Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

That St. Patrick’s color was blue?

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



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


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


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


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


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


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

shamrock cookies Repinned By:#TheCookieCutterCompany
Photo by Erica Seifert


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

whole cloves

   baste with

ginger ale

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


   Stir together  

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

                                                        DIJON-BUTTERED CABBAGE

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

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

And for dessert, Newell’s favorite brownies.

BYU Mint Brownie Recipe - Famous Favorites

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

Leprechaun Cottage

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

You will need:

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

white gesso or acrylic or tempera paint

burnt umber acrylic paint

light green acrylic paint

large and small paintbrushes

a handful of large and small pebbles

dry green moss


A hot glue gun and glue sticks or thick craft glue

Shamrock or decoration if desired

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

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

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

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

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

PS Here in the US we are under a sort of quarantine to keep a nasty little bug from spreading. Check out my Pinterest board for entertaining ideas! https://www.pinterest.com/pammcmurtry/st-patricks-day/

Those of us with kiddos might enjoy these ideas:

St. Patricks Day Bingo
madebyteachers.com https://www.madebyteachers.com/products/353-st-patrick-s-day-bingo-html/

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

Love is in the Air

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 It’s that time again.

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

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

Now onto other Valentine’s Day topics.

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

Share the Love: Giving the Right Kind of Gift

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

By Pamela Layton McMurtry

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

In his book, The Five Love Languages

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

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

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

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

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

A Vintage Journey
A Vintage Journey

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

A Path of Love - Adorable Wedding Decoration

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

Random Acts of Kindness on World Kindness Day - Pottery Barn

Acts of service

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

Physical touch

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

Words of affirmation

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

Quality time

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

Receiving gifts

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas

As an art teacher, I’m constantly telling students to push their value contrasts – the areas of dark and light that make their drawings more interesting. This year has been one of contrasts; moments of light and shadows of darkness.

The HIGHLIGHTS include:

  • Tim graduating from the University of Utah with a BS degree in Economics.
  • Andrew, Annie and Ender returning from a 3 – year deployment in Italy, Andrew now working as an Army recruiter in Bakersfield.
  • A family reunion in St. George to visit see the grandparents and hike Zion Nat’l Park.
  • Pam teaching art at Layton High and doing radio spots for BYU Sirius XM Radio 143
  • Getting buttery smooth new carpet in our house – it’s like walking on a teddy bear.
  • A great vacation in Newport Beach; seeing a Bouguereau exhibit at the San Diego Museum of art and Manet at the Getty. We visited with 5 of our 7 children and most of our grandkiddos.
  • Looking for a site to build a house on.
  • Welcoming “Grandma Great” Nixon Lawrence  into our household as she needs more companionship and care and Cindy and Dave move to St. George, UT.
  • Newell planning to retire in less than 2 years and getting ready to do instructional videos about science and creativity.

The SHADOWS were saying goodbye to some of our favorite people as they wrapped up their time on earth – Pam’s Dad Larry Layton and Uncle Dave Roberts. These 2 good men served their country in the army and communities as Elementary School Principal in Oceanside and Fire Captain in Santa Barbara.

Now as we look through the lenses of 2020, we see more light with shadows to complete the experience.  We wish you a wonderful year filled with love and those that bring you JOY.

                       The Nutcracker

        Charcoal drawing by Pam McMurtry

Merry Christmas from the McMurtrys!

Open House to be rescheduled. Because of a family emergency, we need to cancel this event. Our apologies for any inconvenience this causes you and we encourage you to continue to support Katie’s campaign. Thank you for your understanding.

Our civic-minded friend and neighbor Katie Witt has agreed to serve the people of Northern Utah as a congresswoman and is now running for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Representative Rob Bishop. Congressman Bishop is retiring after many years of faithful service and with his departure there is a need for strong conciliatory leadership in Washington. Katie is a vetted, capable candidate who has been involved in public service for many years and is serving as the mayor of Kaysville, Utah.

We are hosting an open house and fund-raiser for Mrs. Witt on Monday December 16 from 7:00 to 9:00 in the evening. We invite you to come meet Katie, talk about your hopes and concerns for our country, donate if you wish and share some delicious homemade artisan desserts and treats. Flex your patriotic muscles and participate in the democratic process on a personal level!

Don’t forget to tune in to BYU SiriusXM Radio 143 Friday, December 13th at 6:40 a.m. for a lively conversation about one of Salt Lake’s favorite holiday traditions – the candy windows at Macy’s City Creek. As a 2-time participant, I’ve been invited by host Lisa Valentine to share the backstory and process involved in these confectionery community greetings!

Over 80 hours of planning and labor and 120 pounds of candy go into the creation of each giant ornament.

The process starts with a concept. I thought a vintage-looking Santa with a bag filled with toys on his back would be a fun way to honor holiday traditions and my ancestors who were early pioneers in Utah. My great…great grandfather Christopher Layton was the president of the department store where the windows were displayed when they moved to Main Street in 1876.

My design was approved by Chad in Salt Lake and sent with a couple of dozen others to Macy’s Corporate Headquarters in New York City. The head of display for Macy’s and Chad selected my concept because “Macy’s needs a Santa in the window at Christmas.”

The supplies started arriving. I set up my work area in the kitchen/dining area because I didn’t want to work in the cold garage.

I carved some dimensional details from the packing material surrounding the 42″ diameter foam sphere.

In came 6 cases of candy and 1 case of silicone caulking. We set up the candy like a palette of paints.

My team and I worked for several weeks gluing candy to the sphere. Macy’s picked up the ornament and placed it in the windows of the store for staging. Here are behind the scene shots before the unveiling.

Yeah, it was overdone, but when have I not overdone anything holiday-related?

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And 3 years later, we did it again!

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Here’s a link to the original article and a KSL interview on television.

This is Halloween!

It’s autumn, that beautifully hued season of fun and frolic. A Harvest and Halloween Handbook – the “Hot New Picks in Design” award winner from Amazon is ready to rock your world with recipes, party plans, decorations and everything you need to enjoy a happy Halloween!

How do you feel about teenage trick-or-treaters? I shared my views in this article in Celebrity Parents Magazine.

This year I am loving using medallions in centerpieces.

Be sure to check out my Pinterest boards for more holiday inspiration – this October over 113,000 people have visited!

Happy Halloween from 5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate!
An owl that hitch-hiked home with us from Florence, Italy, plaid Ray Bans and the tiniest pumpkin from our garden – ready for autumn!
With grandkiddos arriving soon , I shopped for a Halloween centerpiece. When I couldn’t find one I liked I hauled out a kit that had been in storage for a couple of years and had fun playing with candy, frosting and petrified Peeps.

The following cute images were taken at a few of my favorite haunts.

On a recent trip to California to see my aunt and cousin and pay respect at my uncle’s memorial service, my sister thought a trip to Disneyland would cheer everyone up. Now I have not supported Disney Corp. after their CEO threatened to stop filming in Georgia because of their pro-life laws. I thought it would be a very long time before I returned to a Disney park but I wanted to support my sister and I caved. We had a lot of fun.

First stop on arrival in Orange County is Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach; known far and wide for their holiday decor.

Cartloads of pumpkins
Embellished masks for costumes
Vintage and contemporary decor
And more pumpkins
And as the gardens become more enchanted…
A white rabbit appears to show you the way to Wonderland where you are greeted by
The Queen of Hearts who welcomes (?) visitors
With her Jabberwocky who guards Halloween treasures
Lumiere’s buddies
And treats
A look at an artisan piece as we depart to our next destination.

After a visit with niece Amanda, dinner at California Pizza Kitchen and a good night’s sleep we Ubered to Disneyland

Disney designers are the pros at Halloween decorating.

The Haunted Mansion is dressed up as the Nightmare Before Christmas every fall. More colorful and less macabre, this is a favorite holiday haunt for many visitors, including yours truly.

Fortunately, the only occupants of this “hearse” were more Jack-o-lanterns.
Nothing says Halloween like a wave/mountain of smiling Jacks.
Coco’s Dia de Los Muertos is a colorful Latin American nod to Halloween.
Cindy’s daughter and children made the day even more enjoyable.
Recently landed at Disneyland – this Star Wars ship and characters
Cindy’s son and family gave us a tour of the new Star Wars area
While waiting for the Main Street Electrical parade we found a few more Halloween decorations to oogle.
Sitting on a corner we had front row seats to the parade. We were even kissed by Pinocchio! A bright ending to a rainy, fun day at Disneyland. Disney photo.
Back home, the market greeted guests with a stack of happy jacks. Up next – Gardner Village and Black Island Farms with the grands…
Gardner Village in Salt Lake City celebrates Halloween

The shops at Gardner Village are all ready for Halloween

Look who I found on a witch hunt! My daughter and her family finding all of the witches on the list to get a snickerdoodle cookie from the bakery for 50 cents.
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A red fox joined us on the hay ride to the pumpkin patch
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Back at home and almost ready for Halloween!

For more Halloween fun download your copy of A Harvest and Halloween Handbook today! On Amazon.com and BN.com

Happy Halloween from Roger’s Gardens

It’s not Halloween without a visit to Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach, California. Every year the talented designers work their magic with a new theme; this year it’s Malice in Wonderland. I did an Alice Halloween a couple of years ago so this one particularly interested me.

If you’re not in the spirit yet, a trip to Roger’s will lift yours. Happy Halloween!

Saying Goodbye

Uncle Dave was always one of the cool guys. He played football and baseball in high school, had the pre-requsite 1950’s flattop and when I was old enough to realize he was gone; off in the US Army in Japan, I explored his room and discovered his cache of Mad magazines and bongo drums at my grandparents’ house.

And now he is gone again. This time he won’t be returning. We visited him about 3 weeks ago at the home where he was being cared for while in the final stages of Lewy Body Dementia. He didn’t wake up while we were standing there, we didn’t expect him to. But when I whispered that we were there and we loved him, he blinked and I don’t think it was a muscle contraction. I’d been watching him sleep for a while and he didn’t wince or move. So we said our goodbyes knowing it would be the last time that we would and took his daughter Tc to their favorite Mexican cantina for dinner. Looking over the menu, my husband and I both ordered a chile relleno and cheese enchilada plate. Tc told us that was her Dad’s favorite combination too.

It’s funny just how family we are in so many ways. From Dave’s interest in the Civil War (Brian too) to the service we give and the people we love. When he returned from the army, he found a job working in the oil fields with his dad. He also found a beautiful young lady who agreed to marry him but not until he had a “real job.” So he joined the Fire Department in Santa Barbara. They bought a house had a baby girl and stayed there from 1969 until now. His wife of 51 years, Marlene was having a hard time imagining life without her partner. Alternating between tears and laughs, we reminisced and I thought hard about the eternal nature of families. We don’t believe Dave is gone forever, he just slipped quietly into another room where his parents and nephew Brian were waiting for him. His pet Chrissie, his grandparents, aunts and uncles and other people and friends he’s loved were there to greet him.

When my brother Brian died, Dave and his family came to his funeral. He was stoic and resolved the entire service and as we got up to leave the chapel. he burst into large heaving sobs. This experienced First Responder and veteran felt it with us and I had forgotten that under that armor that firemen must develop to cope with the ugliness of their job’s realities, beat the tender heart of an uncle burying his only nephew way too early.

As hard as the separation is, I have no doubt there will be a glorious reunion and we will listen to his silly jokes and feel that bigger-than-life heart when we hug. In the meantime he’ll be watching over his bride and their daughter like he always did, only we won’t be able to see him.

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To an American hero, patriot, uncle and loved one – thank you Uncle Dave for your service and your goodness. Until we meet again.

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David Miles Roberts 1940 – 2019

Brain-boosting breakfast and munchable lunches

By Pam McMurtry Deseret News Oct 10, 2018, 11:05am MDT

This article was published in 2018 – I wanted to share it again as school is starting for many of our favorite kiddos.

Breakfast on busy school mornings is more important than many parents and children realize. According to the American Dietetic Association, the brain needs a consistent carbohydrate source for fuel. Because the fiber in food slows down carbohydrate digestion, fiber helps provide the sustained energy a body needs for brain and nerve function. According to University of Utah dietitian (and my husband) Gene McMurtry MS, RD, CDE in addition to the student’s brain working hard, a young growing body needs more protein per pound than adults do.

According to a study by the ADA published in a 2005 article titled “Breakfast Habits, Nutritional Status, Body Weight and Academic Performance in Children and Adolescents,” children that eat breakfast are more likely to graduate and perform better on math tests and, in theory, keep trying longer, make better decisions and have more success overall.

McMurtry also states studies, such as “Breakfast skipping and health-compromising behaviors in adolescents and adults,” published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (online at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov), show people who skip breakfast consume fewer calories, but are more likely to be overweight because they make worse health choices such as smoking, abusing alcohol and exercising less.

How does one fuel all of this amazing physiology in a few minutes before the dash to school? Here are a few tips for healthy school-day eating. Three words: Protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates.

By including whole grains and fresh fruit, but not juice, that supply the carbs and fiber and protein-rich foods such as eggs, nuts and dairy as a starting point, you can plan healthy menus for your children’s dietary needs and taste preferences.

Also cut sugar way back or eliminate it altogether. If you are interested in doing calorie and nutrition analysis for meals try websites such as nutritiondata.com or LoseIt.

Tips for breakfasts

• The classic standby of oatmeal and milk with fruit makes a balanced meal.

• Serve a fruit smoothie with whole grain toast and peanut butter or a whole grain muffin and string cheese with fruit.

• Eggs, whole wheat toast and tangerine are a healthy choice as is a breakfast burrito made with whole grain tortilla; note: watch out for bacon, as it can have too much fat to be considered protein source, according to “Can Bacon Be Part of a Healthy Diet?” on webmd.com.

• Occasionally a protein bar with fruit and a breakfast “biscuit” like Belvita can be a good fast breakfast.

Lunch for school

For school lunches, continue on the same course with a bread, milk, vegetable or fruit and a protein source. A peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with an orange and milk make a balanced meal. Use containers to keep sandwiches and fruit from getting squished, and an insulated lunch bag and a frozen blue ice block to keep foods cooler, especially if they contain mayonnaise or eggs.

McMurtry says to eliminate fruit juice or sugary drinks which are huge contributors to overweight in the U.S. according to Harvard Nutrition‘s “Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet,” online at hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/. Include a piece of fresh fruit instead which digests slower and is more nutritious than fruit juice or fruit-flavored drinks or most canned fruits. If your child doesn’t want to stand in line to buy milk, send a small frozen water bottle to keep the lunch cold and a string cheese. If you are adding chips, try the baked variety rather than fried. If you send a dessert, try baking homemade treats and substituting one-third of the enriched or all-purpose white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour. Or send nuts or trail mix.

If they tire of sandwiches, try whole-grain bagels, muffins, breadsticks or crackers, tortillas or wraps. Many stores sell peeled hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, yogurt (Greek yogurt has more protein), packaged nuts and fresh fruit. For children, smaller apples, clusters of grapes (washed and cut with scissors to speed things up) and berries are sometimes preferred.

Don’t forget an occasional love note in the lunchbox and drop in for lunch, get to know your children’s classmates and check out the culture and goings-on in the cafeteria which influence your child’s lunchtime more than you might suspect. Discover where lunches are stored — some sit out in the sun and need insulated containers — or ask the teacher if there is another location that will improve food safety.

Here is a quick, economical and nutritious morning smoothie recipe. Divide up the ingredients the night before to make it super-fast in the morning. I realize that there is a small amount of fruit juice involved and I’m OK with that fact because of the large proportion of yogurt, whole fruits and vegetables.

A fruit smoothie with whole grain toast and peanut butter makes a balanced breakfast.
A fruit smoothie with whole grain toast and peanut butter makes a balanced breakfast.

Back-to-School Smoothie

6-8 ounces yogurt

1 cup fresh or frozen spinach leaves

1 ripe banana

1 cup pineapple or fruit juice or liquid of your choice

1 cup frozen berries

½ cup wheat germ (optional)

In the jar of a blender add the yogurt, spinach, banana, juice and wheat germ, if included. Blend at high speed until smooth. Add berries and blend again. Pour into juice cups and serve with spoons. Makes 3-4 servings, add whole grain toast and peanut butter or toast and string cheese.

French Toast Cracked Wheat Cereal

¾ cup cracked wheat

2 cups water

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

ground cinnamon to taste

ground nutmeg to taste

brown sugar, maple syrup or honey (optional)

With a hand-cranked grain mill set on extra-coarse, grind whole kernels of red or white wheat. Place in a large saucepan, add water and sea salt. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20–25 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in berries, nuts, spices and sweetener if desired. Add milk and you have a protein-rich hearty breakfast that tastes and smells divine.

Early Holiday Prep!

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” Hamilton Wright Mabie

Welcome BYU radio listeners! If you missed the broadcast, you can access it here: Are you looking at ideas for Christmas gifts? The Platinum Rule (Golden Rule upgrade) states – “Do unto others as they would like to have done unto them;” in other words – give them what they want. The most appreciated holiday gifts match the receiver’s wish list. In his book, THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES, Dr. Gary Chapman clues us in on individual preferences; he states that people have different gift values that fall into these categories:

Gifts (items wanted or needed)

Quality Time

Words of Affirmation


Physical Touch

The earlier you start planning/making/shopping the more time you will have to create/purchase/ideate thoughtful, appropriate gifts. For instance, this year for Father’s Day I found a book with prompts to fill in about my Dad’s influence and effect on my life. To go with the copper foil lettering on the blue and navy textured cover, I found blue, copper and gold gel pens to write in some of the answers. Others were printed in a vintage typewriter text to match the retro style of the book and collaged. I copied old photos and used scrapbook paper to embellish the pages. I poured my heart and memories into each page and the result brought tears to both our eyes. The book took an entire week to complete – not going to happen if you begin in December. For gifts like this for loved ones, you need to start early.

As you plan your gifts for Christmas and the autumn and winter holidays; try for things that fill the needs and wants of the recipients. Here are a few ideas to tickle your gift-giving fancy from my A Christmas Handbook


Earlier in the year, start a small notebook or record in your electronic device the names of people you will be giving gifts to, their sizes and preferences. Then as you buy gifts, make a note of the gift and where you put it (trust me on this). Why not wrap a few gifts at a time when you are watching a movie?


Collections of family stories are valuable gifts that help build loyalty and character. Think of the scriptures and the good they have imparted; the experiences and wisdom of great people aid us in our decision-making. Family histories help establish our identity and connect us to the larger culture.

If you have inherited family treasures from a parent or grandparent, select those that would be meaningful to family members and give them as gifts and reminders of the relationship and love shared. Books, family records, copies of family movies, jewelry, silverware, art, serving dishes, photos, sports memorabilia, tools, collectibles, family furniture, anything that has special significance.


Using a shadow box, frame a hand-written favorite recipe card with photo or memento of the family chef and a spoon or a spice tin, apron or something small from the kitchen.

Fill a scrapbook-style cookbook or create an ebook with a collection of favorite recipes and photos.


Add to a treasured collection. In our family we read a Christmas story a night from December 1st on. We love Christmas books, other people collect things that interest them or increase in value such as art.

I also love vintage stuff; but giving a pre-owned gift is a delicate task, you need to know your recipient. Some people treasure pre-loved items, others will not. Unless you are sure of your exquisite taste or exactly what the recipient likes, you might first walk through a store that features upscale refurbished furniture and accent pieces to see how the pros put things together and pick up a few ideas. Then visit thrift stores, antique stores, garage sales, etc. If you have ReStores in your area, they are charities that benefit Habitat for Humanity that sell salvaged or recycled building supplies that can be repurposed and embellished. Again, look for natural materials such as wood and glass; tins and glass dishes can be thoroughly washed and used for food gift giving and proceeds go to help people in need. If there is obvious wear or rust, be sure to package food gifts in a barrier/liner like a cellophane bag. Personally, I adore anything with red plaid, new or used; I’m easy that way.


Scroll down to discover ideas for retail purchases and usual timelines for sales and discounts.

Love that happy feeling when you find something pre-loved and precious that will be again useful with just a little TLC? For many items you will want to make sure they are squeaky clean and shiny before you give them unless the “patina” of age and wear is a desirable characteristic. Here are potential gifts and decorations to look for at your favorite antique or thrift shop:

  • An old drawer or cupboard door painted with chalkboard paint and tied with a ribbon bow and bag of chalk
  • A small wooden picture frame repainted: add a favorite quote from C.S. Lewis or a scripture
  • A domed glass cake pedestal with a favorite desert, tied with a wide satin ribbon
  • A vintage suitcase relined with cute fabric and filled with supplies for a favorite hobby
  • A redecorated wooden dollhouse
  • A cradle repainted and furnished with a new or family member’s favorite doll
  • A great jar or container to fill with marbles, old army men, cowboys, gumballs or other favorite old or vintage-style toys
  • Glass luminaries can made of two vases or cylinders; one that fits inside the other. Place the smaller inside the larger glass or paper container and hot glue or attach it with florist putty. In the interior space between the two, fill with Epson salt or fake snow and glitter snowflakes. Attach a candle and tie a bow and sprig of greens around the large cylinder.
  • An old empty gumball machine, antique jars or apothecary jar can be outfitted with bottle brush trees and a winter snow scene
  • Silverware or dishes that the recipient collects.
  • Vintage quilts, jewelry, purses, linens and books
  • Old-school wrapping paper, tags, cards, notebooks, frames (filled with a cute vintage card or print.)
  • Turn vintage dominoes, buttons and other small items into refrigerator magnets by attaching strong magnet to the back with an epoxy like JB Weld ® or E6000 superglue.
  • Decorated antique kitchen accessories – tins, scales, serve ware, tools like old knives and whisks – again you need to know the taste of the recipient.
  • Collectibles – vintage art, postcards, binoculars, whistles, milk glass, spectacles, pocket watches, typewriters, garden tools, Christmas lights and ornaments, calendars, vinyls.

Check small businesses and online import sites and stores. Amazon and other retailers have Certified Refurbished items, also check Ebay, Ebid, and online classified sites.


As you may choose to buy some gifts retail, here are a few money-saving tips:

  • Use coupons and watch for specials at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, JoAnns, JC Penneys, Macy’s, Dillard’s, TJ Maxx, Home Goods and your favorite retailers. Get in the habit of checking the clearance aisles for treasures. Get their apps and/or sign up for their newsletters and sale notices.
  • House Credit – if you are shopping at a large retailer, you can often save 15% or more by making the purchase with their credit card. Then tell the cashier you want to make a payment and pay it off on the spot with your debit card, check or cash. It just takes a minute.
  • Check discount retailers; my favorites are TJ Maxx Or TK Maxx in the U.K., Home Goods, Marshalls and Tuesday Morning – there are a lot of greatly discounted higher- quality buys; and don’t overlook outlet mall stores, like William Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and DownEast; some of which will ship for you.
  • Linens and serving pieces, again look for after holiday sales and save until next year. A brand-new Waterford Stewart plaid tablecloth that sold on Ebay for $125, was purchased at Home Goods in January for $15.
  • Support local business and artists as well as hand-craft holiday boutiques.
  • Watch for tent sales – Some retailers have tent sales during the summer. I learned to bring a bottle of water and wear comfortable shoes – it can get hot in the tent. Look for  higher-end merchandise for pennies on the dollar.

RULE # 1: If you see something you like grab it quick, it may be gone in a minute; if you change your mind later you can put it back – someone else will surely see its value.

RULE # 2: If an item has a stitched monogram, decide whether it can be removed with a seam ripper or covered with a piece of ribbon or applique stitched over it. Often customers order personalized merchandise and later return it for whatever reason. I found a $230 monogrammed suitcase with my initials for $23.

  • 2 words: BLACK FRIDAY also pre-Black Friday sales – check for online deals; you may not even have to fight the parking lot crowds.
  • Amazon.com, Etsy, etc. more online shopping at your fingertips and they ship so you don’t have to stand in line at the Post Office.
  • Post-holiday sales; Barnes and Nobles, Target, Walmart, Talbots; watch your favorite retailers.

Again, don’t forget to patronize small businesses; you might not save as much money but your support helps the community as most business owners belong to service organizations and help support sports teams and school activities.

This list from Money Under 30 shares optimal shopping deals in retail


  • Air conditioners
  • School supplies
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Lawnmowers
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Snow blowers
  • Swimwear


  • Big appliances (except for refrigerators)
  • Bikes
  • Cars
  • Gas grills
  • Outdoor perennial plants
  • Thanksgiving travel tickets


  • Air conditioners
  • Camcorders
  • Christmas travel tickets
  • Digital cameras
  • Toys


  • Baby items
  • Fresh Christmas trees
  • Recreational vehicles
  • GPS navigators
  • TVs


  • Home appliances
  • iTunes gift cards
  • Tools
  • Holiday decorations (wait til after Christmas)

And these tips from DealNews:

Top 5 Stores for August 2019

  1. Home Depot
    The home improvement store will kick off its Labor Day sale early — around mid-August — and will discount a wide range of items. This will be an excellent opportunity for DIYers who want to shop deals for remodeling projects.
  2. Reebok
    Last year’s Reebok Friends & Family Sale was one of the best we saw from the brand. If it returns this year, we expect discounts of an extra 50% off outlet styles for the whole family, making it good for back-to-school shopping.
  3. REI Outlet
    Outdoor enthusiasts shouldn’t miss this REI Outlet event, where you can expect to shave at least 70% off apparel, shoes, and outdoor gear. Discounted brands will include Columbia, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, and Oakley.
  4. Target
    The bull’s-eye retailer will kick off its Labor Day sale toward the end of the month, about a week before the holiday itself. Expect savings of 30% on a variety of items, including indoor and outdoor furniture, home items, and TVs. Additionally, Target will probably have a stacking discount to take an extra 15% off select products.
  5. Walmart
    The retailer will host its Back to College sale, which will be a great opportunity to snag discounted school supplies, furniture, decor, and dorm-appropriate appliances like minifridges. Even better, Walmart will kick off its own Labor Day sale later in the month, providing even more chances to save.

Best month to buy stuff? Here’s a list https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/05/the-best-time-of-the-year-to-buy-everything.html

Image result for pottery barn christmas advent calendar
$5 at a DownEast tent sale!

The best day to start Christmas shopping? December 26! Since that boat sails every year, this December remember to hop on board at Hobby Lobby , Michael’s, Walmart, Target, Home Goods, World Market, Barnes and Noble and any retailer that carries the style of decor, gifts, wrap and accoutrements that make your heart happy. In the days and weeks following the holiday prices gradually drop until one day you walk into your favorite market and find holiday items at a 90% off sale. And that is when you wish you owned a large truck. 🙂 Pottery Barn and PB Kids, Williams Sonoma and other higher end retailers also have clearance sales in store and online!

Get ready for Valentines Day with glitter Xs and Os and anything red from candles to candies.

Here’s a fun gift guide for Christmas https://www.jenraly.com/topics/best-christmas-ideas-this-year/

And more unique and fun gift ideas for 2019 – https://www.giftadvisor.com/best/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwv8nqBRDGARIsAHfR9wBwGOyhmVXQDNTrRijhMM_wU_bnCErGXrYDyD-ZOnr5gC6h8BvjtqwaAtFIEALw_wcB

Image result for donkey and elephant

Here’s an app that will help you make shopping decisions based on the political contributions of the companies you support. https://www.goodsuniteus.com/#/ or in the app store – goods unite us. They keep track of political donations; for instance I recently learned that L’Oreal cosmetics makes 96% of their donations to Democratic candidates, so I switched to Revlon which is more evenly split.

Preparedness and Living Happily Ever After – another idea for practical giving

 What would you do if you couldn’t get to market? Stay home? Have roast beef? Or have none? Cry wee, wee, wee? No, you don’t have to affected by the winds of disaster, whether economic or natural. Why not add emergency preparedness to the gifts you give this year. Here is a guide to the amounts you might need of a little somethin’ somethin’ to feed your family just in case. 

Here are links for more ideas for preparedness, camping and family reunion ideas, enjoy! http://www.pinterest.com/pammcmurtry/camping-reunions-and-preparedness/

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

***Blast from the past: Don’t hate me but I just finished my Christmas shopping. August 2016

The history of four Christmas food traditions:

You may not want to hear this, but girls and guys, I just finished my Christmas shopping. Don’t be a hater, I will share my secrets for getting 50 – 90% off Christmas presents for the 30+ people we exchange gifts with every year.

1. Watch for sales at your favorite retailers. I live near a DownEast Outlet that has a tent sale every July. They have deep discounts on Pottery Barn, Mark and Graham and other quality lines. A pair of $150 pajamas cost me $6 plus an hour with a seam ripper to remove the unwanted monogram or to sew a piece of ribbon over the initials on the cuff. I picked up a a red plaid (my addiction) wool weekend bag for $10 and a set of Pottery Barn luggage for 90% off – one piece even had my initials. Leather accessories are priced at up to 95% off. Many have monograms that can be altered or removed – sometimes I get lucky and find something for a loved one with their initial. Good quality scarves and travel blankets were $2 and $3 dollars and Pottery Barn velvet Santa bags were about the price of paper gift bags. Call your local DownEast, there may be more sales coming soon.

2. Target toy sale. Target is getting ready for Christmas merch and is marking toys and games way down. I picked up Monster High and Barbie items for 50% off. Disney clay animation movie-making kits were about 70% off. Baby toys, art supplies and games are on clearance too; many at 75% off.

3. Barnes and Noble clearance sale. B&N not only marks down all kinds of fascinating books, but toys and readers are also on sale. The clearance begins at 50% off, but if you can hold out, after about 3 weeks goes to 75%, then $2 an item. We will be well-read this Christmas.

The only problem I am still having is that Christmas paper is not yet in stores. Fortunately I had a few rolls put away and was able to find some $1 red and white striped and polka dot rolls at Michael’s. Make sure you grab a few rolls after Christmas for next year if you want the jump on wrapping before the busy holiday season. I am so excited that I am wrapping all of the treasures and stashing them so I can enjoy a peaceful and creative holiday season without the mad rush to shop in December. I’ll have time to bake and visit family and friends and focus on the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
Down time? probably not. I’m waiting to hear from a publisher about my manuscripts they are considering and I might just do another holiday candy window for City Creek Macy’s in downtown Salt Lake City. I’ll let you know. 

100 pounds of candy! (Francisco Kjolseth  |  The Salt Lake Tribune)  For the second year, Macy's unveils the holiday candy windows at Macy's City Creek on Thursday, Nov. 21,  2013, including the ornament called Merry! by Pam Layton McMurtry and her son Tim. The windows which kick off the holiday season, are made entirely out of candy and reflect Salt Lake City and the luster of the holiday season. Six local artists were chosen to design the windows.  https://www.ksl.com/?sid=28034321:

Between now and Christmas comes Halloween! If you don’t have yours yet, download a copy of A Harvest and Halloween Handbook from amazon or BN.com – you’ll be glad you did!


Sunflowers, Skulls and Back to School

Late summer: the bees are buzzing, sunflowers are popping up like daisies and the back-to-school countdown has begun. Any day I can walk into my favorite retailer and find pencils, paper and Halloween decor sold simultaneously is A-OK in my book.

Moms are looking for ideas to keep their kiddos ones engaged until school starts; one of my favorite things to do is work on Halloween decor and costumes. In the world of creativity Halloween is king – no holds barred, nothing off-limits, it’s all good (or bad depending on how you roll…) costumes. decor, cards and invitations – the sky’s the limit.

When I was perusing Pinterest for my daily visual fix, one of my coloring pages popped up and I knew it was time to look at Halloween – after all its only 3 months away.

32 Halloween party coloring pages! Dozens of ideas for your autumn carnival games and fun.

So if you are looking for a fun way to spend the last few days of summer with your kiddos download a copy of A Harvest and Halloween Handbook and start working on Halloween ( you know how busy fall gets once school/sports/lessons… start.)

Lots to do! Coloring pages, recipes, costumes, decorating and gifts for Halloween – enjoy!
Go fish for prizes
Decorate cookies!

If these don’t grab you, start thinking about costumes… check my Pinterest board for cute ideas https://www.pinterest.com/pammcmurtry/costumes/

What’s in your closet?

Creative outdoor decor – for some reason I always come back to Alice in Wonderland themes like this picnic in Wonderland and spectral tea party. I shared ideas for economic decor in US News and World Report.

Paper plate sunflowers and rustic turkey pesto sandwiches to die for.

Pull out a few pieces of Halloween decor like this gorgeous skull model and do a still life drawing lesson that does double-duty as an anatomy lesson and decoration for Halloween. This is charcoal on textured paper. Many artists love charcoal for its richness and ability to vary light and dark values. With art supplies on sale, now is a good time to experiment with different media.

If you need a simple activity – consider pulling up drawing lessons on YouTube. Here’s a cute simple bat that your kiddos can draw.

Have them watch the whole demo, then go back to the beginning. As the artists adds a couple of lines, have them pause the video and draw the lines on their paper. Then do it again every few seconds. It is empowering for children going back to school to have talents to share and show off with the others in their classes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_pbJ-nhGwM

Please President Trump, Halloween has been celebrated on October 31 internationally for about 1200 years, leave it there! From its earliest roots in Sukkot through the dark days of Samhain, into medieval All Hallow’s Eve and the present, people have enjoyed harvest festivals. If people want to party on the last Saturday of the month – go for it!

*****School Districts – make November 1st a teacher prep day and let Junior stay home to sleep off his sugar hangover.

Don’t forget – A Harvest and Halloween Handbook on Amazon and BN.com! https://www.amazon.com/Harvest-Halloween-Handbook-Artisan-ebook/dp/B009PA8ON6