Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Taste of Home

Big news, folks. Steak 'N Shake has come to New York City! I have Frisco Melts back in my life again! It's a miracle!

Steak 'N Shake is one of those places that Eric and I have always tried to hit when we visit Florida, because we missed Friscos and shakes in our lives up here. And aside from just enjoying the food, Steak 'N Shake has been a big part of our past. My very first job was as a waitress at Steak 'N Shake in St. Petersburg, FL - in fact, I started working at the Gateway Mall location right after it opened, when they still even had busboys. It was a good job for a 16-year-old kid, because I generally only worked a four-hour shift after school, and would usually walk out with $40-50 in tips. I don't think there are many places where a teenager can make $10+ an hour (and way back when in 1998, no less!), so I was pretty happy. And it was so nice to have that income, especially because the whole reason I got the job in the first place was so that I could afford to take my new boyfriend Eric as my date to my school's homecoming dance my junior year. You know, this homecoming dance:

Ah, two kids in love!

Eric lived very close to the Steak 'N Shake, and as our relationship progressed, he would often go for a run in the evenings (he did run track and cross-country in high school, you know) and would stop by the S'NS to visit with me briefly during my breaks. Awww, young love.

Eventually, Eric himself also got suckered into donning a little red bow tie and working at Steak 'N Shake with me. We worked well together, except when he would slack off on his sidework. Tsk, tsk! But he was a great server and the "who was better" question is still hotly debated to this day.

And it wasn't just the two of us - in fact, all of our siblings also worked at Steak 'N Shake at one point or another. We didn't all work at the same location, but we all got that lovely work experience. Not to mention, the crew was largely made up of others my age, so I had many friends work there, too.

My sister Heather and me "hard at work" in 2003

Even with having worked there (all through high school and college, in my case), we also frequented Steak 'N Shake quite a bit just for the food. It was a popular place to stop during a night out with friends, particularly for breakfast at 3:00 a.m. after a night of hitting the clubs in Ybor. There's just nothing like some Steak 'N Shake hash browns in the middle of the night, am I right?

Given all this steakburger history, I was pretty psyched when I heard that Steak 'N Shake was coming to the Big Apple. Naturally, it is located just blocks from our former NYC apartment (because it would come to our neighborhood after we leave), right next to the Letterman show. It is actually a "Steak 'N Shake Signature," meaning 1) no red bow ties, 2) limited menu, 3) limited seating, and 4) they serve beer and wine! When they first opened, they gave away free S'NS for a year to the first 150 people in line - and people camped out for days, even those who had never before tasted S'NS food. New Yorkers are crazy, man.

The New York City Steak 'N Shake

Yesterday, Eric and I had lunch together and finally checked out this fine establishment for ourselves. Although it opened weeks ago and is located only a few blocks from our offices, we have put off our visit thanks to long lines and wait times just to get in. We didn't have too long to wait for lunch, and we were excited to check it out.

These S'NS workers get to wear snazzy red and black polo shirts, not the red bow ties and black aprons of my day

Yay, steakburgers!

Ah, there's that logo I know and love. "In sight it must be right!"

The food was all just as we hoped. We each got a Frisco Melt (my all-time favorite) with fries (and a side of cheese sauce for the fries, of course), and a milkshake (mint cookies and cream for me). Everything tasted authentic, and perhaps even better than the Florida S'NS we're used to. We were quite pleased!

Now it is so nice to have a new lunch option for the work week, that is also both a taste of home and a trip down memory lane!

Are you a Steak 'N Shake fan? What's your favorite S'NS order?

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Rest of the Shower Weekend

(Holy uninspired title, batman. My apologies.)

Hanging out with my sister in Florida last weekend! 
(Photo courtesy of my friend Kristina!)

So today is Friday and I'm just now getting around to recapping the rest of my Florida visit last weekend. This has been one crazy week. Eric and I have a ton of stuff going on right now, and lots to figure out life-wise (baby stuff, apartment stuff, etc.) so it feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day. But hey, it will all work out, right?

Anyway, I thought I should recap the rest of my wonderful Florida trip. My flight down there last Friday was very smooth, with the exception of a super-crowded subway ride to the airport. I do have to share this story, just because I have been giving the men of NYC such grief about being selfish jerks who won't give pregnant women a seat on the subway. On Friday, the train to the airport was so packed not only did I realize there was no chance I would get a seat, I was even afraid I wouldn't be able to get on at all with my big ol' suitcase. But, I managed to squeeze in and rode standing in front of the doors for a few stops. Then, a man standing next to me said, "excuse me, would you like to sit down?" I said, "well, yes," but thinking "you're standing too, so what are you offering me here?" He then said, "no problem" and went right over to another man sitting at the end of the row of seats and said to him, "excuse me, she's pregnant, would you offer her your seat?" Naturally, the seated man got up, because what do you say to that, and I was floored. Such chivalry! Not only did this man notice a poor pregnant lady with a suitcase standing on the crowded train and take pity on her, but he went out of his way to ensure that she was taken care of. And I won't lie, I was very happy to have that seat for the 45-minute trip. He may have single-handedly redeemed all NYC men in my eyes. So, thank you to that kind stranger! You made my day.

My sister picked me up at the airport in Tampa on Friday night and we went back to my dad's house, where we went to bed pretty quickly. On Saturday morning we got up and started shower prep right away, and then it was shower time, but hey, I've already told you all about that.

After the shower Molly helped me organize all the lovely gifts Baby Girl received while Mom and Aunt Debbie handled the clean-up in the kitchen. Heather was singing a gig that night, so she had to take off right away. Then Mom, Debbie, Molly and I went out to a tasty (albeit slowly-served) dinner at Chili's. After dinner, we bid farewell to the moms and went back to my dad's house, where Molly and I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning just chatting, largely about babies. Who knew two preggos could be such party animals?!

Sunday morning, Heather came back over to hang out with Molly and me until it was time to take Molly to the airport that afternoon. Boohoo, it was over so quickly! But I'm so glad Molly could make it to the shower - thanks for coming, cousin!

After dropping Molly off, Heather and I went over to my friend Kristina's house because, upon hearing that I did not plan to have maternity photos taken, she very kindly offered to snap a few for me if I had some time. So, I took her up on that offer. It was great to have a little extra time to hang out with her, plus we got to see her husband, two sweet little children and her cute animals. Her little girl thought that my sister was a real life princess and greeted us in full princess-wear herself, which was about the sweetest thing ever. Kristina, your kids are such cuties!

In addition to hanging out with her beautiful family, we had a lot of fun snapping some pictures around her home and neighborhood. Thanks so much, Kristina!

Just me and my basketball

Yup, I'm round.

Baby belly silhouette!

Pregnant lady hanging out under a bridge

You can see a few more of my pictures on Kristina's Facebook page here, if you're interested!

After my photoshoot, Heather, my dad and I went out to a lovely dinner then back to my dad's house for a bit. Heather left a short while later, and I hung out with my dad watching football until I just couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. Then it was off to bed for a few hours before catching my early morning flight back to the Big Apple.

Meanwhile, Eric was back in NYC dealing with the dog and the snow:

Hates it.
(Don't worry, I did yell at Eric for taking the dog out in the snow without a coat. Tsk, tsk!)

Of course, after a morning like that, all Achilles wants to do is snuggle:

Poor pup trying to get warm

Pet me, please.

And, you know, occasionally get into mischief:

Eric ran an errand and came back to find the dog on the kitchen counter. You know, the usual.

Also, while I was gone, Eric was left to his own devices and seized the opportunity to have his giant remote-controlled inflatable shark filled with helium so he could play with it.

Shark flying around our living room

VIDEO: Shark in our living room

I will admit, it's pretty cool. But does anyone have one of these and know when they finally deflate? That thing is still going strong and it's not exactly an easily kept out-of-the-way kind of toy. But hey, it makes my husband happy. I'm sure it's only the first of many in-the-way toys to find their way into our household, am I right?

So that was our weekend, both in FL and NYC! This weekend promises to be much quieter - errands, maybe a movie, maybe some cleaning. We're really living on the edge!

Enjoy your weekend, friends!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Shower for Baby Girl

I'm back in NYC now after a glorious weekend in Florida. Really, it was perfect. For one thing, the weather was divine. I mean, we're talking high 70s and sunny. Meanwhile, New York got a few inches of snow, our first accumulation since October. Did I time this trip well or what? Not only was the weather absolutely perfect, but I had such a fantastic time visiting with so many loved ones. 

The baby shower was the entire reason for this trip, of course, and it was wonderful. My sister Heather and cousin Molly were the official hostesses, and they outdid themselves. My mom and Aunt Debbie also did quite a bit to help out, and my college roommate Kristina offered to do the adorable favors. My dad was an all-star, too, and allowed us to use his home as the venue and took care of chair rental, cleaning, and I'm sure other things I don't even know about. Having so many wonderful people come together to plan such a great day for my daughter and me is really heartwarming - almost too much for a hormonal pregnant lady to take!

(Here we go - brace yourselves for lots of pictures!)

Molly and Aunt Debbie arrived at my dad's house around noon on Saturday to get things set up, and my mom was not too far behind. Everybody got right to work!

Can somebody please help my poor sister hang this banner?!

My dad soon arrived back after picking up my grandmother, so I spent some time chatting with her. She is 90 years old now and was so excited about this shower! It was so sweet to see. I was so glad she could be there, and I'm glad she had such a good time!

Pre-shower visiting with Grandma

After catching up with Grandma I went out into the kitchen to check on the progress. Everything was looking fabulous! For food, we had sandwich, fruit and veggie platters, plus peanut butter candy balls and cupcakes. To drink, the main feature was the Rubber Ducky Punch, which was adorable - even after all the little duckies did nosedives and went down face first into the punch. Ha! The decorations were all pink and lavender, and pictures of baby me, pregnant me, Baby Girl and even our "Morph Thing" picture of what a hypothetical future child of Eric and me would look like were hung on the walls. In the kitchen they also had two activities set up: wish cards for people to fill out for Baby Girl, and wooden blocks for people to decorate. In the living room, chairs were set up in a circle for game/gift time, complete with the adorable votive favors Kristina brought.

Heather modeling the lovely table setup

Duck Punch!

Yummy cupcakes

Peanut butter candy balls, rolled in a variety of different toppings

Cute favors Kristina put together!

As guests arrived, they helped themselves to food and drink and got started on the blocks and wish cards. The wish cards had a series of "fill in the blank" questions, such as "I hope you learn____," "I hope you become____," etc. I just loved reading them after the shower! Then, to decorate the wooden blocks, Molly had cut out a bunch of adhesive scrapbook squares and people used those along with stickers and markers to make a very cool block set for Baby. Again, I loved looking at all the blocks after the shower! What a cool keepsake, right?

Heather, Aunt Debbie and my mom starting on the wish cards and blocks

As everyone arrived, Eric was also hanging out on Skype to say hello to people. And remember that inflatable remote-controlled shark I bought him for Christmas? He had it set up and flying around in the background while Skyping. So, we all got a glimpse into the wild life he leads when I'm out of town. Ha!

Eric on Skype, with the shark flying around to his right and Achilles (probably being rather nervous) on the couch to his left

When everyone had eaten some food and done their blocks/cards, we moved into the living room for games and gifts. The game was a matching game, in which you had to match up words having to do with babies/giving birth with names of candy. Some examples: Mike & Ike = Boy Names, Lifesavers = Epidural, Raisinettes=Baby Poop. It was pretty cute, and my grandmother was adorable as she said the answers aloud as she figured them out!

Game time! (L to R: Grandma, Mom, Stephanie, Gramz & Toni)

Aunt Debbie commandeered Kristina's little baby Lena to help her with the game!

Heather gives this shower a thumbs up so far, and I agree!

Aunt Debbie, Lena and Grandma discussing answers for the game

After the games, it was gift time. Let me just say that I have been absolutely blown away by the generosity of our family and friends. Even people who weren't able to make it to the shower have been sending us incredible gifts, and those at the shower did just the same. Honestly, Baby Girl will want for nothing and I am so incredibly humbled and touched at the kindness of our loved ones in helping us prepare for her arrival. Once again, it just warms this hormonal pregnant lady's heart to see how loved our little girl is already. It is just incredible. So, here's a big THANK YOU to everyone! You all have no idea what your thoughtfulness means to me.

Time for some gifts!

Monkey on the butt. It's my weakness. (Also, I hope Baby Girl likes pink, because probably about 95% of her wardrobe is pink!)

This is my family baptism gown. My mom brought it for me from Cleveland after Christmas. This baptism gown is probably over 60 years old, and was worn by my mom and all her siblings, as well as by me, my sister and our cousins. I am so thrilled that now Baby will get to wear it and add another generation to the tradition!

Some sports wear: Gator shoes from my Grandma, and a Rays dress from my dad!

Aunt Patty, Kristina, Debbie (and Lena) and Grandma looking on during the gift-opening

Two more of my favorite women: Gramz and Toni. I'm so glad Eric's family came, too!

My high school friend Fran, and her sweet daughter Hailey

Cousin Molly sporting a cute baby bump herself, and my sister modeling Baby Girl's new shades

After the gifts, things started to wind down. I did as much visiting as I could before people left, and tried to get lots of pictures with my guests.

With my friend Fran, her baby and her mom

Another high school friend, Cathy, whose baby girl is due one day after mine!

A couple of very fun ladies, Kristina and Lauren

My college roommate Kristina and her adorable little girl, who I have decided will definitely be MY baby girl's college roommate in 18 years! Look out, Florida!

Another shot with Grandma

And of course, we had to do a shower hostess photo shoot:

My mom, my sister, me, my cousin and my aunt

Baby's Auntie Heather!

With my mom and my sister (and Heather's giant heels)

The Cousins Club!

And, just in case you thought things couldn't have been any more perfect, I will also throw it out there that thanks to Molly's suitcase-packing expertise (seriously, the woman is a packing genius), all of the shower gifts fit neatly into my one checked back for my return flight. Perfection, indeed!

Thanks again to everyone who helped make my shower such a wonderful occasion - my hostesses, all those who helped out, and everyone who came. I loved every second of it, and I love you all!

Friday, January 20, 2012

30 Weeks

Time for another little pregnancy update! If you're not a pregnancy update kind of person, don't worry, it will all be over soon. (Ack!) Of course, then you'll be stuck with updates about my kid instead, but that's okay, because she's going to be awesome so I'm sure you'll love it.

As I mentioned early this week, I hit the 30-week mark on Tuesday. Thirty! That number starts with a three! That means the end is really getting near, my friends. Only 10 more weeks to go. Here's how I'm looking these days:

Me at 30 weeks

Because I did a belly progress comparison at 20 weeks, I figured I may as well do it again at 30 weeks. So here's how things change over the course of 10 weeks:

In the first two pictures, I was wearing the same shirt to give a better comparison. This time around I am clearly wearing something different, and for rather obvious reasons. I just don't think that poor black turtleneck was up to this challenge. It was already giving its all at 20 weeks, the poor thing!

Looking at those pictures is crazy to me. Even crazier is trying to imagine what I'm going to look like in another 10 weeks. Where is this giant baby going to go?

Speaking of the giant baby, I did speak to my doctor this week about the results of our last ultrasound, as well as the fetal echocardiogram we had done to check on her heart. The doctor was very pleased that her heart looked perfect and her kidneys were no longer "plump," although she did mention that now it appears the baby is "plump" as a whole. She didn't seem concerned, and even told us that the follow-up ultrasound the tech had recommended for next week (to once again check Baby Girl's size) just isn't necessary. I'll have another ultrasound at 38 weeks to check both size and position (as of now, Baby Girl is head down), so there is no point in figuring out her size at 33 weeks, too - all that can do is add stress and worry, but it won't change our course of action for the rest of the pregnancy. She measured my belly and said her feeling now is that although Baby Girl may be born slightly large (8 lbs, perhaps), she doesn't think I'm in danger of ending up with a 10-pounder or anything. PHEW. She also didn't seem at all interested in talking about inducing before the due date because of baby's size, or defaulting to a cesarean section, or those sorts of things, which were things I had been worried about. So that was a relief.

I do think Baby Girl is doing her best to burn off those calories and slim down, though. She moves ALL THE TIME. I mean, she gets violent. My whole belly moves and sometimes it's fairly uncomfortable. She still does love to nestle into my ribs, and lately she has also discovered the fun of kicking my bladder. I'm glad she's entertaining herself, at least.

I have also decided that she is a Darren Criss fan. One of the first times I felt her move (not the first, but probably the second or third), I was listening to The Warblers' version of "Teenage Dream." Then, she just loved How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying this week. She was jumping and jiving through the whole thing. And if I tried to rest my hands or my arms on my belly at all, she would start kicking my offending body part right away. I like to imagine she was saying, "Mom, get off! You're muffling the sound! I can't hear Darren!" I hear ya, Baby Girl. My apologies.

In other news, two men have offered me seats on the train since my last update about that sort of thing! Maybe chivalry isn't completely dead after all?

I have also started to get lots more comments about my belly - people seem to feel comfortable asking me about it now, which is good, I suppose. Nobody likes to be in that "is she really pregnant or just fat" stage, so it's nice to know I have passed that. Although I did have the pleasure of being told by a woman in my office that I am "so much bigger" than her daughter-in-law who is pregnant with twins and due around the same time as me, which really is something every woman wants to hear, don't you think? I also officially had my first totally awkward belly touch (by a man in my office building) the other day. However, I have become a big fan of the evening concierge in the lobby of my office building, who asks me how I'm feeling every day and tells me I look beautiful regularly. Bless him.

We still don't have her full name decided. That is stressing me out.

I'm no longer seeing the doctor every month - now I've moved up in the world and will be going every two weeks. It was also strange to hear the doctor at this week's appointment start talking to me about keeping an eye out for labor pains. Wait, already?

I think that's about all the pregnancy thoughts currently jumbled around in my brain, except for the fact that I will be heading to Florida tonight for my baby shower tomorrow. I'm so excited to get down there to some warmer temperatures, and of course, to spend the weekend with so many of my favorite people. It's going to be fabulous!

Have a great weekend, everyone!