Our Need for a Savior

As Easter once again approaches, I’d like to share a few thoughts about our need for a Savior.

We have been taught by ancient and modern prophets about our purpose on earth, we are here to prepare to meet God and with Him enjoy eternal life. Do we always get everything right? Never make a mistake? Not me, I’ve made my share and then some but in the Doctrine and Covenants section 64, starting in verse 2, the Lord tells us,” For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion on you.”

In verse 7, “…I say unto you, I the Lord forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death.”

Verse 13, And this ye shall do that God may be glorified—not because ye forgive not, having not compassion, but that ye may be justified in the eyes of the law, that ye may not offend him who is your lawgiver.

Verse 23: “Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.

At Easter, we think about the perfect example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We want to be pure before Him and as the time of His prophesied Second Coming draws closer, it is wise for us to prepare by forgiving and working a little harder to be good Christians.

Christ, who had the power to overcome death and the grave, promises to be with us and help us through these difficult times. He is always true to His word, whether He offers a blessing or pronounces a curse because of our actions. This Easter, let us think about ways to become more Christlike and forgiving, even as He forgives us.

It’s interesting to think that for almost 2,000 years our ancestors looked to the Savior for comfort and protection. But when the priesthood was taken from the Earth, probably around the 4th Century A.D., men turned to superstition and other devices hoping for help. But shortly after America was founded and the Constitution guaranteeing and protecting freedom of religion ratified, the heavens once again opened.

John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood through the young prophet Joseph Smith on May 15, 1829. Later Peter, James and John transferred the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood and Elijah gave the Sealing Power in the first temple of this dispensation on April 3, 1836 after the dedication. Once again, man on earth had access to the help and powers of heaven; to heal, to baptize, to remit sin, to gather Israel, seal families together for eternity and confer the guidance and companionship of the Holy Ghost.

It is my privilege and responsibility to share these critical pedagogies at this time.

My family loves Easter and its attendant traditions; but the true power and majesty comes from the knowledge that Jesus Christ through His Divine power and Sonship overcame death and was resurrected, and we can have the same experience through Him. I’m grateful to be part of a forever family, to have a continued relationship beyond the grave with the people who mean the most to me. I love my Savior and encourage you to come unto Him and help others to also.

Happy Easter.

Here are a few of our favorite traditions, I’ve posted them before but its fun to revisit these especially if you have children.

Easter and Passover

Please take a few minutes to watch this inspirational video about Jesus Christ and see how He can change your life: 


This sweet little activity teaches small children about the miracle of Easter. A basket is filled with colored plastic Easter eggs containing scripture verses and objects that represent Christ’s experience.

You will need

12 medium to large plastic Easter eggs that open and the objects below.

With a fine point permanent marker write the numbers 1 – 12 on the ends of the plastic eggs. Copy and cut apart the scriptures of the Easter story and place in the numbered eggs with the following:

1. A small cup or wooden thimble (from craft store)

2. Three dimes

3. A 4″ piece of twine

4. A small piece of soap

5. A small robe cut from red felt

6. A small wooden cross or brown card stock cross

7. Two dice

8. A small square of white fabric torn almost in half

9. A square of white fabric

10. A small stone

11. A few cloves, a piece of cinnamon stick, bay leaf

12. Nothing – this represents the empty tomb

Have the children open the eggs in order to read the Easter story above. Print it and cut it into strips to add to the eggs.


Melt in a large saucepan

12 oz butterscotch chips

Add and stir until blended

1 C peanut butter

Fold in

10 – 12 oz. chow mein noodles

Drop by large spoonfuls onto wax paper, shape into nests. Using a food marker pen, write names on

large candy-coated malted eggs

Place in nest with a few jellybeans.  Yields 15 small nests.


I love this book!

The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward

A sweet mother rabbit wants to be an Easter Bunny. She can do it with her family’s cooperation, but needs a little more help to take a special treat to a  child in need.

Image result for max's chocolate chicken

Max’s Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells

Ruby teaches Max the intricate finesse of Easter egg hunting.

Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells

Ruby and Max shop for a present for Grandma.

Image result for the tale of peter rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

The classic adventure of a mischievous Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor’s garden.

Your local book store and online book sellers have lots of beautifully illustrated sacred and secular Easter books.

Image result for peter rabbit and mom

Easy-to-make Easter Gift

Is the Easter Bunny at your house looking for easy inexpensive gifts to fill the baskets? Here’s a cute and easy project:

You will need:
2 twelve inch scrapbook papers
2 plain white 8.5″ x 11″ papers for each booklet
miniature colored pencils (shown from Michael’s Crafts)
gluestick or glue
grommets, punch and setter or sewing machine
twine or ribbon

Attach the scrapbook papers together with right sides out using the adhesive.

Cut into 4″ x 12″ strips. Decide which will be the outside, lay the paper with the outside down. Fold 2” of the bottom edge up toward the center and crease. Punch holes and use grommets in the corners or stitch to make a pocket.

Bring the top edge down to the bottom fold and crease the center, it should be 5″‘ x 4″ . Set aside the cover.

Fold the white paper lengthwise into 4.25″ x 11″. Cut into three strips 4.25″ x 3.66″ Stack the six sheets and punch holes on the crease, about an inch in from each edge.

Lay the white papers on the cover, center them and punch matching holes in the cover. Tie together with twine or ribbon.

Tuck pencils into pocket and give to darling little people.



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 focus on the Savior on the Sabbath. There are all sorts of yummy candies on the market for Easter. If you want to cut the sugar; 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!

Sugar Cookies


1 C butter, softened
1 1/2 C sugar
1 egg
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon flavoring

Set aside. In another bowl sift together

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 C whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until a smooth dough is formed.
Add 1 – 2 tsp water if necessary. Wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Roll
out fough on floured surface to 1/2 ” thick. Cut with cookie cutters, place on
lightly-greased cookie sheets. bake at 400 6- 8 minutes, until golden around
the edges. Cool on pan 5 minutes, then remove to a cookie rack. Frost with
Lemon Buttercream Frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Cream together

1 C butter, softened
1 tsp lemon flavoring

Mix in

1 lb. powdered sugar
2 – 3 tBSP milk

Divide and add food coloring as desired (we used neon for the cookies in the photo). These are so delicious and can be baked ahead and frozen.



Glow-in-the-dark Silly Putty Eggs or scented putty in tins

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

Tickets to a movie, concert or play


Fruit Snacks, Goldfish crackers

Jars of jam

Nuts, Jordan almonds

Ribbon, Cute shoelaces

Meet the McMurtrys!

Hi, thank you for stopping by – we’re your neighbors Newell and Pam McMurtry . We are excited to get to know you; here’s our contact information.

Newell and Pam McMurtry

813 Cherry Lane

Smithville, MO, 64089

Our website for McMurtry Creative Media is is www.mcreativem.com

This is our backstory:

Gene Newell McMurtry

Newell was born in the early 1950s to Gene and Joyce Newell McMurtry in Holly Colorado, a tiny town on the border of Kansas where his family had a cattle ranch. To support his growing family, Gene returned to college (Purdue) and became a professor of agriculture. His first job was at Virginia Tech, and they settled in Blacksburg, VA. Newell grew up with his 4 younger brothers and sisters there, explored caves, and enjoyed the beautiful Appalachian area. He attended VT where he earned a B.S. degree in Biology. He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served a mission in Munich Germany in the early 1970s. While he was in Germany, his Dad took a job at UMass Amherst and the family moved to Massachusetts. Newell met and married Dana at BYU in Utah and because of his Dad’s fight with cancer, they moved back to Massachusetts to help his family. His first son Karl was born in Massachusetts. He joined the Army Reserves and earned a M.S. in Human Nutrition. His son Dylan was born years later in Bakersfield, CA where he had taken a job. He recently retired after a successful career as a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetic Educator and a nutrition teacher at Taft College.

Newell writes science fiction, has had a book published, Commodore Farmer .

Also a self-published anthology called Night Clinic.

Pamela Layton McMurtry

Pam was born to Larry and Nixon Roberts Layton in Los Angeles, CA where Larry was studying at USC on the G.I. Bill in the late 1950’s. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and took a job in Oceanside, CA as a teacher, then principal. Pam grew up on the beach in Carlsbad, CA with her younger sister and brother. After she graduated from high school , she married Bill and they became the parents of William, Laurel, Heather and Andrew, all born in Oceanside, CA. Pam attended school, worked in gourmet catering and wedding design and earned a B.F.A. with emphasis in art teaching from the University of Utah.

Pam writes nonfiction and children’s literature and self-published A Harvest and Halloween Handbook on Amazon and BN.com.

Also A Mermade’s Tale for children. She has also published 60 articles in print and online media and has been featured as the “Holiday Diva” on 16 BYU Sirius XM Radio 143 broadcasts. She has also made public art and taught art classes from grades K- college.

When Pam and Newell were single parents living in Bakersfield, CA, they met at a church dance and after dating for a while, decided to blend their families. They had one more son named Tim and had seven children altogether.

This is an old photo; now they are grandparents of 15!

Our Ties to Missouri

Pam’s great…great grandparents Elizabeth Duncan and her husband Samuel Porter were American Revolutionary War heroes in Virginia/Kentucky. They eventually moved with their children to Independence, MO where she died and was buried in 1845. Pam’s great great grandmother, Sarah Jane Porter was born in Lee’s Summit in 1844. Pam’s granddaddy George William Roberts was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1914.

We are excited to be here in the Heartland and look forward to living near and serving you our new neighbors. We have started a writer’s group that meets in our home the first Friday of the month. If you are published, experienced or are new in the journey and would like tips and advice, join us! Text Pam and she will add you to our text chain. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Newell is an experienced genealogist; if you would like to search your family roots he can help you. We have discovered many exciting people and relationships in our family history and even went to Europe to see some of the places our ancestors built, their communities and traditions.

If we’re not here we’re probably with our grandchildren or at the lake or the beach (or wishing we were ;)) Call or text if you need anything.

“How the Irish Saved Civilization”

To truly understand the accomplishments of Saint Patrick and the early Irish Christian converts, one should read Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe . It has been a few years since I read it and I admit, its time to read it again.

The history below explains how Patrick’s faith and love turned a warring savage country into a beautiful haven. We visited Ireland a few years ago and found the people to be the kindest and most hospitable group we encountered in our European experience. Our family has extensive Irish roots, going back to the O’Neils of 9th Century Ireland and beyond. And then there is the legend of the Israeli princess that married the Irish High King around 575 B.C.E. This links to a very interesting article.

So make yourself comfortable and travel back in time to meet St. Patrick in this article I wrote for FamilyShare, now familytoday; with updates and our photos added.

We Owe St. Patrick’s Day To Pirates. Yes, Pirates

St. Patrick overcame tragedy and served so faithfully that Ireland still celebrates his great life.

By Pamela Layton McMurtry

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?

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. Scroll down for a delicious recipe.



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, gold-covered chocolate coins (See’s brand are our favorites) 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 vibes like Irish music. Celtic Woman (above) is a crowd pleaser and we love their renditions of ballads. Our favorite CD (yes we are that old) is one we bought at Target years ago. And then there are the Wicked Tinkers, a Celtic band that plays at Scottish festivals, but everyone is a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.



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” (above) 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. Or go natural with a Leprechaun Garden crudites. Yes the mushrooms have edible food coloring polka dots.


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, the Blarney Stone and Ireland. Teaching them about other cultures helps them learn to appreciate and love people who are different from themselves.


Leave a plate of green treats on the doorstep of a neighbor or friend; with a note from an anonymous friendly leprechaun. Or a tree sweater like this one at the Blarney Castle. Ding-dong-ditch if you are fast enough!


May the road rise up to meet you

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face

May rains fall soft upon your fields

And until we meet again,

May God keep you in the hollow of His hand.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Erin go Braugh (Ireland Forever!)

Here are some most delicious recipes for gathering your clan for St. Patrick’s Day


This is so tasty, you may never go back to old-school corned beef.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place fat side up in a baking pan
1 corned beef brisket, rinsed, don’t use the spice packet
   Cover with foil, bake for 2 1/2 hours 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


    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


The leprechauns keep this hidden until the end of the meal for good reason. You might wish to dig out a Halloween cauldron to serve this dessert sprinkled with gold (chocolate) coins; this treasure has layers of rich chocolate goodness. You may wish to make your own or buy these ingredients:

1 pan of brownies (9″ x 13″ size)
1/2 gallon good-quality mint and chip ice cream
fudge sauce
whipped cream
shaved chocolate


   Bake brownies according to package directions, then cool and break into large chunks

   Warm in a sauce pan
1 1/2 C heavy cream
   Add and stir until melted
16 oz. milk chocolate chips or chocolate bars
1 tsp vanilla


    In a chilled bowl, whip until soft peaks form
1 1/2 C heavy cream or whipping cream
1/4 C powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla


  In a cauldron or other container layer:
fudge sauce
ice cream
fudge sauce
ice cream
fudge sauce
whipped cream

Sprinkle with shaved chocolate and serve with gold coins

Love, Life and Valentine’s Day

McMurtry Creative Media welcomes our new readers and friends! Please invite your best friend to join and be sure to leave comments and suggestions! We value you.

Do you feel the love in the air? At the McMurtry’s home, February means celebrating Valentine’s Day and our wedding anniversary.

This year for our anniversary, we are visiting the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City. The museum has one the foremost collections of Monet in the world.

Paintings by favorite artists include Beauguereau, Delacroix, Carravaggio, Cassatt and many others.

We will enjoy Kansas City’s local legend and original barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s.

We have a tradition of touring art museums for our anniversary; from the Getty in Los Angeles, Utah Museum of Fine Art, Brigham Young University’s Art Musem to the San Diego Museum of Art.

For our 25th anniversary trip to Europe where we visited the Globe, the Tates, British Museum, the Louvre, art museums in Scotland, the Academie and others in Florence, and many other inspirational collections.

This February we will be in the heartland of the USA and will see the Midwest’s prize collection of international art that includes Monet paintings from collections in Paris and other international pieces which we will talk about soon.



            Red is an invigorating and passionate color, and it is the signature hue of Valentine’s Day. In the midst of winter, when the heavy gray aura of the frigid sky is becoming dreary, bright red modern Valentine’s Day arrives with loving and giving, surprises and fun.

            It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of the holiday. There may have been several Saint Valentines in the Second and Third Centuries. One was a Roman bishop that married soldiers to their sweethearts before they went off to war, which was against the laws of ancient Rome. From his prison cell but sent notes to friends, signed “Your Valentine.” There is reason to believe that the earliest meaning of Valentine’s Day was more about sacrifice than romantic love.

Love in History

            Our medieval ancestors had favorite rituals and traditions for the holiday. It was believed that birds selected their mates on February 14th, and mankind followed, making this the favorite day for marriage. Great halls were perfumed with bowls filled with rosewater, crushed rosemary, basil, bay leaves, marjoram and yarrow. Incense of pine and laurel released a sweet, pungent fragrance. Love lanterns were carved like smiling jack-o-lanterns from turnips, and other vegetables and fruit. Candles glowed within, filling the hall with affectionate lights.

            Superstition and divinations abounded, as guests questioned where, with whom and when they would find love. Enameled or fabric red hearts were worn as an accessory, a visual sign that the wearer was devoted to love: the idea of love, the God of love or the Saint of love, Saint Valentine. Some wore the symbol of infinity, a sideways 8, representing eternal love. This “love knot” was sometimes accompanied by a crowned “A” representing the phrase “Amor vincent omnia” or “love conquers all,” which also constituted the words of a toast later on. A “chivaree” or concert devoted to stirring passion, was played. For centuries this practice was woven into the wedding celebrations of many cultures.            

Strengthening Your Family Through Love and Service

            Most couples have their own loving rituals. Whether a romantic evening is on your mind or fun with your family, there are many ways to demonstrate your love at Valentine’s Day. In his book The Five Love Languages, author Gary Chapman describes the actions and activities we do to help people feel loved. Whether it’s quality time, gifts or a backrub; it is a good idea to have your special people identify their love language so you can do for them what is truly important to them. Remember the Platinum Rule “Do unto others as they would like to have done unto them.” If my husband showed up with a gift for me of Boston Celtics tickets I’d wonder if he’d flipped, I’d much rather have a pot of red tulips or a red plaid handbag. If I gifted him the Celtics tickets or offered a good foot massage, he’d think he’d died and gone to heaven.

            My sister packs elaborate Valentine lunches for her family with love notes tucked inside. There are heart-shaped sandwiches, red fruit juice, valentine cookies and fruit cups.

As they unpack their creative meal, they are instantly reminded of their mother’s love. Here is Cindy’s Valentine’s Day lunch menu, she says…

“I try to keep the food in Valentine colors except for the fruit.” In their special bag they find:

 a heart-shaped sandwich

pink and white heart-shaped pasta salad with shredded parmesan, ham, and minced white onion

a fruit cup with a cut out heart strawberry on top

chocolate-dipped strawberries

heart-shaped rice crispy treat or sugar cookies

white cupcake and frosting with red sprinkles and red heart shaped lollipop stuck in the    center

small bag of foil chocolates

heart shaped crackers with a flavored cream cheese spread

white popcorn

pink, red, or purple juice box – usually frozen to keep everything cold

“…and a love note.”

Nursery Love

My grandmother Vada Webb Layton taught me to spell I love you by reading my Raggedy Ann’s heart.

Raggedy Ann and Andy, two little rag dolls, have “I love you” hearts printed or stitched right on their little fabric bodies. Their creator, Johnny Gruelle, wrote stories about their friendships in the nursery and their adventures helping others. Raggedy Ann watched over the nursery and was a hero for every little girl who made sure her toys were tucked under a blanket, all warm and cozy, before climbing into bed for the night. If you can find the original stories, they’re entertaining and filled with charitable values.


Make shortbread cookies, shaped like envelopes with a red glitter heart and placed in cellophane bags with a few heart-shaped candies and tie onto neighbors’ doorknobs; or invite them over for a red heart bowl of ice cream and raspberry heart cookies.

A simple way to show love is to cut-out colorful paper hearts. Give each family member several. Write on them things you like about each other and display them near the bedroom door of that family member or all together on a wall.

Create a quilt for a shut-in or wounded soldier.


Hug a tree: After Christmas, leave a small potted or artificial tree up, cover it in love notes and hearts

Xs and Os: make glittery cardboard X and O letters or find them after after Christmas or in alphabet letter collections – hang on ribbons on the mirror, on a curtain, place on the table

Make wreaths from pliable twigs and after-Christmas artificial branches with berries. Be      creative – anything round and pliable can be formed into a heart shape, this thrifted beautiful, beaded candle ring was a circle and is now a heart.

Hang garlands of Valentines from ribbons in doorways and windows

Red roses are at a premium this holiday – if you like red tulips or another flower, ask for those instead.

When my daughter sent me a beautiful floral arrangement for my late-December birthday, I saved the greens after the flowers faded. For Valentine’s Day, I added glitter hearts on sticks from Hobby Lobby. We just started a new writer’s group, and these were displayed near our snack table.

Float herbs and candles in rosewater for a scented, romantic glow.

Sweet Music and Art

            Play Pachelbel’s Canon in D and other love songs for your family, there are all kinds of beautiful, suites that stir loving feelings. Buy a few, set up a few online accounts or check the library for new CDs

            The following stories have a strong friendship theme and are wonderful exemplars for teaching loyalty and selflessness: Raggedy Ann and Andy stories (Simon and Schuster), The Wind in the Willows, Winnie The Pooh

Borrow the theme of a Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and host a Galentine’s tea party.

Life Imitates Art

A study performed by UCLA and the University of Rochester found that newlywed couples who watched romantic comedies together and talked about them afterwards had rates of marital success about equal to couples participating in intensive counseling programs.[1] So apparently “hanging out” couples in love, even if they are only make-believe, is good for your relationship. Who doesn’t enjoy being around a couple in love?

           I conducted my own unscientific, biased survey asking respondents for their favorite romance movie picks, and these were the adjusted results (G – PG-13 only) from about 265 responses.

Top choices and the number of votes received. Disclaimer: I have not seen all of them so I cannot vouch for their appropriateness or artistic merit. I did put an asterisk by the ones I love.

*While You Were Sleeping (19)

Somewhere in Time (18)

The Notebook (15)

*Pride and Prejudice (13) especially the version with Colin Firth (swoon).

*The Princess Bride (12)

*Ever After (11)

*You’ve Got Mail (11)

*The Scarlet Pimpernel (didn’t have over 10 votes but the fans were wildly profuse in its praise)

      The remainder of the nominated movies; grab a tissue and box of chocolates and some cheese (best comfort food)  girls and guys and prepare for a media lovefest…

A Walk in the Clouds, A Walk to Remember, Always, An Affair to Remember, An American in Paris, Anne of Avonlea, The Beautician and the Beast, Beauty and the Beast, Bed of Roses, Casablanca, Charade, Charley, Cinderella, Circus World , Clueless, The Cutting Edge, Dan in Real Life, Dances With Wolves, Dear John, Dr. Zhivago, Ella Enchanted, Emma, Enchanted, Ever After, Family Man, 50 First Dates, French Kiss, Ghost, Ghost Town, The Glass Bottom Boat, Gone With The Wind, The Goodbye Girl, Grease, Heaven Can Wait, Hello Dolly, Hiding Out, Hitch, The Holiday, Hope Floats, Jane Austin, Just Like Heaven, Kate and Leopold, A Knight’s Tale, Labor Day, Lady Hawk, Lake House, Leap Year, Legally Blond, Letters to Juliette, Lorna Doone, Love and Basketball, Love Story, Maid in Manhattan, Maid of Honor, Mamma Mia, Man From Snowy River, Meet Joe Black, Message in a Bottle, Miracle on 34th Street, Miss Potter, Moulin Rouge, My Best Friend’s Wedding, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, My Fair Lady, Never Been Kissed, North and South (British), The Notebook, Notting Hill, On Golden Pond, Only You, The Other Side of Heaven, Out of Africa, The Parent Trap1and 3, Penelope, The Phantom of the Opera, The Philadelphia Story, Pretty in Pink, Pride and Prejudice, The Prince of Persia, The Princess Bride, The Princess Diaries, The Proposal, P.S. I Love You, Pure Country, Return to Me, Romancing the Stone, That Thing You Do, The Runaway Bride, Sabrina, Safe Haven, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sense and Sensibility, Serendipity, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Shadowlands, Sissi, Sleepless in Seattle, Somewhere in Time, Sweet Home Alabama, Superman, Ten Things I Hate About You, Titanic, The Tourist, The Vow, Two Weeks’ Notice, The Wedding Singer, West Side Story, What’s Up Doc?, White Christmas, Wives and Daughters, Your Foolish Heart, You’ve Got Mail

[1] American Psychological Association, Is skills training necessary for the primary prevention of marital distress and dissolution? A 3-year experimental study of three interventions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 81(6), Dec 2013, 949-961.

Games and Activities

Musical Hearts

            Write each participant’s name on 2 red hearts, fold in half. Put one of each in a container and as the music plays, have everyone pass the other notes around the circle. When the music stops, draw one name out of the container – announce the name. That person opens the heart in their hand and tells something they like or love about the person on the heart. Play again and again and again.


            Create a Let me count the ways/ reasons we fell in love and why we stay there book together.

I Love You bookmark

            Fold a 2” x 6” printed scrapbook paper in half so it measures 1”x 6”. Along the folded edge cut half of a capital I, half of a heart and half of a U. Put a small picture behind the heart and using a glue stick attach the scrapbook paper to a 2 ½” x 6 ½” backing paper. Laminate and trim.


Punxsutawney Phil promised an early spring. If you are enjoying a lovely thaw or are in a sunny place, head outdoors for a ray of sunshine and a few games. Not to be fooled, these giant shuttlecocks are the art of Claes Oldenburg. Normal-sized ones are in the sporting goods section of your favorite store.


            A week or two before Valentine’s Day, sit down as a family one evening or on a Sunday to create Valentines for each other; don’t forget Grandmas and Grandpas! Hang them on a small tree to use for a centerpiece or other decor. To have a Loveland postmark on mailed Valentines, send your stamped cards in a package to


                                    Attn: Valentines, USPS

                                    Loveland, CO  80538-9998

Make Art

Grab your stash of vintage scrapbook paper and stickers and create a shadow box and paper fan. I used an old frame and covered the picture inside with vintage prints, lightweight mementos and stickers, then hung it with a paper fan.

Dog Tags       

            One of the moms in my son’s Newport Beach kindergarten class gave metal Valentines with each child’s name stamped on it – cute.

Have dog tags made with each child’s name and an I LOVE YOU imprint

            Place love notes around the house – bathroom mirror, in backpacks and lunchboxes, on the doorway on the steering wheel…if you’re artistic, draw cartoons on the notes.

            Create large sparkly Xs and Os, or purchase at a craft store. Place in a vellum (transparent) envelope to mail to loved ones.

            I Love You coupon book – print thoughtful gestures on scrapbook paper (I’ll wash your car, you pick the movie, I’ll make your favorite dessert, good for a girl’s/guy’s night out…) Tie together and give to the lucky recipient.

Give someone a heart attack – I mean tape paper hearts to their front, or office door. Especially sweet for a neighbor or your bishop or pastor.


I Love You Breakfast

            Heart waffles with strawberries and whipped cream

            Applesauce with cinnamon hearts

            Breakfast casserole of eggs, potatoes O’Brien, sausage, and cheese

Cindy’s Valentine lunches

Pizza Hearts

Sweetheart Dinner

            Beef Stroganoff over noodles

            Spinach and Strawberry salad

            Cinnamon (heart) Rolls

            Cherry Coconut Crumble

            Sparkling Cider or punch with strawberry hearts

Strawberry Hearts

            You can’t have too many hearts on Valentine’s Day. Make Strawberry hearts by cutting a V in the top of the strawberry to remove the leaves. Cut in half or slices – hearts!

Cherry Coconut Crumble

            Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9″ x 13″ baking pan, spread

2 cans cherry pie filling

Pour over

1 box Dolly Parton coconut cake dry mix (Duncan Hines)

Melt and drizzle over dry cake mix

3/4 C butter, melted

Add if desired

1 C pecans, chopped

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour until golden brown. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Sparkling Cider

            Pour together equal parts of

apple juice


            Serve with floating strawberry hearts

I’m trying out Substack! With more detailed content including the 14 recipes from the menu for Valentine’s Day. If you you want more – including the recipes, click here and please leave me a comment with your opinion. Thanks!

Aaaand it’s never too early to start planning for Halloween! Here’s the eBook you need to create a unique and fun autumn celebration.

A Harvest and Halloween Handbook 2 on Amazon and BN.com

And for your little ones:

Keep your little mermaids swimming in creativity and fun with A Mermade’s Tale on Amazon and BN.com.


A January Church Dinner at Lincoln Seventh Ward

Planning a church adult dinner doesn’t have to be super-stressful. We are here to help.

My daughter and her husband were asked to plan dinners and activities for their church congregation. The original date for an adult dinner in December was postponed because a special guest came into town to visit.

Along with the new post-holiday date, the decor and menu were changed. Here are some of the ideas and recipes we used to entertain about 70 guests, and 5 take-outs in late January (we were told to plan for 80.) My Christmas book will contain full shopping lists, recipes and decor information.


Pick a theme. My daughter wanted a late January Valentine’s Day dinner but her bishop vetoed that because he didn’t want single adults to skip attending. We thought about winter wonderland (hence the snowflakes) but decided to focus on a French country theme. The hand-cut snowflakes were so cute, they were invited to grace the walls anyway.

Reserve the site. Spend time at the venue to find out what is available in the kitchen: refrigerator space ( you may need a cooler or two with ice), stove for re-heating dishes. Serving pieces, including spoons, platters, large salad bowls, etc. Salt and pepper shakers, pitchers, tables, towels and dish soap. Learn who to contact to let you into the building to set up, how to access the dumpsters if they are locked and who will lock up the building afterwards.

Determine whether you will need a P.A. system, microphone and speakers. Check the lighting; you may want to create a relaxing low-light environment. Will there be entertainment or an activity? Her group wanted to visit after dinner, but she thought a Bingo game would be a fun way to make sure everyone was engaged.

Gather decor and supplies. A couple of trips to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s for reduced-price Christmas lanterns and into nature to clip some beautiful eucalyptus and rosemary along with a few items from Amazon provided economical, stylish rustic decor.

Choose a menu and ask for volunteers. We decided to do an artisan bread and natural look – – like a beautiful country wedding. A sign-up sheet for bread making and facility set-up was passed around. The menu included:

Smoked beef brisket

Parmesan Potatoes

Million Dollar Salad

Roasted Garlic Asparagus

Handmade artisan breads with butter

Soft-serve ice cream bar with chocolate chip cookies and brownie bites

Filtered spring water in swing-top glass bottles, iced glasses with lemon slices and Martinelli’s sparkling cider (don’t forget bottle openers.)

Using artisan breads, vegetables, grapes, lemons and kale meant that much of the decor could be reused and eaten to reduce waste. We used a new canvas drop cloth for a rustic, textured tablecloth for the buffet table. My daughter’s dried orange and lemon slices added color and contrast. A friend loaned 5 chafing dishes: 4 half-steamer pan sized and one full-sized.

The long 8′ dining tables were chosen so the guests would be able to visit with more neighbors including those across the table, than large round tables allow. The long tables were covered with brown kraft butcher paper; textured moss green gauze scarves were run down the center of each table. On these were placed eucalyptus sprigs, rosemary and dried fruit slices. Each table of 8 seats had a swing-top bottle of water and 2 bottles of sparkling cider to add to the Euro country feel.

The day of the dinner, the breads began to be delivered to my daughter’s house. We wrapped some in cellophane and brown paper for Bingo prizes, which would also include beauty services from ward members and the lanterns – each winner could choose. She gave out 4 loaves of artisan bread, 2 gift certificates and 4 lanterns.


When setting up a buffet, place the side dishes first, then serve the more expensive entree last. The order of this buffet was: salad, potatoes, asparagus and brisket. The drinks and bread were on the dining tables and the desserts were in another area at a separate table.

Here are the recipes for the Million Dollar Salad and Parmesan Potatoes

Million Dollar Salad (we made 3 of these for 75 servings)

This recipe came from my friends in Newport Beach, CA. These ladies know how to cook!

In a large mixing bowl, toss

1 lb. Spring Greens lettuce mix

1 1/2 C dried cranberries

1 1/2 C praline pecans (chopped)

1 1/2 C crumbled feta cheese

1/4 – 1/2 C diced red onion

Just before serving, add

1 bottle Girard’s Champagne salad dressing

Make a salad as needed to refill the salad serving bowl, don’t make all of the salads ahead of time, the greens will wilt if dressed ahead.


The Parmesan Potato recipe is from a YouTube video ( the link is above). We chose this one because it contained about the same ingredients as my daughters’ favorite garlic mashed potatoes that she originally wanted to serve. The ladies who were helping make the potatoes for the buffet kept asking if she planned to serve gravy, which she didn’t want to do; so we switched to a baked potato dish instead. Since we were giving several people the ingredients to cook and bring to the church ready to serve, we altered it so it could be baked in disposable half-steamer pans that would fit in the chafing dishes . This recipe will feed about 20 people, we used 4 recipes of this.

Place a disposable 10″ x 12″ half steamer pan on a baking sheet. Use 2 pans if you want it to bake faster. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare

5 lbs. thin-skinned potatoes, washed and thinly sliced and divided into 4 portions

3 cloves garlic, crushed, divided into 4 portions

Place one fourth of the potatoes (overlapping) in the pan to cover the bottom, you will have 4 layers when finished. Over the first layer, sprinkle 1/4 of the crushed garlic

salt and pepper

a light sprinkling of dried thyme and nutmeg

Repeat with the next layer of potatoes and spices, repeat until the 4 layers are in the pan. Pour over

3 C heavy whipping cream

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Uncover the potatoes and allow the cream to reduce by baking another 15 – 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender and cream thickened. Sprinkle over 4-5 oz. grated Parmesan cheese and return to the oven. Broil on low until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Sprinkle a little nutmeg over the cheese.

It was a delightful evening. The beautiful decor put the guests at ease. The delicious foods made everyone happy and the raucous Bingo game was fun. The MC was a charming and witty man who kept the evening lively with his cool music and funny banter. The disposable dishes and tablecloth meant cleanup was quick and easy. It was a successful and fun event. What are you planning this season?

Thank you Dr. King

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Day!

Dr. King was a pastor and warrior for equal justice and rights under the law. We honor his work and legacy in fighting for freedom and the equal protection that all Americans are granted under the U.S. Constitution, especially the Thirteenth Amendment.

This is America, the Land of the Free, where all citizens are declared equal and all have the opportunity to make their dreams and wishes come true through hard work and diligence.

One of my favorite Hollywood treatments of the Equal Rights Movement of the 1960s is Hidden Figures, which is currently available to stream on Disney+. Suitable for all ages, it is an personable look at the women of color who worked for NASA and helped the U.S.A. achieve the goal of putting astronaut Alan Shepard in space and eventually on the moon and back safely.

When our son was living in Selma, Alabama as an LDS missionary, his father and I watched the movie Selma. It was a difficult movie to watch, it depicted troubling times. Suitable for parents, I would screen it before showing it to youth.

On this day we honor the Americans who have worked and sacrificed to provide a land of freedom and opportunity for all. We at McMurtry Creative Media also thank the military and law enforcement officers who, through their sacrifices, provide the safety that affords us opportunities to pursue the American Dream.

From the U. S. Department of Justice: “In February 2017, just weeks after taking office, President Trump issued an executive order – the “Back the Blue” order – that directed the Department of Justice to enhance the protection and safety of our law enforcement.

This is a high priority and critical mission for us. Law enforcement is a noble profession and one that demands respect. Police officers are the thin blue line that stands between law-abiding people and criminals, between order and lawlessness. They protect our communities, and by enforcing our laws, they enable those communities to flourish. I believe it is one of the highest callings of my job as United States Attorney to call attention to the successes of law enforcement and to encourage our fellow citizens to support police officers in their difficult and dangerous work.”

To those Americans who take our freedom and opportunities seriously, we add our voice and prayers of gratitude for all who are trying to make our world a better place.

Ring in the New!

A new year brimming with possibilities has dawned. When contemplating the panorama of all of the wonder we can imagine for the coming year, I encourage us all to keep working to make the world a better place.

For one child.

For one family.

For one community.

For one nation.

We can start where we are and build, letting the ripples of our positive thoughts and deeds spread and grow happiness.

Remember to be grateful.

Remember the sacrifices of those who went before us.

Remember to keep looking up. Our Creator loves us and has glorious plans for our future.

Remember you are loved and valued.

Happy New Year!

P.S. The better half of McMurtry Creative Media reminded me that Saturday is Epiphany and maybe then we can put my favorite Christmas decor away. Maybe…

Merry Christmas!

A Nativity painting by American artist N.C. Wyeth

Our wish for you this Christmas season is that of peace, prosperity, good health and joy. Thank you for sharing the season with us and we sincerely hope you find spiritual enlightenment, creativity, fulfillment and little ways to increase your happiness.

Our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared this video about the birth of Christ, we hope you will take a few minutes and remember His beautiful life and that He is the Reason for the Season.

Best wishes!

Newell and Pam McMurtry

Merry Christmas 2023!

All finished! This fun guide to homemade treats and treasures is finally wrapped up. Here are a few of the adorable projects you will find inside:

Easy decorating and entertaining ideas.

A Christmas quiet book for your favorite busy little person.

Wool felt advent stockings to count down the days.

Treats and sweets to celebrate the birth of the Savior.

Little gifties for your favorite people.

Heritage gifts that highlight family history in fun and creative ways.

Stories and media to enrich your family’s enjoyment of Christmas.

Creative table settings for memorable meals.

Handmade crafts and gifts from the heart.

Decorating ideas to help us remember the Reason for the Season.

From our home to yours – warmest wishes for your merriest Christmas ever!

Other books in the artisan series:

A Harvest and Halloween Handbook 2nd Edition a book of fun and alternative activities, recipes and parties to create your happiest autumn and Halloween ever.

A Mermade’s Tale: The Adventures of Shell and Pearl , a quiet chapter book filled with stories of the lives of mermaid children, crafts and creative fun.

Unto Us a Son is Given…

Christmas comes to Missouri. McMurtry Creative Media has relocated to the beautiful state of Missouri; it is home and we are grateful. Almost settled in, we are preparing to celebrate our favorite holiday – Christmas. A Christmas Handicraft Handbook: Thinking of You is well under way and nearly complete. Filled with sweet and special ideas for gift-giving, decorating, entertaining family and friends and focusing on the Savior, it has been a joy to work on these many years. A few new additions to the manuscript and illustrations this year include this beautiful print purchased at Hobby Lobby.

Old World in style, I love the tender rendering and focus on the Babe of Bethlehem. Christmas is a holiday celebrated by over 2 billion people worldwide. As we celebrate the precious gift of God’s Son let us remember why He came and how we can follow Him.