parcs, jardins ou bois de Paris. Mais, pour qu'elles soient en bon état pour vous accueillir, il faut les respecter et veiller a leur bonne santé...

N’oubliez pas qu’en période de repos hivernal (15 octobre – 15 avril), même s’il n’y a pas de signalétique, toutes les pelouses sont inaccessibles pour permettre au gazon de se reposer.

Puce environnementPelouse ouverte Ces panneaux signalent les pelouses mises à votre disposition. Suivez les recommandations des Agents de la Surveillance Spécialisée.

Puce environnementPelouse au repos Ces panneaux signalent les pelouses qui font l’objet d’une remise en état et l’interdiction temporaire de les utiliser.

Puce environnementAération Opération qui consiste à perforer le sol pour l’aérer et qui peut être suivie d’un sablage.

Puce environnementScarification Opération destinée à retirer les mousses et déchets végétaux de surface.

Puce environnementSemis de garnissage En complément des opérations précédentes, ensemencement destiné à redensifier le gazon.

Puce environnementDécompactage Opération mécanique consistant à ameublir le sol en profondeur. Les travaux d’entretien courant (arrosage, tonte) sont effectués de mars avril à octobre novembre. Puce environnementLa réalisation d'une pelouse - Préparation du sol : ameublement du sol par un labour puis émiettage de la surface pour recevoir les graines de gazon. - Le semis : un mélange de graines d’espèces différentes, sélectionnées pour leur résistance, est semé soit en automne, soit au printemps. - La levée du gazon : au bout de trois semaines, la germination a lieu. Pendant cette période, le semis est fragile et le moindre incident compromet l’avenir de la pelouse. Le gazon est levé mais n’est pas encore enraciné. Il faudra au moins 10 mois avant d’ouvrir la pelouse au public. Lorsque la pelouse est usée ou trop affaiblie, elle se dégrade beaucoup plus vite et une remise en état est alors nécessaire. L’hiver est une période difficile pour le gazon. Les sols gorgés d’eau ou durcis par le gel fragilisent les graminées et leur système racinaire, ce qui facilite l’arrachement ou L’asphyxie. Aussi, pour qu’une pelouse soit belle au printemps et en été, il faut systématiquement la fermer au public du 15 octobre au 15 avril.

Puce environnementCe que la pelouse ne supporte pas - les jeux de ballon et les chaussures à crampons - les vélos et autres deux roues (pour éviter d’arracher les racines du gazon) d’être piétinée en période hivernale - les chiens (pour des raisons d’hygiène et parce qu’ils grattent la pelouse) - Pensez à ramasser vos déchets et à les déposer dans les poubelles

Puce environnementCe que la pelouse supporte - la marche avec des chaussures de ville - le bain de soleil, un landau, une poussette, le repos sur une serviette, un pliant… - les jeux avec les jeunes enfants (balle en mousse) - le pique-nique à condition de récupérer les déchets