Friday, July 23, 2010

Off to the 'World Famous' International Basque Festival...Where?

I am off to the world-famous International Basque Festival in...Boise, Idaho, of course! Boise is home to the largest Basque population in the United States.

Every five years the Basque community organizes the Jaialdi festival in Boise. In 2005, over 30,000 people attended. The celebration that lasts from July 26-August 1, features cultural dances and musical exhibitions as well as sporting tournaments like weightlifting, wood chopping and other competitions indigenous to the Basque people (Photo: londonconstant).

Of course that's not all we have planned...stay tuned.

The Greatest Packing List of All Time

This is the mother of all packing lists. I use it as a starting point for every trip. The best part is that everything fits into one bag. This list has evolved and expanded now that I have three children to pack for--it's two-bag travel. You can find it at

When I taught high school, I took students to Europe several times. I handed this out to my high-schoolers to help them and their parents prepare. The day after I distributed it, at least five kids came in with the same question. They and their parents wanted to know why they needed contraceptives for the trip--it was on the list...oops.

Tailor it to meet your own needs and you'll be prepared for anything.

dressy jacket

2-4 shirts/blouses/tops

2 pairs trousers/skirts (shorts?)

3+ pairs socks

3+ pairs undergarments

long (lightweight) underwear


dark (cardigan) sweater

rainwear (umbrella?)

parka, coat, or equivalent

long T-shirt or sarong [cover-up]

necktie, scarf, hairband, bandanna

gloves / mittens

sun hat / knitted cap, hat clip

1 pair dressy shoes (laces?)

1 pair walking shoes/boots (laces?)

flip-flops or sandals


travel pack or shoulder bag
(& luggage cart?)

daypack (fanny pack? purse?)

lightweight duffel/laundry bag

luggage lock(s) (cable?)

alarm clock/watch (batteries?)

flashlight, headstrap, extra batteries (bulbs?)

multipurpose tool, scissors

spoon (fork? chopsticks? spork?),
(coffee tin lid) plate or bowl



door stop [for security]

inflatable travel pillow

hostel sheet bag (sleeping bag?
bivouac sack? blanket? tent?)

safety pins, rubber bands, cord

sewing kit, including large needle
to accommodate dental floss

(Ziploc®) plastic bags, garbage bags

duct/gaffer's tape (packing tape?)

toothbrush, cap, tooth cleaner, floss

razor, blades, shaving oil/cream

comb and/or hairbrush

shampoo, bar soap & container


nail clippers

[unbreakable] mirror

viscose towel (washcloth?)

universal (flat) sink stopper

detergent, spot remover

(surgical latex braid) clothesline (carabiner?)

inflatable hangers [to dry clothes]

toilet paper, water squirt bottle,
antibacterial wipes

(chemical or mechanical) water purifier

analgesic of choice

diarrhea treatment of choice

infection treatment of choice

malaria tablets

insect repellent, mosquito net

sunscreen, lip balm


bandages (other first aid?)

menstrual, contraceptive,
and/or prophylactic supplies

vitamins, necessary medications

(collapsible) plastic water bottle & cup

dark glasses, retainer, case

lens cleaning cloth/supplies, copy
of prescription (spare glasses?)

earplugs (eye mask?) [to ease sleep]

pen(s), small notebook, glue stick
[for notes, addresses, diary, …]

personal address book (stamps?)

maps, guidebooks, phrase books, Post-it® notes, restaurant lists, membership cards, business/calling cards, telephone access numbers

reading material

large envelopes [to mail things home]

passport, visas, extra passport photos, vaccination certificates

copies of important documents

(international?) driver's license, health insurance information

travel tickets

charge & ATM cards, cash (traveller's cheques?)

2 personal cheques

security pouch [worn under clothes]

Specialty Items

camera (lenses? flash? tripod? extra cards & batteries? charger? download adapter?)

cellular telephone (charger?)

laptop computer (flash drive? power cord/adapters? network cable(s)?)

(solar) calculator


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Newport Beach: Alta Coffee Warehouse and Roasting Company

You'd think I'd find a decent breakfast place after 14 years of summer vacations in Newport Beach. I finally did. Alta is a cozy café/restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open most days until 10pm.

The words 'roasting company' gave me high hopes for the coffee. The drip was tasty--no sock juice here ($1.50). My single mocha, however, was weak and a bit too sweet ($3).

The café has an inviting outdoor patio with about ten tables for parties of two to four. If you're sun-shy like me, you'll find some areas of the patio too exposed. Service at Alta was leisurely but friendly.

I found the breakfast burrito filled with black beans, rice, veggie sausage,avocado and salsa, hearty and flavorful ($7.25). Ingredients were fresh and the portion large. My kids weren't crazy about their buckwheat pancakes but they gobbled up the scrambled eggs and bacon. Overall, I was pleased--I'll be back at Alta next summer.

Alta Coffee Warehouse and Roasting Company
506 31st Street
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inexpensive Go-to Skincare Products from the French Pharmacie

Here is a basic list of must-have skincare products from the French pharmacie. Cosmetic and skincare enthusiasts don't have to go to fancy boutiques or department stores to find some of the best skincare on the French market.

French women are discreet about their beauty routines, but it is no secret that they find many of their favorite products in their corner pharmacie. These items might cost a bit more in the U.S. but you won't have to make the trip to France to get them.

Anti-Cellulite: Weleda Huile de Massage Minceur ($22)

Weleda’s Birch oil is a hit with Parisians. Its ingredients are entirely natural and include silver birch leaves, rosemary and holly.

Cleanser: Bioderma Créaline H2O Sans Parfum ($34).

My French friends call it one of their best kept secrets. It’s a gentle, micellar solution for sensitive skin, but good for all types. It can be bought sans parfum (fragrance-free) or parfumée (with fragrance).

Toner: Caudalie Eau de Beauté ($16)

This toning spray was inspired by Queen Isabelle of Hungary’s “elixir of youth”. It’s made with grape extracts and essential oil of rosemary, orange blossom, and rose extracts which give it a light and lovely fragrance. Caudalie was the pioneer in the use of grape seed extracts in skin care. They have an amazing spa 30 minutes outside of Paris.

Moisturizer and Eye cream: Nuxe Crème Fraîche de Beauté Suractivée and Contour des Yeux Prodigieux ($43, $28)

Ah...Nuxe. My skin is dry and sensitive and these two products have worked wonders for me. If you are in Paris and have time, a visit to the Nuxe spa is a must!

Body Lotion: Bioderma Atoderm Crème (500 ml, $43)

I needed a lotion that worked for me and my daughters (5, 2 and 6 months). We all have sensitive skin and Atoderm is the best.

Sun-burn or post-shave skin soother: Avène Eau Thermale ($16)

This is good old French thermal (mineral) water in a preservative-free spray. My husband uses it after shaving.

Monday, July 19, 2010

NYC Book Launch Party, June 21, 2010

Plaza Hotel, NYC
(Photo: ses7)

Caudalie Spa sponsored the event with my publisher, The Little Bookroom.

My former student and fact-checker extraordinaire, Amali Vaz, came down from Boston to celebrate with us. Kristyn Moore, the photographer, is behind me on the left. My editor joked that Amali's MIT credential lent credibility to the publishing house--humorous since they also publish the New York Review of Books.

The event was held in the spa's French Paradox Wine Lounge.

Matt and I in the lobby of the hotel post-event. The end of a lovely and balmy evening in the city.

Best Salad in Phoenix: Brussels Sprout at Chelsea's Kitchen

This is the best salad I’ve had in Phoenix to date: the Brussels Sprout Salad at Chelsea’s Kitchen. Its vibrant color and mix of flavors will make a sprout lover out of anyone.

The salad is made with blanched brussels sprouts, almonds, dried blueberries and cranberries, smoked bacon and topped with Manchego cheese. It is tossed in a mustard vinaigrette. A bit spendy for a salad, but worth it when I imagine preparing four pounds of sprouts for my family ($13 lunch/$14 dinner). You can order grilled chicken or salmon on the side($5).

Thankfully I discovered the recipe in the Los Angeles Times.

Salad (1 serving)

1 pound Brussels sprouts

1 tablespoon dried cranberries

1 tablespoon dried blueberries

2 tablespoons toasted whole almonds,California or Spanish Marcona

3 tablespoons mustard vinaigrette

3 tablespoons chopped, cooked good-quality bacon

1 ounce Manchego cheese, shaved using a peeler

1. Peel the leaves from the Brussels sprouts, discarding the core. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the Brussels sprouts leaves just until they are a vibrant green and barely tender. Drain immediately and place in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry well. You should have 3 cups of leaves.

2. In a large bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts leaves, cranberries, blueberries, almonds, bacon and just enough vinaigrette to lightly moisten.

3. Mound the salad on a plate, and top with the cheese shavings. Serve immediately.

Mustard Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar, more as desired

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice with pulp

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 1/2 teaspoons whole grain mustard, more as desired

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

3/4 cup light olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, vinegar, lemon juice and zest, mustard and garlic. Continue whisking while slowly drizzling in the olive oil until the oil is thoroughly incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and brighten the dressing as desired with a little extra vinegar and mustard. Chill well before using. This makes a generous cup of dressing, more than is needed for this recipe, and will keep for 1 week, covered and refrigerated.

Chelsea's Kitchen

5040 N 40th Street

Phoenix, AZ 85018


Book Giveaway! Enter to Win a Copy of Pampered in Paris!

Pampered in Paris Book Giveaway!!!

I want to increase Small Batch’s number of 'fans' on FB as well as its email subscribers.

This is not an ego thing. I learned from the book launch in New York that blog numbers=legitimacy. New writers typically have to wait months for a response to article/story pitches from publishers. If I create my own space, I don’t have to wait (Photo: Breff).

Here are the giveaway rules:

  1. Get 10 people to click on the “like” FB button and/or subscribe to small-batch travel by this Thursday, July 22, at noon--remember we are on maverick time in Arizona.
  2. Post your name on small batch’s FB page or in the comment section of this post when you’ve rounded up your 10. It will be the on the honor system, but I can verify more or less from the numbers. Giveaway is also open to new fans. If the numbers don’t add up, I may have to ask for names from the winner.
  3. At 12:15pm on July 22, I will draw a name. As soon as I receive your coordinates, I will mail out a book! Given the current number of ‘fans’, your chance of winning is quite spectacular ;)

My Goal is 130 subscribers by July 22nd. Let’s do it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Travel Accessory: Carry-on Handbags

Size matters. Especially when we are talking about carry-on luggage. This pay-for-baggage nonsense makes it crucial to choose your one airline-allotted personal item wisely.

With three children, I need a handbag to be oh-so-much more. Most airlines allow you to bring one bag and one personal item like a purse, briefcase or laptop with you on the plane. Mine has got to be functional enough to work as a diaper bag/purse/laptop bag and weekender while at the same time fashionable enough to tote around a city like Paris.

I’ve narrowed it to the perfect size: 16” X 9” X 9”--give or take an inch here and there. With that in mind, I’ve picked out a few bags that fit the bill. I tried to keep choices under $100. Please feel free to post your own favorites.

Steve Madden Bfauna Convertible Satchel ($118,
before 30% off + free shipping right now

ASOS Zip Pocket Front Shoulder Bag ($53.90,

ASOS Premium Patchwork Ethnic Bag with Leather Handle ($75.80,
Deena & Ozzy Zip-Front Moto Satchel ($68,

Big Buddha Kaitlyn ($72,

Sabina Drawstring Purse Belt Purse ($95,
Big Buddha Rose Tote ($90,

These last two are probably closest to what I usually carry--nondescript and easy to clean.

LeSportsac Passerby Handbag ($108,

Kate Spade Nylon Karen ($295,

Monday, July 12, 2010

Newport Beach: Retox and Detox

Mission Detox: 3 Salad Recipes

Here's to 14 consecutive years of wild beach house fun with my family! Last Monday we returned from ten days in Newport Beach, California.

Each summer, my mom and her sisters spoil their children with homemade cooking. They manage to squeeze all of their specialities into 7 days. Unfortunately it has become a smorgasbord of yang foods: donuts, sweet and sour chicken, egg rolls, taquitos and candy-bar brownies to name a few. The love behind the food is undeniable; it makes it impossible to say no.

This annual retox leaves my body begging for a return to healthier, healing foods. Matt and I committed to at least 7 days of fresh salads and smoothies to help detox after the trip. Our girls are not salad eaters but they love vegetables. I sliced up individual veggies from the salad and served them with chicken or another protein. I use all fresh, organic products when possible. All of these ingredients can be found at Trader Joe’s grocery store.

Cranberry, Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad

Bag o’salad: baby lettuce or romaine (wash it again even though it says it’s washed!)

1/3 cup dried cranberries

2.5 oz plain goat cheese, broken into chunks with fingers

3/4 cup of candied pecans

1 small apple, sliced (I like Gala)

pinch of sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Lazy Vinaigrette (see below)

Beet Salad

Bag o’salad: romaine

2.5 oz. herbed goat cheese, broken into chunks with fingers

1/3 cup toasted almonds

Steamed red and/or yellow beets, chopped (TJoe’s sells prepared beets in its refrigerated section)

pinch of sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Orange vinaigrette (substitute Champagne vinegar and add 1-2 Tbs orange juice)

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Bag o’salad: romaine

1 cup small, sweet tomatoes

1/8 to 1/4 cup toasted or plain pine nuts

pinch of sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Lazy Vinaigrette with a splash of honey

Baguette Slices

3 oz. plain goat cheese

Warmed honey

Directions: Toss the lettuce, tomatoes and pine nuts together in Vinaigrette. Place a 1/2” sliced round of goat cheese on each baguette slice. Place in a 425-degree oven or under low broiler until bread and cheese are golden or brown. Remove from oven and drizzle with warmed honey (this last part is incredible).

Lazy Vinaigrette

The magic ratio is 3 to 1 in a vinaigrette--3 parts oil to one part vinegar. For this size of a salad, I usually toss 1 Tbs balsamic or red wine vinegar, 3 Tbs of Olive Oil and a splash of agave nectar, honey or liquid stevia to temper the vinegar, with the salad.