Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bacon Mushroom & Swiss Pizza

Last fall The Hubs & I took a trip down to Eureka Springs before the baby arrived.  We ordered a Mushroom & Swiss Cheeseburger Pizza at the Skybar (located at the top of the beautiful & reportedly haunted Crescent Hotel).  It was....okay.  Super cheesy, but lacking some depth of flavor that would have really made it taste like a Mushroom & Swiss Burger.  So, we decided we'd see if we could top it.
And this was our result.  Pretty darn tasty (though if I make it again, I'll use more cheese).

1 cup brown gravy (preferably made from Tony Chachere's Brown Gravy Mix)
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp smoked salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
1-2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1/2 medium onion, sliced into rings
2 cups smoked Swiss, shredded (note:  Swiss melts somewhat translucent, so feel free to add in some mozzarella to maintain that uber-cheesy pizza look)
2 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
1 pre-made crust (we did thin crust, you can opt for hand tossed if you prefer)

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef along with the Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic, steak seasoning, and yellow mustard (you can use ground mustard if you prefer--I was just out at the time).  These seasonings are intended to help your ground beef element taste as "burger-like" as possible.  If you have some other seasonings that you prefer to season your burgers with, by all means use those instead--it's all about tricking YOUR palate into thinking "Ooh, cheeseburger!"  The mustard plays a big role in that, so don't leave it out.  As they say on Food Network: "taste your food".  Season it until it tastes like a tasty burger that you would enjoy eating...then you're done.

When the ground beef is cooked through, use a slotted spoon or spatula to spoon it out & place in a bowl.  Then use the drippings that remain in the pan to saute the mushrooms & onions.  Cook until the onions are nice & caramelized.

Now it's time to assemble your pizza.  Preheat the oven according to your crust's instructions (for us it was 425F), and spread the gravy onto the crust.  Then add the ground beef, mushrooms, and onions.   Cover generously with cheese (all the way to the edges, peeps!!!) and cook according to the instructions that come with your crust (since the thin crusts are pre-cooked, that was like 7-9 minutes for us, but a hand tossed crust is going to take longer).

Once baked, let it cool for a bit (this time helps allow the cheese to "glue" the toppings in place before slicing), then slice and devour.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Adventures in Parenting: Life as a Working Mom

I've been back to work for a few weeks now...I decided to "ease" back into things by working from home two days a week and then at the office the other three.  I'm not sure if this was for my benefit or the baby's, but I'd guess it's mutually beneficial.  Since that time, I've learned a few things:

1. "Mom Brain" is real.  One day, I left the door to the chest freezer in our garage open for about half an hour--my husband walked out there and noticed it, which is the only reason we didn't lose everything in our freezer.  Why did I do it?  Because I'd walked back inside, planning to grab the stacks of frozen breastmilk from our fridge/freezer and transfer them out to the chest freezer...but got distracted and started flipping through the sale ads on the kitchen table.  Or how about when I based part of my menu plan for the week around a head of cabbage that I only THOUGHT I bought? Or there was the day I put my pump parts (inside a sterilization bag) in the work microwave, pressed "Start", walked back to my desk...and then completely forgot about them until 7pm that night when I was home telling my husband about my day.  Then there's the time I planned to restock the diaper bag, and got distracted & instead put my son's newborn shadow box together.
To be fair, I still technically accomplished SOMETHING...

2.  Showers are GLORIOUS.  I don't think I ever fully appreciated the wonder that is the privacy of my bathroom until I had a child.  I generally wait to take a shower until The Hubs is watching the baby or I know he's sleeping (and Dad is also home).  Originally this was because I was afraid of the baby dying crying while I was showering.  Now it's for one reason:  if I know my husband is taking care of the baby, I don't have to think about the baby in the shower.  So I am 100% alone and free as a bird.  I don't have to rush through my shower---this is MY time*.  I can shampoo, wash my face, leave the conditioner in the actual amount of time it says to on the bottle, shave, use body wash AND in-shower lotion, listen to some music or an audiobook, and think about ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE BABY.  I am aware from talking with other moms that once the child is mobile, I will never be alone in the bathroom again, so I am treasuring this as long as I can.

*I also save grocery trips for when Dad is home, so that I can get some alone time shopping.  I know this won't last forever either, that some day I will have a grabby-pants little man who wants to ride in the cart and pull things off the shelves and throw temper tantrums when he can't get Fruit By The Foot.  So for now, WalMart & Aldi's, in all their infamous awfulness, are my sanctuaries.

3.  Going from "all day with the baby" to "2-3 hours with the baby" is HARD.  Lord knows every mom goes through bouts of Mom Guilt all the time, for various reasons.  This is one of them.  For the last 3 months, my day centered around the baby:  keeping him alive, keeping a routine, making sure he naps, trying to get in tummy time/play time/bath time/reading time/etc.  

Then, you go back to work.  I get up an hour before we have to leave, change him, feed him, and then pass him off to Dad while I get ready for work.  Then we have some minimal interaction during the 30 minute drive to the sitter's house via mirrors, then there's some hugs and kisses and smiles as I hand him off to our sitter...and then 8-9 hours later, there's some brief cuddle time while his sitter tells me about his day, then he's back in the carseat where he usually falls asleep on the way home...then we're home, I feed him, he sits on our laps as we eat our dinner, then he (hopefully) takes another catnap, we have about an hour of play/tummy time, and then it's bedtime.

To go from constant interaction with my son, to almost no interaction...kinda hurts.  I completely understand why some moms end up deciding not to work after the kiddo comes--not just for financial reasons.  Once I go back to the office full time, my son will be officially spending more time with someone else than he does with me.  That's a little hard to deal with.  I'm rational enough to know that eventually, that will be the case throughout his life--no different from when he goes to school in 4-5 years, or goes off to college, gets married, has a family of his own.  He was never designed to spend every waking moment with me.  But I GET the Mom Guilt of Letting Someone Else Raise Your Child.

4.  Working at home with a baby is ALSO HARD.  At this age, he's really only awake for 1.5-2 hour chunks at a time, with (hopefully) couple hour naps between.  And he's starting to be able to entertain himself for periods of time.  But working from home is essentially like juggling chainsaws.  You know what you need to accomplish in that day.  But you're really only going to be working in spurts.  Once he wakes, then he needs to be fed (15 minutes), and changed (5 minutes) and entertained for a while (20 minutes).  Then if you're lucky you can put him in a safe spot with some toys and work for 20-30 minutes.  Then he starts to fuss because he's bored, so you move him to a new activity which might buy you another 15-20 minutes.  Then it's naptime again, so you've got to get him to his favorite napping place BEFORE he gets too fussy and fights sleep.

And then there are the times that he only takes short crappy naps, and then falls asleep on you while you just let him sleep there on your lap because working later is easier than dealing with a cranky baby (and because you like to hold him and stare at him while his tiny hand is grasping your finger, and you can't do that when you're at the office tomorrow).  And throw in trying to get a couple things done around the house (dishes, laundry, pumping)...and your day is gone before you know it and you only got half of the things that you'd wanted to do accomplished.  But hey--the baby got his naps, and that's the important part for your sanity.

It's a good thing I can do a lot of work on my phone.

5. Working at home with a baby is ALSO AWESOME.  Because when you only see him for a few hours on office days, getting to see him any time you want is so nice.  He's my worthless little office assistant.  Horrible at taking calls, returning emails, or running errands, and constantly distracting me...but doggonnit he's cute.
"Uhh, hang on...I'm gonna have to call you back.  My boss wants something."

 6.  Be prepared for long lost family members to drop in unexpectedly.  I am, of course, referring to Aunt Flo.  I, like so many women before me, was told that your cycle goes away until you stop nursing.  BULLCRAP.  Much like ye olde "you can't get pregnant while nursing", this is an urban legend/old wive's tale.  She will stop by when you least expect it, and of COURSE you don't have tampons at the house because you haven't needed them in over a year.  If you're lucky, you still have some of the ginormous pads they gave you at the hospital--if not, hopefully you also bought some incontinence pads/undies back when you were still post-partum.  So then you can put your diaper on and waddle your butt to WallyWorld, and try to remember what brand you liked pre-baby.

7. Milk Blisters, Blebs, & Plugged Ducts:  These suck.  Nuff said.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Adventures in Parenting: 3 Month Mark

We made it!  Three months down and we haven't killed him (accidentally OR maliciously) yet! I mean, sure, the dog has scratched him a couple times...and he's got a slight flat spot on his head (because "Back Is Best")...and the occasional snotty nose...but he's ALIVE!  We haven't dropped him or anything! 
"Thanks for not killing me, mom!"

 I've started back to work (a couple days a week from home and then at the office the rest of the time), he will (grudgingly) take a bottle if he's starving, and I can actually carry him one handed now.  He hates tummy time about 50% of the time, but he's got great neck control, and can sit up in the Bumbo seat for about 10-15 minutes once or twice a day.  He's also discovered the TV.  We try to avoid letting him watch it much...but it's pretty mesmerizing.
You can probably guess where our TV is based on this photo.  So casual...

So I guess that means it's time for another edition of Things We've Learned About Not Killing Raising a Tiny Human:

1. Babies love Christmas trees.  I mean...most people love Christmas trees, but babies in particular. I'm glad our little man is small enough that he's not trying to get IN the tree yet--next year may be interesting.  But he loves to stare at the tree, so I slow down when we walk past it (because I love looking at the reflection of the lights in his eyes), and he gazes up at it from his swing, and I can lay him on a blanket below it and that keeps him occupied for 20 minutes or so.

2. Prepping to go back to work is weird.  You mean I'm going to have to actually think about my projects again, rather than Googling "tortle cap" and "newborn shadow box ideas"?  Now, I have to prep a bag full of stuff to take to day care, and a bag full of my pumping equipment, make notes to myself like "don't forget milk for the baby" and "don't forget the ice packs in the freezer" and "don't forget to shower" (kidding on that last one...sort of).  Picking out work clothes & packing my lunch the night before so I have less to think about in the morning...

...while also realizing that for once, I'm not the one who has to worry about whether he takes his naps.  Granted, yes...I will be at work, still worrying about whether he's napping and whether he took a bottle, and wondering WHICH bottle he took (since we sent 3 kinds)...but I don't have to.  We are paying someone else (a fair chunk of change) to worry about that for us.  It feels dismissive and like I'm a bad parent to think about it that way, but it's true--that's what child care is for.  You hand over your precious little babbin to someone else so that you can think about your work (because that's your job) and they can think about your baby (because that's THEIR job).'s not easy.  Especially when YOUR job for the last 3 months WAS thinking about the baby, and pretty much only the baby, 24/7.  And you'll still always be thinking about the baby.  But hopefully you'll eventually stop WORRYING about the baby.

3. Your Baby will inevitably screw up his sleep schedule when you have to work the next day.  I can be as prepared as I want. I can pre-pack my lunch and breakfast & have it ready in the fridge, I can already have his diaper bag, my pumping bag, and my briefcase loaded in the car. I can already have his carseat pulled out & ready to be loaded. I can have a timer set on the coffee maker. I can shower the night before, lay out my clothes the night before...but I have NO control over when he will wake up to eat.

My child has a pretty standard routine: He goes to bed between 8:30-9p.  I go to bed around 10:30p.  He wakes sometime between 3-5a to feed, and then naturally wakes up around 7-7:30a. 

So the plan goes:  My alarm goes off at 6:45am--a quiet one that only I can hear.  I get dressed, brush teeth & hair and spackle some makeup on my face, and then at 7-ish, get him up, change him, feed him, then let him play with Daddy for about 30 minutes to let his food settle and let Nature call so we can change him again before loading him into the carseat and whisking off to the sitter.

In Practice?  Well:  My first day back, he went to bed at 9p ...and woke at 5:30am instead.  Meaning by the time he finished eating and drifted back off to sleep, I got a whopping 45 minutes to lay back down and attempt to take a nap.

Last night, he was fussy from a too-short evening nap, so we put him to bed a little early (8:30p)...he woke at 2am to feed...and then AGAIN with the 5:30am.  *le sigh*

More than likely he's going through a growth spurt, but all the same...DUDE.  Can't you have your growth spurt on the nights before Mommy works from home?

4.  A crying baby is less scary.  And sometimes actually amusing, now that he likes to "talk" while he whines.  I take offense to the fact that sometimes when he's hungry I distinctly hear the word "moo" in his gibberish.  But where his cries used to make me anxious before they even happened (because I was just terrified of "WHAT IF HE CRIES"), now I know: we will both survive the cry.  Even if it happens in a car when we're 30 minutes from home, or when he's strapped to my chest and we're trapped on a 20 minute train ride...or if I accidentally scare him by blowing my nose while he's trying to eat (yes, it happened).  Yes, there are still times when he's truly wailing and I can't figure out what to do and it breaks my heart...but those moments are fewer and in general, if he's crying, we can figure it out together, and fix it in a few minutes of trial & error.

5.  Traveling with a baby is less scary.  When we were prepping to travel up to our parents' homes for Thanksgiving, I was so anxious, not knowing if he would sleep in the car, or sleep in his Pack 'n Play, or throw tantrums every 5 minutes...  But now that we have that trip under our belt, we know: yes, he will sleep for 2 hours in a car.  Yes, he will sleep in his Pack 'n Play (though not as well as he does his crib).  And we're better at cutting off fussing before it starts, so we can deal with it if he gets a little agitated.  

We decided to take a little overnight trip to Eureka Springs to see the Christmas lights & get out of town for a bit.  Lil' Man slept the whole way there & back, he played quietly in his carseat while we sampled a few beers at our favorite watering hole, and then when he started fussing, we were able to rock him to sleep.  We even went to a nice sit-down dinner, where he was AWAKE the entire time, and he stayed content until the last five minutes when he decided it was HIS turn for dinner.  Bedtime was another story--our room was unusually hot which I think was a contributing factor, but instead of his usual waking at 4am to feed, he woke at 12:30am, and 4am, and 6:30am.  It was rough on me, but I survived.  Otherwise the trip was pretty uneventful.  Granted--we were back in our hotel room by 8:30pm, where we usually would go bar-hopping or something more interesting, but such is life with a baby.  Someday, our little man will be on bottles all the time and we can leave him overnight and just take a trip by ourselves.
Just chillin' at the hotel, motel, Holiday Innnnn... ( was a Comfort Inn.  Whatevs. I don't get to quote Rapper's Delight every day.)

6.  Fewer overnight feedings make it hard to get through my Amazon Watchlist.  When I was up nursing every 2 hours, I zoomed through Treme in just a few weeks, 20 minutes at a time.  But now that our Lil' Man only wakes up once (maybe twice if he's a little off his game) and only takes 10-15 minutes to nurse, it takes me a couple days to finish one episode.  This is not exactly a complaint...just an observation. :)

7.  Little Milestones are Awesome. And really, they're sorta what make it all worth it.  We get smiles all the time now.  He can hold his head up really well--and now that he's realized he can sit up (with assistance), he wants to do it ALL.THE.TIME (meaning he fusses when we try to lay him down somewhere other than the floor).  He loves to grab things, so all those toys we were given can actually get use now.  We haven't gotten an official laugh yet, but we do get adorable squeals sometimes.
This toy is called a Winkel.  And yes, I giggle like a middle school boy every time I ask my son if he wants to "play with his Winkel".

8. Bath Time is still traumatic.  And takes both Mom & Dad to accomplish.  I'm not sure if he hates being naked, or if the room just isn't quite warm enough for him, but we've checked the water temp, and I hold him in his tub so he feels supported & secure...but he screams the WHOLE TIME and the ordeal ends with him wrapped in a big fluffy blanket staring up at me like "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT???".  One of these days, I'm hoping it somehow clicks: "hey...this water stuff isn't so bad...look, I can splash and kick and get my parents wet!  Hahahah!!!"  ...but it hasn't happened yet.

9. Pumping at work is a pain.  I'm sure it will get easier to coordinate once it's part of my routine, like getting coffee from the breakroom, but right now, it's a weird hassle.  I have a large cubicle--yes, it has a door, but it also has a giant window and no ceiling, meaning all of office mates would be able to hear my pump (which sorta screams "HELLO FELLOW OFFICE PEEPS, I AM MAKING MILK!!!", and I consider that a distraction).  Our main bathroom doesn't have any convenient outlets for plugging the pump in.  So the most ideal place is this small bathroom that's inside our conference room.  There's a nice chair in there for chilling, there's a sink for rinsing pump parts...however, it's INSIDE the conference room, meaning if someone is using the conference room, I have to wait...and wait...and wait.  Because it's a little rude for me to interrupt say, an interview with a potential new employee: *knock knock* "Oh hey--can I come in and milk myself?  Thanks!"

But, the hassle is worth it for now.  And as the Evenflo storage bags tell me:

Previous Adventures:
Birth Story
3 Weeks
Month 1
6 Weeks
Month 2
Mom Guilt Edition
Working Mom Edition
Things That Suck
Traveling For The Holidays
Living In The Moment