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

 

 

 

Restaurant Feature: Red O in La Jolla, CA

“The best Mexican food I’ve had came from a white guy in Chicago.” –My sister, Claire, after eating at Frontera Grill

Red O Restaurant - Mariscos Chile Relleno

If you have seen the recipe posts for Cajeta and Tres Leches with Strawberries, then you know I have been a fan of Rick Bayless for most of my life. Papa Bird and I had a fantastic meal at the Red O Restaurant in Newport Beach two years ago.

Red O Restaurant - Guacamole, plantain chips and shrimp ceviche

Back then, I posted a picture of the light as air corn and goat cheese tamales from Red O on Twitter, and Rick Bayless (or whoever does his Twitter) ACTUALLY responded. I was starstruck. And upon hearing that La Jolla was tapped for the next location, I knew I wanted to do a feature on this blog. I’ve been bugging them since!

Red O Restaurant - Moscow Mule

We may live in San Diego with an abundance of excellent, authentic Mexican food… but it’s not Portland. There is no need to stone anyone for cultural appropriation. Not when they study a cuisine with the attention of a professor, scholar, and master. And not when the food is delicious!

Red O Restaurant - Combination Plates

During our first visit, I was struck with the attention to ingredients… heirloom beans and the freshest of produce. The same holds true in the San Diego/La Jolla location. The shrimp in the ceviche was plump and perfect, the flavor refreshing and addicting, served with plantain chips.

Red O Restaurant - Sun Burn Margarita

The management at both Red O’s corporate office and locally in San Diego where super accommodating and helped me organize a lunch for the San Diego Food Blogger crew. Disclaimer: they treated us to the lunch. Photos, descriptions, and opinions are mine.

Red O Restaurant, La Jolla, CA

Highlights at Red O La Jolla

The Sauces 

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Meet Fuzzy Feather: Our New Incubator-Hatched Baby Bird

We have a new addition to our backyard chickens! “Fuzzy Feather” is here! (You can see more adorable baby birds here and here.) We have seen the birth of lots of chicks, but Fuzzy Feather is our first incubator hatched chick.

incubator hatched baby bird

Out of our dozens of hens, there is usually at least one broody hen able to sit on fertilized eggs when we come by them. “Broody” means the chicken is wanting to sit on eggs to keep them warm and hatch. Before we got our hens in 2010, I though all hens did that, but apparently, it is bred out of most egg-layers. When they are broody, hens lay few eggs, because they are focused on hatching the ones already laid. Heritage breeds, such as Auracana (who lay pretty blue eggs), are more likely to get broody, and most of our broody girls have been Auracanas or Easter Eggers.

incubator hatched baby bird

If you live in an area, like San Diego, that allows for backyard hens but forbids roosters, you can still hatch chickens! Sometimes a friend gives us fertile eggs. This time City Farmers gave us a few for free. (Smart — for the cost of a few eggs, they gain customers to buy chicken feed!) I have even heard of people hatching the “fertile eggs” from Trader Joes and other grocery stores. I plead the Fifth Amendment as to whether there has ever been an illegal rooster on our property.

Our First Time Using an Incubator to Hatch chicks

incubator hatched baby birdAs I mentioned, we have hatched chicks many times, but have always had a momma, or adopted momma, hen do the work. This time none of the girls were in the mood, so when Papa Bird brought home some fertile eggs, we ordered an incubator.

Can you see Fuzzy Feather’s cute face though the condensation? I put a video of the freshly hatched chick on my Instagram story, but it’s disappeared. (I love me some IG, but I still don’t really like stories.)

Chicken Incubators and Supplies

Disclaimer: I’m an Amazon affiliate, meaning some purchases made through links on this site may result in us being paid a small percentage. That being said, here are some supplies we like and you might find useful:

Since hatching was just for fun, we ordered a relatively cheap incubator. You do get what you pay for. Out of three fertile eggs, only one has hatched. Papa Bird explains that temperature is relatively easy to regulate, but humidity is harder. If you get more serious about hatching, or want to have better results, check out this incubator. We haven’t used it, but it has better reviews. You can also add a separate humidity monitor, which is what Papa Bird did.

Have You Ever Hatched Chicks in an Incubator?

What was your experience? Did you get a Fluffy Feather Butter Butt Cotton Tail of your own?

incubator hatched baby bird

Easy Mole and Shredded Chicken Recipe

A new recipe post! Today’s recipe combines two things I love… an easy shredded chicken recipe that is part of our weekly rotation and a prepared mole sauce from a small, female-owned business in Mexico that elevates leftovers into a semi-homemade meal in a snap.

easy chicken and mole plate (recipe)

I have used the Seasons of my Heart black mole and red mole and both are delicious. Here in San Diego, they are found in the retail section of Specialty Produce. I’ve thrown it on leftover Thanksgiving turkey, rotisserie chicken from the store, and our home cooked chicken (recipe follows.) Being a busy, working mom, I love having premade sauces I can throw on a protein and call a home cooked meal.

Seasons of the Heart Mole

If you want to doctor up the sauce, you can add extra unsweetened chocolate, chicken broth, almond butter, a tablespoon of butter… The instructions on the black mole actually call for a lot of ingredients and steps, including sautéing and chopping veggies, plantains, bread and pureeing in a blender. Ain’t no one got time for that. I usually just add a little of the cooking liquid from the chicken and call it a day. It’s that good as is!

Don’t have a Mexican mama in your kitchen using the 900 gagillion ingredients that go into mole? Don’t worry. You can have Susana Trilling as back up in your cupboard. She makes her moles and jellies in Oaxaca in small batches, certified slow food. And yummy.

easy chicken mole recipe

I also want to share Papa Bird’s new toy. I recently signed up as an affiliate with the Grommet, primarily because I saw the Bear Pawicon and thought it would be a perfect gift for my husband. Part meat shredder, part heat-proof food lifter, it makes him feel like Wolverine while prepping his weekly shredded chicken.

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My serving suggestion for the mole is a plate with brown rice, black beans, cotija cheese, cilantro, avocado, tomatoes, and (go for it) a fried egg. You might not even need the meat…

Easy Shredded Chicken Recipe
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
An affordable, quick way to have chicken ready to go for multiple recipes.
Ingredients
  • 1 package of chicken thighs (we use boneless/skinless)
  • 1 quart of chicken broth or water
  • 1 onion
  • 5 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • herbs/seasonings such as Mexican blend, or at least oregano and a bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rough chop veggies. Throw everything in a pressure cooker. Bring to a boil and up to pressure. Cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on your machine, or until done and fork tender. If starting with frozen chicken (totally works with a pressure cooker) increase cook time at pressure to 10-15 minutes, depending on your machine.
  2. Use the bear paws or two large forks to shred. Reserve the cooking liquid for broth.
Notes
If you don't have a pressure cooker, simply simmer for an hour.

Disclaimers: as mentioned, I am an affiliate of the Grommet, which means that if you purchase something off their site through a link on my site I may receive a small percentage for the referral. This particular product I personally bought and sincerely recommend. I am not an affiliate per se of Specialty Produce. If you go, please mention that “Baby Birds” sent you, but I don’t get paid per person. Full disclosure, they do hook me up. In fact, the first time I tried the mole sauce it was given to me for free. But I have since purchased it multiple times again!

A Fruit and Cheese Plate for Friends

Life can be so hectic. We are all so busy. I am grateful for the time we share with friends. I’m a little late in posting my most recent cheese plate, devoured at a Friendsgiving. This one overflowed with fall fruit…

Fruit and Cheese Platter

I broke with my cheese cutting trend. You can review how I cut the cheese here and here. Yes, my Instagram is filled with cheese. I decided to leave most of these cheeses whole because they were soft, semi-soft or spready.

How will you be cheesing it up this holiday season? Please tag me on Instagram with #BabyBirdsFarm if you post anything yummy!

fruit and cheese plate

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: persimmon, grapes, pomegranate, dragon fruit (pitaya), Époisses de Bourgogne, marcona almonds, honeycomb, pistachios, Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog, Cypress Grove Purple Haze, strawberries, tangerines, blackberries, Camembert. The Époisses, a famously stinky French cheese I discovered through the Cheeses of Europe Cheese Pop Up, I acquired as a hand me down, of sorts. But the rest of the cheese, fruits and nuts are from Specialty Produce.

Shopping notes: the berries are from the organic cooler at Specialty, the persimmon and dragon fruit from the Farmers Market cooler, and be sure to check out the cheese section along the South wall of the main cooler. You can find the honey comb up at the retail checkout counter. The nuts are from the bulk section. Did you know that they will open up any large box of nuts (or anything, really) and let you buy just a handful?