Happy Valentine’s Day

I’m writing from my daughter’s house in California because my flight home was cancelled due to massive snowstorms.

Valentine’s Day from the Heart

Queen of Hearts Tea Party for Valentine’s Day

The winter storms of 2021 not only kept my love and I apart on Valentine’s Day, but the chill/ separation also meant I had no access to my files, props and favorite images.

Now, back at home and enjoying my sweetheart and stuff, I felt like looking back at a fun Valentine’s celebration we enjoyed in 2017. From the archives, I give you

A Queen of Hearts Tea Party.

Recently I became a big fan of Tim Burton’s Alice Through the Looking Glass movie and in time for Valentine’s Day, Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts came to mind. I started doing research to find out whether the Queen of Heart’s obsessive painting of white roses had any connection with Britain’s Lancaster/York War of the Roses in the 15th Century. The Lancaster branch of the Plantagenet dynasty was represented by a red rose while the Yorks had a white rose. The not-so-civil war went on between the factions for 35 years until Henry Tudor of Lancaster claimed the throne and married Elizabeth of York, effectively turning the white roses red.

Photo by Mikey6p on Flickr

On a genealogical website, I learned that I was a 14th great-granddaughter of Henry Tudor and so my research became more personal.  According to tradition, Henry and Elizabeth had a great love. She also loved the recently introduced French trend of playing cards (a little too much according to historians) and when she died following childbirth at the age of 37, according to legend, Henry had the image of the Queens of Hearts on all of playing cards in England made to look like her. 

This portrait of Elizabeth of York (1466-1503) shows a English royal who was daughter to a king, wife of a king, mother to a king and grandmother to a ruling queen.

It was not Elizabeth but her mother-in-law Margaret who had a penchant for eliminating enemies by removing their heads. Enough said.

Valentine’s Day is an enigmatic holiday. With pagan origins of fertility rituals at Lupercalia on February 15th, anything resembling the root words of Lu, Lugh or Lucifer always makes me uneasy. The pagan rituals included the sacrifice of dogs and goats; the goatskins were stripped and dipped in goat blood then used to flog hopeful young women wishing for love and fertility in the coming year. The names of eligible young women were gathered and drawn by bachelors with whom they would cohabit during the next season, the women probably hoping it would become a permanent arrangement. 

During the early part of the 5thcentury, Pope Gelasius I combined Lupercalia and the day memorializing 3 Christian martyrs named Valentine who had been executed by Roman emperor Claudius II. Claudius had decided unmarried male soldiers made the best warriors and outlawed the performing of marriage for his troops. 

During the 2nd and 3rd centuries at least three Christian priests named Valentine secretly performed marriages and as a result were caught and executed. After being sainted by the Catholic Church, the name St. Valentine became synonymous with the celebration of love and the result, like Halloween, was a hybrid holiday with both charming and unfortunate sinister roots. 

 For centuries Valentine’s Day has been associated with love; it was thought that even birds paired off at Valentine’s Day. In medieval times, feasts included the lottery of love, like the pagans except guests were paired for the duration of the party. The romantic parts were promoted by Chaucer and Shakespeare, and the holiday’s dark past was mostly forgotten. Now moderns woo one another with chocolate, flowers, candles and poetry (and occasional bling). Wishing to view the holiday from the glass half-full perspective, it may be appropriate to present a holiday tea party to celebrate love with the unfortunately dark roots hidden away from modern gaze. Let’s return to the warm and wonderful realm of love. While I adore the idea of romance, apparently the romantic love needed to narrow our ardor and launch us into exclusive pairs expands and evolves into a less-dramatic, more stable variety of love a few years after marriage. Factor in a few delightful children and love becomes a more inclusive emotion with community-building ability. 

Apparently only a small percentage of the population is involved in the explosive youthful pairing love at any given time and more of us live in the world of brotherly, familial affection so I choose to focus on that stage of love; with that in mind, A Queen of Heart’s Valentine’s Day tea party complete with warm red hearts seems like just the thing for a cold winter afternoon.

The crown is peeking out on the left of the tea party tiers.

Here is a fun little crown you can make for your own Liddells or guests on Valentine’s Day. The author of the Alice in Wonderland stories, Charles Dodson or Lewis Carroll as we know him, was inspired by the Liddell girls, especially Alice. One day as he and a friend were taking the girls in a boat down the Thames, he made up the stories to entertain them. Encouraged to write them down, he eventually had them published and they became a huge hit. 

Of course a Queen of Hearts tea requires crowns for each guest; these are inexpensive and easy to create. For each crown you will need

One  4” glittery red paper heart (buy or make from cardstock)

7 silver pipe cleaners 

Several heart rhinestones 

Craft glue or hot glue gun and glue sticks

For a large crown, twist together 2 pipe cleaners, leaving 3” tails at the twist. Bend each tail into a heart half and twist together. Repeat with a third and fourth pipe cleaner adjusting to fit the head of the wearer. Use a 5th pipe cleaner to make an arch and attach to the front of the crown. Attach the heart to the front arch using a hot glue gun then add two smaller arches that are glued to the front of the heart and the crown side . Curl the ends of the pipe cleaners and add sparkly rhinestones.   

May be an image of 3 people and food
My Sweetie and I celebrating our 25th anniversary with a traditional English tea at the Swan Restaurant in the Globe Theater complex on the bank of the Thames in London.

The British are known for their iconic afternoon teas even though tea parties may have originating in France. A formal tea consists of 3 courses which may be creatively arranged on a 3-tier serving piece. On the lowest plate is the first course: finger sandwiches, and savory appetizers. The second tier contains warm scones, clotted cream (a decadent cross between butter and whipped cream) and preserves.  On the top tier are a variety of pastries, cakes, shortbread and fruit. For American tastes, try adding chocolate-dipped strawberries and clever little footed dishes filled with Valentine’s candy, truffles and nuts.

A heart garland from Etsy.

Of course a Valentine’s tea needs tea, but many of us don’t drink that beverage. A cup of tea minus the tea equals lemon and sugar or lemonade. Add pureed strawberries and strawberry hearts for a delicious pink drink to serve in porcelain tea cups with labels that read “drink me.”

Drop by French General in Los Angeles for vintage bling.

P.S. Happy anniversary Arizona! 105 years today. And Happy Galentine’s, Palentine’s and Single Awareness Day! Plus a little eye candy for you: https://www.pinterest.com/pammcmurtry/family-love-and-valentines-day/

I was surprised to find that my article for the Deseret News in Utah was published the week following Valentine’s Day (2017), but here it is; it was also picked up by newspaper websites in Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana and a newsfeed. 


xoxoxoxoxoxoxox Happy Valentine’s Day xoxoxoxoxoxox

May be an image of 2 people and indoor
Congratulations Tim and Hannah on your engagement!

Christmas Charm 2020

2020 has certainly been a year for the books, Orwell’s 1984 that is.

We recently sold our house in preparation to build a new home and moved into a rented house in Salt Lake City on Sunnyside Avenue near Newell’s work at the University of Utah. Sunnyside – that’s charming. The house was built in 1943 and other than having few electrical outlets in most rooms, no garbage disposal or dishwasher and being scented with an unmistakable old house musk, it is imbued with a certain vintage charm.

For years I have been collecting and creating Christmas decor with retro styling. I love me some 40’s, and 50’s mid-century illustrations and objects and guess what? They are right at home in our little house. For some reason living in a vintage house is comforting to me. It somehow helps me feel connected with my loved ones who have passed on.

This little snowman guards the gardening equipment until spring returns again.

A gingerbread cottage I created for a Long Island Pulse article.

Before the holidays, I gather my creative supplies so they are easy to find
Vintage Christmas items inspire my designs
I love gorgeous vintage-style textiles and paper.

Our tall bookcases were relegated to the main floor giving me lots of places to display favorite Christmas decorations.

My grandmother’s dresser holds gifts awaiting bows and tags.

Our living room had just enough space for a small tree that we displayed on an end table.

The Birthday Boy. Happy birthday Baby Jesus!

A built-in hutch was the perfect spot to place a few more favorite things.

I hung this little quilt I made for my grandmother way back in 1989. My aunt returned it to me after my beloved Mimie passed. Poignant to me this year as we are housing my elderly Mom whose time with us seems like it may be short.

While most of us love Santa, the Grinch has fans too.

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and holiday season. Even though the world is topsy-turvy right now, our faith in our Savior Jesus Christ gives us strength and hope.


I wish we could all snuggle and be warm

USA quilt | The Electric Quilt Blog
Photo by doyoueq.com

If the United States were a pieced quilt, I wish we could all snuggle and be warm. Imagine if all Americans were concerned about the welfare of their neighbors and strangers. Imagine if we looked for ways to help each other succeed instead of always competing. Imagine if bullying and marginalizing were replaced with humanitarian concern and care. Imagine.

Down the Rabbit Hole; A Country Halloween Primer

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

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

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

I’m adding a scarecrow and country girl, lots of baskets, a bunch of silk cornstalks and our favorite games. I’ll share photos as I take them. In the meantime here are a few favorites to spark your imagination.

We needed a few games for our family Halloween party. I didn’t want to spend too much money so I recycled 4 boxes, and used half a can of leftover black spray paint and some black paper. The children will throw beanbags to knock over the monsters (recycled aluminum cans and the $ 1 pumpkin from Target. We still need to add a few details.
A group of noisy old cats gathered on a fence waiting to be scattered with beanbags.

One of my favorite themes for children’s carnivals and parties is the pumpkin patch. My daughter, son, spouses and grandchildren and I go to a pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins on the years we don’t grow our own, it is so much fun hunting for the perfect pumpkin – big -or small, round or tall, we love them all! Here are photos of game set-ups you might be interested in trying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few favorites from Pinterest:

This seems apropos for a pandemic. Doctors during the Black Plagues in Europe used protective gear that looked like those pictured above.
Brainstorming a roll up pirate ship.-2014-10-18-18.22.12.jpg Painted canvas over cardboard frame!
Halloween Window Decorations halloween halloween decorations halloween ideas halloween home decor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few more tips for Halloweenizing your home:

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


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

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

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

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

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

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

The Bees Knees

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

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

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

Next stop Flathead Lake.

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

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

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

We saw a black bear!

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

More cookouts and a celebration of the birthday girl.

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

Pioneer Day 2020 – a Different Kind of Celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Delicious beehive bread makes a yummy breakfast or treat


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

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

Stir together

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

1/2 C butter, softened
1 C granulated sugar


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

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

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

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


Happy Independence Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Tim’s 4th of July Menu

Grilled racks of pork ribs

Macaroni with 4 cheeses

Baked bourbon and brown sugar beans

Grilled corn on the cob

Ice cold watermelon

Fresh lemonade

Banana pudding with whipped cream

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



Happy Mother’s Day

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

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

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


By Pamela Layton McMurtry

To Mother,



Sister, friend and

 precious women

Who give life,


and give joy.

Who bled

and fed

and hid Easter eggs,

and wrapped gifts

and dyed Halloween costumes.

Who took me to the zoo

and Disneyland,

and grew pumpkins,

and taught me to play chess

and feed my babies.

Who taught me to write thank you notes

And have good manners

and remember birthdays

and ancestors

(and love them).

And gave me crayons

and dolls

and retainers

and fishnet nylons

and a radio to take to the beach.

Who took me to visit my grandparents

and on road trips

and swimming

and had a barbecue.

Who taught me to pray

and love

and find joy

and set a beautiful table.

And to watch out for little ones,

and spell correctly,

 and feed stray kittens,

and read books.

And to try,

and fail,

and try again.

Who found our great grandfathers were kings

and great grandmothers were queens. 

Who took pictures,

and listened as I learned to read,

and filled a piñata.

And eat Thanksgiving at the beach like Pilgrims,

and go on bike rides,

and read Luke on Christmas Eve,

and sing carols,

and find treats in my stocking.

To share with those in need,

and love art and beauty,

and wear bows in my hair

and shoes that fit,

and remember God and go to church.

Who sewed clothes,

and prayed for soldiers,

and firemen,

and missionaries,

and me. 

Who baked cakes

and arranged flowers,

and made 20,000 meals,

and made me brush my teeth.

And bought sugar sticks,

and made drawings,

and bread,

and Beef Stroganoff.

And soothed wounded hearts,

and took us to movies,

and to the woods,

and the sea.

And played

and prayed

and gave time

and love

and life.

Thank you.

Thank you to Blog Feedspot for including McMurtry Creative Media in their top Christmas blogs! http://blog.feedspot.com/top-20-christmas-blogs-to-read/

Get ready!

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

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

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Beatrix Potter illustration

How prepared are you to face an emergency?

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

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

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

“This little piggy went to market”

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

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

“This little piggy stayed home”

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

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

“This little piggy had roast beef”

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

“This little piggy had none”

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

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

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

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

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

Preparedness and Living Happily Ever After

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

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

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

An Easter Miracle

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

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

Print the following pages.

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

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

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

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

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

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


11-ounce bag of butterscotch morsels

¾ cup peanut butter

12-ounce bag of chow mein noodles

large malted milk and candy eggs

marker with edible ink

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


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


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

Mark 11 : 7 – 11

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

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

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

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

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

 Matthew 21 :12 – 13

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

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

Luke 22 : 10

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

 Luke 22 : 11 – 12

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

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

Matthew 26 : 26 – 29

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

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

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

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

John 13 : 3 – 5

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

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

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

Matthew 26 : 14 – 16

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

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

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

 John 18 : 1

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

Luke 22 : 50 – 51

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

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

Luke 22 : 54 – 62

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

62  And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Mark 15 : 15

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

 Matthew 27 : 24

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

Mark 15:17

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

John 19 : 23 – 24

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

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

Luke 23 : 38

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

Matt 28 : 2

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



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

Indigo Crossing


For perfect hard-boiled eggs:

Allow the eggs to come to room temperature

Place eggs in a single layer in a pot

Add cold water to two inches above eggs

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

Pour off cooking water; cover eggs with cool water.

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


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

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

            1 C warm water

            1 TBSP white vinegar

            a few drops of food coloring

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


Dye eggs using the above method.

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

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



Glow-in-the-dark Silly Putty Eggs

Handmade bunnies, pompom chicks and ducks

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

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


Bird whistles

Socially distanced bunnies

Tickets to a movie, concert or play


Fruit Snacks, Goldfish crackers

Jars of jam

Nuts, Jordan almonds

Ribbon, Cute shoelaces

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

A key to ?


Small games

A gift certificate for an ebook;  hobby or skill lessons

Stationary, pen

Balls, Slinky, Yo-yo

China teacups and saucers


Peter Rabbit or Bunnykin dishes

Dissolving capsules with creatures or animals

Easter snowglobe

Folding paper fan, origami animals

Paper dolls, Jacks

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

Wind-up toys


Rubber duckies

Lip balm, makeup, fancy soap

Crayons, pencils, markers, paints and brushes

Refrigerator magnets

I just love this Peter Rabbit tea set.

Fast food gift certificates

Finger puppets from foreign countries

Flower and vegetable seed packets for the garden

Decorated cookies


Sewing cards made with vintage images, cardstock and yarn

Chinese jump rope, small puzzles

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

Chocolate Cake with Easter Kabobs


Red licorice laces

Froot Loops cereal

fruit lifesavers

Marshmallow peeps; bunnies and chicks

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

Gateau printemps

For more colorful and happy ideas visit my Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/pammcmurtry/a-spring-holiday/

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

Also, visit Hilltop Farm, the home of Peter Rabbit https://pamm4.sg-host.com/2019/01/beatrix-potters-menagerie-a-trip-to-hilltop-farm.html

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