Down the Rabbit Hole; A Country Halloween Primer

This Halloween has a different feel to it. With all of the pandemic drama and sadness, I decided to focus on the positive: the traditions of the harvest. When BYU Radio contacted me with a request to share information about interior and exterior decorating I dug into my A Harvest and Halloween Handbook for ideas. Here are new projects and some old favorites.

Ancient and modern Israel enjoyed and still have a harvest celebration every year called Sukkot. Families construct Sukkahs on their property where they dine, enjoy family time and a remembrance of their spiritual and cultural history.

Our celebration will be less elaborate but still handmade. This year we will have a family celebration with a Full Moon Country Fair theme. This moon from Pinterest was the inspiration.

I’m adding some wooden stars from the Dollar Tree, painted with glow-in-the-dark paint. A scarecrow and country girl, lots of baskets, a bunch of silk cornstalks and our favorite games. I’ll add photos as I take them. In the meantime here are a few favorites to spark your imagination.

One of my favorite themes for children’s carnivals and parties is the pumpkin patch. My grandchildren and I go to a pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins on the years we dont grow our own, it is so much fun hunting for the perfect pumpkin – big -or small, round or tall, we love them all! Here are photos of game set-ups you might be interested in trying.

I’m adding some wooden stars from the Dollar Tree, painted with glow-in-the-dark paint. A scarecrow and country girl, lots of baskets, a bunch of silk cornstalks and our favorite games. I’ll add photos as I take them. In the meantime here are a few favorites to spark your imagination.

Use beanbags to knock off the silly old cats
Here are prizes from a fishing pond game.
Pumpkin golf – cut the mouth out of plastic trick-or-treat pumpkins for golf goals.
A Penny pitch game could also use cotton balls or peanuts
Donut munching contest – no hands!
Candy jar guessing game, in case you need more candy 🙂
Win the lollipop you ring with glow-in-the-dark bracelets

This exterior decor was created the year I contributed to an article in US News and World Report. I couldn’t have a naked yard. This is a Wonderland tea party with invisible guests.

A Wonderland Halloween tea party
Alice at the tea party
The Mad Hatter
Autumn picnic in Wonderland

Stepping out of Wonderland, here are some creative country looks.

Country decor doesn’t have to be blah – use lights and the texture of natural materials to spice it up.

I wanted a rustic look to dress up my room, so I bought a Buffalo check throw and sewed on a torn rag garland and sheer ruffle.

Fine art can be dressed up or down and is always a good choice.

Warts and All is one of my favorite oil paintings from art school
paper crafts add bright and inexpensive pops of color

Haunted gingerbread house
A Halloween themed fabric bordered with coordinating prints make a colorful wall hanging.
The family tree – copy photos and hang them with ribbons

Here are a few favorites from Pinterest:

This seems apropos for a pandemic
Brainstorming a roll up pirate ship.-2014-10-18-18.22.12.jpg Painted canvas over cardboard frame!
Halloween Window Decorations halloween halloween decorations halloween ideas halloween home decor

This is the script I had written for the BYU Lisa Show. With time constraints and friendly banter, we didn’t cover all of the information so I’m including it for you, My aesthetic as a designer is influenced by my experience as a mom and grandmother. I have degree in fine art and don’t like gory, super-scary Halloween décor, I focus instead on fun, bright and happy decorations. I love having smiling orange Jack-o-lanterns all over the house. I like black cats and bats, avoid snakes and spiders and look for ways to create comfort and welcoming environment. The idea from ancient Israel that the harvest is a time of Thanksgiving, rest and reconnection with family is important and I think can play a role in guiding our autumn activities and even decorating. If you do it right a lot of Halloween décor can transition to Thanksgiving.

So I was invited to share ideas for decorating inside and out. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Have a welcoming entry; it sets the stage for other good things that are going on. One of the reasons Disneyland is the “Happiest Place on Earth” is their extensive use of themed décor. Experiencing novelty (something new) and humor causes our brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that gives us good feelings. Which is why shopping and travel also are mood boosters.

Let’s explore some alternatives to spider webs and scary front porch décor.

Make a door greeter with a welcome sign. I like the original illustrations from the Wizard of Oz. Jack Pumpkinhead is one of my favorites.

A few years ago, I contributed to an article in US News and World Reports about economical decorating. I built a scene in my front yard from Alice Through the Looking Glass. It was a tea party with Alice, the Mad Hatter, a character in a pumpkin costume and a Cheshire Cat grin up in a tree. The twist was that they were all invisible. So I grabbed my grandkids’ table, hit a couple of thrift stores and  set the table for tea, it was surrounded by small chairs and in each chair was a 3-D costume with no head, face, arms or legs. There were hats and gloves and shoes arranged as if they were being worn but the people were invisible.  Children came into the yard and were so enthralled they forgot to come to the door for treats!

I think one of the biggest “bang for your decorating bucks” is outdoor lighting. Just putting colored lights around the yard elevates it to something special. You can make an up light or spotlight with a #10 can, a light socket with an extension cord.

  • Don’t use flames or candles where children will be walking in costume, put away hoses and secure cords with tape
  • Make luminarias with jars – add sand, candy corn, popcorn, dried black beans and candles
  • Trees – hang mini pumpkins, strips of fabric, ribbon or mylar
  • Cut eyeholes in tp rolls, insert light sticks and hide in bushes
  • Re purpose a dollhouse for a scavenger hunt

In US News and World Report I described making a Wild West scene with “stuffed cowboys” around a fake campfire. Play sad cowboy songs, the sound of crickets, coyotes and night sounds.

Dig through your Christmas lights and find the flickering candle type, you can use green garlands with autumn leaves added, a cauldron from St Patrick’s Day. Make costumes for dolls, stuffed animals, use princess décor like magic wands, crowns, glass shoes, dragons, medieval and Wizard of Oz characters.

This year, Halloween night will have a full moon, a “blue moon” or Hunter’s moon. So I decided to theme my décor around the harvest and full moon. This Halloween will also be a little tricky because of the pandemic. The CDC has suggested that most public activities be cancelled or scaled back, so we are planning a family party in our yard.

MY BFF Mary discovered a world of crafters with you-tube channels that love dollar stores. So we went shopping and found wooden stars that we painted with glow-in-the dark paint and a cauldron of sparkly bats with ruby eyes! At a craft store I bought a giant wreath and covered it with fabric and painted a smiling moon face on.

A few more tips for Halloweenizing your home:

  • Make a FAMILY TREE – urn, pot or bucket with branches stuck in rocks or sand. Copy photos of your kids in their costumes from past Halloweens and make into paper ornaments. Hang on the branches with Halloween ribbons, string and other Halloween objects.
  • Fine art – grab some charcoal sticks and do a study of a skull, owl or other subject. I even have an old chair sketch that is one of my favorite drawings.
  • Make an oil painting of a pumpkin (you can hang it until Thanksgiving)
  • Autumn or vintage quilt. I made a quilt with large autumn print blocks and gathered some leaves outside. I traced the leaves onto brown paper and made templates that I dropped on the quilt and outlined where they landed with chalk and stitched them as part of the quilt.
  • Bundles of wheat, dried grasses, sticks
  • Lots of pumpkins, save one or two for Thanksgiving décor
  • Cover pillows with autumn fabric, pin on or sew slipcovers.
  • Make costumes
  • Alter books – carve out center of the page and make a Halloween scene in the hollow part
  • Pumpkin diorama, I’d use a fake pumpkin so I could keep it, glue Spanish moss around the opening, make a scene inside – use dollhouse pieces, fairy village or make items with bakeable clay
  • Make sunflowers out of crepe paper, paper plates and paint or pipe cleaners
  • Draw Jack-o-Lantern faces on tangerines and oranges with Sharpies.
  • Paint rocks and put them around outside
  • Make games for your Halloween party
  • Make a wall hanging or mini quilt with a panel of Halloween fabric
  • Fill a basket with scented pinecones and a string of lights to make a fragrant nightlight
  • Children’s art
  • Paper pennants and banners
  • Brown paper tree
  • Make spider web with black plastic trash bags
  • Make a basket of silly old cats


  • Halloween gingerbread house
  • Popcorn balls
  • Decorate cookies and cupcakes

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

With the lingering drama of the pandemic and most travel out of the question I was not anticipating much fun this summer.

My daughter had other ideas. About to celebrate a milestone birthday, she decided a trip to a lake cabin would be a special treat – and right she was!

My youngest son and I were invited to meet the fam at Flathead Lake in Montana. Hubby had to work and Mom spent a few quality days with my sister in St. George. Tim and I made a pact not to discuss anything political and we had a great drive.

A drive from our northern Utah home took us through Idaho, Falls that is. First stop THE BEES KNEES, a quaint little pub started by 2 sisters who wanted to serve “fancy food.” Oh my goodness. If you are anywhere near Idaho Falls you must make a beeline there.

The Bees Knees

We started our culinary adventure with a bacon-crusted baked Brie topped with a raspberry coulis, blackberries, strawberries, crushed honey comb, a Balsamic reduction and other delicacies. This would have been perfect all by itself but we persisted and were amply rewarded. Try it!

I had never visited Yellowstone National Park, so that was our next stop. I am now a permanent fan of the US National Parks, it was an outstanding place; an unforgettable mixture of science and nature.

No, we didn’t try to pet the fluffy cow. Tim works in a zoo and has taught us to have a healthy respect for wild animals.
My first geyser.
The wildfires in the west made an otherworldly glow.

Next stop Flathead Lake.

The sunset over the lake was amazing every day. There was always something new to admire.

Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. It’s crystal clear water was like a sparkling jewel.

We spent a lot of time in the pristine, clear water.

We saw a black bear!

We hiked at Glacier National Park in Montana, another national treasure.

More cookouts and a celebration of the birthday girl.

There’s nothing like a week at the lake to clear your head and heal your heart. Until next time!

Pioneer Day 2020 – a Different Kind of Celebration

When all summer activities were cancelled because of Covid spread, it became apparent that another type of celebratory commemoration would be in order. I’ve always been fascinated by the pioneer history; I love family history and world history. Several of my ancestors were among the devoted who were driven from their homes because of cultural conflicts due to religious and social differences in the the Midwest. Kicked off his farm by lawless mobs in Illinois, English immigrant Christopher Layton was camped on the prairies of Iowa when the U.S. Government sent recruiters out to the displaced Saints. There was a war going on with Mexico over western lands. Washington wanted the westward-bound Mormons to show their loyalty to the US by marching a battalion of 500 men out to San Diego to fight for America. Ironic because these same men and their families had lost their properties to mobs of violent Missourians and Illinoisians. Chauncey Webb and his brothers had closed up their blacksmith shop in Nauvoo Illinois to flee to the west for safety as well. The state and federal governments were unable or unwilling to stand for their Constitutional rights of these religious refugees but they were asking the men to die for their agenda.

The reason I’m leading off with this, is that we are once again under siege. While religious services are cancelled or curtailed because of Covid, rioters are allowed in the streets of Salt Lake City damaging property and demanding cultural changes that include Marxist anti-family, anti-Christ doctrine. The world seems to have turned upside-down. We knew hardships and persecution were coming but the form was unknown. Lawlessness and violence once again fill the headlines as so-called “protesters,” criminal, looters and rioters commit crimes and atrocities in revenge for what they see as injustices against their interests. (If you’re keeping score – 9 unarmed black men were killed by police in 2019. 19 unarmed white men were and 89 police officers were killed. It looks like it is much more dangerous to be an officer of the law than a criminal, and yet protesters rage about inequity.) Law-abiding citizens are taking up arms as they choose not to be victimized for the troubles and a history that they had nothing to do with. And the circle continues.

On a happier note, 173 years ago, weary pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley with the hope of peace and religious freedom. Despite the deaths and losses they suffered on the trek across the plains, they were willing to continue to put everything on the altar for their religion and faith. We honor the memory of the pioneers of 1847 and those that followed, especially the modern pioneers.

Willliam Shakespeare was related to many of the pioneers. His aunt Margaret Arden was an ancestor of the Webb family.

With the popularity of the princess culture among children, I thought it would be fun to combine the western theme with a touch of royalty. In fact, among the pioneers there were and are people who are related to many of the rulers of Europe and Scandinavia. And Shakespeare; the Webbs referenced above were first cousins to William Shakespeare (many times removed; their ancestor Margaret Arden was the beloved sister of Shakespeare’s mother Mary Arden.)

As a child growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southern California with no close Utah relatives, I knew nothing about the events that took place around Pioneer Day in Salt Lake City. We had a Primary activity where we dressed up in long skirts and paraded around the ward building; that was pretty heady stuff! We sang songs about pioneer children and covered wagons and listened to stories and donated pennies destined for the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Later as a teacher and leader in the Primary, I participated in and then planned activities for our 100 + children that gave them interactive experiences replicating those of pioneer youth. Another year we planned an activity for the entire ward of about 350-400 including teens and adults. These activities can be incorporated into your own commemoration this year (and there are more that you can find with a quick internet search.) So for your enjoyment, here are Pioneer Day activities and games for your family celebration.


A trip to the fabric store or your own fabulous stash can yield the materials needed for your very own pioneer-style outfit. Look for costume patterns sales and coupons to save $. I used a pattern for a bonnet but improvised for the apron and skirt. To add some fun, I quickly knitted a little purse, something a pioneer might have used.

A bit of scrap yarn and a couple of hours yield this cute little knitted purse.
I am not afraid to admit that I shamelessly continue to use vintage Americana as decor for Pioneer Day. After all, the US was only about 60 years old when the Latter-day Saints moved west.


A trip to Hobby Lobby, a favorite thrift store or other retailer yields vintage treasures that can be adapted for Pioneer Day decor. This aged sifter was fitted with florist foam to hold faux wildflowers, a scrapbook paper medallion, pinwheels, flags and a wooden heart. Other ideas include tattered banners, anything beehive themed, old flour sacks, burlap and other natural materials.

Handmade hammers created using an anvil and forge at a blacksmith class

My husband and our youngest son took blacksmith classes and built themselves each a Thor hammer. How cool is that? The blacksmith genes apparently never left our bloodline.

Pastoral, agrarian images take us back to simpler times. In a watercolor class at the University of Utah, we were assigned to make a painting after the style of a favorite artist. I LOVE French artist WIlliam Bouguereau and tried my hand at this shepherdess. If you can learn to create it, you can have anything you want.

I saved a beehive-themed valance from my youngest son’s Winnie-the-Pooh nursery a long time ago. It comes in handy for Pioneer Day decor.

Old quilts, anything western, Native American, canvas and country can be used for decor. Enamel camp dishes, cast iron, wooden crates all add to the vintage pioneer look. Even Early American works – think, wooden, handmade and natural.

Enamel and splatterware camp dishes are perfect for Pioneer Day. Add your galvanized tin for a rustic look.

A quilt book from a thrift store and some repurposed wedding announcements yielded these note cards. Replace the ribbon with twine for a more rustic look.


Thrifty pioneers used everything and wasted nothing. Clothes worn out? Make rags – rugs, cleaning supplies, even dolls and toys. today if you have old books or cards, you can make note cards, recipe cards, invitations, etc. with the pictures.

This Pioneer Scavenger Hunt teaches children about the lives of pioneer children. You can collect and make all of the items and hide them, having the children find them, Or create stations where they actually perform the tasks. The downloadable file is available here.

Pictographs enabled Native Americans from different tribes to communicate when there were language barriers. This set of 72 symbols can be used to tell a story or just learn about the Natives that lived in the west. The file can be purchased here and downloaded. I printed them on cardstock and laminated them so they can be reused multiple times.

Delicious beehive bread makes a yummy breakfast or treat


Here’s a yummy treat for breakfast or any time.

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a William Sonoma beehive baking pan with pan release spray that contains flour, or use a 9” x 5” loaf pan, sprayed and lined with parchment.

Stir together

1 C bread flour
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2  tsp nutmeg
            Set aside the flour mixture. Cream together

1/2 C butter, softened
1 C granulated sugar


6 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened (low-fat cream cheese)
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
            Beat in one at a time
4 eggs

Gently fold in flour mixture, blend well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 37 – 40 minutes in the beehive pan (or at 325 degrees for 85-95 minutes in the loaf pan).  Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with butter.

If the bread is too pale you can place it on a cookie sheet and pop it back in the oven for a few minutes.

This all I have time for today, I’ll come back before July 24th and add a few great recipes and fun for your celebration. In the meantime, here are fun images to inspire your imagination.


Happy Independence Day

We’re feeling a little sad on this Independence Day. No fireworks, no parades, none of the usual activities that we enjoy to celebrate our nation’s birthday. Our families have been counseled not to gather and many of us have been home-bound since March. We’ve worried about the Chinese virus and watched as our nation shut down economically, socially, and physically. We’ve been told that this isolation is the new normal. And as President Trump and our leaders were battling heroically to get us back on track, another massive disaster hit. A part of the United States population decided they had been marginalized and unfairly treated for too long began to burn down the cities, destroy the memorials and sculptures that contain our history and heritage. Our law enforcement officers were targeted, abused, dismissed and even as they tried to protect and serve, they were attacked and injured and killed.

Earlier the Democrats, enraged that their corrupt and morally bankrupt leader presumptive wasn’t awarded the presidency, have plotted, lied and worked against our culture and our country and especially the duly-elected president, reaching a horrific crescendo with a failed coup which they dressed in sheep’s clothing and called an impeachment. Our weary hearts and minds may conclude that the Bard was correct when he stated:

How can we help our country? What can we do? For my part I have been involved in a political campaign as a volunteer coordinator. My mayor and friend decided last year to run for U.S. Congress. The election was this past week.

Even though she put up a great fight with her message of freedom over fear; sadly she did not prevail. But I was so proud of her courage and tenacity trying to restore our dwindling freedoms.

Parents, what can you do? As a “retired” parent, teacher and grandparent, I recommend that you teach your children the truth about America, teach them self-reliance, self-control and that their actions determine their futures. Teach them tolerance and respect and that they can be the positive change that our country needs. Teach them that “wickedness never was happiness.”

On a brighter note and in the spirit of celebration, lets hold in remembrance all of those who fought for our freedoms, who maintain our safe communities and enrich our homes. We at McMurtry Creative Media would like to thank you and recognize your service and sacrifice. God bless you as you bless America!

Here are some of my favorite photos of the best of this inspired experiment we call America.

The Liberty Stamp by
Painting by Arnold Friberg
john wayne quotes | John Wayne: Sure I Wave the American Flag - Do you know a better flag ...
Happy 4th of July to all my dear US friends that are following...
God Bless America
20 Best July 4th Porch decor ideas to spread the Patriotic Splurge in your front porch - Hike n Dip
Flickr. mealisab 
Happy 4th of July! (to any Americans)
Joseph F. Smith
fourth of july wreaths | Americana Wreath, Patriotic, Boston, Williamsburg, Fourth of July, Tea ...

Even though our celebration was different this year; we did enjoy delicious meal. Our son Tim who has become an accomplished chef in his own right, treated us to a Southern-style feast. Tim lived in Alabama for 2 years, teaching about Christ and serving the people there. He learned a lot about the Southern culinary culture and loves to highlight their cuisine.

Tim’s 4th of July Menu

Grilled racks of pork ribs

Macaroni with 4 cheeses

Baked bourbon and brown sugar beans

Grilled corn on the cob

Ice cold watermelon

Fresh lemonade

Banana pudding with whipped cream

Cherry-berry cheesecake pie (cheesecake on the 4th has become a new tradition that we enjoy!)


Happy Mother’s Day

Every spring, we pause for a minute to give tribute to our mothers. I did the math one time to try to imagine how many meals are fed to a growing child, how many pieces of clothing are purchased or made, worn, washed, folded, put away, worn, washed, folded, put away, worn, washed, folded, put away… how many prayers are uttered, toys picked up, prom dresses made, holidays celebrated, games and concerts attended and so forth. The numbers are staggering and almost every mother you ask, says motherhood was the best and hardest thing she has ever done.

This year we are sheltering my aged mother as she lives through the final seasons of her life on earth. Living with a person with dementia can be frustrating and some of the moments and days are crazy-making but so far we are all mostly intact. I owe her.

So happy Mother’s Day to all of the women who make the world a better place. Here is a poem I composed as a thank you and a tribute to the invisible work of being a mother. To honor those long nights during teething, the tears known only to God and the triumphs and joys as well as the sorrows and regrets. As I tell my family, you do what you can and Jesus’ atonement takes care of the rest. Happy Mother’s Day Mom.


By Pamela Layton McMurtry

To Mother,



Sister, friend and

 precious women

Who give life,


and give joy.

Who bled

and fed

and hid Easter eggs,

and wrapped gifts

and dyed Halloween costumes.

Who took me to the zoo

and Disneyland,

and grew pumpkins,

and taught me to play chess

and feed my babies.

Who taught me to write thank you notes

And have good manners

and remember birthdays

and ancestors

(and love them).

And gave me crayons

and dolls

and retainers

and fishnet nylons

and a radio to take to the beach.

Who took me to visit my grandparents

and on road trips

and swimming

and had a barbecue.

Who taught me to pray

and love

and find joy

and set a beautiful table.

And to watch out for little ones,

and spell correctly,

 and feed stray kittens,

and read books.

And to try,

and fail,

and try again.

Who found our great grandfathers were kings

and great grandmothers were queens. 

Who took pictures,

and listened as I learned to read,

and filled a piñata.

And eat Thanksgiving at the beach like Pilgrims,

and go on bike rides,

and read Luke on Christmas Eve,

and sing carols,

and find treats in my stocking.

To share with those in need,

and love art and beauty,

and wear bows in my hair

and shoes that fit,

and remember God and go to church.

Who sewed clothes,

and prayed for soldiers,

and firemen,

and missionaries,

and me. 

Who baked cakes

and arranged flowers,

and made 20,000 meals,

and made me brush my teeth.

And bought sugar sticks,

and made drawings,

and bread,

and Beef Stroganoff.

And soothed wounded hearts,

and took us to movies,

and to the woods,

and the sea.

And played

and prayed

and gave time

and love

and life.

Thank you.

Thank you to Blog Feedspot for including McMurtry Creative Media in their top Christmas blogs!

Get ready!

I am a prepper. Not hardcore, but somewhere I learned to plan for the best and prepare for the worst.

Here’s an article I wrote sometime back for FamilyShare: I will update it in a few but there are some basics to consider right now.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is little+piggy.jpeg
Beatrix Potter illustration

How prepared are you to face an emergency?

There are many options for obtaining and storing emergency food rations. My family uses some of our tax refund to purchase food to help us avoid pinching the budget. Others give food storage and survival items as gifts or use money from a vacation budget and enjoy a staycation. Another way to make your dollar stretch is to check the clearance aisle at the grocery store and buy day-old bread which freezes well.

Please don’t expect to be fed by government or charitable agencies, their resources will be stretched to the limit. Wouldn’t your family prefer foods they are accustomed to anyway? If you choose to utilize your resources and invest in preparedness, you do not need to worry or feel like you are taking away from others; actually your self-reliance reduces the burden on other groups. In a time of need, you will be in more of a position to help relieve the suffering of others, starting with those you value most. Remember, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

Let’s consider the wisdom of a centuries-old nursery rhyme as we learn about being prepared.

“This little piggy went to market”

One expert likes freeze-dried foods for the quality and shelf life. Many of us eat predominantly fresh foods such as produce, which doesn’t store well long term. Freeze-dried foods provide a reasonably similar option, are light weight and portable if you need to relocate. Many manufacturers offer selections of hundreds of servings of produce, meats, dairy and basic foods.

Some families choose military-style MREs (meals ready to eat) because they keep for a long time, are convenient, lightweight, nutritious and portable. Others use bulk food purchases to keep costs low. You can discover hacks like easily sprouting seeds for fresh vegetables and using dried fruits on the website below and social media sites. And let’s not forget adequate water; at least two gallons per person per day to stay alive and somewhat clean.

“This little piggy stayed home”

Did you know that you can freeze-dry foods yourself? Also, vacuum pouching foods for long-term storage is a good alternative. Chocolate chips will supposedly last for 11 years, unfortunately none of ours have stayed around long enough to test that. We found that shipped vacuum-pouched chocolate chip cookies and homemade treats arrived fresh and delicious for deployed soldier and missionary sons. During difficult times, it is nice to have some of the comforts you are accustomed to.

And what if fuel supplies are cut off? My son experienced the aftermath of tornadoes in the south. Natural gas lines were severed and other power was unavailable. We had hurricane-force winds knock out our power one December. On the drive to work the next day, we passed 16 overturned semis on the freeway. I have never been so cold in my life. We were not as prepared as our neighbors who had emergency generators to run heating systems. We did have lanterns and candles to provide light at night and were able to enjoy hot meals using our camp stove until the power was restored several days later.

“This little piggy had roast beef”

One of our neighbors is a canning expert. When she finds special prices on meats, she buys them in bulk and cans them in a pressure canner. She says that meats are one of the easiest foods to process and when purchased on sale, not terribly expensive. We don’t eat a lot of meat, but it will be nice to have a little bit now and then as an ingredient in soups and casserole-type dishes. She also cans butter in a water bath process and maintains that after three years, hers is still fresh and tasty. Of course you would need butter for those chocolate chip cookies.

“This little piggy had none”

You CAN go from zero to hero with preparation. One friend shared a method of planning 10 dinners, breakfasts and lunches that her family likes. She multiplied the ingredients by 10, then purchased and stored each meal in a bag with cooking instructions. Voila – three months’ worth of complete meals! She knows she has the necessary ingredients, spices and everything to feed her family for 100 days with her food storage and fuel. This is also good if you experience unemployment, have a sick child or get stranded and can’t get to the market for some reason. You will need to use and rotate these meals every so often to maintain freshness, but they are things your family likes, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

Another hack I like, is making and freezing homemade soups and casseroles. You can double or triple a recipe (or more) and make a lot of food at once for about the same amount of time and only one mess. This is a good idea for singles, small families, empty-nesters and busy people who don’t want to cook every day but still want variety.

“And this little piggy cried “wee, wee, wee all the way home.”

Don’t cry. There are lots of things you can do to be prepared. Check your local government website for other important instructions, including 72-hour kits, survival supplies and collecting important papers and documents. My husband works in a hospital that is telling their employees to have 96-hour survival supplies and a first aid kit at home and in the car. Here is another source for intelligent planning and preparedness.

The more you can do for yourself, the less you will have to worry about facing long lines, food and supply shortages, hunger and distress. And you may just be able to be a hero to others who are not so fortunate. Remember, when Noah built the ark it wasn’t raining.

Preparedness and Living Happily Ever After

If you are ready to start with the basics, here’s a guide:

Here are links for more ideas for preparedness, camping and family reunion ideas, enjoy!

Everything Under the Sun by Wendy Dewitt gives tons of valuable advice for emergency prep – thanks for sharing Wendy!

An Easter Miracle

While we are staying at home, washing our hands and eating our leafy greens (Mom was right), we could use a miracle to heal this land and the world. Easter is the perfect time to remember the greatest miracle of all; the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and turn to Him who is the master of miracles.

When we lived in Newport Beach with all the wonderfully creative people, some awesome person shared this activity: Easter Miracle Eggs. Each of the dozen eggs has a small object that teaches about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. With a few objects found around your house or some you can create with card stock, you can share this lesson with your littles. This is the story of Jesus, his voluntary suffering and triumphant resurrection. Because of His love for all of us, we too will live forever with our loved ones.

Print the following pages.

There’s room at Easter for all kinds of family traditions. Here are a few additional activities to make our creative time more fun!

This is an article I wrote for online and print media in 2015.

Long ago, in the medieval days when kings lived in castles, people celebrated Easter by decorating the great halls with evergreens and spring flowers. Like us, their descendants, they enjoyed holiday feasts. The tables were decorated with centerpieces of large glass bowls filled with Pace eggs; the word “Pace” comes from the Hebrew word “Pasch,” for Passover, according to Madeleine Pellner Cosman’s “Medieval Holidays and Festivals.”

The eggs were given as gifts to actors who performed humorous plays and stories from the Bible, such as the one about Noah and the great flood and other favorites. Easter celebrations lasted for 120 days and included other holidays such as Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, God’s Friday or Good Friday, Mothering Sunday and others. The word “holiday” is derived from the term “Holy Day,” according to Cosman.

During Easter in past times, there were many activities that we still participate in today; one was egg rolling. Two teams rolled eggs across a long carpet, like the game of croquet. Perhaps rolling eggs reminded them of the angels rolling away the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb. Today at Easter, people roll eggs on the lawn at the White House.

For your Easter feast or spring party, here is a delightful egg-themed treat that also doubles for a place card; the names are written on the eggs with edible-ink markers.


11-ounce bag of butterscotch morsels

¾ cup peanut butter

12-ounce bag of chow mein noodles

large malted milk and candy eggs

marker with edible ink

Line two baking pans with waxed paper. Melt the butterscotch morsels in a large pan over low heat. Add peanut butter and stir until blended. Remove from heat and gently fold in the chow mein noodles. Form nests from about 1/3 cup of the noodle mixture on parchment or wax paper and chill until firm. Makes about 10 large nests or you may choose to make smaller ones. Place on edible Easter grass on dessert plates or cupcake papers.


Using food-safe markers with edible ink, write the names of family and guests on large malted milk eggs or add a few jelly beans to each nest.


This game is played like Bingo except to win you must get 4 in a row. Copy, cut out and paste the squares in different order onto card stock using a glue stick. Read the Easter story and mark the square that goes with the scripture.

Mark 11 : 7 – 11

7  And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

8  And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.

9  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

10  Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

11  And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

 Matthew 21 :12 – 13

12  And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

13  And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Luke 22 : 10

10  And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.

 Luke 22 : 11 – 12

11  And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?

12  And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.

Matthew 26 : 26 – 29

26   And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

27  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

28  For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

29  But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

John 13 : 3 – 5

3  Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;

4  He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

5  After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

Matthew 26 : 14 – 16

14  Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

15  And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?  And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

16  And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

 John 18 : 1

1  When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

Luke 22 : 50 – 51

50  And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.

51  And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far.  And he touched his ear, and healed him.

Luke 22 : 54 – 62

54  Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house.  And Peter followed afar off.

55  And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.

56  But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.

57  And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.

58  And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them.  And Peter said, Man, I am not.

59  And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilæan.

60  And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest.  And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.

61  And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.  And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

62  And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Mark 15 : 15

15  And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.

 Matthew 27 : 24

24  When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

Mark 15:17

17  And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

John 19 : 23 – 24

3  Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

24  They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.  These things therefore the soldiers did.

Luke 23 : 38

38  And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Matt 28 : 2

2  And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.



One of the highlights of spring for children! They enjoy decorating eggs for the Easter Bunny to hide. At some houses the bunny hides the basket too. We have our hunt on Saturday to keep the Sabbath a little bit calmer. There are all sorts of yummy candies on the market for Easter. If you want to cut the sweets; dried fruit, nuts, small crackers and natural treats are a good alternative. And money – kids like money.

Indigo Crossing


For perfect hard-boiled eggs:

Allow the eggs to come to room temperature

Place eggs in a single layer in a pot

Add cold water to two inches above eggs

Set stove on high heat, boil one minute, cover, turn off heat and let sit for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove one egg, run it under cool water and peel to test for doneness.

Pour off cooking water; cover eggs with cool water.

Drain and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.


An easy, inexpensive dye can be made from food coloring, water and white vinegar.

For each pot of dye place in a container (the taller and narrower the better)

            1 C warm water

            1 TBSP white vinegar

            a few drops of food coloring

Place colored eggs in cardboard egg cartons to dry. For variations: draw on dry eggs with markers, add stickers and stars.


Dye eggs using the above method.

Place 1/2″ to 3/4″ of a dye mixture in the bottom of a shallow bowl.
 Start with 1 teaspoon, and add 1 to 3 teaspoons of canola, olive or vegetable oil to the dye. The base color will show through more with a larger amount of oil
Gently place an egg in the bowl. Use a fork or spoon to drizzle a few drops of dye over the egg to make a marbleized effect. Food coloring dyes the egg quickly. Using more oil in the dye bath will keep it from seeping into the egg too fast. Remove egg, place on a paper towel to dry. Wipe egg carefully. Avoid contact with furniture or other fabric.

Easter Bunny Lures
Bunny bait – entice the Easter bunny with cookies!



Glow-in-the-dark Silly Putty Eggs

Handmade bunnies, pompom chicks and ducks

German paper mache eggs containing small cars, dolls, and animals

Money egg:  fold up a $5 or larger bill, put it in a special egg


Bird whistles

Socially distanced bunnies

Tickets to a movie, concert or play


Fruit Snacks, Goldfish crackers

Jars of jam

Nuts, Jordan almonds

Ribbon, Cute shoelaces

These cute little Easter Bunny sketchpads have easy to follow instructions. They're the perfect size to tuck in Easter baskets, mini purses or gifts.

A key to ?


Small games

A gift certificate for an ebook;  hobby or skill lessons

Stationary, pen

Balls, Slinky, Yo-yo

China teacups and saucers


Peter Rabbit or Bunnykin dishes

Dissolving capsules with creatures or animals

Easter snowglobe

Folding paper fan, origami animals

Paper dolls, Jacks

RARE Steiff Easter Bunny Bibie with Button Chest Tag Vintage German | eBay

Wind-up toys


Rubber duckies

Lip balm, makeup, fancy soap

Crayons, pencils, markers, paints and brushes

Refrigerator magnets

I just love this Peter Rabbit tea set.

Fast food gift certificates

Finger puppets from foreign countries

Flower and vegetable seed packets for the garden

Decorated cookies


Sewing cards made with vintage images, cardstock and yarn

Chinese jump rope, small puzzles

Action figures – especially prophets and sisters (available at LDS bookstores)

Chocolate Cake with Easter Kabobs


Red licorice laces

Froot Loops cereal

fruit lifesavers

Marshmallow peeps; bunnies and chicks

            Use a bamboo skewer to poke a hole sideways through the peeps. Have the children thread the Froot Loops and lifesavers onto the licorice, add a peep and more lifesavers and cereal. Use a small piece of duct tape to close ends.

Gateau printemps

For more colorful and happy ideas visit my Pinterest board:

And since shopping is a challenge this year – be sure to order your Easter things early! Many of your favorite retailers will deliver to your home.

Also, visit Hilltop Farm, the home of Peter Rabbit

About the atonement, an Easter activity for children and a delicious dinner to celebrate Christ's victory over death and evil
Celebrate LIFE – celebrate Easter!

Home Sweet Home

While we are experiencing more time at home than usual, I wanted to share ideas for simple, inexpensive activities for children. I’m an art teacher and parent of seven, grandma of 14 and have worked and played with children for many years. See what you and your children would enjoy from these articles from my blog and FamilyShare – now FamilyToday. Many are suggestions are for summer days and trips but with a few adjustments you may find ways to enhance your homeschooling and quarantine time together.

Old-fashioned ideas for summer fun

Summer is a great time to enjoy creative play with your children and grandchildren. Here are creative activities to help you enjoy your busy and happy little ones this season.

Summer days are like a canvas; ready for painting in any imaginative way. Freed from the restraints of school performance and other scheduled obligations, children are ready to let their imaginations run wild. In the days gone by, parents encouraged their kids to play outside, usually without a lot of supervision or expensive props. Enjoy some of the best of the past by turning the little ones loose to explore and create their own interesting adventures and worlds. The lawn may take a hit, but remember, you are raising children, not grass. Provide lots of drinking water and a few healthy snacks and watch the exquisite workings of the imagination unfold!

Here are a few ideas for enjoyable old-fashioned summer play. Fill a large jar with slips of paper with ideas for activities and games. After chores are finished or if boredom begins to rear its ugly head, let the children select a slip of paper to jump-start imaginative play. For ideas to fill your activity jar, scroll down to the photo of a jar with a red bow and see what appeals to you.

No purchase necessary

Provide simple items and encourage the children to participate in imaginative play. A few things to have on hand might include: large cardboard boxes, building toys such as interlocking blocks and Tinkertoys, old dress-up clothes, a few pots and pans, play money, dolls and assorted things (clean out a junk drawer).

Kids love a hideaway

Help the children create one by setting up a tent or tying up a few ropes and blankets. This becomes a fort, store, castle, fashion show, stage or spy base. They are only limited by their imaginations. My sister, brother and I used to love playing together and with the other children in the neighborhood. We were secret agents, shopkeepers, fashion models, teachers and nurses, mermaids and stars. We created treasure hunts, obstacle courses, private clubs, zoos, safaris and worlds of wonder — even an imaginary candy land (before Willy Wonka).

Here are simple ideas for themed play


Create surveillance and communication equipment from assorted stuff: old lipstick tubes, interlocking blocks and other junk. This might be challenging for kids used to having cell phones, but put away the real electronics and see what their brilliant little minds can come up with. From their super secret spy base, they may just save the world!

Box it up

A whole world of transportation can be created from cardboard boxes. From trains and planes to cars, boats and rockets, your adventurers can zoom around the world and beyond. Other uses: forts, shops, castles and home sweet home.

Little Squirts

Acquire an arsenal of hydrotactical assault weapons (get some water guns.) This is a tip from a recent high school graduate. Refill buckets are essential, but keep babies and toddlers away.

Wildflower Tea Party

Invite the girls for a charming social. The hostess can make and hand out invitations, set the table (which could be a box), gather flowers for a centerpiece, pour juice and pass cookies and sweets.

Treasure Hunt

Turn the older creative ones loose to create a treasure hunt for the little ones. Find landmarks, hide clues and try to get to the prize before the pirates do.

Dress up

Gather a few interesting pieces of clothing and create a Bible story, fashion show or play. Our favorites were Peter Pan, we were either flying or playing mermaids in our wading pool, rock star and runway. On Sundays the Old Testament provides lots of great epic tales to recreate.Free playtime is a great incentive and reward for finishing chores. Children love creating all kinds of fun using invention and wit and developing social and imaginative skills. Save money and enjoy a little old-fashioned fun this summer with your children, you will be glad you did.

Enrich your summer time with your children or grandchildren by enjoying a few simple or complex activities in your home, yard or neighborhood. Here are a few ideas that you can try:

Summer scrapbook

Give each of your children a blank book or have them create a book with blank pages, this can be plain brown paper bags tied together. Encourage them to record their summer adventures, write about trips, books they read and people they visited. Be sure to add photos and mementos of activities.

Literary adventures

Have children pick a character and share details of a story or act out an excerpt from the book from the character’s point of view (good for creating empathy). Plan a meal with a theme from the story, such as an Alice in Wonderland’s tea party, a cowboy cookout or an outer space picnic. A library is a wonderful source for books, movies and story times.

Theme days: What is red?

Pick a theme for the day or related themes for a week, such as the beach, a horse, rocks, flowers, blue, superheroes etc. Look at books and websites for ideas and plan an activity that incorporates that theme. Ask “What is (color)?” For example, ask “what is your favorite red thing?” Wear red, eat something red, and so forth. Have a scavenger hunt to find red items or play “I Spy.”

Family stories and traditions

Share stories from family history. If you can, visit a place where ancestors lived, look for landmarks, maybe old homes or cemeteries.

Make a bingo game with five rows of five squares featuring copies of family photos or names and places. Tell stories of your ancestors as you pass out the photos to glue-stick into place on the bingo cards. Play family bingo and save the cards to play again after Thanksgiving dinner.

On a map, show where where each child was born, where family members lived, where soldiers served and what important events occurred.

Who are you?

You and your little one can research the meaning of your his or her name. Make a decorated plaque or poster showing your child’s interests.

See if you can find a family crest or coat of arms – check heraldry websites or books.

Heartfelt hug

Make a “hug” out of a long strip of felt or paper with traced hands glued to the ends. Write a message on the strip, add hearts and send it to a soldier, grandparent or someone who could use a little love.

Fun with scripture stories

Dress in simple costume pieces such as sashes, robes and sandals and act out favorite scripture stories.

Make a mobile (hanging collage) with items that represent the days of the creation of the earth.

Make simple puppets and have a puppet show of favorite scripture heroes.

Pick a scripture theme and host a two-hour tournament of skill and/or water games. This can be a fun activity using stories like Daniel in the Bible. Talk about being brave, a faithful helper and overcoming fear. Many American soldiers that have served in Afghanistan have learned some Dari, the language named for King Darius. Perhaps you can ask a soldier to teach the children a few phrases.

Games based on stories from Daniel might include

Refusing the king’s meat which had been sacrificed to idols and asking for pulse, a seed and grain mixture. Toss beanbags at fake burnt meat and bottles of wine on a cardboard “idol” statue. Hand out bags of trail mix and bottles of water.

Spending the night in a den of lions and emerging safely (set up a zip line with a small angel cutout to soar over cardboard lions on the ground or do a tightrope-style walk on a board with lions around, have white-costumed “angels” come and help).

Have a squirtgun fight with a fiery “furnace.”

Use red lens disposable decoder glasses to read a poster of green writing on a red grid which you can print in green, then draw red lines over. The red glasses will filter the red lines so only the green shows through (Daniel 5:18-28).

Build a statue representing the kingdoms of the world out of boxes: decorate one with a gold head, one with silver chest and arms, another with a belly and thighs of brass, a fourth with legs of iron and the last, feet of clay. Use a bowling ball or heavy ball to represent the kingdom of God to knock down the statue.

Also, it’s very likely that Daniel would approve of fruit and other healthy summertime treats.

Oh What Do You DO In The Summertime?

You LOVE your children and want to have fun and make good memories. But – those summer days can be a bit long. Here are a few ideas for activities for a happy summer. Print, cut up into slips, pick out the ones that work for your family and store in a cute container. When they finish their chores and are looking for things to do, here you go. Happy Summer!

If you need more things to do – please visit my Etsy store and download some pictograph stories, coloring pages and other fun things!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit

Earning a kiss: if you want to plant one on the famous Blarney Stone prepare to hike up winding narrow staircases.

The Irish culture strikes me as passionate and romantic. Cozy cottages, stone castles, mossy green woods and emerald fields. Rosy children – red hair! One trip to Ireland was all it took to steal my heart.

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The Irish are pros at hospitality as illustrated by one of my favorite lines from “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” Disney’s vintage leprechaun movie (starring Sean O’Connery-sigh).

Image result for darby o'gill and the little people

After Darby O’Gill captures the king of the leprechauns and tricks him by keeping him occupied with stories and woo-skey all night. The king asks “would you violate the sacred rites of hospitality?” For Darby that was a yes, but for the rest of Ireland hospitality is their hallmark.

But the Emerald Isle was not always charming and welcoming. Way back around 400 A.D., an English boy from a Christian family found this out the hard way.

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for FamilyShare, now FamilyToday.

Did you know that St. Patrick wasn’t Irish?

Patrick was born Maewyn Succat, around 385 A.D in Britain. His father belonged to a Roman family of high rank and was a government official in Gaul or Britain. His mother was a near relative of the patron of Gaul, St. Martin of Tours.

Maewyn grew up without faith even though his parents tried to teach him the gospel of Christ. When he was 16 years old, he was working on his family’s estate when he was kidnapped by fierce Irish pirates who took him to Ireland and sold him to a wealthy Druid. For six years as he labored as a slave, tending sheep and living outdoors, he learned the language and ways of the Celtic pagans. Living in lonely solitude, he began to pray and repent of his youthful follies and his faith in God and love for Him grew.

One night he had a dream in which he was told to fast and prepare to escape, a ship was waiting for him; he fled and secretly journeyed 200 miles to the coast. A runaway slave, he would have been killed if he was discovered. He said later that God directed his journey, showing him the way to go. When he arrived at the coast and prepared to board the ship, the captain refused to take him. He went a short distance away and prayed that the captain would change his mind. The sailors called after him, telling him to hurry back.

During the voyage, the ship wrecked and the crew and passengers were stranded in a deserted place. After four weeks, they were starving and began to be ill. The captain asked him why he did not pray to his God to help them. Maewyn asked the Lord for help; a herd of pigs appeared, providing the men with much-needed food. The captain kept Maewyn as a slave for several more years. One night he heard a voice that told him he would be free in two months, and he was. He now knew what he wanted to do with his life. He went to France to study Christianity at Tours, the monastery of his relative, St. Martin. He was ordained a bishop and given the Latin name “Patricus,” meaning “Noble” or “Father.” He finally arrived home and his family was overjoyed to see him, but Patrick had a strong prompting that he should travel to Ireland and teach the message of Christ to the pagan people there.

Returning to Ireland, he began to teach the people in their own tongue. As he served the people in meekness and love, they began to love him and listen to his message. He traveled among the pagans, converting the chieftains and tribes. He built churches and Christian schools. One story tells how he met the Druids as they gathered at Tara for a demonic conference one Easter. He withstood their magic and curses and held off an attack by the Arch-Druid leader who was killed. He taught the convened Druids twice. At first, the Irish chiefs resisted him and opposed his work, but because of his love for God and kindness toward all men and persistence, they began to believe in him and his faith. He served for more than 30 years in Ireland. Almost all the Druid chiefs and their followers became Christians.

When Patrick died on March 17th, in the fifth century, there was great mourning throughout the land. The Irish people made the day a commemoration of the great Christian missionary, Patrick. And even today, 15 centuries later, his life and work are celebrated throughout many nations around the world.


That you can read St. Patrick’s own autobiography and testimony? “The Confessio of Saint Patrick” was written in Latin and later translated into English.

That St. Patrick’s color was blue?

Image result for st patrick in blue

That the authentic Irish meal for St. Patrick’s Day was boiled bacon and potatoes? Corned beef was a dish that Irish immigrants from the Potato Famine era in the 1840s started eating after they settled in New York. They were very poor and could only afford inexpensive cuts of beef. After saving money for several days they would, maybe once a week, purchase a piece of meat. Because there were no refrigerators yet, they learned to brine the beef in a salted liquid and spices to make it last for a few meals, which is where corned beef came from.



Before St. Patrick’s Day, talk to your family about service. Explain that St. Patrick used the symbol of the shamrock to teach about the Godhead. It also is said to represent faith, hope and charity – if there is a fourth leaf it represents luck. To honor the tradition, pass out paper shamrocks or stickers and invite your family to do secret acts of service for each other. When a kind deed is done, leave a shamrock to mark the spot. The recipient can write a brief description of the service. Place the shamrocks on the table for decorations for your holiday dinner.


Nothing brings the Emerald Isles feeling like Irish music. CDs can be purchased at music, party or craft stores, or checked out from the library or downloaded. Can you dance a jig?


For Irish-style entertainment, these movies can’t be beat! Disney’s “Darby O’Gill and the Little People;” Sayle’s “The Secret of Roan Inish;” and “Riverdance.” Don’t forget the TV travel shows featuring tours of Ireland.


Tint everything green with food coloring: green milk, green eggs, cookies, even green bread for sandwiches. Yes, it’s gross, but the kids get a kick out of it! A not-so-bad treat… green sherbet in lemon-lime soda.


Yes, St. Patrick’s color was blue, but today’s celebration calls for the green of Catholic Northern Ireland, or orange of Protestant Southern Ireland. Invite everyone to wear something green or orange to dinner. Decorate the house with pots of flowers, tied bunches of dried herbs, flowers or wheat with green ribbons to create a festive air.


For a fun and enlightening time, read books with your children about leprechauns, St. Patrick and Ireland. Teaching them about other cultures helps them learn to appreciate and love people who are different from themselves.

shamrock cookies Repinned By:#TheCookieCutterCompany
Photo by Erica Seifert


Leave a plate of green treats on the doorstep of a neighbor or friend; with a note from an anonymous friendly leprechaun. Ding-dong-ditch if you are fast enough!


The story of St. Patrick underscores the importance of religious freedom and open discussion. In our current society, there is a political dogma being promoted that any religion that causes “hurt feelings” should be repressed or eliminated. We must stand up for our rights of free speech, freedom of religion and the pursuit of happiness. Its interesting that the political “pagans” of our time feel they have the authority to dictate to Christians how we should live. We have been following the guidance of the 10 Commandments for centuries – if a person’s feelings are hurt because we promote a moral lifestyle and God-fearing society that follows His laws; that person is the one who needs reflection and introspection. Christians should be able to live and share their faith without reprisal; Jesus loves all of his children but He favors the righteous.

Tune in to BYU SiriusXM Radio 143 on March 17th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern for a discussion about St. Patrick and "How the Irish Saved Civilization."
Cahill’s amazing book about the role of early Irish Christians in saving the history and culture of Europe

It wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day at the McMurtry’s without our favorite glazed corned beef recipe with Dijon-butter cabbage. This year we will be copying our favorite brownie recipe from BYU.


This is so tasty, you may never go back to old-school corned beef.    Preheat oven to 350. Place fat side up in a lined baking pan

1 corned beef brisket, rinsed (don’t use the spice packet)

Cover with foil, bake for 2 1/2 hours or until fork-tender. Drain, score with a knife,    stud with

whole cloves

   baste with

ginger ale

   brush on glaze, return to oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes uncovered. Let cool for 15 minutes, slice across the grain


   Stir together  

1/2 C prepared mustard
1/2 C + 2 TBSP brown sugar

                                                        DIJON-BUTTERED CABBAGE

    Cut in half, remove core and cut into 1/2″ slices
1 medium head of cabbage
    Steam covered for 6 to 8 minutes until crisp-tender, drain, drizzle with Dijon butter and season
    with sea salt and pepper.

1/2 C butter
   Stir in
2 1/2  TBSP Dijon mustard

And for dessert, Newell’s favorite brownies.

BYU Mint Brownie Recipe - Famous Favorites

Here’s a super-easy centerpiece for St. Patrick’s Day using upcycled materials. This seriously cost me nothing to make – but then I have a garage full of craft stuff.

Leprechaun Cottage

This country cottage is just the right size for a leprechaun to hide gold coins in (chocolate-covered from See’s candy). Make it with your family or crafting group for a fun project.

You will need:

a medium-size unfinished wooden birdhouse ($4.99 @ Michael’s craft store)

white gesso or acrylic or tempera paint

burnt umber acrylic paint

light green acrylic paint

large and small paintbrushes

a handful of large and small pebbles

dry green moss


A hot glue gun and glue sticks or thick craft glue

Shamrock or decoration if desired

  • Whitewash the birdhouse with 3 – 4 coats of gesso or paint, allow to dry between each coat. 
  • Paint the door and base green and the eaves and doorknobs brown.
  • Hot glue small pebbles around the door and larger ones around base of the house, filling in with the tiniest ones.
  • Glue the twigs along the front and back of the roof edges and over the window. Glue moss to the roof and tops of the pebbles.
  • Add an ornament if desired. Hide a few gold foil-covered coins inside the cottage.

A leprechaun garden doubles as a centerpiece and appetizer for your St. Patrick's Day dinner.

Wherever you are in the world, remember St. Patrick on March 17th and celebrate his legacy. And if you get to the Blarney Castle remember to wear good climbing shoes – its a long way up narrow stone staircases to plant a kiss on the famous stone.

While you’re there enjoy a stroll around the grounds – beware of the POISON GARDEN! And admire the sweaters on the trees!

On March 17th everyone’s a little Irish, well almost everyone.

PS Here in the US we are under a sort of quarantine to keep a nasty little bug from spreading. Check out my Pinterest board for entertaining ideas!

Those of us with kiddos might enjoy these ideas:

St. Patricks Day Bingo

A Bingo game with Lucky Charm markers!
Christian St. Patrick's Day Coloring Pages
andere Farben und mehr Kurven dann könnten da richtige Blumen draus werden
Memorize an Irish blessing!

Love is in the Air

Image result for valentine's day 2020

 It’s that time again.

Every February my honey and I celebrate our anniversary and Valentine’s Day with 1200 sci fi and fantasy/fiction writers at the LTUE Writer’s Conference in Provo, Utah. While that may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, it gives us a lot to think about and discuss as we develop the craft and pursue our dreams of making a difference.

My husband is a great, hard-working guy. He doesn’t like to spend money on things he considers frivolous. However, he just returned from a trip to Vietnam after visiting our son and his wife there. He brought back a few surprises for our 27th anniversary and Valentine’s Day. While we are sitting in writing classes learning how to kill off our characters, build plots and sell a few books, I will be wearing something new from the other side of the planet. So far its a cashmere houndstooth check scarf. OOoooh – nice in the freezing mountain air.

Now onto other Valentine’s Day topics.

For this Valentine’s Day. I’m going to circle back to an article I wrote for about giving the gift your Sweetheart wants by identifying his or her LOVE LANGUAGE(S).

Share the Love: Giving the Right Kind of Gift

When You Give a Gift, Do You Speak the Love Language of Your Sweetheart? Here Are Some Ideas to Share Your Love in Ways He or She Will Love.

By Pamela Layton McMurtry

I love the love. I revel in the red hearts and luscious flowers; the beauty of sweeping romantic gestures that define Valentine’s Day. Before you rush out to buy those long-stemmed, red roses or sew that monogrammed bathrobe – although I am certainly not discouraging the practice – you might take a moment to assess whether that act of kindness will speak of your love to your love.

In his book, The Five Love Languages

Author Gary Chapman PhD. describes languages that speak to the heart. He says that many genuine acts of love and kindness go unappreciated, because the message didn’t translate to fill the needs of the recipient. The five primary love languages, according to Dr. Chapman, are:

  1. Acts of service
  2. Physical touch
  3. Words of affirmation
  4. Quality time
  5. Receiving gifts

All are valuable and helpful, but have you heard of the Platinum Rule? It states,

“Do unto others as they would like to have done unto them.”

In other words, give them what they want. It seems most people have two primary love languages. Many women have appreciated being taken to a nice dinner, but what they were hungry for was quality time with their loved one, or kind words without biting sarcasm, dismissive comments or unnecessary judgments.

A Vintage Journey
A Vintage Journey

And a husband might appreciate an elaborately prepared handmade gift, but what really says love might be a massage or positive feedback on a project. See if you can identify the love languages of your spouse, partner, friends and children. Ask them what makes them feel loved.

A Path of Love - Adorable Wedding Decoration

Here are a few ideas for Valentine gifts that can show your love.

Random Acts of Kindness on World Kindness Day - Pottery Barn

Acts of service

  • Paint that bathroom that’s been waiting too long.
  • Give him or her a night off to do something with friends or just some me time.
  • Share a good meal.
  • Take over one of his or her chores.

Physical touch

  • Get a massage book and give a good massage to help your loved one de-stress.
  • Hold hands as you walk together.
  • A hand on the shoulder, a pat on the back, a long hug (my teen says wrestling).
  • Wash their hair. Many women feel calm when their heads are touched.

Words of affirmation

  • Kind words or a sincere compliment lift the spirit.
  • Withhold criticism.
  • Words of encouragement give strength and courage.
  • Read poetry, the art of poetry carries the words to the soul.
  • Help with family history or listen to a story from their past that has meaning to them.

Quality time

  • Find something you both enjoy doing for a win-win. A walk through a park, a concert, gazing at the stars – enjoy a hobby together.
  • Visit someone who is lonely or ill.
  • Visit a temple, church or synagogue together.
  • Turn off the phones, get away for a night or a few. Check out for a time – the world will continue to spin, guaranteed.

Receiving gifts

  • A new dress or pair of shoes.
  • An original poem or song you wrote.
  • Flowers; the color and scent really do uplift the spirit and help promote healing and cheer.
  • Cheese. OK, chocolate, but cheese has more mood-elevating properties than chocolate.
  • A wonderful book, something to make life easier, more pleasant or a novelty to promote dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives a feeling of well-being.

It’s apparent that showing love doesn’t have to cost a great deal of money, but an investment of time and thought.

Love heals and cheers and is the answer to the world’s ills. Make sure the love you share is the love they need. Share the love this season and make your world a bit of heaven on earth.

Wedding Vows - Making the Wedding Vows Sound Spoken From The Heart -- You can find more details by visiting the image link. #FunnyWeddingVows

If Valentine’s Day finds you solo this year, please take special time to enjoy something fun in your own love language. You are amazing and loved!