Halloween ’18 Costume Forecast


A Harvest and Halloween Handbook
Ok guys and gals, “Costume Doyenne” Rhonda Cowan, co-owner of Etoile Costume and Gift in Tarzana, CA (check out their great sales and Labyrinth Ball), has once again shared her top costume picks for Halloween ’18!  Buy, rent or DIY and get ready to partay!

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Black Panther – The Wrap

Still strong this fall is Black Panther and the Pantheon of Superheroes. Roll up your magic lasso and get ready for Wonder Woman and her classic cohorts.

Illustration by Kelly Jensen

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Photo by ChicagoReader.com

From Rhonda, “We’re figuring Pooh and friends will probably be popular.
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Photo by DHGate.com
The Anime convention was really popular, so I think Anime characters will be big. Mostly they create their own costumes then  just (add) big wigs and make-up to finish.
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Faze Magazine photo
Glow in the dark make-up for young pre-teens.
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Photo by geek-pride.co.uk
Star wars for little ones is always a hit. Frozen is still really popular for the 4-8 year olds.
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cosplaygen.com photo
We’re seeing lots of interest from adults for Goth, Steampunk and always 20’s, but more the Gatsby look than flappers and gangsters.
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The Guardian photo of Mercury and Bowie
Rockstars, especially Freddie Mercury and David Bowie’s early incarnations.
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The sexy costume lines have sort of died away. Ladies still want to be sexy, but they want to be a little more covered. Belly Dancers and anything with lots of feathers, like burlesque or showgirls for the 20-30‘s group.
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Photo by Madeyewlook Twice – Check her makeup video on Youtube; link below
Wizards and pretty witches are in. No one wants warts and green skin, but witchy is good.
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We’re getting requests for dragons and unicorns.
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Dinosaurs are popular and will probably still be at Halloween. We have the inflatables on order for both boys and men. If I think of anything else, I’ll shoot you a message.” Looking forward to it.
Rhonda, you are the best, thank you!
A Harvest and Halloween Handbook (The Artisan Handbook Series) by [McMurtry, Pam]
Need more ideas for your most spectacular Halloween ever?  Download your A Harvest and Halloween Handbook from Amazon.com or BN.com today!

Halloween ’18


Last autumn we experienced Halloween preparations in their ancestral homelands – Ireland (Samhain) and Italy (All Hallow’s Eve).

In Ireland, what I found was one aisle of decor and costumes in an upscale Target-style retailer. In Italy, more of the same with lots of pumpkins, some sold in cartons. Who did it better?  Well, to be honest what we discovered was the “Americanized” style of decor, costumes, etc., in products probably from China.  Unless you visit Europe, its hard to comprehend the depth and complexity of the influence the West (and I suppose China) has on their current culture.

Macbeth-style McMurtry Halloween

I was hoping for a Macbethian experience in Scotland, well actually we only visited Edinburgh and they have their own tartan history going on there. But they have the eerie castle thing down to an art.

Edinburgh Castle

This fall we will explore London to see if we can find vestiges of Halloween there (I’m guessing not as prevalent in a Protestant country) and return to Italy for one more look.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite Halloween preps and props, most from A Harvest and Halloween Handbook.

Decor from “A Harvest and Halloween Handbook”


Black and white is big this year for fall decor. It promotes a nice crossover from Halloween to Thanksgiving and can be charming incorporated into Christmas, saving precious time during the holiday season.

Homemade popcorn balls

Candy jar guessing game
Bubblegum necklace to make
Halloween-ize a mini basketball toss
No-hands doughnut eating contest
Mystery candy guessing game

A Harvest and Halloween Handbook features autumn celebrations such as Sukkot and La Toussaint. Let me help you get ready for autumn 2018 holidays with your A Harvest and Halloween Handbook download. Be sure to take it shopping for decor, recipes and activities to treat your family and friends.

3 of 32 coloring pages included in A Harvest and Halloween Handbook

Hey it’s still July.

Westward ho! Happy Pioneer Day

Here we are in the middle of another western  summer. After spending a week in alternating blazing heat and spectacular desert thunderstorms in St. George and Las Vegas it feels relatively calm (for the time being) here in the mountains near Salt Lake City. This last week we celebrated my Mom’s birthday, swapped stories with Dad and explored the Hoover Dam with my BFF Mary and husband Brad.

This is how Mormons do Vegas – we went to church Sunday, napped and ate Cowan’s famous tacos, no one does tacos like the Cowans. We played a board game Trek to Zion, made homemade ice cream and played a few other games. Monday we explored the Hoover Dam complex – fascinating technology, visited the Primm outlet mall so Newell could buy his annual (under $10) pair of jeans, shopped at Target for banana split ingredients, cruised the Strip to see the fountain show at Belaggio, the volcano eruption at Mirage and the art galleries at Caesar’s Palace Forum.

The next day we saw Incredibles 2 (I enjoyed it more than I thought I would – really well done.) Made the obligatory stop at Fry’s Electronics superstore. Had lunch, more games and ice cream and headed home so Newell could get to work. The only time we stepped into a casino was to take a shortcut to somewhere else and escape the heat. We didn’t even drop a quarter in the slots. Sorry LV, but we had lots of fun, Mormon-style. Which leads me to the feature of this post.

British-born Pioneer Christopher Layton

In a few days we will be celebrating the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Our great…great grandparents Chauncey Webb who owned the Webb blacksmith shop in Nauvoo, Illinois  (which you can visit today) came west with Brigham Young’s party and entered the valley on July 24th, 1847. Another ancestor, Christopher Layton, was toiling with the Mormon Battalion on his way to fight in the Mexican-American War and would join the pioneers when they were released from military service. Ancestors such as the Holladays, Ogdens, Fifes and others would live in Utah or be assigned to settle Arizona.

Outside the Webb blacksmith shop in Nauvoo Illinois.

We celebrate these intrepid empire-builders with games and stories, meals and adventures designed to pay homage to their foresight and sacrifice.

First you need pioneer wear. I made bonnets from a McCalls pattern

Plaid bonnets, I couldn’t resist.

You can also buy bonnets at Deseret Book. I made a complete pioneer outfit with a long skirt and apron that I wear on special pioneer occasions. Newell wears jeans, a bandana and a cowboy hat; and boots, McMurtrys know how to do “western.” Ask Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove and other western novels; he’s my husband’s 2nd cousin.

Lonesome Dove Trail; art for the living room wall. Yep...this is will be hanging in my living room one day, and no one in my home will have a say on the matter.

Then you are going to need some Pioneer-style victuals – here are 3 recipes in the Deseret News for beans, beef jerky and marinated vegetables, updated for modern palates.

We play games with our grandchildren or the children at church,  and visit Pioneer-era landmarks in Utah like Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Art and History Museum and the state capitol in Salt Lake City. There’s also a Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum in Salt Lake City and This is the Place Park.

Children learn through doing and having fun; this is especially true of history. A few of our favorite activities include a Pioneer scavenger hunt that we hide the items and have the children find or do them – this is a link for a downloadable version on Etsy .

One of the favorite activities of the children I teach is making native American-style pictographs on faux skins (brown kraft paper torn in the shape of a small pelt.)  Also downloadable on Etsy:

Pioneer children enjoyed a good beanbag toss!

Bean bag toss

I saved the best for last. Round up a few stick horses, squirt guns, a bucket of water and blackboards or signs that you can make wildfire and buffalo targets on. Make a racing area outside for the little buckaroos to run around squirting  buffaloes and putting out wildfires!

Need a little more pioneer eye candy? Stop by my Pinterest board and give it a look-see.

Happy Pioneer Day!

3 Cheers for the Red, White and Blue!

Happy Independence Day and happy birthday America!

After touring 6 European countries last year and enjoying the amazing history and art, I came home with a greater appreciation for this heaven-inspired nation and our meteoric rise in only 2 1/2 centuries. We truly have been blessed as a people and, I believe, have been beneficial to the world.


French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville said of our country, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be goodAmerica will cease to be great.”

“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”

Photo by Julius Drost@julesdrost

We here at McMurtry Creative Media send up a cheer for America and those who fight and work to preserve our freedoms: thank you and God bless America!

Photo by Gabby Orcutt@monroefiles

We are not naive about the struggles that face our culture, but we hold out hope for a future that is bright and intelligent, safe and sane.

Our 4th will be low-key this year with our families spread across the world and Newell working at the University of Utah Hospital that day,  we plan to celebrate the birth of our great nation with a “new” menu.

Our Unorthodox Independence Day Menu

Newell has instituted a summer challenge – no meat until fall! As a Registered Dietitian and seeker of truth, he decided to cut out all warm-blooded animals from his diet; meaning fish is still in. He read a promise in modern revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants 89 that said:

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—

11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.

12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

 So we are going to take this literally and try a different tack on our holiday dinner.

Our classic Independence Day celebration

Instead of the traditional American barbecue, we are going to grill some flounder and add our favorite sides

Grilled Flounder

Baked Beans

Dilled Potato Salad

Corn on the cob



Homemade coconut ice cream in white chocolate-dipped cones

Fresh lemonade

Framed Mary Engelbreit print with patchwork scrapbook paper mat

Dilled Potato Salad

This is the recipe my grandmother Vada Webb Layton used to make for us. We have never had one we like better!

Place in large bowl

6 large potatoes, cooked, cooled and diced

2 whole Clussen kosher dill pickles, finely diced

3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped


1 C. low fat mayonnaise

1 C. low fat sour cream

1/3 C. pickle brine

3 TBSP. prepared mustard

2 tsp. dried dill weed

salt and pepper to taste

Blend dressing, gently fold into vegetables. Refrigerate until serving. Taste improves if allowed to blend overnight, adjust seasoning before serving. Makes 10 – 12 servings.

I’d like to share one of my favorite patriotic stories about a heroine of the American Revolution and my great…great grandmother Elizabeth Duncan Porter.

ELIZABETH DUNCAN PORTER – Heroine of the American Revolution
Elizabeth was born to Thomas and Elizabeth Duncan at Lancaster Pennsylvania in 1750. The Duncans were born in Scotland, moved to Ireland and then to the British colonies in America. They settled in Lancaster, which is known in modern times for the Amish community and lush green farms and hillsides.
Elizabeth enjoyed growing up in the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania. In the spring she played with the lambs and picked flowers. But childhood ended early for Elizabeth; her father died when she was six years old and her help was needed on the farm. She grew to be a strong and lovely woman.
At twenty-five she met a man who would sweep her off her feet ; she married her beloved Samuel Porter. Samuel, who had moved to America from Ireland  with his brothers, was a member of  the Virginia militia. He was one of the men responsible for patrolling the roads and trails to keep travelers safe from Indian raids. The British had enlisted the Indians to attack settlers on the western frontiers of the colonies. Samuel, Elizabeth, her widowed mother and their families settled in a valley in Virginia (now part of Kentucky.)
The winds of war began to blow across America.
Samuel, Elizabeth, their two children, her mother, brother and other family members were captured by Indians  in 1780. It is thought that British soldiers were with them because they were not scalped. The attackers took all of their stock and possessions.
They were marched and carried over 600 miles to Detroit. Elizabeth had to work hard to keep her little children quiet so they would not be killed by their captors, the Indians would “dash out the brains” of children they considered a nuisance. She was pregnant with her third child. Sometimes she was permitted to ride in a canoe, she sat with her feet in water for hours and hours. Samuel was sentenced to die. The men were placed in stockades and pens and nearly starved to death.
Elizabeth was put to work cooking for the British officers. After preparing a meal, she saved scraps of bread and meat and smuggled them out in the dishwater. She placed the tub of water near Samuel’s prison. He was able to reach through the bars and get the food. Her act of courage probably kept him alive.
Later Elizabeth, her children Margaret and Hugh and her mother were marched as a prisoners of war another 700 miles from Detroit to Quebec, Canada.
On January 7th, in the bitter cold of a winter that would become known as the “little Ice Age,” when the New York Harbor froze over and ships were unable to enter or leave; far from her home, Elizabeth gave birth to baby Samuel. She was a captive of the British and Shawnee Indians because she believed in freedom.
Her husband Samuel suffered as well in the confinement of the prison camp. 8 of 10 other American prisoners of war died in the hulls of British warships. He did not know what had become of Elizabeth, their baby or their other two young children.
Many people sacrificed much for the cause of independence. Some sacrificed everything.
Elizabeth took care of baby Samuel and little Margaret and Hugh the best she could. She sang to them the Celtic lullabies her mother had sung to her.
She told them the Bible stories she had learned as a child. Tales of Moses leading Israel to freedom; of brave Joseph and how Daniel’s life was spared.
She would have loved to have been home when Spring came. She would have loved to have worked in her garden with her children and enjoyed outings with her friends. Because the cause of freedom had meant so much to Elizabeth and Samuel; she had no home to return to.
Samuel was a hard worker and tried to be helpful. His execution was stayed by a British commander who took a liking to him.
The price of independence was very high. When the war ended and freedom was won,  Elizabeth and the others were released and somehow made their way back to Virginia and to Samuel.
Samuel’s trials did not end with the war. An American officer accused him of treason because the British did not execute him. Tried again, he was cleared of wrongdoing by another officer who vouched for his character. Elizabeth and Samuel had three more children. Their lives were filled with joy and sorrow and their sacrifice blessed their family for generations.
Elizabeth lived 95 years. She died and was buried in Jackson County, Missouri where a marker and plaque were placed to honor the memory of this heroine of the American Revolutionary War. Elizabeth’s legacy is celebrated today by the Daughters of the American Revolution organization with chapters that have been named for her.
During Elizabeth’s lifetime, the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Revolutionary War fought, the Constitution was written and ratified, Joseph Smith was born, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized and Joseph Smith was martyred. It was a most  important era in the history of the world.

Here is a link to some of my favorite Americana eye candy on Pinterest. 

I hope you enjoy the spirit of the 4th, Happy Independence Day!