Friday, April 19, 2013

Un Año

This year has flown by with a speed that is unparalleled in my previous life. I recently made a post on Facebook about measuring one year through the many emotions of first time parents. It's a scary, magnificent, draining, daunting, explosion of emotions. That is what parenting this year has been, an explosion of emotions. It is to feel uncertainty in every single moment. The uncertainty may reflect differing topics from moment to moment but it always there.

"Is the water to cold? Too hot? Does he have a fever? Am I giving him too much attention? Not enough?? Are we establishing good boundaries? What is in that yogurt?? Will he be Mexican enough? Jamaican enough? American enough? How much sugar is too much sugar? Is he being read to enough? What IS enough? What if he falls? Is that poop?"

The ramblings of uncertainty are unceasing, and they are loud, and often times they come without provocation. The blessing is that amongst the uncertainty is the most beautiful song. It is life magnified.

I am forever grateful for my partner in life. Together we have experienced the world with brand new eyes, an empty slate of wonder and amusement. He is the epitome of fatherhood and it makes my heart explode to see them together. This honorable man of ours shares all of his values and morals, and love so effortlessly.

How do you measure time? How do you measure love? How do you color your world? With laughter? With adventure? Whatever you do, I hope it is worth it - in every sense of the word. I hope your life is worth it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

we will not negotiate with terrorists

That is our new mantra around the house. As I recently noted The Tyrant is here to stay but Hopefully we can temper his blow, because right now it is mighty.

Howie has learned to arch his back and throw himself with wild abandon into the unknown. Sometimes there is a warning first like a squishy nose, narrowed eyes, or maybe a call of frustration. Instead of giving me small queues to let me know he is sleepy and ready to nurse he now goes from happy and content baby to full on "I'm going to die if I don't get my milk RIGHT NOW" in like one second. Sometimes he isn't even hungry or tired he just doesn't want his boogers wiped or his diaper changed. I can dig it kid. I hate doing things too. I like to throw a good tantrum. Apparently it's no longer socially acceptable for me to do that, but in my miiiiind I still want to.

When he first started these tantrums we feared the obvious - does he have gas? Is he in pain? What if he is teething? Is it another ear infection? How do I take away my sweet loves pain? I think B and I both remember how painful it was to watch Howie when we were dealing with his acid reflux and that it has colored our decision making with The Tyrant. It's hard as a parent to distinguish between his pain and his frustration and its even harder to stomach the look on his face when he is mid-cry.

What do you want kid a new pony? You got it.
A singing whale? Coming right up!

When he is cranky and fussy we sing songs and dance and make funny noises and other random ideas to get him to calm down.


We are getting better at determining if he is in pain and I would say 7 out of 10 cries are because he is being a brat and doesn't want to get his shit together i.e. getting his nose wiped or his butt wiped for that matter. So in the case that he isn't getting mauled by a bear and he is full of milk we have taken to putting his tantrum throwing bootay in his crib and walking out of the room.

Simple enough concept. I know I've often suggested this remedy to other parents (obviously before I was a parent) in an off the cuff manor as if to say "duh, ignore your kid yo." But when it's YOUR kid the stakes are higher. The connection deeper. I think most moms will agree that we can feel their cries vibrating every cell in our bodies. That's what I feel. It resonates so deeply that to ignore it seems more than criminal just down right morally reprehensible. So overcoming that, to me, seemed like a superhuman feat. Well, I finally got over all that hippiespeak this weekend when Howie wouldn't let me do any packing for our upcoming trip. He wanted to scream and shout and shake it all about.

Howie looking for his crowd.

So I picked him up, gave him a kiss and set him and his ruffled feathers in his bed. I turned on the video monitor, shut the door and waited in my room to see how this little experiment was going to turn out. Well let me tell you folks, within one second of closing that bedroom door he stopped screaming. His little head cocked back as if to say "where the hell did my audience go?!" He looked around a couple of times then sat down and played with his sleep sheep. In ten seconds this baby was singing to the sheep and trying to eat his blanket.

Mom is no longer amused.

I walked back in his room and he was all laughs! I couldn't believe it! I thought it must have been a fluke. Nope. We had multiple opportunities to test this theory. And each time except one he stopped crying immediately. The one time he kept crying was because he was in fact sleepy as all hell. Side note: he has become quite efficient at putting himself to sleep but that's for another post. Side note to the side note: my whole life is a side note.

In conclusion, ignore your baby yo! And don't negotiate with terrorists! They'll only learn to be better terrorists! Unless the terror is real. In that case don't ignore them; meet all demands.

This is the face of a content baby that has found a tag to
play with. He was crying 5 seconds before this shot.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Breastmilk Blues

This last month was a little difficult feeding wise. My milk started to dry up and with it so did my sanity. It apparently doesn't take a lot for my sanity to pack its bags and head out on a weekend adventure. If you ask me I think that my sanity keeps a "go kit" packed by the door, ready for deployment at the slightest hint of what we will refer to as "uncomfortable feelings." I like to have a plan and when life doesn't stick to the freakin script I flip out.

So, where were we? Ah! The milk. I guess around eight and a half months or so our huge container of milk bags in the freezer was low and I also noticed that Howie's appetite was increasing. His daily reports from daycare showed that he was drinking more and more and I was pumping less and less at work. Some days there are just too many meetings for me to catch time to pump and some days I just don't have enough milk to fill up four bottles in eight hours. There were some days that my little cooler only had one lonely bottle of milk. A sad day indeed.

I began to panic thinking that I would have to stop breast-feeding sooner than I would have liked if I couldn't provide enough milk to match his appetite. I've already expressed (get it??) how much I truly love breast-feeding and the thought of having to stop before we both were ready was quite excruciating. I imagined his little face when he is comforted by a midnight nursing and our snuggles under the covers for out afternoon nap knowing that his body recieves all . I wasn't ready to give that up yet. I'm still not ready.

So, when our milk box got down to about three or four bags I knew we were really in trouble. I typically like to keep about a weeks worth of milk in the freezer (I am a self confessed food hoarder) and four bags is barely enough for one day at daycare. So I did what everyone does in situations of sheer panic. I googled that shit.

Google told me stuff I already knew. Google told me to start supplementing his diet with formula. Did I also mention that at the height of milkgate 2013 Howie wasn't interested in food??? Yeah. I panicked the fuck out. Most of the websites out there had information for women who had just delivered and were working on building their initial supply. So I read back over all tips and realized that I had been straying away from the basics.

The Basics

  • Eat food
  • Drink water
  • Empty regularly

I know there are more difficult situations out there for other mothers but once I simplified it out those three things really were the root of the issue for me. I had recently bumped up my activity level at the gym. I went for a bout three workouts a week to five to six intense workouts.

WARNING: objects in photo may appear awesomer than me

I also started cutting carbs from my diet in my attempt to eat healthier again. Third factor: I had gotten away from pumping regularly. It doesn't matter whether or not there are valid reasons for not being able to pump, the body will read it as "milk not needed, cut down supply." Truth.

So, I wasn't eating enough to adequately produce milk and the food I ate was being burned off immediately with my pumped up ass workouts. I mean, the gym is addicting once you start to see results and lets be honest here post preg body is not hot. I had to make a decision between my vanity and breast feeding. I chose breastfeeding.

i love you carbs! we had such good times
I have since added more carbs back into my diet, but I have eliminated the whites. The white potatoes and the pastas and the rices are persona non grata. The rice for a whole separate reason but that's for another day. I just replaced them with healthier carbs that calorie count tells me are okay to eat. All carbs aren't bad, I just don't want to eat a shit ton of empty carbs. I am probably going to follow this post with a recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies so don't judge me, you hooker. I also cut out like ONE workout. Big deal. Not really. I cut out multiple super cardio workouts though. I only do one of those a week now and mainly stick to strength building classes and yoga. So no more multiple boxing classes and cycling and high intensity interval training. Just one of those a week. And lastly, but most importantly I got back to drinking more water. I pretty much only drink water (coffee doesn't count) but I got away from drinking the amounts I needed to keep up production.

I struggled with writing this post for fear of "the jinx" so I am crossing my fingers and hoping the universe doesn't do a "just kidding." But for now I can say that my milk supply is back. The freezer is filling back up and so are my chichi's. I don't know how much longer I will breast feed. I initially planned for a year and some days I still feel that way. I do know that I will try to stick with it as long as Howie needs to until he begins to eat enough food to sustain himself. And when we are ready - both of us, we will stop. I'll probably cry. Until then we still get to tangle up together with my fingers wrapped in his curly hair and his fingers twisting my own curls. I still get to sing him to sleep while he drinks up his mothers love. I live for those moments. I live for him.

**Note: literally the day after I typed this up Howie decided to stop nursing. I don't know if it's because of his ear infection or what but he doesn't want it. I hope that this shit wears off soon because I can't keep up production levels by pumping alone. I also need him to nurse.**

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bug Bites

Little bites with a little mouth with two little tiny teeth. Howie recently fell in love with food. This is a very big deal in our world. We tried for months to get him to eat and all we got in return was a closed mouth and averting eyes. Parents can only play it cool for so long. I google searched every online forum looking for a solution. There were serious fears that I would have to drive down to Howie's elementary school every day so that he could nurse because he wouldn't want to eat his packed lunch.

 One of my close girlfriends has a son that is about four weeks older than Howie and she gave me some great advice. She basically told me to chill out. She told me that as long as he was gaining weight as expected then to just let him develop his curiosity naturally. So we waited.

Howie was bumped up to to the older kids room where all the kids eat lunch and snacks. Well, the day he moved to that class he started eating. Just like that. On Sunday he refused food and on Monday he loved it. So ultimately the lesson of this story is that peer pressure is real.

On Sunday's I make Howie's "lunch" for the week. Here are a few of our favorite combos:

  • Carrots and Sweet Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes and Bananas
  • Green Beans and Apples
  • Green Beans and Pears
  • Yogurt and Strawberries
  • Apple and Pear

The green beans and apples are by far his favorite foods so far. I'm excited to see what combos he likes in the future.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Etsy Finds

I have fallen in love with terrariums lately. I have been shopping for "the perfect one" but I have yet to commit. I go online at least once a month to daydream about where I would put it in the house and how often I would water it and whisper sweet nothings. I haven't figured it all out yet. Would I put it out on our back porch? Is a hanging terrarium right for us? A beach theme? We love the beach. Would I want a few? I do want some tiny ones to set up on the dinning room table or maybe just the coffee table. I don't know. The possibilities are endless. What I do know is that I need some freshness sprinkled in this house. Here are a few designs that I love:

1. I love this Jellyfish Air Plant. I love that it's a bit whimsical and a bit creepy crawly. I can see these hanging from the roof of our porch.
2. This succulent picture frame is awesome! This would be perfect near a front door. It's a whole lot of life and it's looks like an instant spirit lifter. Don't you just feel alive looking at it??

3. This little lamb is the cutest guy ever! This terrarium paints such a fun world. Can you see it? Don't you just want to take a nap on that moss and snuggle noses with the little lamb. Do they nibble?
4. This blown glass terrarium is perfect for a open book case. I bet it would look great as a book end.
5. The ruler planter is so dainty and perfect size for a work desk. I love it. Are you a teacher? Do you know a teacher? I bet this would make a great addition to any teacher's classroom.
6. One miniature forest terrarium coming right up. I think this one is great for the fellas. It speaks of strength.
**This is not a sponsored post**

Friday, January 25, 2013

Living in the Moment

Sometimes I beat myself up about not blogging often enough. What is enough? What is too much for that matter? I wonder if I am documenting enough. Then today we went through our daily bed time ritual. Howie got his bath, lotioned cuddled and fed bananas and then we snuggled up with each other to nurse. Usually I read on my phone or tablet until he finishes and falls asleep. Then I usually pick him up and let him sleep on my shoulder for a few minutes. Then he nuzzled his little nose against my cheek and it snapped me back into reality. I want to share everything with my friends and family that are near and far and but I want to live fully in each moment and absorb it all in...and keep it for myself.

I am making a promise to myself to share what I can, when I can but I will honor the time that I have with my family the best way that any mother can, by being there. I want to be present in every single moment and to breathe every single feeling and inhale every piece of every experience with my family.

The first month after Howie was born we ignored calls, let emails pile up and we didn't really take visitors. It was for the same reason that we don't typically answer cell phones at home. When spending time with someone, one should spend time with them. We all owe it to the people who we chose to spend time our time with. I wanted to spend those three months with Howie without any distractions. He deserved all of our attention. He deserved to be the priority. So even though I  became a distant friend instead of a better friend, he deserved it. He will always deserve it.

I won't photograph everything and I won't write about each of our experiences because I plan on living them. Between working, and volunteering, and activities there will be plenty of smiles that will be missed. There will be a day when he doesn't want to hug mom and when my kisses will embarrass him, so for as long as I can, as long as he will let me - I will put the phone down, turn off the computer and live in the moment of now.

wouldn't you?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Meal Planning

I think we have covered me the topic of me being a greed monster before, so I am going to work with the assumption that this is common knowledge. I can't imagine coming home without knowing what we're having for dinner. I'm too hungry for that nonsense. I started meal planning just after college when I was working two jobs and had no time to spare. Cooking my family a good meal is pretty high on my list of priorities. Meal planning streamlined my kitchen and helped me make smarter decisions about food. When you cook your own meal you know exactly what you are eating. No hidden chemicals and fillers – unless of course you’re into that sort of thing. Recently I have noticed a lot of friends on facebook commenting that they have begun or are having trouble meal planning so I thought I'd share some tips that I have found useful over the years. Most of this stuff is obvious as hell, but hopefully you will find a few things that make the process easier.

1.       Identify how many days a week you want to cook and be realistic. Some people hate leftovers, some people love them. My husband enjoys leftovers more than any person I have ever met (EVER). My father, on the other hand, will not eat a meal more than once. So, figure out where you stand on the issue. I only cook three times during the week, two if I am doing it correctly. Sunday and Wednesdays are usually my cooking days. My mom thinks I'm disgusting for eating the same meal day after day, but it works for us. It may not work for you.  
2.       Once you have decided on which days you want to cook, pick out your meals. I have a ton of cook books that I flip through but usually I end up finding something awesome on Pinterest. I am also addicted to food blogs. It's my porn. I email pictures of meals to B when he as at work and we vote on which foods we would like to bathe in. I pick two meals for dinner and one for my lunch. I eat oatmeal every day for breakfast so I don’t need to make a plan for that. I suggest you plan your breakfasts and snacks the same as your dinners.
3.       This is something that probably doesn't apply to everyone but it's a really big deal to me. I know it sounds like I will shovel almost anything in my mouth (gross), but I actually really care about having a well-balanced meal. I try to eat a low carb and low sodium diet. I also try to maximize my vegetable intake and minimize my sugars. When I decided to make more conscious food choices I had no idea what exactly I should eat. I read that I should have x servings of grains and so many of diary, blah blah blah. I found a website called Calorie Count and it changed everything! It takes a while setting everything up, but it's totally worth it. First you plug in your weight, your dietary goals, and your goal weight if you have one. The site will automatically populate your daily intake goals in various categories like carbs, proteins, fats, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, etc. You will have to enter your meals onto the website and it will track the nutrient levels. This really helped me to reach my daily targets for carbs, proteins, and the big vitamins. The website also taught me accurate portion sizes. I learned that calories aren’t the end of the conversation, but it’s rather the ratio of carbs to EVERYTHING ELSE. I don't use it all the time but when I do it’s telling me to put my second helping of mashed potatoes back. The website also taught me that yogurt is full of shit. It's all sugar. Check it out. So tip 3 ultimately is double check that the meals you choose fit into your health goals.
4.       Make a list of all ingredients - for all the meals. Make sure that you check your pantry so that you don't buy duplicates. I don't think you really need too much explanation on this step so we'll move right along. If you do need further explanation of this step please refer to step #12.
5.       Go shop. I get really excited at the grocery store. Never go hungry or you will buy everything. I try to limit myself to the perimeter of the store and away from the aisles as much as possible. When I have my meals planned I don't have to worry about buying snack food or things to "hold me over." It also cuts down on my grocery bill because I'm not buying random things. Seriously, how did I make it before meal planning?? Oh that's right; I ate ramen noodles and hot dogs.
6.       Get a food processor. Seriously. More time is spent at my house chopping onions than is spent actually cooking the meals. A food processor cuts down on the prep work and let's be honest the prep work discourages a lot of people.
7.      Be realistic about your meals. Don’t go selecting a meal that will take 45 pots and 6 hours if you know you don’t get home from work until 8 at night. Set yourself up for success not failure.
8.      Spend a day getting your shit together. Unfortunately it’s going to take much longer than a day to get all my shit together but that’s for another day. Seriously, spend a couple of hours of your weekend to prep for the week. I suggest making your more complex meal on your off day and the easier meal during the week. Pretty simple. I don’t like to commit to anything on Sunday afternoons because it’s my prep day and I like to lay around the house with my lovies afterwards. I also make Howie’s baby food on Sunday’s.
9.      Go cook something already and stop wasting your money on crap. There is no step #12.

Here are a few of my favorite food blogs:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nine Months

The Rundown:
· We have teeth. That's plural people, we have two. Yes and yes if you're wondering.
· Howie recently graduated (excuse the hell outta me) to the "walker’s room” at daycare and he all of a sudden became a fan of food. This kid is eating everything. I guess he didn't want to be the only baby in the class that only wants mama's milk.
· We spent the majority of December cuddled up because of the cold weather.
· The Tyrant has arrived people. Apparently the other thing he has learned in the walker’s room is the art of throwing a tantrum.  And let me tell you, he has mastered it. This kid will whip out that bottom lip faster than you can roll your eyes, and that’s a promise. I’ve tried it.
· In stark contrast to his tyrannical ways he also holds my face to nibble on my chin which I think is just the cutest thing ever.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Name

I keep changing the name of the blog. I'm trying things on to see what works for us. So be patient and I promise that I'll probably change it again.

I will make sure that you can always find us though!

Don't like it? Whatevs, deal with it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Etsy Finds

One of Howie's favorite toys is a crocheted mama sloth that my good friend made for him. I love that it isn't covered in advertisements of one sort or another. I can't stand those toys. Those all in your face toys, those hard plastic toys that the television told me I had to buy. Maybe it's not the toys so much as the commercials, and maybe it's just that need to buck the pressure that makes me frown. I know that one day he is going to ask for some god awful action figure that has all of the latest gadgets, and that I will eventually give in to the unbelievable weight of the marketing gods, but not yet!

One of my favorite things to do online these days is hunt for awesome handmade finds on Etsy. I love that whatever I find on etsy is made by hand. I love that someone, somewhere is spending their free time making something they love. I support those artists because they have chosen to create something where there was previously nothing. The prices are definitely higher than what you buy in the store, but your I chose to spend my dollars with those artists.

I'd like to share some lovely stuffies that I found. Here are my top ten etsy finds this week:

SALE Uri the eco friendly Boy doll handmade upcycled South American African American brown green yellowbubynoa Best Friend
Do you know how hard it is to find a black baby doll?? This one
is the cutest! His name is Uri, click his name to follow the link.
Small Rhino doll upcycled, eco friendly vintage eggplant Purple Wool soft unique personalized gift bubynoa Best Friend
This purple wool rhino is made by the same artist. I can't
wait for Howie to fall in love with him.
My Red Fox stuffed animal toy for children
This little red fox is just begging to be drug around
behind a very happy toddler.
Polar Bear Stuffed Animal
This polar bear just wants a hug.
Soft Toy Chameleon woodland creatures green reptile kids stuffed animal
Feeling tropical?? This chameleon is sure to brighten any grumpy
toddlers day!
Emperor Penguin Chick Plush Toy, Penguin Stuffed Animal, Penguin Stuffed Doll, Sock Monkey
My little brother loves penguins. I think he'd love these guys.
Gray Chevron and Yellow Polka Dot Stuffed Elephant
The cutest chevron elephant.
Owl, Handmade, Stuffed Animal, Toy, Children, Plush
A perfect trio of owls.
Wool Pig
A wool pig.
Monkey, Handmade, Stuffed Animal, Toy, Children, Plush
This monkey is looks like a pretty good friend. I see him cuddling
in on rainy days.
Pocket Studio Doll - Made to order
I love that every little girl can have a doll that she can relate to, she can have
a doll that looks like her and all of her friends.

Okay, so I really listed eleven but who cares?? I got carried away and I couldn't delete anyone. That would just be cruel. I hope you find something for your special baby, whether it's your child or your niece, nephew, cousin, or even a sibling.

Most importantly, help support a small business! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

The kindness

I'd like to tell you about something magical that happened after we had Howie. All of a sudden strangers started approaching us...everywhere. I expected women to say things like "congratulations" or "how old is your baby" maybe even "is it a boy or a girl". What I didn't expect was for husband and wives to come up to us together to give us well wishes and good vibes.

All of a sudden people we didn't know, people we KNOW wouldn't have spoken otherwise went out of their way to approach us at restaurants, parks, the grocery store, and basically everywhere we went. They welcomed us into parenthood in a way that took my breath away. There was sincerity, there was warmth and there was understanding.

I normally don't really like strangers, but this was something different. They didn't offer any overbearing opinions or advice. They simply acknowledged that our lives had changed and that we were equal parts excited, terrified, and exhausted. There were men that came up to shake B's hand and congratulate him on becoming a father.

Now when I see brand new parents (like we've been doing it for thaaaaat long ha!) I think about that time and how kind everyone was to us. I am going to make a point of paying it forward, because really, whether you like it or not it's a whole new world after a baby and its nice to be welcomed into the club.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Stop coughing in my mouth

Want to know how I spent my New Years?? I spent it inhaling the germs of three men (howie is a grown man btw). True, it was three men that I love - but let's be honest snot is snot.

Uncle Lion came to town (riding on a pony) to visit this year and we all got sick. Every time Lion comes to visit he gets injured. One year it was an ankle, the next it was a knee, this time it was his immune system. I don't know what we did to deserve this curse but it's for real bitches. So we spent a week coughing on each other and wallowing in self pity.

The plan was for me to get time to spend time with my girlfriends so that the guys could hang out and do manly things like not showering (which probably still happened) and drinking late into the night catching up on summers past. What actually happened was couches littered with blankets and noses full of snot.

B got sick first which almost never happens, then Howie. I usually get sick immediately, so when it was just the boys I felt pretty invincible. Then we went to San Antonio to take a Riverwalk boat tour in 30 degree weather. So it could have been the cold wind whipping through my sinus cavity that took me down, but I'm pretty sure it was the numerous times Howie coughed directly into my tonsils.

Let's all be honest here, I'm dramatic. I tried to be on my best behavior, but when I'm sick you might as well just assume I am dying because that's how I act. Luckily Howie was pretty sick too so he was down for longer naps than usual, so we cuddled under the covers in my room and he proceeded to cough in to my mouth for a week straight. Yum.

So New Years Eve approached and I had to drag myself and my snot down to the grocery store to get MORE soup. I don't even know if I put on a bra, I was hurting everywhere and probably would have gone barefoot to the store if it hadn't been buttfuck cold outside. Side note - I really don't notice my pottymouth. My brothers are pretty excited to see what words Howie picks up on first. Anyway, I go to the store looking like my worst nightmare and what do I see?? All the pretty people. They have plans. They have sparkly dresses and combed hair. I noticed the absence of snot. I imagined they didn't smell like death. They probably brushed their teeth. They were buying their bottles of wine, and their cheese spreads and they looked so freaking cute. I mumbled obscenities as I picked some suckass movie from redbox and carried myself home to my snot buddies.

Howie and I fell asleep together in a fog of mucous and B came to kiss me New Year at midnight. Such is life.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Gratin

Here is the recipe for the gratin that I made for the potluck.  It's perfect for the cold winter nights. It's hearty, it's cheesy, it's good.

 I have experimented a couple of times with the recipe and I think I've got it down. My niece and I made this for Thanksgiving and everyone turned their nose up at the idea of sweet potatoes mingling in with the cheese. The suggestion alone seemed blasphemous as we normally make a kick ass sweet potato recipe every year. But lo and behold the pan quickly emptied itself into hungry mouths and there were plenty of "mmm's" to go around.

I haven't mastered the art of food photography (read: AT ALL) so you will just have to imagine how amazing this dish is. It's fab. Promsies.


3 bunches of swiss chard - chopped into 1 inch portions, stem chopped separately
4 sweet potatoes - peeled, sliced into thin rounds
2 large potatoes  - peeled, sliced into thin rounds
1 finely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon of chopped thyme
1 tablespoon of chopped Italian Parsley
Salt & Pepper
8 ounces of Gruyere Cheese - shredded
1/2 stick of butter (about 1/4 cup)
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
2 cups of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of flour

**Things to note: You can substitute the swiss chard for spinach leaves in a pinch. You can also swap out the potatoes for other root vegetables like butternut squash and turnips if you'd like. Also, make sure to clean off the veggies very well before adding them to the casserole dish.

Prep Work

I would start off with slicing the potatoes first so that you can soak them in water for a few to soften them up just a bit. Get everything chopped and diced and sitting pretty on your counter top.

The Chard

 In a medium saucepan melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat (medium is the word of the day) and cook down the onions. Add the chard stems, the pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Cook down until just tender then turn the heat up to medium-high. Start adding in a handful of leaves at a time. Cook until wilted. Be sure to keep an eye out because it only takes a few minutes to cook down. You don't want to overcook the chard.
Take off the heat immediately and put the chard in a colander to drain out the water while you work on the bechamel sauce. Use a wooden spoon to press out as much water as possible.

The Sauce

In a small saucepan warm the heavy cream with garlic. Keep the milk warm. Melt the remaining butter on medium heat in a separate saucepan and slowly mix in the flour. Whisk the flour for about a minute to create a roux. Slowly add in the warm milk/garlic and continue whisking for another minute. You don't have to whisk fast, a nice slow whisk is cool as long as it doesn't stick  to the pan.

The Layers

Preheat the oven at 400°F. Begin to layer the potatoes in a buttered, deep baking dish. Put one layer of a combination of sweet & white potatoes, sprinkle with herbs, and 1/4 c of cheese. Add in half of the drained chard to the top. Build two layers before spreading an even layer of half of the bechamel sauce. Build another two layers and pour the remaining sauce on the top. Sprinkle with the last bit of cheese.

Bake for one hour until golden and bubbly. Let the dish cool for a few before serving. You will do a happy food dance after your first bite.