Category: WNY Mommas

Living Local: The Blue Eyed Baker

Hi everyone! When I started writing this blog (again), there were a few things I wanted to do. Since my first pregnancy, I’ve been so curious about other mom’s experiences: how they chose their OB/GYN and what they thought of them, how they did or didn’t prepare for their births, what their hospital experience was like, what their day looks like as a SAHM or WOHM or WAHM mom, what their childcare situation is like. Part of this is because I was completely new to Western New York when I had to choose my OB. I literally picked the first OB that showed up on Google, and I ended up leaving the practice after one visit. I had a really hard time finding helpful info about providers, and stories about labor and delivery in specific hospitals. I know others are curious too, because these are often the topics that get conversations started between us as moms meeting for the first time. That’s why I’m going to be featuring a Birth Story series, and a Day in the Life series. I would love for you to share your unique experience, from natural home births to planned C-sections, and stay-at-home-moms to single parents working full time. Contact me if you’re interested!

But the other thing I wanted to do with this blog was to create a place to showcase some of the awesome places to eat, shop, and play in WNY. There are so many fantastic restaurants, independently owned stores, and places for kids to get out and move, but half the time it takes stumbling across one or a chance encounter to find out about them. Today is the first feature of my Living Local series, which will explore what WNY has to offer! Do you have a favorite locally-owned clothing line for kids? A nearby art studio that offers low-cost lessons for little ones? An outdoor space with hiking trails perfect for preschoolers? Let me know in the comments section and I’ll feature them on the blog!

But today I am so excited to introduce Alex, also known as the Blue Eyed Baker! When I thought about who to feature for the first post in this series, Alex automatically came to mind. She’s a Western New Yorker and mommy-to-be who went out on a limb and started her own business in her early twenties–phew! The Blue Eyed Baker creates some of the most beautiful and delicious cakes, pastries, and, of course, French macarons you can find. I admit I let Lily have a French macaron every Saturday morning during the East Aurora farmers market season, where the Blue Eyed Baker has a tent. So without further ado, meet the Blue Eyed Baker!

Hi Alex! Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I am a mama to be who owns a small bakery business. I operate out of a commercial kitchen we put in our basement, doing mostly farmers markets, weddings, and supplying desserts to restaurants. I also take on personal orders. While it can certainly be challenging at times owning your own business, I love what I do and feel very lucky to bake for a living. 

Before you moved back to WNY and devoted yourself full-time to baking, you were living in California and working in a completely different field. How did you get into baking, and what made you decide to start the Blue Eyed Baker?

I was working a corporate job for 5 years and eventually moved out to California for it. I’ve always loved baking but my love really grew when I moved to LA and found myself venturing into all the beautiful pastry shops. I knew I wanted to leave the corporate world, that it just wasn’t for me. I began searching for an education in pastry and found a school that worked with my schedule, allowed me to go at night while continuing to work, and study French-style pastry. From there my love for baking took off and while studying the business of food I began creating ideas for my own business. When my now husband got into school back here in Buffalo, the time was right for us to move back and in turn I decided it was also the right time to take a leap of faith, leave my job and start my business.

What are some of your favorite events and occasions to bake for?

I love creating dessert bars for weddings and showers / parties. My favorite thing to make are my French macarons. They are decadent and its fun to get creative with flavors!

What do you get the most requests for?

Mostly French macarons! I also have a lovely following at the East Aurora farmers market.

What is your favorite thing about living in WNY?

I love that we have seasons, living in California will make you appreciate that! And the cost of living is great for raising a family. I also love the people here!

A lot of us will be celebrating our little one’s first birthdays soon. How can we reach out to you to ask about ordering a cake?

Email me! alex@blueeyedbaker.net … I don’t work with fondant but can certainly create a cake, smash cake, or cupcakes for the celebration!

Thanks, Alex, for being our first Living Local featured business, and congrats on your growing family!

Free indoor activities for kids

We all know about winters in WNY, but this past summer we had to endure some record-breaking heat. Summers aren’t usually so sweltering, so a lot of us don’t have air conditioning. At my house, we spent a ton of time in our humpback whale cool (ahem, pool) and basement while I was on maternity leave, but we also got creative with free activities that you can do away from home. There are a lot of inside play spaces for babies and kids where we live, but it can get expensive quickly. Between borrowing AC in the summer, and battling out cabin fever in the winter, we have a pretty well-rounded list of free indoor activities for kids. I’ll save the ones you can do at home for another day, but here are some of my favorite things to do when you need to get out of the house on a budget:

Libraries

When I worked part-time, Lily and I went to the library once a week and we would sometimes stay for two hours. While the library in our old town didn’t have activities for under threes, it had an incredible children’s section. There was a big wooden dollhouse, complete with garage and wooden people, furniture (indoor and out), and car. There was a play food section with a shopping cart, a toy kitchen and table, few cozy reading areas, and hamsters. I haven’t spent much time in our new library because the girls go there twice a week (once with each grandma), but while it doesn’t have all of that fun stuff, it does have a ton of programming for kids. Most of it is for three and up, but there are often evening activities for families (so kids of all ages). The girls have been to a few, but I’ve only gone to one. There were monkeys, so I was over the moon.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble has various story and song areas for babies on up. They also have a train set and, of course, hundreds of books. We’ve gone there to do the stories and songs and then play, and other times we’ve just gone there to play. I recommend first heading straight for Starbucks, then over to the train set so your kid can play with the other kids and you can sit back and enjoy your latte.

 

barnes-and-noble

 

Pet Stores

One time I had planned to go to the Children’s Place with Lily in tow. Their website said they opened at 10, but they actually didn’t open until 11. Thankfully there was a PetSmart right next door. We spent the entire hour looking at different animals, watching the dogs in the dog area, and playing with doggie toys (because let’s face it, who can really tell the difference between them and baby toys).

The same mall our Barnes and Noble is in also has a cat adoption store! You used to be able to go in there and pet all the cats roaming around, but I heard they’ve stopped letting them out of their cages. Sad face.

Side note: I can’t stand our Children’s Place, and the customer service is terrible. I was at least 36 weeks pregnant with Maggie when I went there with Lily, because I figured (correctly) it would be my last real free weekend. No idea what I would have done if the pet store wasn’t next door, and the Children’s Place employees didn’t seem to care.

Grocery Stores

There was a day this past summer when it had been over 85 degrees inside our house, and between being hot and exhausted I almost passed out. I knew I had to get somewhere cooler, and that I also had to get groceries. So we headed to the grocery store, Lily hopped in one of those carts with the ride-in car on the front, and Maggie checked out all the lights and colors from her spot in the carrier. I did this a few more times over the summer with Lily, because those cars are basically a sure deal to get her to fall asleep.

asleep-cart

Side note, we had gone to the farmers market before Tops, and by the time we were done getting groceries we needed some lunch. I took the girls to Taste, because I had my mom’s stroller which Maggie tolerated when she was much littler. Lily and I had a long, lazy lunch. Then the rain came. It hadn’t rained in such a long time, that I hadn’t thought to check the forecast. The windows in my car were cracked quite a bit, the groceries were right under these windows, Maggie’s car seat was in the car, and I didn’t have an umbrella. When it started coming down in torrents, it took me a minute to realize that everything was going to be soaked. There wasn’t any point in rushing out to the car, since we were going to get soaked, too. We got drenched on the walk to the car, and Maggie’s bucket seat was full of water. I had to put her in it, and she didn’t even cry on the way home as the water sloshed around her. Chillest baby.

Fisher Price Store

We’re fortunate to live in the hometown of Fisher Price. Their store is chock full of every toy they have on the market, and is really spacious. Lily LOVES looking at all of the different toys, and pressing everything that makes sound. She’ll go up and down the aisles visiting her favorite toys over and over. They also have this room with ride-on cars, which are in huge boxes. The balls are also stored in this room, and she loves to throw them around and let them bounce off the boxes.

It might sound crazy to bring a toddler to a toy store, and I have to credit my MIL with establishing toy stores as an environment for play. She was the one who gave me the idea, as she used to bring Lily there while babysitting her. She does usually get Lily fruit snacks while they’re there, and I’ve occasionally gotten her a Little People (they were only $1 last time!), but Lily never expects for or asks for anything (at least when she’s with me). I also LOVE looking at all of the baby things. Kids’ toys don’t really change much, but there is always new baby gear out there. When I was little I used to pour over the baby section of the JC Penney catalog. It’s a good thing that our friends and siblings are starting to have kids because even if we have more, we probably won’t need any new gear (except a car seat, and I love researching car seats so the thought gets me excited).

Toy Loft

Yes, there are two toy stores in our town. Toy Loft is more high-end, and they carry a lot of Melissa and Doug. It’s my go-to for gifts, and between Lily’s classmates and our friend’s and family’s kids, I’m there more and more often. The best part is they have an area set up in the middle with Magna Tiles and a little toy house full of doll house people and Calico Critters, and a train set. We had to go there to get presents a few times this summer, and I always lingered so Lily could play and I could check out the books (and baby toys–again, I can’t get enough). It’s really tight in there, and you can’t usually get a side-by-side double stroller any further than the ramp. It’s also not ideal if your kid is in a really rambunctious mood. Bonus: they have a great bathroom.

Vidler’s

In case Fisher Price wasn’t enough to get East Aurora on the map, we also have Vidler’s. In the winter, the Christmas decoration section will keep any kid entertained for a while. They’re all in themed groups, so it makes it easy for kids to pretend play. Not that that’s what ornaments are intended for or anything, but they don’t seem to mind as long as you’re not breaking anything. There are a ton of toys upstairs and all manner of nooks and crannies to get lost in (cards! lunch boxes! books!), but the highlight is Sandy, the ancient mechanical rocking horse that’s only 10 cents per ride. They also have cheap popcorn, which can occupy a toddler for a good 20 minutes.

What are some of your favorite free indoor activities?