A few years ago I was in a meeting where someone shared how she had recently found her paper scriptures and it was like reuniting with a loved and trusted friend.

I had just started reading daily on my phone for a multitude of reasons: I was up earlier than everyone else and didn’t want to turn on a light, it was amazingly convenient, and, well, actually that might be it. But still, it was great. I got through the Book of Mormon pretty quickly because there weren’t pages to turn to mark how far I’d read. I just read a couple of chapters before my day started and it was really great. Plus, my scriptures were with me wherever I went.

My well marked and loved paper version sat on my bedside table.


Then last year our family started an actual, mostly successful, scripture time in the Book of Mormon and I decided I would read something I’d never read before; the Old Testament.

If someone could please explain to me why I decided to start one of the saddest canons of scripture (at least at the beginning) at the same time I started writing in depth about some of the saddest times of my life, and all right before the duldrums of winter, I’d appreciate it.

I’d be lying if I said this all didn’t have a big affect on me. This winter turned out to be a pretty sad time for me. Fortunately, my Heavenly Father loves me and has, as always, when I trust Him, put me in the right place at the right time.

I teach Sunday School to an amazing group of 10-year-olds at church, and this year we’re learning from the Book of Mormon. I had a little inspiration last year that I needed to take my physical scriptures with me to read out of during our lessons so the children would see that I value them ( the scriptures, not the children, although I love and value the children also), and so my scriptures moved off my bedside table to my church bag and got used about once a week.

Then, at the beginning of the year when I felt the need to change my prayers, I also felt a need to change my scripture study, especially that I needed to open those paper scriptures more often. Daily, in fact. Fortunately, the Lord knows me and knows that I occasionally (or often) need more than one nudge to get me doing some things.

Turns out, it took almost four months of nudging for me to follow through. I’m so glad He’s patient.

I opened them and read the first chapter of the Book of Mormon I have read and marked in off and on for 20 years and immediately felt a hope I had lost a little. Messages and thoughts and knowledge I had jotted in the margins reminded me of a time that I truly found joy in the scriptures.

Feeling the pages and reading the notes brought up sweet memories of where I was when I read those passages and had those thoughts. Times when I felt closer to the Lord. Inspirations I wanted to have again.


Yesterday morning I read 2 Nephi chapter 9 and remembered how much I love the ministry of Jacob. He spoke of the Savior Jesus Christ with such hope and love, I couldn’t help but feel uplifted.

In fact, I think 2 Nephi is my favorite book in the entire Book of Mormon.

It’s also where my very favorite scripture is.


Something I need to remind myself on a regular basis. He knew where I could readily find the hope and joy I had been praying for.

In a loved and trusted friend.



Failing As a Parent

A few weeks ago, I reached the end of my parenting rope. My children had been defiant, bickering, hitting, pushing, tattling, crying, yelling, and accusing incessantly for what surely must have been months. Absolutely no consequences made any difference, and there was defiance and backtalk when  a consequence was laid out.

I had reached my tipping point. I had tried talking calmly, yelling in kind, timeout, grounding, forcing them to hug it out, and threats of spanking (not proud of that).

Finally, my crier with the shortest fuse started beating on one of his brothers for who knows what, probably looking at him, and so he got sent to his room for the rest of the day.

Let the theatrics begin.

The tears. The threats. The accusations. The justifications. They went on for hours. HOURS!

Finally he came whimpering into my room at 9:15 looking to explain himself and be comforted, but reengaged in the all-to-familiar water-works when he was told to go back to his room.

“FINE! I GUESS YOU DON’T CARE IF I DIE, THEN!” were, I think, the exact words that vibrated the walls.

I lost it. I marched into his room and give him a spanking I hoped he wouldn’t soon forget!

I went back to my room and laid in my bed and listened to him cry himself to sleep, praying that he wouldn’t remember.

Then, ironically, I cried inconsolably. I prayed for forgiveness, strength to get through this phase with the kids, and for forgiveness again. And again, and again, and again.

The next morning I got up to face it all again. I said a quick, “Please help me get through this morning,” as I got out of bed and went downstairs.

I think that was the only reason that the next part didn’t end up with a neighbor calling CPS.

The same boy who got the spanking the night before decided he didn’t want to go to school and stood in the middle of the front yard crying and not budging.

I went out the door, furious, and had one tiny moment of clarity.

“It’s OK,” it said. “Just tell him he has to stay outside.”

Recognizing what for it was, an answer to my plea for help, I went out and gave him his options. Go to school or sit on the front porch. He chose the porch.

I checked on him a couple of times throughout the day. It was cold and he had eaten his lunch by 9:30, but there was blanket on the porch, and he had at least eaten. He was not interested in going to school and stayed out there the until I picked up the other boys.


I have to admit that I was nervous he would repeat the same behavior the next day, but I was in the clear.

And here’s the take away, because what good is a lesson if I don’t learn from it.

I need to ask for help more often. Whenever I ask for it, I get it. Like with the hitting thing. Another moment of clarity since nothing else was working. They have to go pick up dog poop every time they hit. It has worked miraculously! Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

So, occasionally I need to fail as a parent so I remember I can’t do it on my own. I don’t have the troubleshooting guide to these people, but Heavenly Father does, and He’s willing and happy to help.


Keeping My Internet Under Control

We’ve never found a great internet filter for our family. Everything we tried wasn’t compatible with our operating system, blocked too much, let too much through, or just didn’t give us enough control.

I’m all about control. At least where it comes to my children and what they’re allowed to watch, search, and play online.

Just before Christmas we had an internet search problem and I went back on the hunt for something that would work for us.

I saw a little write-up for a device called Circle, and had finalized the purchase within 5 minutes.

The control it gives is amazing!

Not only can I set a filter level for the wifi in our whole house, I can control the individual (too many) devices in our home. All the images here are from the phone app I control the Circle with. Password protected, of course. Constant vigilance, you know.


Here’s the home screen. Each circle corresponds with someone in our family, and a device or two is assigned to their profile. The shaded circles are currently paused. Or I could hit that pause circle and pause the internet in the entire house.


Let’s tap that house circle.



It takes me here, with a run-down of what the overall stats are for the whole house. Also, see where it says devices? There are 16 devices in my house that can access the internet. 16!!!!! I was baffled!

Let’s take a closer look at those devices.


Too many. But what can you do when your husband is tech nerd? In addition to the things I would normally think of (tablets, PCs, phones), I can also control my TV! I love smart TVs. And our PS4. And so many more things I had no idea had access.

Filter Settings is where you set an overall filter for your house. And then, you can choose access to some individual sites and categories. I personally have the app store turned off because that is a place I don’t feel like I have enough control over. There’s a control for blogs, email, social media, and a long list more.


At the bottom of this particular screen, there is a privacy and safety menu. Yes, absolutely, to ad blocking. Lots in inappropriate stuff pops up in those side bars that I might not notice, but my sweet, curious boys sure notice an ad of a girl in a pair of underwear you read about that are serving a great good in other countries.


That last little orange bar is where you can go in and make exceptions for specific websites you know and trust that are blocked by Circle. Like your (or my) husband’s Fantasy Baseball and Football. (Gambling sites, you know.)

This is what an individuals screen looks like.

This is my littlest guys screen. His filter level is set to kid. He has the Nintendo DS assigned to him, which also has internet access. Call me stupid, but I didn’t realize that until this year. We’ve had that thing for about 6 years.

He is currently paused because he hasn’t earned screen time today. Since the DS is really more about playing game cartridges that don’t require internet access, I don’t have a time limit set for him, but the bigger boys have some Kindles that I certainly set a limit for. Otherwise, they could play Star Wars Commander for hours.

I can also pause and unpause the internet while I’m away from the house, so if I leave the boys with a babysitter and they get their tasks done, the sitter can just text me and I can turn the internet on and they can play.

I’ve talked to some parents who have kind of looked at me like I’m a little overbearing because of this, but let me tell you, nothing is more terrifying to me for my boys than unlimited access to the internet. It used to be you had to go to the convenience store and pick up a magazine, or go into a curtained off room at the video store, to get porn. Now, you can do an Amazon search for boobs and see aaaaalllllllll kinds of inappropriate book covers. (Ignorance was not my friend, and my children are smarter than I. Also, more curious.)

I’m not getting paid for this (although that wouldn’t be too bad). I’ve just come across a product that works for us. Not just works, it has been a life changer.

Well worth the $99 for a little peace of mind.




Goodbye to 35

My birthday was yesterday, and at the risk of sounding cynical, I keep my birthday expectations really low. Like, non-existent. That way I’m always surprised that anything at all gets done to celebrate it. I’m a real kill-joy, I know.

And I kind of buck against the idea of adult birthday parties. I don’t want to invite you to a social event where you feel obligated to bring me a gift. Maybe you would have brought a gift out of the goodness of your heart, but, still, the idea is a little awkward to me.

But, yesterday may have changed how I will celebrate others’ birthdays forever.

It really was a normal day. So normal, in fact, I had to be up and ready to take one of my kids to the dentist at 7:30. But my sweet husband remembered and wished me a happy birthday while I was getting ready. Truthfully, I had totally forgotten.

Then, that cute boy I was taking to the dentist gave me a bag of m&m’s in the car. A big deal for him, since, you know, candy.

Before I even got that boy dropped off at school, a friend called to wish me a happy day. And she’s not even on Facebook! That means she has it written in her calendar!

I got home and got a text invitation to lunch, picked up the boys from school where another friend gave me a small cake, went to said delicious lunch complete with brownie for dessert, and came home to flowers from my husband.


But, wait, there’s more! My doorbell rang with flowers from a dear friend who lives in Idaho, and when I walked out the door to take some books back to the library, another friend had put a “Happy Birthday” banner on my garage door.



I came back from the library to a beautiful handmade card from the sweet friend who took me to lunch, my visiting teachers stopped by with a gift, brownies, and hugs, another friend stopped in to give me a hug, my mom made me a delicious angel food cake with strawberries and bananas, and I got a few gifts from my family.



The true highlight, though, was a simple text from someone I’m trying to rebuild a relationship with. The fact that that person, who also isn’t on Facebook, remembered and acknowledged my birthday was truly the best of all.

Now, I’m not telling you all about this to show how spoiled I was (I really was), but to let you know that I truly was surprised and amazed. Writing this blog has caused me to shed tears about things that haven’t really been thought too much about in a while, and it was such a true gift to be reminded that I have some very dear friends who care about me.

It also showed me that I need to be a better friend and let other people know they are important to me and I love them. All of these people went out of their way to show me they loved me. I can do that, too.

36 is the year of being a better friend.


Constant Vigilance!

Please tell me you recognize that quote.

I’m reading Harry Potter to my kids right now and we are in book 4, where Alastor Moody is introduced. Even though he turned out be be bad disguised as good (a whole other topic for a whole other time), he had some great advice. Also, I would love to have a sneakoscope and foeglass. The sneakoscope would work just like in the book, but my foeglass would warn of temptation and sin.

But back to my point. Professor Moody’s dramatic piece of advice to the students for fighting against the Dark Arts was, “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my need for more searching prayers more often. Especially morning and night. For a week or two, it was new and magical and I felt welcomed back. Then, all those things that were excuses before came sneaking back in without my noticing. I tried to pray in the mornings in the middle of my getting ready. Showered, dressed, and hair combed, but still needing to put on my eyelashes and dry my hair. My intent was that it become a part of that process.

Then one morning I had somewhere to be. Time was of the essence, my brain was going a million different directions and I totally skipped past it. For a couple of days…

The evenings slipped most quickly, though. Golly, that bed has a power of temptation all on its own. I can pretty well ignore it all day, but as soon as the last kiss and hug has been given, my bed calls to me. “Come. Lay down. Relax. The bedtime gauntlet is over and you can just tune out here until the morning gauntlet. You neeeeeed this.”

I have no self-control. I’m practically running at it’s siren call, and before I know it, I’m enveloped in the warmth and comfort of my heating pad and blankets. About 30 seconds before I’m asleep, I realize I forgot to pray. At first, I would grab the extra blanket from my bed, wrap it around me, and get on my knees. Last night I did the huddle under the covers thing.

And yes, praying is praying and you should absolutely pray no matter what the circumstances, but my intent is to have more meaningful, heartfelt prayers, presenting my best-self before the throne of God.

Huddling under the covers doesn’t cut it.

Constant vigilance is hard!

I realized one thing that had changed in those first few weeks was that I was trying to not get lost in Facebookland everytime I felt bored or overwhelmed or like I wanted to kill people. So, I decided to remove that app from my phone. And Pinterest. I don’t end up on Pinterest very often, but if I really feel like I have time to waste and nothing new is coming up on fbland, I’d end up there. So, those are gone. It was too tempting to get sucked into a screen coma.

A friend wrote on Facebook (ironic) recently that she realized every time she got on Facebook, she was actually looking for something to read. That’s true for me. Especially something mindless. I can peruse Facebook while children are talking to me and still comprehend both things. Or tune both things out.

But, my idle time was very idle. Since I feel like I have very little time to read anyway, I decided to use that bored time to open the Gospel Library app on my phone. Not to read scriptures, because I really need to focus to get anything out of them, but I could easily read a small amount of the Ensign.

I was really proud of myself the other day when I realized I’d actually read all the talks from October’s Conference!

Please don’t point out that it took me three-and-a-half months. That might burst my bubble a little.

But that is the point. Remembering to do the little things are what will help us be constantly vigilant and in a place where we can feel and recognize the peace and love of the Spirit. Then we’ll also be able to realize when that warmth is slipping away a little. I realized it this morning. That’s why you get this long-winded essay.

In Harry Potter, the Dark Lord lost some of his power and slipped into the background for a while, but he built up his strength and watched for every opportunity he could to regain his power.

When we slip into complacency, Satan seizes those opportunities and builds upon them.

“Constant vigilance!”


Holding Fast to the Word of God

I teach Sunday School to a group of fabulous 10 year olds at church. It’s such a great age because they are beginning to come into their own. They are just getting into that tweenager stage so they don’t have the full attitude yet and are starting to ask their own gospel questions and look for their own answers.

A few weeks ago, our lesson was on a vision had by a Book of Mormon prophet named Lehi. We call it “The Vision of the Tree of Life.”

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of the vision: Lehi sees a tree with fruit, there is a rod of iron leading to it which keeps people safe from mists of darkness, dirty rivers, and a great and spacious building. The tree represents the love of God, the rod is the Word of God, the mist is tempation, the river filth, and the building represents pride.

Here are the specific links if you’d like to read for yourself. It’s good stuff.

1 Nephi 8; 1 Nephi 11; 1 Nephi 12

As I was teaching, I noticed something I hadn’t before. That’s the wonderful thing about re-reading the scriptures. New stuff, even though it’s old stuff.

Anyway, something Lehi said about the iron rod made me pause in the middle of my lesson and mark the scripture so I could think about it more later on.

…they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.

And he also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards that great and spacious building.

-1 Nephi 8:30-31 (italics added)

Some of the people had taken hold of the handrail and some had let go and were making their way to the building. But the verbs used are what really got me thinking. What’s the difference between pressing forward and holding fast, and feeling their way?

I typed those phrases into Google and came up with these:

Press forward – to move forward; to struggle forward; to continue. syn – advance; make up for lost time; pick up speed, proceed forward; progress. (synonyms from

Hold fast – remain tightly secured; continue to believe in or adhere to an idea or principle; stick or become stuck to. syn – attach; cement; cleave. (synonyms from

Feel your way – to judge where you are going by touching with your hands instead of looking; to act slowly and certainly because you are not certain how to do something.

Sounds like pressing forward is not always easy. It denotes difficulty and catching up. Living the gospel and standing up for what you believe are certainly difficult. Facing loss, sickness, heartache, or having a trial of faith can make it truly challenging to even struggle forward. But those who do press forward progress. I’ve had plenty of times in my life when I’ve felt like I was playing catch up with the Gospel. But I always knew there was a light I could look to to find my way, even if I had let go.

Holding fast indicates not giving up, even when those terrible difficulties arise. One of the synonyms for this is cleave, which Google defines as “become very strongly involved with or emotionally attached to”.  The irony of this for me is that I didn’t feel that deep emotional attachment to Jesus Christ and my beliefs until after I had gone through the darkness, had let go a few times, and finally found my way back. That time of drawing close to my Savior and trusting Him with my heart and soul is when I truly grew to love Him.

Oppositely, feeling your way conjures images of darkness or not being able to see, experimenting with one thing or another trying to find what feels right. There is no light to look to. There is no solid handrail to grip when dark and difficult times arise.

Someone shared this personal experience in the magazine for youth, The New Era:

I was 14 and struggling. I didn’t have many friends. Those I had were beginning to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, pornography, and immoral behavior. The pressure to participate was growing daily. I was struggling to stand up for my beliefs. I was struggling to find friends. I could understand why temptation was called “mists of darkness” (1 Ne. 12:17). I felt blind to the light of the Spirit.

Pressing forward and holding fast vs. feeling your way to me is equivalent to light vs. darkness, hope vs. despair, love vs. hate and anger.

Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on this:

Our times are turbulent and difficult. We see wars internationally and distress domestically. Neighbors all around us face personal heartaches and family sorrows. Legions know fear and troubles of a hundred kinds.

This reminds us that when those mists of darkness enveloped the travelers in Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, it enveloped all of the participants–the righteous as well as the unrighteous,the young along with the elderly, the new convert and seasoned member alike. In that allegory all face opposition and travail, and only the rod of iron–the declared word of God–can bring them safely through.

We all need that rod. We all need that word. No one is safe without it, for in its absence any can “[fall] away into forbidden paths and [be] lost,” as the record says.

I’ve been through some stuff, but I’m not standing before My Maker right at this moment, so I know there will be more stuff. Having a hope in Jesus Christ helps me not want to cower in a corner and hide until the great and dreadful day when He comes again.

As my boys are fast approaching the searching and experimenting teenage years, I have a lingering fear of what they will choose. But I also have a deep hope. If we as their parents keep the light of Christ alive in ourselves and our home, they will have a place they can look to for guidance and answers, even if they are feeling their way instead of holding fast. We’ve certainly had our times when we were feeling our way along as well, and (hopefully) sharing our own experiences will help them see the need to hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Waterproofing a Shower

This project is making me tired. The tile is currently up, but I need to chisel out the mortar between the tiles and scrape the drips off so we can grout, but I just can’t find the motivation! I think today will be the day.

In the meantime, here’s some photographic evidence of what to do after demo.

There are a lot of things I think I can do on my own, and even attempt, but cutting and hanging cement board was one of those things I knew I’d need some extra muscle for, so this got done during Thanksgiving week. The day after my poor hubby had spent the day very physically ill in bed.

I’m nice like that.


And even that day we got this far and quit. Two walls done, back wall still in insulation.

You are supposed to be able to score and snap cement board, and I’m sure if I’d had a better scoring tool, it wouldn’t have taken as long. So, don’t be like me and use a utility knife. Be smarter than me and buy a scoring tool.


One quick Google search of “scoring tool for cement board” brought this right up.

You’ll also need special cement board screws if cement board is the way you go. Keep that in mind.


I got all gung ho one day and hung those last couple of pieces. I think what got us frustrated was we had one piece of board that was more difficult to score and we just lost the drive.

So, anyway, next you have to tape and mud the joints and screws. In drywalling, you use specific materials for that. The same is true here. There is a specific tape for cement board, and then you mud with your thinset/mortar.


Like so.


The next item on the to do list (after you’ve let the mortar dry for a day) is waterproofing. I was a little fanatical about this since a leak is what got us here in the first place.

I used this product. I ended up using a paintbrush to do the whole thing. The directions say you can use a roller. It calls for two coats, which left me about 1/4 of the bucket left, so you better believe I just painted the last of that on as well! Especially the corners. I’m a little nervous about the corners.

It goes on a lovely shade of pink and dries to an even lovelier shade of red.


Plus it looks a little purple over the mortar. It was feeling pretty Valentine’s Day-ish in there!

We scheduled Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as our new tile day, barring anyone waking up with a stomach bug. And let me tell you, it was close! Two of my kids had stomach bugs the week leading up and I was sure I was going to get it! But, we made it and got most of the tiling done that day.

I have a photo of the RedGard dry and the tile partly up since I didn’t get a shot of the walls in all their red glory.


This project is up and down for me. There are really exciting and satisfying moments, and then there are boring and tedious parts. But we’re coming down the home stretch and I know I will be so glad when it is done.

I won’t have to share my boys’ bathroom with them, even if it is one of my favorite rooms in the house.

Style-wise. Not function wise. Ew.

Updating a Bathroom Vanity

A Towel/Coat Rack






The Great Healer

Ever since the pivotal moment in my youth where I had an undenying witness that Jesus is the Christ and He loves me, I have never doubted. Pulled myself away, yes, but never, ever denied His miraculous love and healing power.

His love is unconditional, and the miracle of His atonement reaches every aspect of every life.

The events of my youth were traumatic and heartbreaking. Add to that the additional choices I made that were not in line with what I was taught, and I had a serious need for the grace and forgiveness of God.

And I got it. It was a long road, and it a was hard, but because I went through those things and experienced both the gift of forgiveness and the weight and burden of my grief and anger lifted, I truly came to know the love of Jesus Christ.

He healed my heart. He blessed me with amazing people to help fill the hole in my heart. Especially my amazing husband.

He also took me by the hand and gave me the strength to repent of the sin I was committing.

In the Book of Mormon, Alma 26:17 uses one of my very favorite words in the scriptures: Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?

Mosiah 27:29 uses it again: My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.

That word “snatched” is a powerful word. It makes me think of a child in a perilous situation and a parent grabbing them just before they fall off a cliff or sink under the water.

I’ve had this visual for a while now of Satan circling us like a shark, waiting for the slightest sign of weakness, to drag us down into the dark and murky waters the first chance he gets.

But when I read these scriptures, I know that if we just look up, His hand is outstretched, waiting to pull us to the light.
He’s so close. He’s ALWAYS there.

We had our ward conference this weekend and our stake president said, “Repentance works every time.”

I know that is true. From the experiences and follies of my youth to, more recently, feeling a call to repentance about my prayers, I have felt the miracle, peace, and love of forgiveness.

Especially as I’ve changed my praying habits and made an effort to be more open and consistent, I have felt an immediate and amazing change. The relationship I once had with my father has returned so quickly. He had the blessings waiting for me. I just had to make the effort.

Since Hymns speak to me, I’ll share this Hymn with you that touched my heart this weekend.

I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to bless me with his love.
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed.
He lives to bless in time of need.

He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives, my kind, wise heav’nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end.
He lives, and while he lives, I’ll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath.
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare.
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”

I do know that my Redeemer lives. I feel His love and power in my life, giving me strength and hope everyday.

He has healed me.


Scalloped Baked Potatoes

We had a plethora of baked potatoes left after our church Christmas party, and somehow I ended up with a small box full. I didn’t count, but it had to have been between 40 and 50 potatoes.

It would have been really sad to see them go to waste, so we made hashbrowns with them, I made a baked potato soup, and then I was out of ideas.

I had pinned a scalloped potato recipe some time back and decided to give it a try with even more of the potatoes.

It was delicious! I’m not really one to eat leftovers, but I looked forward to having those potatoes for lunch the next day.



(Adapted to what I had on hand from Gimme Some Oven. She has pretty pictures. My food doesn’t last long enough to get photos of.)


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, very finely diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 8 to 10 previously baked potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute until they are soft and translucent enough that your kids won’t notice.  Stir in the flour and garlic powder until it is evenly combined and saute for another minute or so.  Pour in the stock and whisk until combined.  Add in the milk, salt, pepper, and thyme and whisk again.  Continue cooking for an additional minute or two until the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Spread half of the potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Cover with half of the cream sauce, one cup of cheddar cheese, and all of the Parmesan cheese.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes until the cheese on top is nice and golden.

NOTES: I’m not kidding about how good this is. The original calls for Yukon Gold potatoes, which would also give it a nice texture. I made it once with regular Russets and it was disappointing. It’s worth throwing some potatoes in the oven early in the day to make this that night. I promise.



Demolishing a Shower

Let the fun begin!

Actually, the fun began Thanksgiving week, when we decided to use the break to get our shower demoed and tiled. But a stomach bug hit my hubby, so we got to the cement board installation and then were on hold for a long while.

But first, let me give you the backstory.

We walked through this house twice, and both times I had children with me. Since the house was occupied, I never felt like I got to give it a good once over with my eagle-eyes. I notice things like water damage, over-wear-and-tear, things that don’t work, and things that need repair. I was counting on the home inspector to be my eyes, but he missed something pretty big. I know he was distracted by what he thought was a bigger issue in that our fan doesn’t vent out of the roof. It vents into the attic and there are some nails in the sheetrock that have rusted, but he totally missed that the caulk and grout had failed and water was trickling out through the shower door and had caused some damage to the sheetrock and floor.

I noticed the damage right when we moved in but it felt dry so I figured someone must have fixed the problem without fixing the damage. After a few weeks of using the shower, I realized that neither was fixed and the wall was soaked. I panicked and cut the wet drywall out and pulled up the peel-and-stick tiles to find mold. Fabulous.


A contractor came in and told me the mold wasn’t the bad kind, just mold, and found the source of the problem and that the shower needed some waterproofing. He gave us a bid, we called our homeowners insurance, and we were told they didn’t cover damage from faulty caulk or grout.

So, we decided to redo it ourselves! I’m sure you’re surprised.

I had taken the glass shower door off a long time ago and taken it to our Habit for Humanity Surplus Store. All I had left was tearing down the walls!

It’s a dirty job. You’ll need safety gear. Specifically a face mask, gloves, and eye protection. I would also recommend some heavy-duty clothing.

You’ll also need some heavy tools.


I mostly ended up using that big hammer on the left.

You’ll also need a way to haul the debris out, especially if you are a bedroom, a hall, a flight of stairs, an entry, and a yard away from the truck you’re loading it all into.


I decided buckets were a good solution.

And figure out a way to cover your drain. You don’t want any of it going through your plumbing. I ended up using a scrap piece of plywood.

The only way to get started is to start hammering away. If you’re breaking through ceramic tile like I was, you’ll be very grateful for the eye protection now. Those suckers shatter into tiny shards!


But once you make some headway, it gets a lot easier. When you can see some joists, then you can figure out what lines to break so you can pull big chunks of wall and tile down. See how I just broke through all the way down between the studs?


Along this edge, I used a utility knife to score the wall board because I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to take off. I ended up going all the way to the corner, but was glad I did this until I was sure.

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See? A nice sized chunk. That was pretty rewarding. Also, I ended up on my hiney a few times trying pull large chunks off. It does require some yanking.

The back of the shower is an exterior wall, and so whoever had installed it had put a sheet of plastic between the studs and the wallboard. I had read that you shouldn’t do that because if moisture does get behind your tile, it has nowhere to go.

That was true for this shower.

I gave that wall one solid whack and the whole thing practically crumbled. There was an obvious difference between the dry and the wet. Plus, it stunk! Musty, moldy yuck.


It probably took about 10 solid hits with the hammer before this whole wall crumbled to the floor.

I got that last wall down, and a few days later it was time for hanging the cement board!

And that’s where I’ll leave you for today. On the next installment of The Great Shower Makeover!, lessons I learned about installing cement board.

It’s harder to cut than you think.