Bubbles & Berries Boudoir

What’s the first thing you think about when I say boudoir photography? Scary? That’s what I used to think…until now. Like a lot of women, I used to be intimidated by boudoir photography.  Generally speaking, stripping down to your underwear in front of a stranger sounds crazy, but then the stranger starts taking photos of you? Yikes.

Boudoir photography has come a LONG way, and believe me, there is nothing to be terrified of.  Recently I met with Robyn of Bubbles & Berries Boudoir to do a little session of my own and it was an amazing experience!  We met at her photography studio and from the moment I met her, she made me feel so relaxed and excited to start our session.  Robyn likes to do things a little different with her clients in order to make them feel as comfortable as possible with the process, as well as really get a feel for their personalities so that she can make the most of their photo session.  She asks her clients a number of questions ranging from what music they listen to, to what they like the most about their bodies.  This way, Robyn creates a super personal connection with her clients and can make sure that they have the best experience possible.  Also, one of the things that I loved most is that she has multiple sets in her studio, so you can switch up the vibes for all of your different sides!

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I sat down with Robyn and her new photographer addition Tessa before my session to ask them a few questions about Bubbles & Berries and about boudoir photography in general and here’s what they had to say!

How long have you been shooting boudoir professionally?

I started in 2010, so this is my seventh year doing it! I started because I read an article about it and I had no idea what it was, I read it in a professional photography magazine. I was working weddings with my husband already so I was already shooting professionally for a while.  So as soon as I read the article I was like, oh my gosh, I need to do this! Like, I didn’t even know it was a thing! So I just started to do my research and see what was out there, and there was nothing around here yet.  It was all pretty much on the West Coast or New York City.

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What drew you to boudoir? 

What it was mostly, at least from the article that I had read, was the takeaway that the women get from the experience.  So I knew right off the bat that it wasn’t so much about taking pretty pictures for people, it’s what they take away after their shoot for themselves.  That’s what made me want to try it and do it and really find a way for women to embody their inner sexy.  I feel like so many people shy away from that and they feel like they could never do that kind of thing and I was like “Yeah you can!”  That’s really what drove me to start this business.

Do you find that you get mostly brides as clients?

I think there’s a shift in the business.  Originally most of my clients were doing it as a groom’s gift or a significant other gift, but then I don’t know if it had to do something with my style, but there was a shift.  The clientele base started to become either new moms or people who just wanted to rekindle things in their relationship or just try something new.  Or people became more body aware and more comfortable with themselves to embrace that.  But now, with bringing Tessa on board, I want to shift it back into doing more brides as well, because I feel like I kind of got away from that.  I feel like it’s an ever-growing thing.

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What do you love most about what you do?

I love getting to meet the client for the first time, seeing how nervous they are, and just knowing that it’s gonna all be okay!  On top of that, when they leave here, seeing the excitement on their face and knowing that they had a really great time.  Obviously I love the positive feedback, but I just love to see how it makes them feel.  They are really doing it for themselves, and I don’t think people really get that until they do it and have that experience. Once the first few clicks of the camera are off, maybe five minutes in, they completely forget where they are and they are just enjoying themselves.  I love the transformation.

What is one of your most memorable experiences as a photographer?

The first one that comes to mind is that two years ago I did a Mother’s Day giveaway. The woman who won it, her baby was 9 months old when she came in, and all of our email conversations were pretty much her telling me that I had my work cut out for me and all that stuff. She came in and she was very nervous and felt very uncomfortable at first, but then she got her hair and makeup done and started getting into the session and after I had emailed her to tell her what I great time I had with her, and her response was basically that she got home and she cried because she didn’t feel like a frumpy new mom.  She couldn’t believe the amazing time she just had, and she hadn’t even seen her pictures yet! That was probably one of the most memorable experience that I’ve ever had.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

There’s a lot of photographers that I follow.  I like the Boudoir Divas, and it’s funny, I feel like my life path is sort of going in the direction that they went in. They are kind of branching off and doing something different and changing, so I find it interesting that I’m also in the changing process. I admire their business ethics and they model themselves and business women first and photographers second, which is extremely important to run a successful business. Also, my husband, honestly, and I know that sounds cheesy! He taught me everything I know from the beginning, I was not a photographer, I was a graphic designer. As Onion Studio was its own business and I was a graphic designer, I was looking for new jobs and I was like “Can I just work for us and make that happen?” So we both went full on board working for ourselves and he really inspired me to get educated and push myself and keep my eyes open.  He’s my biggest photography inspiration, and he’s a really hard worker!

Tessa:  One of the things also, as your inspiration, are your clients themselves. I think that’s an important part about what differentiates her boudoir business from others.  Getting to know the clients. So beforehand there’s a questionnaire, talking about style, music, what are your outfits going to be…kind of a dialogue to understand her client first, and then from there she adjusts the session to fit them.  It’s really unique, and a lot of inspiration comes from that. It’s a teamwork thing!

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What do you love most about living and having your business in Buffalo?

So I grew up in Akron, and my family was kind of timid into venturing out into the city. We really didn’t do much of that, so once I went to college and got a job out this way and started to explore, I was like “Why are they so worried about everything?” Now Buffalo is on the upswing of creativity and art and acceptance, it’s a really accepting place to live. I think that’s a major part of why I love this, especially with a business such as boudoir.  Also, the tight knit creative community that we have here. Even among photographers.

Tessa: Very friendly competition and wanting to bring everyone up instead of trying to stomp on someone or undercut them. Let’s make more business for everyone and help everybody out!

Do you have a favorite local bar or restaurant?

I like small local restaurants.  Mangia in Orchard Park has a good variety and a nice atmosphere and is family friendly.  I like any atmosphere that’s cool and relaxed. We aren’t really up to speed on the bar scene yet.  We are too focused on the business, I think.

What is currently on your playlist?

I like Portishead, also Bishop Briggs.  Beats Antique, one of their creators is a dancer, and she caters the music to dancers.  Since I’m a dancer I really appreciate this.  I’ve taken workshops with her and to see her journey and the process of everything is really cool.

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What are your plans for the future of your business?

A lot of growth! Bringing Tessa on this year has been huge. I’ve always been the one to hold myself accountable, and now I have someone else to help with that and to share and bounce off ideas and just have another person to have vision with. We also want to hit the bride scene hard this year and offer awesome opportunities for brides.  And also we want to launch couples shoots. I always want to learn and grow and offer new things to people. Also, we would like to have some events, possibly an open house or a bridal event.  We are offering hair and makeup as add-ons to photo shoots as well.  Lots of fun things!

What advice would you give to a woman who really wants to do pictures but is nervous about the process?

I would first ask why they want to do the pictures, because having the insight into the thought process of why they want the pictures is important. Are they doing it for someone else or are they doing it also because it’s pushing them out of their comfort zone? I would say that there’s really no reason not to do it! It’s a lot of fun and since we offer the opportunity for people to make it what they want, it’s not scary or intimidating. If they did want to do lingerie but they are nervous about it there are so many options out there for lingerie! We really try to get to know people first to make them comfortable.

Tessa: We always tell people to not underestimate themselves. We remind women of how beautiful they are and tell them that we are going to focus on something that they really like. So maybe they have a new bra that they brought that they really like.  We want them to be excited about the things that they are comfortable with.  We allow them to be themselves but also push them in a creative way, but only to the limit that they would choose.

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Thank you so much Robyn and Tessa for an amazing experience! I’m completely in love with these photos and you are both the sweetest! If you are looking for a local boudoir photographer, make sure to contact Robyn ASAP!

Once And For All Clothing

I started getting really interested in fashion four years ago when I started my blog and I bought into the trend-salad…I wanted EVERYTHING trendy and I wanted to wear all of it at once.  I look back on some of the photos and cringe because it sometimes looked like I was wearing a costume.  Now that I’m a little bit older and my style has evolved, I’m gravitating towards classic and well-made pieces.  Basic pieces that are elevated and expertly crafted.

I’ve been following Molly and her clothing brand Once And For All for a while now.  She’s a local designer who crafts stunning pieces that aren’t trendy, but completely classic and will last a lifetime.  Molly recently sent me the Nya II blouse and oh my god, can I just tell you how beautiful this top is!  I had to do this beautiful piece justice, and something about it totally inspired me to do an artistic photo shoot.  I collaborated with two of my best friends- Ryan Kell with his photography and Chuck Tingley with his artwork as the backdrop, and I think this turned out to be one of my favorite shoots to date!

I asked Molly a few questions about her business and her inspiration, and here’s what she had to say!

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When did you start your business?

I started by hand making and re-purposing vintage garments in 2011 under the name Once Vintage. I sold on consignment at local boutiques, at local markets and on Etsy. I switched gears and launched into manufactured wholesale product under the name Once And For All in 2014.

Have you always known that fashion design was something that you wanted to pursue?

I had always loved fashion since I was a kid but I did not think that it would not be the right fit for me as a person. I was more interested in art and business. My degrees are in Marketing and Graphic Design and I am an oil painter. I fully switched gears into fashion while I was working in the advertising field in New York where I fell in love with the fashion scene. In retrospect I had always had a preconceived notion that fashion was just fluff, but I came to realize that it really was art. I think that was the reason I opened up to the industry.

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How did you come up with the name Once And For All for your brand?

I was just looking for a segway name from Once Vintage, my previous business, that felt somehow related. I wasn’t sure where the businesses were going to go, or if I was going to keep doing both, so I wanted something to keep them together. I thought about using Once since it was the only word usable for the new concept and I thought about the phrase “Once And For All”. The name easily lent itself to a lifestyle brand, it sounded sure of itself, and it felt inclusive all of which fit my requirements. I then thought further about the connotations of the term “Once And For All” such as; an ending, a definitive decision, completion or something of conclusive in nature. This led me to think of the philosopher Seneca’s quote: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”. I am a Christian and my faith is very important to me, so it felt like there was an expression of my faith in that concept.

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What do you love about owning your own business?

I love the involvement in so many different areas. I am of a decidedly dual nature mixing the creative and business, so its vey fulfilling to utilize both sides. My day-to-day activities are varied and include: research and development, design, technical design, sourcing, fabric testing, pattern making, manufacturing, quality control, photo direction, creative direction, sales, graphic design, web design, e-commerce, marketing, social media, PR, accounting, customer service, and all of the organizational and administrative stuff I have to do daily. The design aspect is my favorite, but I often think that if I was only a designer I couldn’t do all these things I love to do and I would miss them.

What are the challenges that come with owning your own business?

Well, its really hard sometimes. It can be isolating, you can get down on yourself, and you can get in your own head a lot. Plus the self discipline of time management, creating and maintaining your timelines, and pushing yourself to grow can be really hard. I have to work really hard at staying balanced through self care and a positive mental attitude.

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Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I concept in depth each season like a sociologist on my subject matter. The inspiration is different each time and comes about organically through my current exposure to art, history, music, geography, current events. Wherever I am feeling inspired or compelled, I follow. I exhaustively research, write and pull photo references as I sketch my ideas. After I let myself be immersed in my concept, I source my fabrics and do my tech drawings and this is when start to edit down the big ideas to whats manufacturable and sellable.

What do you love most about Buffalo?

Truly, my family. Also the ability to go into the country or be on the water in various directions in 20 minutes.

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What’s currently on your playlist?

I am listening to my vinyl collection a lot at the moment, my next collection is very 70’s inspired so my listening habits are heavy on the singer songwriter babes of the 70’s.
Joni Mitchell – Blue
Carol King – Tapestry
Bonnie Raitt – Bonnie Raitt

What are your plans for the future of your business?

Currently I’m working on expanding my wholesale sales and e-commerce. I would like to make larger collections on a larger scale of production. Future expansions could possibly include a manufacturing facility or a retail location.

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Thank you so much, Molly, for answering my questions and this beautiful top! Make sure to check out her website Once And For All for more incredible designs!

Nickel City Gritty: Two Guys Good Buys

At the beginning of November, I attended a Two Guys Good Buys pop-up shop (you can view my post about it HERE)  This was my first time meeting the duo, Frank Fina and Tyler Annalora.  After talking to them for a short while, I quickly learned a few things: they were super passionate about their vintage clothing business, they loved traveling across the country in their van, and they were suckers for a good adventure.

After randomly running into them multiple times since our first initial meeting, I just knew that they had to be the next subjects in my Nickel City Gritty series (check out my first post about Elizabeth of Buffalo Black Book!)

After my interview with Frank & Tyler, I quickly learned a few more things:  Tyler’s spirit animal is a zebra, Frank is terrified of bears, and they are still suckers for a good adventure…and an amazing playlist.

This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Frank & Tyler of Two Guys Good Buys.

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Describe your style to me.

Tyler:  Laid back, not trying too hard to be comfortable and relevant, always try to be fashion forward…it’s actually tough.  I don’t really think about it too much!

Frank:  Yeah, that’s it.  It’s like, I guess, pretty simple.  Not thinking too much about it.

T:  I try to stick with a timeless aesthetic…the basics.  You can’t go wrong with a nice plaid, but I think simpler is better for sure.  So solids, and right now I like neutral tones and earth tones.

F:  As far as clothing, for me, I’m pretty simple.  Ty is definitely more fashionable than I am.  Clothing wise, I’m most comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt and a jacket. I like stuff that works, I like stuff that lasts.  Especially with doing things in the outdoors, it’s worth buying something that’s gonna last you.  You’re using it every day and you want it to withstand the test of time.

T:  Yeah, that’s the thing, for us we don’t have so much space for clothes, so things that will work day in and day out is really what we’re looking for.

F:  With being on the road, style wise, it’s like you’re really falling in love with these few items that you have, you know?  Back home, I have way too many clothes, and when we spent the 9 months on the road I had a bin of clothing that I wore and everything was really useful.  There was a point about 6 months in where I actually sent some stuff home because we weren’t using it.  It’s like, now we know what works and what’s lasting and what we’re staying warm in. So we sent a few things home and simplified things even more.  So all this, and our personal style, also relates to the clothing that we sell.  Stuff that’s been around, these companies haven’t been around for 60 years because they don’t work.  People trust the quality.  We definitely wear a lot of what we sell, too.

T:  That’s what we’re going for.  A simpler lifestyle.  No frills other than the necessity.

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Do you guys have a favorite outfit or a favorite piece of clothing?

T:  This jacket, for sure.  I’m not sure what type of jacket it is…denim or maybe canvas.  It’s definitely warm.

F:  I’d say, for me, a Pendleton shirt as of lately.  The past couple years.  It always wasn’t my favorite piece of clothing, but now I think a Pendleton wool shirt is something I would not leave behind wherever I went.  I’m just like, so confident on how warm it’s gonna be.  I just trust it.  I actually have Ty to thank for liking certain brands so much.  He definitely has more of a fashion background.

T:  I think we’ve been more or less interested in a certain look or aesthetic.  Sometimes brand specific but just trying to understand certain fibers.  Very elementary level, but to understand, like, wool.  And what type of natural fiber that is.  And then understanding what brands now days still carry on the tradition that was started over a hundred years ago.  It might be made in a different place, but the integrity of the fabric…I’d like to think it’s the same.  Just trying to focus on that more.

F:  Even before we really started getting into the older, vintage stuff, just like in High School, Ty was always going to New York City and he was digging different clothing than other people.

T:  Just goofy stuff. Just being aware of what’s going on in places besides here in Buffalo, whether it be in Europe or Japan. People are doing different things and obviously style is different.  Keeping a keen eye on what’s going on in fashion and style. I’ve always been interested in big cities and like what they’re doing in New York.  So it just kind of opened my eyes to other things.  Going to New York was always fun.  We would do weekend trips quite often.

F:  We would take trips to New York, and at the time I was working full-time.  So I would work until 4:00, hop on a megabus after work, get there Saturday at 5am, meet up with Ty and we would pretty much just walk around the city for two days straight and I would leave Sunday night at like 10pm and get back to Buffalo Monday morning.

T:  Remember that?  We would stay at the hostel on 27th and 3rd. You’d call me at like 5:30 in the morning, wake up, get a coffee, and we’d walk like 60 blocks.

That’s so fun!

F:  We would just go and walk around and take photos.  It’s really sweet to think back to those trips, and this was probably 2010 or 2011, and just to look back and we were just like hanging out.  It’s just crazy how it evolves into this now and our love for photography and traveling and just seeing new things and seeing new faces and seeing new styles.  It’s always been there, just now it’s evolved.

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Do you guys have any style icons?

F:  *laughs* Yeah, Ty.

T:  I can’t say that I do, but I get my eye from my mom.

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Where do you look as your source of inspiration?

F:  Being on the road is a constant inspiration for me.  Just seeing so many new things, whether it is the scenic views  or just talking to different people from all over the country.  Just a lot of different walks of life.  It’s cool because the traveling community is a huge thing for me.  I didn’t know how amazing it would be.  It’s amazing to meet up with strangers.  Back home, before leaving, you know I had a group of friends but I wasn’t the type of person to like, go out to a bar and meet all new people.  So now I’m much more open to meeting new people and finding out similarities.  Automatically when you’re on the road, I feel like there’s just a connection right away that’s so much quicker.  We’re away from home, and traveling and sitting around the fire and cooking breakfast together.  You just automatically have the connection and that’s really inspiring to me.  We always say strangers become friends so quick.  I feel like you gain trust and grow to like these people.

T:  Yeah, and moving around, it’s not just “Wooooo we’re gonna go crazy and start driving somewhere!” You have to have a general plan.  Just being exposed to more is inspiring, because you see just so many more possibilities and different ways of life.  Not everything is so glamorous, but there’s different possibilities out there in other places than in Buffalo or New York or wherever you are.  I think once you move yourself from one specific place, it just opens your eyes naturally.  For me personally, that’s a huge inspiration.  I want to continue to push what we’re doing here because right now it’s working and I know we’re not gonna fail, and if we do there’s many more things that we can go and pursue and continue to do what we’re doing.

F:  Yeah, you just see all these different opportunities and all these different people that are able to travel full time and are doing all these different things.  Whether it’s a traveling nurse or substitute teaching or people running their own brands or blogging or photographers.  All these people are doing things and they have their shit together, they’re making a living, they’re traveling full-time.  They’re not just out there doing whatever.  It’s hard work to travel full-time, so there’s just other ways to do it and make a living other than working 40 hours a week 9 to 5.  There’s ways to do it.

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What’s on your playlist?

F:  Music is SO huge for us!  Obviously, anyone taking road trips, it’s huge.  We’ve definitely expanded what we listen to a lot.  We pick up music from the people that we met.  Our good friend Jackie took our iPod one day and put all this music on, this was one month into our trip, and filled it up with all new music and we started listening to all these different, completely different artists that we didn’t even know about.

T:  For a while I was listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I listen to Foals.  We always listen to 70’s Smash Hits, that’s for sure!

F:  Yeah, that’s the playlist!  70’s Smash Hits.  The Lumineers are really good.  There’s just something about being on an open highway and certain music works so much better.

T:  Also been listening to a lot of J. Cole recently.

F:  I was always really really into hip hop.  Definitely went to a lot of hip hop shows and kept up on different hip hop blogs, so we continue to listen to hip hop music too, but we are listening to so much more.  I’ve always appreciated different types of music.

T:  Dan Auerbach, Black Keys, listened to Modest Mouse for a while.

F:  I listen to pretty much everything.  One thing that we don’t listen to though is country.  I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if it’s just in my head.  That’s one thing we just never listen to. Other than that we just listen to pretty much every genre.

T:  Beatles are great always and listen to the Stones for sure.  The Doors are great, listened to The Eagles for weeks.

F:  There would be long drives, I think Ty would put on a Beatles playlist, and there’d be like 25 songs and that would last a while, and I would doze off and then wake up and look over and Ty’s just jammin out to The Beatles and singing, and it’s stuff like that that’s just awesome.  We had some fun in those front seats of the van.

What was your favorite or most memorable concert you’ve been to?

T:  It would have to be your first concert…

F:  What, mine?

T:  Yeah, Billy Joel!

F:  The first concert I ever went to, my parents took me to a Billy Joel concert.  I don’t remember it so I wouldn’t say that it was my favorite. I was young.  Growing up, my parents always wanted me to play instruments.  Which I do too, but when you’re younger, it’s different.  My mom was always like “When you’re older, you’re gonna wish that you stuck with the piano or the saxophone.” So they took me, and that’s back when I was taking the piano.  But I say my favorite one…we would go up to Toronto for a show, and saw Jay Z and Kanye West, just a huge stadium concert.

T:  Does a music festival count?


T:  I think that would be my favorite concert…Hangout Festival.  Gulf Coast of Alabama.  3 days on the beach.  So many people performed.  On the last night, the headliner was Paul Simon.  That was a cool performance to see.

F:  I think my favorite live show…I went to New York to see Nas at Radio City Music Hall on New Year’s Eve.  That was a few years back…that was an amazing show.  Also, right here at the Ballroom, Atmosphere.  Have you ever heard of Atmosphere?  It’s like underground-ish hip hop.  It’s all real instruments and it’s awesome.  That was one of my favorite live shows.

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Who would play you in a movie about your life?

F:  Adam Sandler!

T:  *laughs* Yeah, for sure!

F:  I don’t know why, but everyone’s always joked around that I look like him, and as a kid he was my favorite actor.  Honestly, I’m not huge into movies, but that’s who came to mind first.

What’s your spirit animal?

T:  Oh man…hmmmmm…zebra.

Zebra?  Why?

T:  When I went to the zoo as a kid, I always wanted to take the zebras home with me.


F:  I’ve never thought of my spirit animal.  I’m like petrified of bears.  That’s a fear  that I have.  It’s not my spirit animal, but I’m definitely scared of bears.  The first time we were out in grizzly territory out west, and we were doing hikes all over the place.  That first hike where I knew there was a chance that there could be a grizzly bear around, I was like thinking about it non-stop. Looking up and always making sure I know what to do if I see one.  But I don’t know, I never really thought about the spirit animal.

T:  I don’t think you could skip that question.

F:  A bald eagle!

T:  Ooooh that’s a good one.

F:  Forever free.  Bald eagles are sweet.  I always wanted to see one so bad, and we went months on a trip without seeing one, always talked about it.  They’re way more common out west.  We were in Oregon one day, which was 5 months into the trip, and we were at Mt. Hood and we saw two bald eagles above us.  I was filming it, and in the background of the video I’m like “This is amazing!” and I’m bugging out.

T:  It was hilarious, I’m like looking at the bald eagles doing their thing and he’s like “Oh my god!”

F:  I wanted to send it to my grandpa.  He is a huge inspiration, and the reason why I like the outdoors so much.  He’s 90 years old and I would always keep him updated on the trip. And send him videos.  He’s somehow really good with an iPhone at 90 years old, so I took that video and sent it to him.  And after that we ended up seeing a few more.

Did you see a bear?

F:  We did see a bear, our first bear in Yosemite.  That was sweet.  It was far away and there was a lot of other people around.

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What’s your favorite childhood memory?

F:  I’d say, going to the ocean once a year.  My parents would take me on little trips to Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach.  I’d say, trips to the ocean with my family.  That’s why I have the constant travel bug.  It was always something I looked forward to.

T:  I think probably doing things on the weekends with my dad.  My sister and I would go and do something outside.  Whether is be a day trip or weekend trip camping or something.  Do everything together and make dinner, start the fire and cooking out.  He would be in the country so we would go to his house and shoot bb guns and have fun outside. He was always adamant about getting my sister and I outside.

F:  I think my grandpa really got me into the outdoors.  He was the hunter and fisherman, so those were the times that we would do that- going out fishing and things like that.

What’s your favorite local place to grab a drink?

F:  So when I go out to bars, I like to have something else to do there other than just sit at the bar, whether it’s pool or darts.  I really like going to Frizzy’s  because I think the photo booth there is a blast.  So if we go there with a group of friends, I just like taking photos.  It’s such a cool little keepsake and you can have it forever for $3.

T:  Yeah, that’s the first thing that came to my mind.

Where do you go to de-stress?

F:  Nature, hikes, the Adirondacks.

T:  It’s been tough, I didn’t realize it.  Even just being in Buffalo, it’s fast enough and there’s enough lights and it’s loud enough where you can get rattled a little bit.

F:  Especially when you get used to living on the road, there really is a lot less stress, so coming back you’re just like “Woah!”

T:  We’d go to Public in the Lafayette Hotel, go around the corner and sit by the fireplace.  That’s a nice place to relax.

F:  For myself, and Ty too, just being out in nature is really calming.

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Okay, and always my last question is, what do you want to be when you grow up?

F:  I just want to be happy and successful in my own terms.  As long as I’m progressing every year in my life I’m happy with that.

T:  I think right now it’s kind of hard to put into one specific thing.  I think to be living by my own best means, I’ll be happy.

F:  You know, it’s interesting, when I was a kid and thought about that question what I wanted to be when I was growing up or what I thought I wanted to be doing 5 years from 21 even, I didn’t think I’d be doing this.  And this is what I want to be doing right now.  I want to be traveling.  It’s just crazy. I never thought it would be possible.  And it IS possible, for anybody.  Not just for us.  If there’s something you wanna do, and you just sit down and plan it and take your time with it and think about it, it’s so possible.

The Victory Gardens by Oxford Pennant

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I have noticed that recently, especially with the Holiday season, pop-up shops are becoming increasingly more popular.  Most pop-ups last a weekend or two, but the ever-wonderful Oxford Pennant has blessed us with a month-long pop-up called The Victory Gardens.

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The Victory Gardens is located at Oxford Pennant’s shop on West Tupper in the city and runs through January 1st.  I had the chance to finally stop in a check out the shop this past weekend, and it’s EVERYTHING.

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Not only do they have some of their amazing pennants for sale, they carry some unique items from brands such as Pendleton, Juniper Ridge, Mollyjogger and even custom Hudson Hockey sticks.

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You can find The Victory Gardens at 43 West Tupper in Buffalo.  They are open all week from 12-8 through January 1st.

Make sure to check out their website for a full list of their hand-made pennants available for purchase.  I might have bought about 4 or 5 to give as gifts this year!

Want to learn more about Oxford Pennant? Check out their recent interview on Yeah! Buffalo’s blog!

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Nickel City Gritty: Elizabeth Siematkowski

I present to you, the very first interview in my Nickel City Gritty series.

Nickel City Gritty is a very special project of mine.  It is a series of interviews, videos, and photos of the very thing that made Buffalo what is is today- the people.  I’m interviewing and photographing those very people that run this city; those who are doing incredible things and living outside the box.

But these aren’t just any old interviews.  These interviews are getting down to the core of the person- their favorite music, food, memories, and things that they love about this amazing city that we call home.

This is Nickel City Gritty, and this is Elizabeth Siematkowski.

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If you don’t know who Elizabeth is, then you’ve probably been living under a rock.  Girlfriend has been EVERYWHERE lately.  Liz is the mastermind behind Buffalo Black Book.  If you don’t know what Buffalo Black Book is, then you are definitely living under a rock.  The BBB is a quarterly print magazine committed to highlighting and exploring culture, subculture, love and people through candid conversation and busting of social stigma.  Its very first issue, Bodies, has been wildly successful, being sold online, as well as in few select boutiques around Buffalo and even at print stands in New York City.

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From the moment that I met Liz, I instantly felt a strong connection with her, like we’ve been lifelong friends.  Her infectious personality draws you in and when you are speaking to her, you can tell that she she is really interested in your life story and what you have to say.  That’s why she’s so perfect at what she does.  She truly cares about the people that she interviews for Buffalo Black Book and knows how to make a person comfortable.  She’s super chill and the authentic “cool girl” that many of us women strive to be.

I recently dragged Liz out in the freezing cold and snow to my favorite restaurant Toutant for brunch.  We ate waffles and bonded over our mutual love of Hanson (she’s a Zac girl and I’m a Taylor fanatic) and I learned that she’s got a very interesting, yet dangerous, hidden talent.

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Describe your style to me.

That’s really tough.  Sometimes I can get a little wild in what I wear. I like to mix in pieces that are really classic.  I like the idea of having one really nice sweater versus ten semi-decent pieces that could get kind of weird in a year or two.

So you stay away from trendy?

Yeah, so something classic, like my grandmom’s sweater, something that somebody made that’s a classic piece.  But then I also love the bohemian street style.  So it’s not quite grunge, but it’s not like full boho.  I love heeled boots and nice tight pants.  It’s definitely a blend of the two styles.

Do you have a favorite piece of clothing?  Something that means a lot to you?

Yes!  Well actually, one of my favorite sweaters I just lost, which was really sad.  So now, probably my favorite outfit would be in the summer, it’s jean shorts and this vintage Police tee that I haggled in Toronto.  Like haggled it down from like $212 in a glass case, and I was like “This is ridiculous, how long has this been in there?” to like $30 Canadian.  And so that Police tee is just like, my heart. So probably that and jean shorts in the summer and in the winter, tights pants and what used to be my favorite sweater. So now I need to get a new favorite sweater!  But I have one that my grandmom made me and it’s fitted, white fisherman knit, and I like that a lot.  And boots.  I like my black Rainbow boots.

Rainbow.  Like the store Rainbow?

Yeah, the store Rainbow!  I’m like, I don’t know. I just LOVE Rainbow.  I have some bodysuits from there that are just out of this world.  And I was gonna get these really nice black leather boots a while back but they didn’t have my right size. So I walked into Rainbow one day and they had the exact thing for $15 and I was like DONE!

Do you have a style icon?

I love Nicole Richie’s style, oh my god I love her style.  I also love Gwyneth Paltrow.  Love her style.  And also Sienna Miller a lot.  It’s kind of like that simple but classic kind of look.  And of course Audrey Hepburn.

Where do you look for inspiration?  What inspires you?

I think what inspires me is seeing people do things that are kind of off the beaten path and do it with in amazing flair and just absolutely dominate. I love seeing people who are unexpected or people who are underdogs. Like they wouldn’t expect them to be crushing it or to do well.  Against the odds, crush it at life doing whatever they are doing. I think that inspires me because that is so great.  When people are themselves.  It’s really hard to kind of just be who you are.  Sometimes you are pigeonholed into a job or a profession or family expectation. I love people who are just like “We are out here, that’s it!” Just own it.  That is so cool to me.  I think that’s the closest you can get to somebody, when they are themselves and you are really having a genuine connection.

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What is currently on your playlist?

I just made a BBB playlist on Spotify.  I really love a lot of French 60’s music, like Francoise Hardy. She’s a French 60’s Pop artist and she’s radiant and I love her style as well.  She’s just absolutely flawless and her music is beautiful.  I was into Bossa Nova for a while.  But now on this mix there’s some Hip Hop and a little bit of Folk.  I love Folk music.  But I also love great aggressive Hip Hop music.  For Hip Hop, Wycleff is my man.  Like “Gone Till November.”  Ugh, so in love.  And then I like Dance music, but not too much of the EDM, just like what really makes you dance.  I love Tracey Chapman, oh my god. She’s one of my faves.  That’s one of the first artists that I remember when I was a kid. I played “Fast Car” over and over and over again.  You can just feel so much from her songs. I love Debbie Harry and of course Madonna and Michael Jackson.  My mom loves Cyndi Lauper and Dolly Parton so I know all of their stuff.  I liked Cher a lot when I was a really young kid!

What is your favorite or most memorable concert that you’ve ever been to?

Oh my god.  Okay, I was in Hershey, Pennsylvania  with my family and I was probably the only person that I knew who liked the Hanson brothers and I’m not afraid to admit that.

Okay, who’s your favorite?

Oh man.  I liked the young one. I liked Zac, you know that little “Lucy” song.  I named by dog Lucy, which now I’m just realizing I wonder if that was some subconscious thing from my Hanson days!

*Note from Lindsay:  At this point we both broke out singing “Lucy” and it was probably one of the top five moments of my life*

So  we were in Hershey Pennsylvania park and we were camping out and my parents had a pop-up camper and we heard that Hanson was playing.  So my brother and I stood on the roof of my parent’s van in a parking lot with my dad’s binoculars and watched the Hanson brothers and then I went back to the campground and was listening to their cd on my little walkman cd thing crying because I was so happy that I got to see them!  So I think that was definitely my most memorable concert.  Everyone was like, “Can we go home, we can’t see anything and we hate Hanson.” and I was like “Oh my god my life’s complete!”

What were you like in high school?

I was kind of quiet, I still am, which is surprising.  I’m generally pretty shy.  Which I may not seem like it.I love people, obviously, and I love interacting. But getting to know people, it takes me a while to get pretty comfortable.  So I was pretty quiet, and I was also a competitive figure skater.  I graduated high school and just went and figure skated.  I always just thought I would do that, and then one thing lead to another and I was like, meh, maybe I should go to college since I guess that’s what people do.  I was pretty much just skating and being quiet.  I didn’t like school, I hated it.  I just didn’t like sitting and I didn’t like homework and it was just so constricting.  I was just bouncing around and was a bit of a lone wolf and just did my own thing.  I liked everyone and appreciated everybody but also was just like “Get me out of here!”  I was always just weirdly trying to push boundaries, even in high school.  I would sit with different groups of people every day and try to just not do what everybody else was doing.

What made you get into skating?

I think just from where I’m from the Great North.  It’s cold, there’s nothing to do, and when I was a kid my dad would build an ice rink in our backyard and I think that made me love it and I just kept going with it.  I LOVE Canalside…that rink is amazing!  I actually got kicked off the other day.  It was one in the afternoon and I was like “I’m going down there” so I brought my skates and hopped over the thing and just started skating and then this security guard was walking after me and I was like “Can’t catch me!” and he was like “You can’t be out there.  I’m calling the police.” and I was like, I probably shouldn’t get arrested today so I said “Please oh please let me just skate” and he was like “No I really can’t.” but that was the best outdoor rink I’ve ever skated on in my life!


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Do you have a celebrity crush?

Oh god, I’ve got a couple.  Let me think…definitely love James Franco.  I love Sienna Miller.  I love Jake Gyllenhaal and I really love Ellen Paige.

Favorite local restaurants?

I really love Merge. I love how even in the early days they were doing beautiful vegan foods.  I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan but a lot of what I eat is and I love going to places where people make these beautiful creations with all sorts of cashew cheese and really cool things. Lloyd tacos are obviously incredible.  ABV’s chickpea burger is out of control good and I like their beer.  I love going to the West Side Bazaar and I always get this chickpea naan special.  It’s like $5 and the guys is so nice, and for some reason every time I go there I’m like having a hard day, so I’m holding back tears and I’m so upset.  But he’s always there and is like “Do you want the lunch special?” and I’m like “Yes!” and I just sit there and eat it by myself in silence and enjoy the atmosphere and end up feeling better.  You know what I love about it?  It comes on a tray and they use real bowls so it’s like a family feel and it’s just like off the grid and I really like that place for lunch.  I love Hydraulic Hearth…definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Buffalo! It’s the most beautiful.  I like Larkin a lot and the energy down there.

Favorite place to grab a drink?

I like Essex Pub a lot.  For a good beer, ABV is really good.  I like going to Vera and Buffalo Proper.  And Frizzy’s for some reason, I have no idea why.  I like some of the classic spots like that.  Essex and Vera are definitely my go-to’s.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can do a cartwheel on roller blades!  Whipping that one out is always a good idea.  One of these years I’m gonna not have done it in so long and I’m gonna try it and actually break my neck. Like “Look what I can do! Just kidding, I need a hospital!”

Backstreet Boys or NSync?

Oh my gosh, I never got into either!  I was too hooked on Hanson, and Tracey Chapman.

Okay, so what about either Britney or Christina?

Britney forever!  Love, love…I will always carry the Britney torch.

Where is your happy place?  Where do you go to de-stress?

Definitely anything involving nature.  I have my dog, an 85 pound Golden Retriever Siberian Husky mix named Lucy and I love her so much. So I’ll go for walks with her. I love the new Outer Harbor trails so that’s our new spot.  I also love the Artpark Gorge and of course being from the North Country, the Adirondacks.  So anything like a walk or nature, that is my happy place.  Or rollerblading as fast as I can, really as I can.  I like going fast, as fast as I can!

Okay, so my last question is…what do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be somebody that my goddaughter will be proud of.  That’s it.

Thank you SO MUCH for the Interview, Elizabeth! You were so sweet to answer all of my questions and now I’m so happy that I have someone to talk about Hanson with.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Nickel City Gritty!


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I love wearing false lashes.  Having not been very blessed in the lash department, I feel like lashes give a makeup look the finishing touch that pulls everything together.  However, as much as I love wearing falsies, sometimes they can be a complete pain.  Depending on the day, they might not want to cooperate, they can look uneven, they can take quite a bit of time to put on, and the glue might unstick halfway throughout the day and you could end up looking like a total hot mess.

I’ve been hearing about eyelash extensions for a while now and was very intrigued, but never really knew who to contact, where to go, or really anything about the extensions or the process itself.  Lucky for me, the wonderful Gabe from iLash NY recently reached out to me and asked if I would like to come in to try out a set of lash extensions! Of course, I was so excited and said yes, and I am soooo happy that I did.

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iLash NY recently moved into a brand new location and I love how light and bright and open it feels inside, yet it’s still super cozy.  iLashNY opened its doors in 2007, however, Gabe took ownership in late 2012 when she decided to purchase the business and grow the brand. She was trained in lash extensions by the previous owner of the business and after becoming a client of hers, she approached her with the idea of taking over ownership. The idea of being able to have a positive impact on the beauty industry and create an environment that supported women, while building a legacy for her family really excited Gabe, and the rest is history!

Gabe loves that she is able to have an impact on the lives of so many women; not only all the beautiful clients who come in, but also her team. Their mission statement is, “iLashNY is a premier eyelash extension studio dedicated to quality artistry with a distinct passion to allow natural beauty to radiate from the inside, out”.  She has the ability to come alongside so many people to encourage and support them in so many different ways.  Not just by applying lash extensions, but also by providing meaningful conversation in an uplifting environment.

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To start off our appointment, Gabe did a quick assessment of my eye shape and my lashes, deciding on a lash style that would best compliment my features.  I reclined in that giant chair, and let me tell you, that was probably one of the most comfortable chairs that I have ever sat in.  She told me that some clients actually do fall asleep during their appointments, and I can totally see how that can happen!

She then placed these awesome eye pads under my eyes which contained collagen (so they were great for the under eye area) and were super cooling and refreshing on my skin.  At that point Gabe started to work her magic!

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You can find all of the information that you need about lash extensions and the process on their website, but here are a few of the most important ones:

How do eyelash extensions work?

We adhere semi-permanent eyelash extensions using a very carefully manufactured adhesive that is safe for being placed near the eyes.  Each natural lash is completely isolated from its surrounding lashes before receiving an extension, in order to maintain the health of the individual’s natural lash growth.  Typically, we place somewhere between 75-90 extensions on each eye during a Full Set appointment (depending on the number of natural lashes the individual has).

How long does the process generally take?
A Full Set of Classic Lashes takes up to 2 hours and a Full Set of Volume can take up to 3 hours (sometimes a little bit more) each depending on the condition of the individual’s natural lashes.

Do they hurt?
NO. When properly applied you should not feel them at all. They are lightweight and feel totally natural.

How long do they last?
Lash extensions can last up to 6 weeks when not being maintained with followup appointments.  Each individual’s natural lash cycle is different, however, and therefore we recommend coming in for a touch up appointment within 2-3 weeks.  When your natural lash is ready to cycle out and shed, the extension that is adhered to the natural lash will fall off with it.  Many of us don’t realize that we can shed about 5 natural lashes on a daily basis, so touch up appointments ensure that we are maintaining a full look at all times.

How do I take care of them?
It may seem like a lot to remember, but eyelash extensions are very easy to take care of. The most important thing to be aware of is that “oil is the enemy”. Oil will break down the bond of the adhesive and cause premature loss of the extension. You want to make sure there is no oil in anything you use near your eyes. (foundation, eye creams, makeup, etc.) You do not want to get them wet for 24 hours. Never pull on them. Avoid running water on your lashes. Avoid sauna or hot steam. Use only water based makeup remover. Do not rub your eyes. Do not use a mechanical eyelash curler. Do not sleep on your face. When shampooing or conditioning, do not allow them to run over your eyes. iLash NY sends you home with a home care kit and instructions so you do not have to remember all these “do’s and don’t’s”.

What are the benefits of having eyelash extensions?
No more mascara! I’ve said this so many times that I’ve even had a t-shirt made with the phrase, “I miss wearing mascara … said no one ever!”

There is something to be said for a naturally stunning but super low-maintenance look.  Having lash extensions has cut down on my morning routine (I’ve been able to “86” the lash curler and 3 coats of mascara) as well as my nighttime routine (no more scrubbing to get all of that mascara off from under my eyes).

We’re able to customize the shape of our lash extensions to every individual’s eye shape in order to make the eyes POP.  We’ve even had women scheduled for eye lifts who have postponed the surgery after seeing the benefits of their lash extensions.

Can I swim, shower, exercise or visit a spa while wearing lashes?
Yes, if these activities are not done excessively. Our special adhesive allows you to shower, swim, exercise, sleep and spa while wearing extensions. You can enjoy your lash extensions with little need to adjust your lifestyle. Please do not swim or spa (even steam from your shower) for 48 hours after your lash procedure to allow the bonding agent to fully cure. The main thing to remember with these activities is that you just want to make sure the extensions are not excessively exposed to heat and moisture.

How do I take them off?
You can either let them grow out, or have them professionally removed by a trained professional. Please do not attempt to remove them yourself-we have lash extension remover. It will not harm your natural lashes.

How do I prepare for my appointment?
1.  Be sure to have all makeup removed from the eye area. The more time we spend doing this for you, the less time we have to apply lashes!
2. Do not drink too much caffeine before your appointment. This can make your lashes flutter which makes it difficult to apply lashes.
3. Please put your cell phone on vibrate or silent.
4. If you would like, bring your ipod to listen to.
5. You may want to visit the ladies room beforehand.

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My appointment lasted a little over two hours, but honestly the time just flew by.  It was so relaxing and it was great chatting with Gabe about her business.  It’s so refreshing to talk to someone who is so completely passionate about what she does and is all about growing and always up for learning something new.

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Although they specialize in Lash Extensions, they also offer facial waxing and sugaring, as well as Makeup Application services for special occasion and bridal.  In the past couple of years they’ve had an increasing number of requests for makeup tutorials so they’ve also added Makeup Workshops to their menu.  They hold classes quarterly, during which an instructor (usually Gabe) demonstrates a specific makeup look to a group who will then complete the look on themselves during the demo.  They keep the classes pretty small in order to ensure that each participant can receive hands on, individualized instruction.

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Gabe said that she would love for the iLashNY brand to continue to grow within the Western New York beauty community.  She strives to provide a studio that emphasizes education and artistry and her hope is for consumers to realize that is what sets them apart.  She plans to continue to organize lash training and education to artists in our area while growing her team and further developing their artistry.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…my before and after photos!

Here is my before photo. I never realized how sad my lashes actually were until now  😦

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Annnnnnnnddddd here is the wonderful AFTER!

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Yes, hello gorgeous, beautiful, full lashes. Where have you been all my life?

So having these lashes for two days now, I can say that they’ve completely changed my beauty routine for the better.  I didn’t wear any shadow or liner at all yesterday, but I still felt beautiful and polished.  Today I’m just wearing a little bit of black shadow smudged against my lash line and that’s all I really needed!  I’m absolutely going to be keeping up with these bad boys.

Thank you SO MUCH Gabe for an amazing experience.  I can’t wait to continue my lash journey with you.

iLashNY is located at 4764 N French Rd in East Amherst, NY.  Visit their website for more information.

Breadhive Bakery & Cafe

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I’ve always been really into baking.  Cookies and cakes have been my thing, but what I always wanted to tackle was bread.  I attempted to make a few loaves in the past but they never quite turned out just like I had hoped.

But thanks to Breadhive, I will probably never attempt to make a loaf of bread again. Breadhive is the Ultimate Grand Supreme of the bread world, and I will gladly never go anywhere else for my bread fix.

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Breadhive is a small cafe and wholesale bread bakery based out of Buffalo.  All of their bread, bagles and pretzels are sourdough based, and they are LIFE CHANGING.  Seriously, if you are in the area (and gluten-tolerant) and you’ve never had their bread, you are completely missing out.

Sourdough is one of those things that has always completely terrified me since it is even more so scientific than regular baking.  You need to get the starter just right before you even think about baking a loaf or two.  Breadhive has everything balanced perfectly and accentuate their regular sourdough base with different seasonal flavors, fruits, and grains.

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Breadhive opened up their cafe earlier this year, and last week I finally had the chance to take my mom there on a little lunch date.  I always like to take her to fun and interesting places in the city that she’s never been, and having their bread in the past, we both knew that we were in for a treat.

I loved just how cozy it was on the inside, and one of my favorite things about the place were their little gallery walls.  You can tell that they really took their time to find pieces that worked perfectly with each other.

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All of their breakfast and lunch sandwiches are named after pop music divas:  The Britney, The Shania, The Fiona, The Robyn, etc.  Being a gigantic girl pop nerd, I completely appreciated this tiny, yet huge, detail.

My mom got The Gwen, which was turkey, pepperjack cheese and veggies, and I got The Mariah, which was the most delicious chicken salad that I’ve ever had.  We split both sandwiches and ate every last bite…they were THAT good.

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We also shared this sweet and salty apple galette, which was the perfect end to the perfect lunch.  I would put that caramel sauce on everything.

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Thanks Breadhive for the best mother-daughter lunch date that we’ve had in a long time.  We can’t wait to come back!

Visit their bakery cafe on Connecticut Street for lunch and while you’re there, buy a few loaves to take home and enjoy!

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