A Mermade’s Tale Chapter 5 – Brine’s Wild West Adventure

Chapter Five


            Brine was an adorable merchild. With his big brown eyes and happy laugh, he was as cute as could be. He had just learned to swim on his own and loved playing with balls, knocking things over and snuggling while he was read a good story. He liked machines and undersea trains and playing with Don Quixote, his little catfish. He was starting to talk and was adding new words every day to his favorites of “ball,” “Mom and “Dad.” He was tidy and didn’t like to be sticky or too sandy. He had a sea cowboy hat that he loved and pair of little squirt guns that he wore in a holster. The popgun Shell had given him for Christmas was a favorite of his and you could often hear “pop, pop, pop,” telling you that he was coming down the hall of his sand castle.  He loved listening to stories of the wild western sea, about the brave sea cowboys and merpioneers that settled the wilderness.

            One beautiful sea foam green day, when the water was calm and the sun shining, Abalone took Pearl, Sandy and Brine to a seahorse ranch to explore, feed animals and ride seahorses. Brine would get to be a real sea cowboy!  He wore his hat and Mom strapped on his holster, even though he was small and it kept sliding off. She packed them a picnic lunch and they got into their merstation wagon and sailed off for an adventure. Shell and Sandy really looked forward to adventures, they loved learning new things, seeing new places and having new experiences. Going with dad to a ranch to visit animals and ride seahorses would be a great adventure!

            When they arrived at the ranch, they saw corals filled with frisky seahorses with names like Trudy and Sparky. There were sea turtles that you could pet and horseshoe crabs (in from the east) galloping around their coral.  The plants at the ranch were different than the ones at home in Coralsbed. They looked wilder and spikier. There were tumble seaweeds and the merchildren had to be careful of the urchins. Shell kept an eye out for sea snakes. She did not like sea snakes at all. Fortunately there didn’t seem to be any around. Dad gave each child a sand dollar to buy a bag of seafood to feed the animals. While they were at the feed store, another adventure was beginning right outside. A merwagon filled with cameras and a crew had arrived to film a television program that day at the ranch. A friendly merman in a convertible merwagon, drove up; he was Slim Barnyard, the star of the show.

            Slim saw Abalone and his three cute merchildren and asked if they could be sea stars that day on his television show “The Happy Merwanderer.” Shell had wanted to be a sea star since she saw some of her friends on a children’s show on t.v. when they lived in the City of Angelfish.

            Abalone agreed and the children were instructed to just be themselves. Soon, in the excitement of visiting the ranch, they forgot all about the film crew. They fed the turtles sea grass and patted sheeps head fish. They listened to the parrotfish squawk and saw beautiful peacock mantis shrimp.

            Then they got in line for the seahorse rides and Shell, Sandy and Brine got to ride the seahorses twice. Shell rode on Trudy and they instantly became friends. As the seahorses swam around the corals, the merchildren felt like real sea cowboys. They enjoyed their picnic on that sea foam green day and had a wonderful adventure with their Dad.

            The next weekend the merchildren wanted to go back to the ranch, but Dad said when they finished their work, they could go to Coralsbed’s Holiday Park instead. Not quite as cool, but the park was fun too and they were happy with that idea. Brine liked to swing and slide and dig in the sand with his little shovel and pail. Sandy and Shell liked to ride the mermaid-go-round until they got quite dizzy and swam a little crooked for a while (until their heads stopped spinning.) They played the alphabet game while they swung high in the water. “An A is for anchors all around,” they chanted as they pumped their tails and swung higher and higher still. “B is for bursting bub, bub, bubbles!” They were repeating their version of one of their favorite children’s book alphabets, “Anchors all Around,” by Maurice Sailback.

“C for catching crabs and D for dancing dolphins,

E is for entertaining eels and F is for flipping fishies.”

They sang on…

“G is giggling ghost crabs and H is having hooks,

I’s an island adventures and J is jellyfish jokes”

“K is king mackerel and L is a lobster”

“M is a mussel and N is a nautilus.”

“O is an octopus, P is for pearl,

Q is a queen conch and R; a reef coral.”

“S is for Sandy and Shell and seaweed,

T is for twirling tails down in the deep.”

“U is for urchins and V for volcano.” 

“W makes windy waves where X marks the spot,

Y’s a yellow seahorse and Z, a zephyr hot.”

            Sandy was excited to know all of her mermade ABC’s and was just beginning to read. She could write her name in the sand and play tic tac toe too. After a while, Brine noticed that his mersisters were on the swings and he was by himself in the sandbox. He swam over to the swing set, but all of the swings were full. Shell saw her brother off by himself and called him over to sit on her lap. He was very happy. They swung together, higher and higher. Brine loved to feel the rush of the water. Sandy and Shell sang the alphabet song again and Brine joined in when there was a word he knew. When they tired of swinging, they swam over to the water slide and swam up to the top. Now you would think that mermades would just float, but for some magical reason, they are able to slide on waterslides. Brine squealed with joy as they rushed down the slide. Then Sandy took him to the top of the slide and Shell waited at the bottom for her brother. Brine was having such a good time. Mom was happy to see her merchildren playing together nicely.

            Off in the distance, they heard the sound of tinkling bells. The children stopped to listen. The shave iceberg truck was coming! Maybe their parents would buy them a treat. They swam quickly to Dad who was sitting on a bench reading a merspaper. Yes, he had heard the music. (It was a good thing that Sandy and Shell had cheerfully pulled seaweeds in the garden that day and had helped polish the merstation wagon because Dad was feeling generous.) He said they could buy a shave iceberg treat! The family swam over to the side of the lane where the truck was heading. The driver saw them and stopped.  Mom held Brine up so he could see the pictures of treats on the side of the truck, he pointed to an ocean cherry-flavored cone. Sandy wanted a bubble-gum iceberg-cream cone and Shell looked for a root beer icicle, her super-favorite flavor. There it was! Mom and Dad ordered frosty treats and Dad paid for everything. They thanked the shave-iceberg man and swam back to the shady sea grass area to enjoy their icicles and iceberg cream.

            That night, back at their sandcastle after they had enjoyed dinner and were ready for seabed, the Planktons watched a television show featuring three little merchildren at a ranch riding seahorses and  feeding turtles and they laughed as they watched little Brine pulling up his holster as he swam off into the sunset. Happy sea trails! 

            Here is the mermade alphabet, see if you can tell the secret to remembering the letters. Can you use these letters to write your name or a secret message? Maybe you would like to invent your own secret alphabet – have fun! 

Oh So Merry Christmas!

I cannot wait for Christmas to begin. 

This year our LDS missionary returns from 2 years of service to God and church. We will have a houseful of happy greeters to meet him and enjoy his presence in a Christmas celebration that will last 10 days. 

This gingerbread house represents the start of the Christmas season at McMurtry Manor. Everyone who shares the joy with us will receive a Stewart tartan throw as a gift; we are so excited! I will share more as the season progresses. 

The 1st 2015 McMurtry Gingerbread House

One of our traditions is decorating gingerbread houses and watching a Christmas movie. Tim and Heather have both requested a gingerbread house decorating event so we will have another to share and piles of sugar cookies decorated with lemon frosting – YUM. 

Here is our 1st Merry Christmas greeting to you! 

A Mermade’s Tale Chapter 4

Chapter Four
            One sunny spring day, Shell and Pearl were swimming on the playground during morning recess. They were discussing a television show they had seen the night before about a supemerhero called “Bat Ray.” Bat Ray and his sidekick Red Snapper fought evil and solved the crimes of nefarious villains. All the kids watched it; Bat Ray was very popular. Shell’s mom had let her buy a Bat Ray ring from a vending machine at the grocery store. She was showing the ring to Pearl when she noticed a new little mermade off in the corner of the playground. She had brown hair, the color of beach glass and was holding a toy seahorse.
“Pearl have you met that new girl yet?” asked Shell. “No she’s in another class,” said Pearl. “Oh,” said Shell. She and Pearl went back to their conversation about becoming junior bat rays and helping fight crime. Then the principal rang the ship’s bell and it was time to return to class.
            Later in the day, as they sat in the grotto eating lunch, the mermades continued their conversation about Bat Ray and his arch anemone Man O’War.  Pearl looked over and saw the new merchild. She was sitting alone eating her lunch and looking a little sad. “Do you think we should invite her to sit with us?” asked Pearl. She was braver than Shell and more friendly. Shell was busy with the stories and adventures in her mind and sometimes real mermades seemed to get in the way. Pearl was a mermade person, she loved meeting merpeople; the more friends the better for Pearl.  “I don’t know,” said Shell. “What if she doesn’t like Bat Ray?” “She looks kind of sad,” offered Pearl. “I’m going to go get her.” Pearl swam over to the new girl. “Hi, I’m Pearl and that’s Shell,” she said pointing toward her friend. “Would you like to sit with us?” A shy smile lit up the new mermade’s face. “I’m Foam, I just moved here.”
            The conversation turned to Foam and her family. Her father worked for the shell phone company. He was in charge of the conch shells that you can hear the sea in when you hold them to your ear.  Foam’s family had bought a sandcastle on the lane near their other friends, Shell Sellers and Shell Whimsy. There were a lot of Shells in Coralsbed.
            Pearl and Shell found out the Foam loved sea animals and collected seahorse models. She had two little brothers, Wind and Wharf. Her dad’s name was Sand and her mom was Sea Lily. Once she got to know you, Foam was a talker. She told the mermades stories about her old school of fish and her best friend that she had left when they moved. Foam liked to water ski, but her favorite thing to do was riding her seahorse. “You have a seahorse?” asked Shell with great surprise. More than anything, even more than fighting crime, Shell wanted to ride a real seahorse. “Yes, her name is Bubbles,” said Foam, “and she is beautiful.” Shell gasped as she remembered the little seahorse doll that she had named Bubbles. “Would you like to come to the coral and see her sometime?” “Yes, yes!” clapped Pearl and Shell. They were finished eating and ready to play. “Let’s pretend we are riding seahorses and helping Bat Ray fight crime” Shell suggested. Foam and Pearl agreed and the young supemerheroes swam off to the rescue.
            Pearl and Shell were glad they had found Foam. She had a good imagination and was a nice merchild. Around strangers she was still very shy, but when the three mergirls played, she was a lot of fun. Having her in their group made them even better supemerheroes and they had even greater adventures. And they were surprised when they went to Piermerry that week to see Foam and her brother Wind there. Wharf was very small, about Brine’s age, and he was too little to go to Piermerry yet.
            Foam got to know her neighbors Shell Sellers and Shell Whimsy too. Soon they started swimming to school together. Foam never looked lonely after that.  
            The merchildren took turns playing at one another’s sandcastles. Foam had bobbing dolls too and she brought them along. Sometimes Sandy would play with her sister and friends. Sea Lily became friends with Nekton and Oyster and now and then, all of the merchildren got to go to the park and play in the sea grass and sand. In time, Sea Lily was put in charge of Piermerry and that was fun. She would let her daughter’s friends help hold pictures when she was teaching lessons about being a good neighbor and forgiveness. After a while it felt like Foam and her family had been there all along.
            Now and then, on the very best days, Foam would invite her friends to go to the coral to see Bubbles. She was a beautiful seahorse, sleek and lovely. She would let the girls pat her muzzle.  Sometimes the girls brought her shrimp and she would eat it out of their hands. Foam showed the girls how to ride Bubbles and let them take turns. Shell was in heaven! Riding a seahorse was even better than she had imagined. Bubbles would gallop around the coral as Shell held onto her bridle. Shell felt as if she was flying through the water. When they were older, Shell and Pearl would rent seahorses and they would go on real adventures with Foam and Bubbles, but that is another story.
            Back at school, one day while they were in class, Shell said something that one of the merboys didn’t like. His name was Moray and he didn’t have many friends because he was crabby. After school, as she started for home, Moray came up behind Shell and hit her on the head with a book! “You shouldn’t have said that,” he growled. Shell was startled and sad. She didn’t know what to do, and suddenly she had an anemone. After that she had to keep an eye out for Moray. He would say mean things and might try to hurt her again. She didn’t know that she should go tell the teacher or principal and ask for help. Shell told Pearl and Foam about her anemone; they decided they had better stick together. Pearl told the teacher about Moray and the teacher told him to never touch Shell again. If Moray came close to the girls on the playground, they found a teacher or a large group of friends to swim near. They started asking themselves, “what would Bat Ray do?” They kept an eye on Moray to make sure he’s wasn’t being a bull shark to the younger merchildren.
            Foam had an idea. Maybe if they did something nice for Moray, he wouldn’t be so crabby; she had two brothers and knew something about boys. She asked her friends what they could do to help Moray. Shell wasn’t sure she wanted to do something nice for him. Pearl thought for a minute, then suggested that they could share some of the sandy cookies in their lunches with him. Pearl and Foam agreed that it was worth a try. Shell still wasn’t sure. That day at lunch, they swam over to where Moray was eating by himself. “Moray we don’t want to be your anemones anymore, “said Foam firmly. Pearl held out the cookies. Moray looked at the cookies with a surprised expression. He thought for a minute. He considered the fun the girls usually seemed to be having on the playground. Maybe he wouldn’t have to work so hard to be a bull shark. Maybe it was ok to not be at war. Moray took the cookies. He looked like no one had been nice to him for a while. “OK,” he agreed, he held up hand for a fist bump. Foam gave him a fist bump, then Pearl. Shell hesitated, but she knew Foam and Pearl were right. She gave Moray a fist bump and the girls swam away. Maybe Moray wouldn’t be their friend, but he didn’t have to be their anemone. It was nice to be at peace.
            After school that day Pearl, Foam, Shell and Sandy got together to make more sandy cookies. The cookies were easy and fun to make. The merchildren liked to bake them for Father’s Day gifts.
These are little mermaids’ favorite cookies.             Preheat oven to 325°. Cream together
1 C butter
1/3 C granulated sugar
            Mix in
2 tsp water
2 tsp vanilla
            Add and blend until dough barely holds together
2 C sifted all-purpose flour
1 C chopped pecans
            Chill dough for 4 hours. Shape in 1 – 1½” balls. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at         325° for about 20 minutes. Remove from pan, cool slightly and roll in powdered sugar.

BYU Radio Today and A Mermade’s Tale Chapter 3: Christmas in Coralsbed

Just for you! My friend Kim Power Stilson from BYU SiriusXM Radio 143 has invited me to share Thanksgiving tips this Thursday 11/19 at 3 p.m. Eastern, and as a bonus I’m bringing along a registered dietitian and certified diabetic educator from a top research hospital to share ways to cut sugar and boost nutrition during the holidays. 

Many of you may know him as Newell; join us! 


Do you need one more amazing recipe for Thanksgiving? 
How about a Cranberry Wild Rice Salad or Pumpkin Pie Cake? A Harvest and Halloween Handbook has memorable and delicious recipes for all skill levels – and you can download it here right now, no going out in the cold to pick one up! 



Love this cute image? You can find it and others @ 

If you are considering giving the gift of art for the holidays, please visit my Etsy shop to see these original hand-painted and drawn pieces. I have others in stock, email me and I will send you a portfolio: 

Oil on canvas, framed

Tulips and Daffodils
Watercolor on Yupo

Conte crayon on Canson paper
I am happy to take commissions, contact me:


And now, to help you get into the holiday spirit, Chapter 3 of a Mermade’s Tale

Chapter Three


            The wind and waves began to grow cold and the sky was often gray. Now and then soft white snowflakes fell on the churning silver sea. When Shell came home from school one day and found her mother making fudge and cookies, she knew it was almost Christmas. Shell loved Christmas, it was her favorite day of the year! She looked forward to the surprises and spending the whole day with her family. She loved the music and the colors, the lights and the cookies. She enjoyed choosing gifts for her favorite mermades.  
           The Planktons went out the kelp forest one day and chose a tall kelp tree to take to their sandcastle to decorate. Mom put the Mermaid Tribarnacle Choir Christmas music on and Dad brought in boxes of glass bubbles and sea stars. Shell and Sandy looked at the pretty decorations that they loved to see every year. Mom put on the twinkling lampshells and the whole family helped decorate the kelp with colorful bubbles and sea stars. There was a tiny manger scene that the girls both wanted to hang on the kelp tree; whoever found it first got to put it on.
            Later they swam downtown to the water department where the watermen had built a play village for Sandy Clause to come greet the children of Coralsbed. Did you know that Sandy Clause visits every child in the world? Well, he does. Mermade children always see him dressed differently than human children do, but they love him just as much. Frosty the snowman was there as well as a giant sleepy teddy bear. Sandy arrived in his red wetsuit, goggles and snorkel. He sat in a huge sleigh pulled by dolphins and each merchild got to sit on his lap and whisper what he or she wanted for Christmas. Sandy gave them a candy snorkel and told them he would be back on Christmas Eve.
             Mom picked up Shell one day after school; Brine and Sandy were with her.  She took the children to Oceanside to the sandbank where they withdrew sand dollars from their accounts to buy gifts. The sandbank teller smiled at the children and gave them candy snorkles for being so good and so cute. Just down the street was a store all decorated for Christmas. Merry music was playing and there were aisles filled with candy and toys and all kinds of wonderful treats.  Shell found a pretty pin for Mom and a tin of his favorite candy for Dad. She chose a popgun for Brine and a little purse decorated with shells for Sandy. She picked a new coloring book for Pearl and a little box covered with seashells for Mrs. Angelfish’s desk. And there was one more thing, she found a little net filled with Christmas treats, puzzles and toys that she could take to her class party. Shell had a few sand dollars left. As they were leaving the store, she saw something that made her heart feel even happier. It was a little furry teddyseahorse doll. It was her favorite color of seafoam green, had shining eyes and a happy smile. Shell had to have her. Mom said she could buy the doll and Shell happily held her as they returned home to wrap the presents. She named her Bubbles. That night she slept with Bubbles in her arms. She was soft and fun to cuddle with on those cold December nights.
             The next day at school Mrs. Angelfish told her class that at the end of the week it would be time for their class Christmas party. They could bring a wrapped gift with a tag that said boy or girl for the gift exchange. Shell was happy, she already had gifts for teacher and her classmate. Then Mrs. Angelfish made another announcement; if the merchildren could, they were welcome to bring a gift for another family that needed help that Christmas. The father wasn’t able to work and they had no sand dollars to buy presents for their merchildren. Shell thought for a minute. No gifts? How could it be Christmas without gifts? How sad it must be for that mermade family. Shell had spent all of her sand dollars at the store. She wanted to help, but wasn’t sure how.
              As she and Pearl swam home they talked about their class party. Pearl had bought a little glass seahorse for her exchange gift. Shell told Pearl about the net filled with little treats. They talked about the refreshments they hoped would be served and the games they wanted to play. This would be the most fun thing that happened at school all year! The children had been learning new songs that they would sing for their parents at the Christmas program. They made chains to hang on the ceiling and cutout paper pictures of Sandy Clause. It was the most wonderful time of the year!
              Sandy and Shell got ready to go to the church for Piermerry.  Sister Crab picked them up and drove them to Oceanside. The nice ladies smiled as the merchildren swam in to the church. Bonnet led the music and they sang happy songs. Because Shell’s birthday was that month, she got swim up to the front so the other children could sing to her. Dad had given her a sand dollar to put in the collection box for the Piermerry Merchildren’s Hospital; a place where little merchildren who were sick or hurt could go to be cared for by docks and gentle nurse sharks.

                Shell and Pearl swam to class together. Their kindly teacher, Sister Windward smiled and was happy to see them. The merchildren listened as Sister Windward taught them about the true meaning of Christmas; about sharing love and kindness with others. She asked them to think of a way they could show their love that Christmas. That night as she snuggled with Bubbles in her seabed, Shell knew what she had to do. She didn’t want to, but she knew what she should do.
                 Finally Friday came, Shell prepared for the class party at school, she combed her hair carefully, put on her prettiest starfish clip and packed the things she needed for the day. She got Mrs. Angelfish’s gift, the wrapped surprise for her classmate and something to put in the gift box for the poor mermade family. She met Pearl on the playground and they talked until school started. Shell was excited, but a little sad. Back in the classroom, singing Christmas songs cheered her up and so did making ornaments to hang on the class kelp tree as they decorated for the party. She carefully placed her package for the gift exchange under the kelp and took the beautiful little shell-covered box to her teacher’s desk. Mrs. Angelfish smiled the same kind smile she always gave her students and patted Shell’s hand as she told her thank you. Shell took Bubbles, who she had tied a pretty bow on, and carefully placed her in the box for the poor family.  She swam slowly back to her seat, wondering if she had done the right thing.
                On her desk, she found a plate of cookies, a cup of red Hawaii Island punch and a toy boat made out of candy; it was so clever, Shell had never seen anything so fun! She played musical shells with the other children and nibbled her cookies, saving two for Sandy and Brine. She decided to take the candy boat home to show her family. Then it was time for the gift exchange. Each child picked a number; when the number was called, each one swam to the kelp tree and selected a mystery gift. Shell couldn’t wait to open her present. When each merchild had their surprise, Mrs. Angelfish said they could open them. Shell was surprised and happy to receive the little glass seahorse that Pearl had brought, it reminded her of her best friend and her beloved doll. At the end of class, the children wished each other and Mrs. Angelfish a happy Christmas and swam home to tell their parents all about their wonderful Christmas party.
             Within a few days it was Christmas Eve. The lampshells on kelp tree shone, making the bubbles and sea stars sparkle. The Planktons enjoyed a special dinner and gathered under the tree for their Christmas Eve family program. They sang their favorite Christmas songs and took turns telling the story of the wonderful child who was born so long ago to bring peace and kindness to the world. They each picked one gift to open before they hung their little nets for Sandy Clause to fill with goodies. Shell unwrapped a music box her grandmother had sent her (she would receive two that year, since she had mentioned to both grandparents that she wanted a music box.) Sandy opened her present that contained the purse with seashells and squealed with joy! Brine had fallen asleep and had been carried to his crib. He would open his gifts in the morning. The Planktons tried to repeat “Twas the Knot Before Christmas,” without looking at the words. They enjoyed Mom’s delicious cookies and fudge. Everything was happy in their world. Sandy and Shell kissed their parents good night and swam off to bed to dream of Sandy Clause and the miraculous baby who was the center of all that was good. They were so excited, they had a hard time falling asleep,
             On the other side of town, as the sun rose, a small merchild awoke and swam to see what surprises were under her kelp tree. She laughed with joy when she found the little seafoam green seahorse tied with a bow, with shining eyes and a happy smile.
This is the poem the Planktons recite every Christmas Eve.

‘Twas the knot night before Christmas
Way down in the deep,
Mermade parents were wondering
Were the children asleep?
All tucked warm and cozy
In their little seabeds
Did sweet dreams of Sandy Claus
Float in their heads?
Their little net satchels were hung nice and neat
Just waiting for Sandy to fill them with treats
Mom was now sleeping
And Daddy snored too
Peace filled the home in the ocean so blue.
Then above the sand castle
There was such a clatter
Dad woke up and looked to see what was the matter?
The moon shone down on their home in the sea
Lighting sea grass and shells and fish and sea weed.
And what to his wondering gaze did he see?
A team of quick dolphins and who, but, Sandy?
A red-suited diver so lively and quick
He knew right way that it must be Saint Nick
With the moon on the crest of the foaming blue waves
We thought, to ourselves, “have we really behaved? “
More rapid than sail fish, his dolphins they came,
And he whistled and laughed as he called them by name;
Now Scallop! Now Cowrie! Now Murex and Nekton,
On Captain!  On Zephyr! On Lobster and Neptune!
From the sandcastle roof to the top of the yawl
Now swim away, swim away, swim away all!
As winds before the wild hurricane blow,
Those dolphins flashed past just as fast as they’d go
And up to the sandcastle rooftop they drew
The sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too.
And then in a twinkling we heard on the castle
The snorting and squealing as each dolphin wrastled.
As I looked on in wonder at the seaworthy flash
Into our sand castle he came with a splash.
He wore a red wetsuit from his head to his foot,
And flippers and goggles and air tanks to boot.
A net full of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a sailor just wet from the tack.
His eyes – how they watered, his beard, it was floating!
His cheeks were all red like he’d spent the day boating!
His kind little smile was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as wet as the snow;
The curious fish all swam in from the reef
This Aqua Clause almost defied their belief!
He had a nice face and happy round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a fish full of jelly.
He was bubbling and dripping, a jolly wet elf,
And I laughed at him too, quite in spite of myself;
He winked through his goggles and turned his kind head
And I said when I saw him, “there’s nothing to dread”;
He silently started to do his good work,
He filled the net satchels, then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his goggle,
Through the water he went as my sleepy mind boggled!
He swam to his sleigh, to his team gave a wave,
And away they all swam, as we started to rave:
Thank you dear Sandy, so kind and polite!
“Happy Christmas to you and a merry good night.”

Happy Birthday Dad and A Mermade’s Tale Chapter 2

Happy 82nd birthday to my first hero and educator, my Dad who reminded me that old principals never die, they just lose their faculties, I hope he never loses his class! 


Also thank you to Deseret News for publishing my caramel apple crisp and orange cranberry pecan bread recipes: 

I just found out that the article was carried by 37 other news services and media outlets across the United States.

Also props to FamilyShare for publishing my 8 ways to help your kids like each other: http://www.familyshare.com/family/8-ways-to-help-your-kids-like-each-other

And now, A Mermade’s Tale Chapter 2…

Chapter Two

            Shell and Pearl swished the dirt from their hands. They had just finished pushing pumpkin seeds into the soil they had packed in the drink cartons their first grade class recycled at the school cafeteria. Growing pumpkins was a new experience for many of the children. They were learning about nature and plants. Their kindly old teacher Mrs. Angelfish explained that pumpkins take a long time to grow and that it was fun to care for the seeds and little plants. It was close to Mother’s Day and school would soon be dismissed for the summer. The children would watch the little seeds sprout in the drink cartons in a warm spot in the classroom window, and then, when school was over, they would take them home and plant them in their gardens.
“I’ve never grown a pumpkin before,” admitted Shell.
“My mom grows pumpkins every year, I love Halloween,” sighed Pearl with a dreamy look in her eyes. 
      Shell said, “I love, love, love Halloween too, but we get our pumpkin from a pumpkin patch.” Shell’s family visited a country pumpkin patch every fall and picked the biggest, roundest pumpkin they could find. They took it home and just before Halloween, Dad scooped out the slimy middle and they carved a funny smiling face into the orange globe. Then Mom picked out the seeds, soaked them in salt and before long the family enjoyed a yummy treat. 
     You may not have known that mermades celebrate Halloween, but they do. And they love it, just like human children. They think about their costumes all year long, and which sand castles they will visit when they go trick-or-treating. They think about decorating with funny octopuses and black catfish.  Mermades don’t think about spiders, because they have never seen one. But they know about crawly ghost crabs and gliding bat rays. They tell scary stories about strange lights around sunken pirate ships. And the way the wind blows over the waves in the autumn as the days grow short and the nights get darker. And mermades love to swim to the surface to see the golden harvest moon.
     Mermade children love to make Halloween pictures and decorations at school to take home to hang on the walls of their sandcastles. One of their favorite things to do is to go to a fun Halloween carnival with games and treats. They enjoy spending the evening with friends and showing off their pretty costumes. Shell imagined all the lovely pumpkins that would grow in her garden. She had visited Pearl’s garden before when they played at her house. The tall Indian Ocean corn and fat round pumpkins were fun to see. And now she would have a garden too.

     The last few weeks of school seemed to last forever. Finally it was the very last day. The children played games on the playground and had a class party. They gave thank you gifts to Mrs. Angelfish and hugged her and thanked her for being so good to them and teaching them so many things. Now they could read and count to 100 and tie bows. They knew their colors and numbers and could write their names and short words. It had been a wonderful year and it was time to enjoy the summer with their families and friends. They said goodbye to their classmates and promised they would play with them again. They took home their folders of pictures and stories and their little pumpkin plants that had sprouted in the cartons and were ready to be planted in a new home in the garden.
     As Shell and Pearl swam home, they were excited to plan summer activities; they would go to the beach and swim in tide pools. They would play with bobbing dolls and color pictures and spend the days with their moms that they missed so much when they were in school all day.

     Shell showed her mom and dad the little pumpkin plant in the carton. “It looks like it needs more room to grow,” said Dad. He was a principal of another school of fish and he held summer classes for tiny mermades to help them get ready for school the next year, but he would have some time off during the summer too.
     One turquoise day Dad said, “Today would be a good day to start a garden.”  Sandy and Brine were still very small and Mom needed to care for them, but Shell was big enough to help Dad work in the yard. Shell loved to work with her Dad. She felt important and proud that she could follow directions and help him. And she was proud of her tall, smart dad. They gathered garden tools; a shovel, a hoe and a funny fork for prying out seaweeds, then they swam into the sunny yard to make a garden. Dad took the shovel and marked the area that they would plant. He gave Shell the fork, which he called a cultivator, and showed Shell how to pull out seaweeds by their holdfasts, otherwise they would grow again! It was fun at first, then, Shell let out a squeal! There was a slimy little sea slug on one of the seaweed stipes. “Ugh!  I think I saw a worm, too” she shuddered. The summer sun made their yard unusually warm, even though it was in the sea. Shell started to wish that she was coloring pictures at Pearl’s house or watching her favorite television show. She wished she was little and back in the house with Sandy and Brine. Dad talked to her and encouraged her to keep working and she felt better. He let her plant sea daisies and sea lilies that they would give to mom for bouquets.
    Making a garden was harder than Shell had imagined. But Dad expected her to keep helping; dads are good at making you do hard things. Soon to Shell’s surprise, the back door of the sandcastle opened and who appeared but Pearl! She had swum over to see if Shell could play. Shell couldn’t leave just then, but because Pearl knew how to work in the garden; she helped her mom, Dad said she could stay. She didn’t seem to be bugged by sea slugs or worms, she had been fishing and even caught a fish once! They worked and talked and planned what they would do when they were finished in the garden. And after a while, it was time to plant the little pumpkin. Dad showed Shell and Pearl how to peel off the carton and gently put the little plant in the ground. They gave it a little fishy fertilizer and patted down the soil. Dad said they had been good helpers and that they could go play.
     Every so often, Shell would go to the garden to visit her little pumpkin. She showed Sandy and Brine the tiny little green ball that was beginning to grow on the vine. Brine liked visiting the garden; he was just beginning to swim. Did you know that merbabies have to learn to swim like human babies learn to walk? He would get his little tail going then plop, he’d slide on the floor. Shell and Sandy thought he was so funny! Brine loved the little ball in the garden, he was just learning to talk and could say “ball.”
     Shell, Pearl and Sandy had fun that summer. On hot days they would color pictures at Pearl’s house. On the hottest days they would go to the Finnler’s house and swim in the cool blue water of their tide pool. They drew seahorses, all little mermade girls love sea horses, they liked making pictures of princesses at their sandcastles. They drew pictures of Halloween. They didn’t draw scary monsters. They preferred making sea princesses with crowns and sparkly wands.
     Some days they would play with their bobbing dolls, changing their clothes and making up adventures. Sandy wanted to play too, so they let her bring her bobbing doll. They pretended it was Halloween and dressed their dolls in their costumes. The mergirls wanted to go pretend trick-or-treating so Mom swam with them downtown to the five and dime store that had a candy counter. It was like a dream come true. There were glass cases filled with every kind of candy and bubblegum that you could imagine. Each merchild had 8 pennies to buy their very favorite candies. Shell loved bubblegum and cherry flavored candies. She bought four pieces of gum, two wax bottles filled with fruit-flavored juice and two cherry suckers with gum inside. Pearl liked sweet and sour candy; she bought four straws filled with tart candy powder, two rolls of sweet and tart candies and two pieces of gum. Sandy liked everything, and she could make her candy last for a very long time. She bought two suckers, two chewy treats and four pieces of bubblegum. Brine was very little, so Mom bought him a sucker that had a string handle instead of a stick.
     As they swam around the store, they noticed something that surprised them very much! On long tables in the back of the store there were boxes and boxes of Halloween costumes.  Each had a window in the lid showing the colorful masks and costumes inside. There were princesses and monsters, clowns and superheroes; and it was only summer! As the merchildren looked at the masks and costumes, they thought of new ideas for creative play and ideas for their own costumes for Halloween.
     Back at their sand castle, Shell, Pearl and Sandy set up pretend doll houses around the living room made from wooden crates.  They decorated them with cut-outs of bat rays and ghost crabs. With their bobbing dolls dressed in costumes, the girls pretended to go from house to house to collect the treats they had brought home from the store. Then they took Brine out to the garden to see how the pumpkin was growing. It was about the size of a baseball, dark green and wonderful. Brine really loved that ball.
     On other days, the moms took their merchildren to the beach. Now this is an interesting thing for merchildren; at the beach they do just the opposite of what human children do. Instead of trying to stay on top of the waves, they try to stay underneath. Mermoms did one thing that that was just like human moms: they took their children to the beach at low tide so they could play in the gentler waves. Merchildren love going almost to the shore,then looking for v-shaped marks in the sand. When the waves rush in and out, they dig holes where they see the “v’s” and find scuttering sand crabs scooting around! They catch a few and play with them like pets, then they let them go back to find their crabby mamas.  Sometimes when they find lost sand pails and shovels that waves have carried away, they use them to build sandcastles to decorate with shells and beach glass and bits of driftwood.
     Shell and Sandy had new swimsuits and Brine was wearing a little blue and white striped shirt. They played happily under the waves for many hours. After a long and sunny day, it was time to go home. Pearl and Shell hugged each other goodbye and promised they would see each other soon for another play day. That evening, Mom was giving Brine a bath when she started to laugh. Shell and Sandy swam in to see what was so funny. Brine’s skin had tan and white stripes where the sun had shone through the shirt. He splashed happily in his bath. It had been another wonderful day.
     Shell and her dad continued to work in the garden, keeping out the pesky seaweeds and sea snails. Shell’s little pumpkin was now the size of a bouncy ball. Dad brought home a clear sundial to decorate their garden and placed it in the center with some beautiful shells the family had collected once when their grandparents had visited.
     Shell, Pearl and Sandy had many fun and happy adventures throughout the summer. They went to the Sandy Aygo County fair, saw movies at the swim-in theater and read books from the Coralsbed Mercity Library. They swam at the Finnler’s tide pool, colored pictures and played tag. Sometimes they played at Pearl’s sandcastle, sometimes at Shell’s. And before they knew it, it was autumn and time to go back to school!
     Shell was busy learning new facts and reading harder books. Pearl was in her class again, so that made school extra fun. One day Shell came home from school and looked for her mom. She found their black catfish, Don Quixote and patted his head. Mom was folding clothes, but that was not all Shell found. There, next to the laundry, was a green ball. But it wasn’t just any green ball, it was her pumpkin! “Mom!” Shell exclaimed. “Oh dear,” said Mom.
     Just then, Brine swam into the room. He went straight for the pumpkin and said “ball!” Then he rolled it with his tail. “What happened to my pumpkin?” wailed Shell. “I think I know,” Mom replied. “Brine, where did you get the ball?” He pointed to the garden. “Brine thinks your pumpkin is a ball and I believe he picked it so he could play with it.” Shell looked at her little brother rolling the pumpkin across the floor. He looked so happy. He was too cute to stay mad at for long and Shell loved him so much. She patted his head, “Brine do you want to play ball?” she asked. “ball,” said Brine. The next day Dad took the family to the country pumpkin patch.
     When Shell came home from school another day, her mom was outside gluing glitter on wands. Oh my goodness, it must be getting close to Halloween! Sandy and Shell were going to be mermade fairy princesses with light blue gowns and sparkly crowns and wands. Brine was going to be a teddymerbear with a big bow around his neck. Another day Mom made popcorn balls and Shell knew Halloween was almost here.
     One of the girls in class, Reef, had an October birthday. She invited every mergirl in the class to her party!  The mermades all swam to Reef’s house late one Friday afternoon. They divided into two teams and went on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood. Shell and Pearl were on the same team and they had a list of things to collect and bring back to win a prize. They needed to find a sand crab, an ear shell, candy corn, a sand dollar, a piece of beach glass, a pirate story and a piece of coral. As they swam from sandcastle to sandcastle, they talked about their costumes and the carnival at school. As soon as they had everything on their list, they raced back to Reef’s sand castle. They beat the other team and won the prize! It was buried treasure that they had to find and dig up, it was all in good fun. The treasure was a craft for the girls to make; it was the supplies for bubblegum necklaces. The girls made their necklaces and enjoyed a delicious sand cake while Reef opened her presents.  Then they gathered for ghost stories. Reef started the story, as she talked she held a glowing lampshell to her chin. It was dark a little bit chilly, just right for a spooky tale about haunted ships, ghost crabs and evil sea witches. Shell shivered, she wasn’t sure if it was the cold or the story. She was glad when it ended and it was time to go inside and wait for Dad to take her home to her safe sand castle. Shell and Pearl thanked Reef for inviting them to her fun party and for the yummy treats.
    It was almost Halloween. Sandy, Brine and Shell’s costumes were all finished. Shell was so anxious she found it hard to pay attention in school. The teachers knew it was an exciting time for children, so they had easy lessons and lots of art and music. On the day of Halloween, Shell skipped all the way home from school, which is not easy when you have a tail and are swimming. Mom was making Shell’s favorite shrimp pizza for dinner, then they would go trick-or-treating to the neighborhood sandcastles and back to school for the Halloween carnival. It was all so magical! Mom let the mergirls wear makeup on Halloween and she helped them get just the right fairy princess look. She made fancy hairdos with sparkly sea stars and attached the crowns so they wouldn’t fall off. The girls painted their nails blue to match their gowns, but they didn’t get dressed until after they ate their delicious shrimp pizza and kelprootbeer. Brine was still playing with the green ball and Mom said he could take it trick-or-treating. She helped the girls into their costumes and put Brine in his stroller. These merchildren loved to go trick-or-treating. They loved to see the neighbors and show them their cute costumes and get candy. Everyone said the girls were the prettiest princesses and Brine was the cutest teddymerbear ever (and it was true.)
     After a while, it was time to go to the carnival. Dad had joined them and the family swam back to the school. Shell felt grownup and proud that she could show her family around the school. Pearl joined them and Shell, Pearl and Sandy went to play games. First they went to the fishing pond which was their very favorite game. They each flung the fishing line into a pretend pond where a mer-teenager attached a small toy and they reeled it back in. It was their favorite until they went to the cake swim and then they were hooked. They swam around a big circle on the sand while music played and when it stopped, they swam to the nearest picture on the ground. The person in charge picked a card that had one of the pictures in the circle on it and that one won a cake. Shell won! She picked one that had island coconut frosting, her favorite. When Brine started yawning and it was very dark, it was time to go home. Sandy and Shell sat on the floor of their sandcastle and divided their candy and bubble gum into piles. They traded a few pieces, ate a few and then it was bedtime. They had to hide their candy so Brine wouldn’t find it and eat too much.  As they lay in bed, the girls talked about how much fun it was to be princess and how much they loved Halloween and how hard it would be to wait for a whole year until next Halloween.

    At Reef’s birthday party, the mergirls made these fun necklaces, you know how much Shell loves bubblegum! Here are the directions for making your own Halloween bubblegum necklace.

You can also use small pieces of candy, the wrapped ones work best. 

For a Gumball or Candy Necklace, you will need:
1/8 yard tulle (netting)
About 14 large gumballs or pieces of candy
To do:
On a 1/8 yard piece of tulle, place a gumball in the center. 
Roll the tulle into a long tube with the gumball in the middle.
Tie knots on either side of the gumball.
Add another gumball on either side and tie knots. Continue adding gumballs until there are about a dozen or so. Tie the ends of the tulle together.

See you next week! 
Are you considering a gift of art for the holidays? I am offering original drawings and paintings in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/pammcmurtry?ref=hdr_shop_menu

Barnes and Nobles Mini Maker Faire!

Join me this Saturday, November 7 @ 1 p.m. for child-friendly Thanksgiving projects! I will be sharing ideas from A Harvest and Halloween Handbook and showing fun activities to share with your little ones. 

Barnes and Noble
1780 Woodland Park Dr, Layton, UT 84041

A Harvest and Halloween Handbook 
is available to download from:  



Caramel Apple Crisp and Cranberry Orange Pecan Bread

Thank you to the Deseret News for publishing these 2 delicious recipes for autumn:


For more great fall eating – download my

A Harvest and Halloween Handbook 

Did you catch the recipes using leftover trick-or-treats in last week’s Deseret News? 
Easy-to-make Treasure Brownies and Chocolate Mousse Delight!

Mermaid Much?

   One of my children’s friends lives in Hawaii (lucky.) She is all about mermaids; when she posted a cute photo of her baby daughter and herself wearing matching mermaid headbands, it reminded me of a mermaid book I had written for children that is yet-to-be published.  

   It is a nautobiography about a family of mermaids that lives just off the coast of Southern California in a charming little village called Coralsbed. 

   I think I will share it here in weekly installments leading into the holidays. It might make a nice contrast to the wonderful frosty things we expect this time of year. For your reading pleasure: 

A Mermade’s Tale 
Chapter One

Finding a Lovely Shell

   Being born and growing up near the beach gives a person a great affection for all things nautical. One mer- (that’s French for ocean) made was like that, only a little ways off-shore.  Had she been born to the east of the tideline on the Southern California coast, she would have, like totally, been a Valley Girl. But as luck would have it, Shell came from the warm waters of the Pacific and that is where her story sets sail.

   At the edge of the sea, there was a small village called Coralsbed, and in it lived a number of mermade families. Some were large and some were small, some lived in fine and fancy sand castles, and others in smaller cozy ones. There was a market, a five and dime and a fuel station. Coralsbed had a fountain, a lovely green park filled with sea grass, sand and toys for mermade children to play on. There was a fancy old restaurant called the Twin Fins that had two large seahorse statues outside, where folks came to eat fried sea chicken dinners. The village had a charming library filled with all kinds of books, and near a stinky lagoon there was a beautiful kelp forest.
   One of the families in Coralsbed was the Planktons. The father, Abalone, was the principal of a school of fish in the neighboring village of Oceanside. He was smart and worked hard to keep their yard and mer-tormobile clean. The mother, Nekton, was a perky brunette and a good cook. She loved to dress up her three beautiful children. Shell was the oldest and she was a lovely creature with hair the color of sand, eyes like kelp, a flippy turquoise tail and a beautiful voice that reminded you of soft breezes blowing across crashing waves. She had freckles on her nose and cheeks from playing in the afternoon sun. Next was Sandy, who was three years younger than Shell. Sandy was funny, determined and she looked like a smaller version of her sister. She took good care of her dolls and was a true friend. The baby was Brine. With his big brown eyes and infectious laugh, he was loved by all (even when he got into his sisters’ things.)

   The Planktons lived in a cozy sand castle that you might think was small, but to Shell, it seemed very large indeed. She and Sandy shared a room and Brine had his own little nursery. They each had a toy chest and their own seabed and the room was painted a pretty blue that looked aqua in some light and lavender at other times. In their undersea yard, their parents had put up a swing set, yes, mermades like to swing too. They lived on the north end of the village, not far from the kelp forest.

   Pearl was the first true friend found by Shell and she was a treasure.  Crowned with fiery red hair, she lit up the waves and taught Shell to color in the lines (while listening to Debussy’s La Mer of course), later introducing her to a wavy equivalent of rock-and-roll. Pearl had a particular fondness for a band called the Sea Monkees. Together they learned to make peace with a crabby hermit classmate, picked seaweed out of the garden and taught Shell’s sometimes-pesky little sister Sandy to swim in deep water, a skill that would come in handy later. Pearl had a cheery mom named Oyster, a dogfish and a dad, Dock, who would later break an off-shore speed record on his mer-torcycle.

   Shell and Pearl were in the same class at school. Their teacher Mrs. Angelfish was a kindly older mermade who tenderly looked after the little ones in her care. She made sure they had a little snack of oyster crackers in the afternoon to keep their energy up and on hot days, when they came in from recess, she would have them put their heads down on their desks and place a wet kelp leaf on the back of their necks to help them cool off.

    Mrs. Angelfish taught her class many important things; Shell’s favorite subject was art. She loved learning how to write the color words, especially when Mrs. Angelfish let her use colored crayons. She wrote “red” with a red crayon and “blue” with a blue one. The teacher showed the class how to make paper sand castles and let them draw pictures of their mothers. The one thing Shell did not like was numbers. When it came time to count, her brain shut right off! She just wanted to paint and that was all. She enjoyed swimming out to recess with Pearl and playing bubbleball and other games with the mermade children.

   When Shell and Pearl were not in school, they played Go Fish, except they really did it, and of course swimming was their very favorite thing to do. Pearl’s neighbors, the Finnlers, had a beautiful built-in tide pool and sometimes Pearl, Shell and Sandy would spend the afternoon frolicking in the clear blue waters. Another friend, Foam, had a seahorse and occasionally they would get lucky and take turns riding it. They didn’t pay any attention to boys at that time, considering them little urchins who just wanted to show off their mussels. They dressed their bobbing dolls and went to school to learn their tides tables; now and then winning a shelling bee. One day a week, after school, they attended Piermerry classes where they learned to be good and kind and to help others.

   Shell came from a family of distinguished mer-people who had long ago built great sand castles and ruled the seas. Their coat-of-arms from olden times had three beautiful scallops on a diagonal band. But Shell’s world was a little pool filled with family and friends. She was a young merchild, blissfully unaware of the turbulent currents of the meradult world. Creative and determined, she just wanted to play in the ocean and have fun. And unlike other more famous mermaids, she enjoyed being herself and loved her life in the sea.

Here is a coloring page of Shell at a carnival fishing booth, it is like one I will tell you about in the next chapter.