Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Enjoying Downtown

This past week the weather has been absolutely gorgeous and Ellie and I were lucky enough to have two fun outings in downtown St. Pete to enjoy it. I have to say, I love downtown St. Pete. It's walkable and charming, with great views of the Bay and tons of fun restaurants and shops in addition to the pretty parks and museums. If we were to live here permanently, I'd like to be close to that area so Ellie and I could spend our afternoons walking along the waterfront and enjoying the fun atmosphere, just like we used to do in Hoboken. Not having regular access to a car keeps us from doing that all the time now, but it's awfully nice to get down there when we have the opportunity.

Last Thursday, my dad got home from work just in time to catch Ellie and me (and Achilles) before we left for our evening walk. He suggested we head downtown for some gelato. Given that the weather was amazing and downtown sounded more fun than our usual loop around the neighborhood, off we went. We ended up enjoying ourselves so much that we stuck around for dinner al fresco at one of the restaurants along the waterfront. Ellie entertained herself with some bread, passing dogs, the cloth napkins (great for peek-a-boo, her favorite) and the holes in the table. It was a delightful evening for all of us.

Straub Park on a beautiful evening

Munching on some bread with her feet up

Almost-full moon showing itself as the evening wore on

On Saturday, Eric, Ellie and I went downtown to Progress Energy Field for the farmer's market held there each Saturday this time of year. Once again, the weather was perfect and we had a great time. As you know, I love a good street festival and the market gave me my fix for that. It was a lot of fun and we will definitely be back.

After the market, we decided to extend our outing (have I mentioned that the weather was gorgeous?) by walking down to the Pier for lunch at Cha Cha Coconuts, where Eric and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner. Eric had to run back to get something from the car first, so Ellie and I played in the grass while we waited for him.

Left: Passing time with some self-portraits; Right: happily plopped in the grass

Sharing leaves is her newfound passion.

Here, Daddy, have this leaf.

Closer inspection of the local flora

Then it was off to the Pier, where we watched the pelicans being fed before heading inside and upstairs for a lunch of our own.


Ellie hanging out with the pelicans

Ellie had a blast at lunch. It was really windy on the top deck of the Pier, and she loves the wind. She also loved munching on the bits of our lunch we gave her (a pickle in particular). It was definitely the most fun she has ever had at a restaurant.

Fun at lunch

It was a beautiful day and a lot of great quality family time. I can't say that it isn't nice to be able to get outside and enjoy days like this in February!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest

This past Saturday Eric, Ellie and I met up with Eric's brother Ronnie and his son Charlie to check out the Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest at Tropicana Field. You know by now that my husband is all about All Things Baseball, and the Rays are his team of choice, so we're excited to be local for some Rays baseball this year. Also, spring training! I've never been to a spring training game before but I'm excited to go this season.

Anyway, we met up at the Trop and made our way out onto the field to check out all the activities. Of course, the babies were too young to do much of anything, and we certainly weren't going to wait in the long player-autograph lines with the little ones in tow, so we mostly just wandered around and checked it all out. And that was just fine by us! (Although Ellie may have been a little disappointed to not have another opportunity to catch up with her BFF Evan Longoria. Next time, I'm sure!)

Crowds on the field for Fan Fest

Left: Heading out onto the field! Right: Eric and Ellie enjoying the event

With my baseball baby

Long-time ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons

With Eric, Ellie, Ronnie and Charlie!

We did sit Ellie down for a bit, to give her a chance to stretch her legs on the field.

She wasn't sure what to make of the turf at first, but ultimately decided it was a-okay. She looks like a natural on the baseball field!

We also took turns running around the bases with her.

There goes Eric with Ellie on his shoulders!

Ellie and I ran super fast, obviously.

We made it to home plate, hooray! (That is quite possibly a first for my athletically-challenged self.)

We also took a tour of the Rays clubhouse. We liked the players' chairs, and the disco ball near Longoria and Fuld's lockers.

Left: Ronnie and Charlie at the entrance to the clubhouse. Right: Ellie learns a valuable multi-lingual lesson about attitude.


Ellie in the clubhouse

After checking out the clubhouse we decided to head over to Ferg's to get some lunch - Charlie and Ellie's first restaurant outing together!

Babies who lunch!

Left: Ellie and Charlie on the table. Right: Ellie keeping herself entertained with a straw.

Ellie and Uncle Ronnie having lunch together

After lunch we decided the babies had enjoyed enough baseball fun and parted ways. I have to say, not only was Fan Fest a fun way to spend an afternoon, but the best part was hanging out with Ronnie and Charlie. It was nice to catch up with Ronnie some more and compare parenting stories, and Charlie is just getting cuter by the day. I love our nephew, and I can't wait for he and Ellie to become great friends as they grow up!

Left: Ronnie and Charlie playing games while waiting in the clubhouse line. Right: Charlie cuteness!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Florida State Fair

Last Sunday, Eric, Ellie and I went to the Florida State Fair with my mom and stepdad. It has been a very long time indeed since I have been to the fair, so it was nice to go again and to take Ellie. A good time was had by all!

Yay, fair!

Well, once we got there, that is. I don't know if the problem was that it was opening weekend or what, but traffic was brutal. My dad was working at the fair (his company has a spot in the Expo Hall), and my mom was meeting us there, and as we were heading that way I was getting text messages from both of them saying how bad the traffic was. In an effort to shave some time off our commute (which was only supposed to be 30 minutes, according to my iPhone), we got off an exit early and tried to circle the fairgrounds that way. BIG MISTAKE.

Traffic was still incredibly backed up as we made our way around, and it took us forever to get through every light and make every turn. When we finally came to the fairgrounds entrance on our left, hey, guess what? No left turns. We weren't allowed to turn in, so we had to continue on down the road about another mile, make a u-turn and then sit in more traffic (where we should have been in the first place, if we hadn't tried to be fancy) to get up to the entrance to the parking lot. Then, finding parking was a challenge. So what should have taken us 30 minutes ended up taking us two hours. Two hours! We should've just gone to Disney World - it would've been a shorter trip. Needless to say, as we sat in that traffic, I was missing public transportation hardcore. Sure, it gets really crowded too, but it still moves, and then you don't have to worry about parking. Driving is the worst.

Can someone please direct me to the subway?

But, we finally made it! By that time Ellie needed a diaper change and a little nursing, so we took care of her needs in our parking spot before heading in to the fair.

This girl is fair-ready.

We stopped to say hello to my dad and then found my mom to get the fun started. After having her strapped into the carseat for two hours, we carried Ellie for a while instead of putting her in the stroller, so we made sure to lather her with sunblock and properly outfit her for the sunny afternoon.

Look at us! We made it to the fair!

Grammy is somewhat happy to see Ellie, as always.

Sun-protected and stylish.

Let's do this thing!

Then we were finally on our way to Fair Fun. Our first stop? Bad eating! As I said, I haven't been to the fair since high school, which was quite a few moons ago. So my opportunities to try terrible fair food have been a bit limited. Thus, Eric and I were on a mission to try two things in particular: fried Oreos and a Krispy Kreme Burger. Within a very short walk, we successfully found both.

Deep Fried Treats. Yeah, buddy.

The fried Oreos were way better than I expected. Quite tasty, actually. I didn't expect the Oreo to be soft, but it was and it was delicious. We all tried an Oreo (except for Ellie, who looked on longingly) and I think we all reached the same conclusion. The final verdict? I'd totally eat it again.

Fried Oreos

Taking my first bite

Gary trying one, too!

Next up was the doughnut burger: a bacon cheeseburger sandwiched between two glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts. It was...weird. The flavors didn't mesh together well, so they just sort of kept circulating in your mouth. One second you'd taste burger, then the next it would be bacon, then onion, then the sweet doughnut, then the onion again, etc. It was odd. We ended up pulling it apart and eating the burger separately from the doughnuts. That was definitely the way to go. The final verdict on this one? Burger: delicious. Doughnuts: Delicious. Together: no.

Our Krispy Kreme burger

Left: Eric taking the first bite! Right: Letting our burger ride shotgun for a while.

We continued on from there to find some animals for Ellie to look at. We had great success and saw all sorts of critters: sheep, goats, cows, pigs, chickens, bunnies, etc. Ellie was mildly entertained by a hungry goat and got to pet (read: grab a fistful of fur) a bunny. Good times.

Oh, hi there. You're big.

Learning about cows

Hungry goat

Rather hungry goat

A fancy chicken (rooster? I don't know, I'm from Manhattan. A farm girl I am not.)


Get over here, bunny!

After the animal fun, we walked through the midway. We didn't ride anything, but just checked everything out, stopped for a quick game, and found a cinnamon sugar funnel cake topped with apples that was calling out to my mom and me.

Left: Gary also found a beer. Very important stuff. Right: Chowing down on some funnel cake with my mom

Rides and ice cream!

Midway in silhouette

Pretty evening roller-coaster

Ellie was far more interested in the sky ride than anything else at the fair (bunny fur included)

Our afternoon was winding down by that point, but I had a hankering for some alligator so we were on a hunt. Unfortunately, even though I thought I had seen booths offering gator snacks all over the place all day, when I was actually looking for it, there was nary a gator nugget to be found. Alas. So, we ended up just doing a bit more roaming and taking some more pictures.

Fun times at the fair with my baby girl!

Sunset at the fairgrounds

My loves

Ellie was getting pretty tired, so we decided to pack it in. We said goodbye to my mom and Gary, then stopped by my dad's booth for one more quick visit before heading home ourselves.

Ellie and Grandpa

Thankfully, our return trip went much smoother and we were home and putting poor, sleepy Ellie to bed in no time. It was a rather fun day!