Category Archives: Our Family

Our Family Vacation to Catalina (Plus 7 Travel Hacks) and My New Bag

We just got back from vacation on Santa Catalina Island! We love how close the island is. For us, a short ferry ride, and an even shorter drive from my sister’s house near Long Beach, delivers us to Avalon.

Golf Carting around Catalina

And once you get there, you feel transported to another country. The cobblestone streets remind me of Europe and cars are few and far between. Many streets in the main town, Avalon, are entirely blocked off for pedestrians.

Santa Catalina Bubbles

Most places are close enough to walk. Or if you do want a quick ride, hop on a golf cart!

Golf Carting around Catalina

Beach Bums

Catalina FloatiesIn fact, my sister’s family and ours were mostly beach bums for four days straight. We lounged in the sand, ordered food and drinks from the Descanso Beach Club –brought to our towel, danced to live reggae, and floated in the ocean for hours. You can see golden Garibaldi swim right under you in the clear, turquoise water.

Santa Catalina Island

Mama’s New Bag

Thanks to a cute online baby store, The Baby Cubby, my new bag had enough room to carry snacks, sunscreen, water bottles for everyone, wipes, UV sun protection shirts, and more. The Baby Cubby had the MZ Wallace Parker Tote in their curated selection of “diaper bags,” and given the room, I could see why. Yet other high-end retailers, such as Bloomingdales and Nordstrom’s, sell it simply as a purse. (Unsolicited advice to new parents: if you are going to buy a diaper bag, don’t get something that looks like one! Get something you can use for years after.)

MZ Wallace Parker Hobo

Full Disclosure: Baby Cubby sponsored this post by providing me a gift certificate, which I used on the bag. No one sponsored our vacation – but just putting it out there – email me at mama@babybirdsfarm.com if you want to sponsor our next trip!

MZ Wallace Parker Hobo

Additionally, I liked that the hobo bag offered three different options for straps, including cross-body, and one that looks dressy-enough for a night out. Another thing that sets Baby Cubby apart from other baby boutiques is that they always price match, even Amazon. (How often do you shop at the cute boutiques for ideas and then go online to find the lowest price? I know I do. One of their selling points is saving you time – they research the latest and greatest products AND ensure it’s the lowest price possible.) In my particular case, Baby Cubby marked the bag I wanted to such a deep discount that they couldn’t even offer it online. I ended up calling the store to place the order and after calling on a Friday, I had it in hands by Tuesday.

Mama Bird’s Catalina Travel Hacks

  • MZ Wallace Parker HoboChange into jammies at a restaurant after dinner, hop on the ferry, and let the kids get sleepy on the way home. (I had room for their change of clothes, long pants for me, toothbrushes, an iPad…)
  • Restaurants don’t give away free glasses of water. When you order “just water,” waiters bring plastic bottles. Put any leftover in your purse, water is precious on the island!
  • If you are fair, or just don’t want the sun 24/7, bring a UV sunscreen shirt.
  • Bring PBJs and snacks to the beach and let the kids splurge on ice cream or a virgin piña colada instead of buying every meal.
  • Baby wipes help clean sandy hands before eating.
  • Pack empty plastic bags to bring home wet suits — you will want to swim until the last moment.
  • To prevent seasickness on the ferry, dose up with Bonine (for those over 12), Dramamine (any age) or brush up on my favorite morning sickness remedies.

Until Next Time, Catalina!

Catalina Express

 

 

 

Our Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! Thank you for taking the time to read our posts and click through to see our pictures.

thanksgiving-3

Papa Bird and I were feeling a little unenthusiastic about Thanksgiving this year. Neither of us have family in town, and the traditional “story” about Native Americans welcoming the English immigrants to the first Thanksgiving felt at odds with the current state of our country. But we talked about making new traditions and celebrating what we do value.

rotisserie turkey

We invited our sweet friends with a newborn over for a traditional meal at our house. At twelve pounds, the turkey was small enough to (just barely) fit on the rotisserie attachment of the grill. Thank goodness! However do you cook all the sides if there is a bird in the oven? Our friends made oven-roasted veggies and mashed potatoes with homemade creme fraiche, and even so, our oven was in full use throughout the morning and early afternoon.

thanksgiving-4

Many thanks to Sarah and the girls’ “Tio Lou” for coming over, cooking, and sending us the pictures of us at the table. Papa Bird and I had seen their newbie at the hospital, but the Little Birds were thrilled to meet baby Mateo for the first time.

Sarah and Mateo

And there was pie. And pie crust cookies made by the girls. (Not pictured: chocolate mousse made by the girls, too.) I used my all-butter crust recipe and the “Real Pumpkin Pie” recipe from a few years ago with the following improvements: I used maple syrup instead of honey as the sweetener, which mixes easily without having to be warmed up. I also ended up using mostly cream and only a splash of milk, just because we had more cream than milk on hand.

real pumpkin pie

And the day after Thanksgiving we put up our tree. Christmas and Hannukah, here we come! (Another photo courtesy the Moras, as I was covering a shift at the hospital Friday.)

picking the perfect tree

Our Backyard Party with Apple & Hickory Catering

Our Little Birds are getting so big! They just turned five and three. We recently threw a joint birthday party in our backyard. Since I don’t get to throw many parties these days, I made sure it was a party an adult would want to attend, too. We worked with our friends with a new catering company, Apple & Hickory, and the food was just beautiful.

A fall salad with persimmons, pistachios and pomegranates

Apple & Hickory Catering - Persimmon Pistachio Salad

Our Littlest Bird is enamored of Chef Ryan’s macaroni and cheese. We reached out to him just to see if he would be willing to make a tray of it for us for the girls’ birthday party. He ended up offering to cater the whole party at cost in exchange for photos for their new website.

Mmmmm, cheese…..

Cheese plate by Baby Birds Farm

Even if it was a kids party in theory, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pull out some cheese and wine. This cheese plate included Humbolt Fog, Truffle Tremor, a mild Spanish cheese, an aged gouda, honeycomb, pistachios, grapes and Marcona almonds.

apple-n-hickory-corn

Both Chef Ryan and Chef Leland have been in the catering and restaurant business for years. Both recently left positions as number two in charge of restaurants. We are happy to see them branch out on their own independently.

Chef Ryan was very easy to work with. We told him our theme, “fairies” and party size and he put together a whole menu proposal as a starting point. In addition to mac n’ cheese, we feasted on crispy pork belly, green beans with apples and almonds, aguachile, chips and salsa, corn, fresh fruit, and the beautiful fall salad above.

Fresh Baja Shrimp Aguachile

Fresh Baja Shrimp Aguachile from Apple & Hickory Catering in San Diego

I had fun shopping the day before for ingredients with Chef Ryan. We hit up Catalina Offshore for the fresh Baja shrimp, Restaurant Depot for the meat, cake supplies from Do It With Icing, and Specialty Produce for the rest.

Do you still call it a smash cake when they are 5 and 3?

Edible Flower Decorated Smash Cakes

The two little smash cakes were a total collaboration. I baked the cake layers from an old Southern recipe for Hummingbird Cake. Chef Ryan made extra cream cheese frosting – the same frosting he used as the fillings in his funfetti “cakies.” Since the girls (ok, and me, too) wanted a fairy theme for their party, we decorated the cakes with lots of edible flowers.

"Cakies" - funfetti cookie cakes filled with cream cheese frosting

Similarly, the photos were a group effort. One of Papa Bird’s photographer friends shot most of the images on our camera, though I took a few. We rented a nicer lens for the day. And Papa Bird processed the images. He also ended up starting a website for Apple & Hickory Catering – something he has been doing a lot of lately! As a part of his Burd’s Nerds IT support business, he recently redid my psychotherapy website, too.

Great success

As you can see from the girls’ faces, they were pretty happy fairies!

Baby Birds Farm

Give the guys a call if you are planning an event or just want someone to cook dinner for you at home. Check out their website at applenhickory.com – a few of the pictures might look familiar!

Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana’s Passover Cake)

This chocolate, apple and walnut torte is the Passover cake my mother and grandmother have made for decades. I have been asked to share the recipe several times — and here it is! Like my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, it is published in an old synagogue cookbook that I still use for traditional Jewish recipes, including many from my family. (By the way, Mower’s matzo ball soup is still surprisingly popular on Pinterest.)

chocolate, apple, walnut passover torte

My grandmother “Nana” had a serious stroke 12 years ago. She doesn’t remember much that has happened since her childhood, and pretty much thinks of herself as a girl. She doesn’t remember me when I visit her memory-focused assisted living, but gets that I am there for her and is as sweet and as pleasant as ever. She even forgets what she said a minute before, and when she finds a good joke, she repeats it. We were only recently a family of four on our last visit to New York and she kept asking how many kids we planned. She would then advise, “Two or three is okay, but more than four is too many.” So of course my husband would tell her we wanted fourteen and she would crack up. This happened about twenty times in the space of an hour.

But memory is a funny thing. She can identify the names of every single plant on the grounds. And she remembers recipes! On my last trip, my uncle gave me her recipe box to bring to the visit. Nana remembered them all and shared stories. I recognized the Passover cake recipe as identical to the one I had made a month before (and every Passover before it since I was a teenager.) I am calling it “Nana’s Passover Cake” but as she reminded me, it was originally the recipe of her friend Bea Glück. “Well, since it was Bea’s recipe, naturally it’s a winner. Natch!”

Nana's Passover Cake

As you may see in the index card, there isn’t a ton of detail to the technique, nor in the version my mom wrote for the cookbook. But I’ve added some tips and my own system for sailing through the prep. You could make it all by hand, but a food processor and mixer will help. Tip: no need to wash the processor between ingredients. I even go ahead and make charoset right afterwards.

A friend in the midst of a Whole 30 challenge, gave me a Paleo-friendly apple and nut muffin that had such a similar taste and texture. Although this a “torte” in the sense that it uses no flour, rather ground nuts and a handful of matzo meal (similar in baking to breadcrumbs), I bet it could be adapted to gluten-free pretty easily. Try using almond meal in place of the matzo and/or more apple. There is no added fat, other than the eggs and nuts, and this Passover torte is not too sweet. My grandmother noted “Red Delicious” apples, but I have often used Fujis with good results.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana's Passover Cake)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish (Passover)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Passed down from my grandmother, this traditional passover cake could easily be confused with a contemporary paleo-ish torte, featuring chocolate, chopped walnuts and apple in a light sponge. It's not too sweet, and everyone loves it!
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
  • 2 apples, cored and grated
  • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup matzo meal
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Using a grater, or grating attachment on a food processor, grate the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. Without washing or rinsing the food processor, grate the apples. (The apples should be cored but don't peel them.) Add to the mixing bowl. Without washing, take out the grating plate and put the chopping blade into the food processor. Chop the walnuts and then add to the mixing bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick (at least 2 minutes on high/fast.) Gently stir into the chocolate, apples, and walnuts and add the matzo meal. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter.
  4. Bake in the greased springform pan for 1 hour. Cool in pan.
Notes
The instructions include equipment (such as a food processor and stand mixer or hand mixer) that make the cake a snap. But the cake can also be made by grating, chopping, and beating by hand.

Serving options: I like the cake with whipped cream (or non-dairy whip for Kosher friends) and strawberries. (Strawberries are usually in season for Passover/Spring Equinox/Easter.) My mom's transcription from the 80's suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar just before serving.

The cake is best the first day, but can be baked the morning of a big dinner.

If you like this recipe, please like the Baby Birds Farm page on Facebook, or follow my Jewish Recipes board on Pinterest.

Getting My Color Back (Amazing Lash Feature)

The last time I went to the zoo, I overheard a tour guide talk about the flamingos. Everyone knows they are pink because of their food and has heard, “You may notice the babies aren’t bright pink yet because they haven’t had the time to develop their color.” drained flamingo
But this time I heard something new. She said that the mothers of young birds lose their bright color, too. They give so much of their energy to raising their babies they literally fade to pale pink or white. Raise your hand if you can relate!

So… funny thing: you may not know this about me, but there was a time I was on exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.livingfountain I was actually right across from the flamingos, near the entrance, and heard the speech of the tour guides several times a day. I downplay it, but as a classical statue that came to life as a living water fountain, there was a beauty and glamour I now miss. I got to travel internationally as a performer, but perfected the show at the zoo.

And now, if I’m at the zoo, I’m just another mom in running shoes, juggling two small kids. No more red velvet curtain and dramatic music to mark my entrance.

But guess what? I’m starting to get my color back! The good news for flamingo parents is that they gain this color back eventually as the chicks become independent and eat on their own.* And a friend and I were invited to try out lash extensions at Amazing Lash in Carmel Valley. To be honest, she never made it as her son ended up sick, and well, priorities…

Lash extensions are semi-permanent lashes that are individually glued to your natural lashes. They last a few weeks and fall off as your lashes naturally fall out. I have stick straight lashes that point down and had always wondered about extensions.

before

I think they came out pretty. What do you think? In the photo below I am not wearing any eye makeup at all. “I woke up like this,” the ads boast.

after lash extensions

I also wanted to show a comparison of lash extensions to what I look like with eye makeup. I thought that would be a more telling comparison. So in the next image, I’m wearing two-coats of mascara and eyeliner, and mechanically curled my lashes.

before with makeup

Below, again, I didn’t put on any eye makeup. That’s how they look! (And that’s a crappy selfie with a cell phone. I wish I had a real photographer and real camera to show them off.)

Abby - Baby Birds Farm

The studio in Carmel Valley is new, and is very clean and upscale. I learned that all of the lash artists are either licensed estheticians or licensed cosmetologist, but that they have to be licensed. They have four different styles to choose from. I went with the “natural” and they get more dramatic from there. I’m really happy with them because they look better than any applied eye makeup, yet it’s not too much to wear to work with no makeup. They feel light and nothing like fake eyelashes.

Amazing Lash Carmel Valley

The staff was friendly and my stylist was a sweetheart. I actually had an issue with one of my natural lashes falling into my eye under the weight of the extension. It was curling into my eye, poking me, and I couldn’t remove it without ripping out some adhesive. I called the shop the next morning when I realized what was going on, and they got me in instantly. The stylist fixed me up, and there was no charge. Disclaimer: I received the initial lash application free as part of a blogger outreach program. However, the experience I’m sharing, and the before and after photos are all mine.

About Amazing Lash

Amazing Lash Studios are retail salons that apply semi-permanent eyelash extensions with a proprietary, patented process to your own lashes, replicating the curve and size of natural lashes. It is patented application process that enables our highly trained staff of licensed estheticians to complete the service in a fraction of the time required at traditional outlets. Currently there are two locations in San Diego, Carmel Valley and Mission Valley.

*Flamingo reference and flamingo image credit