Christmas Tree Lane

Alright. I wasn’t even planning to watch this one but I did. I don’t know why, I just wasn’t looking forward to this one at all. But I watched it, and I didn’t hate it. So let’s get in to it, okay?

Meg, our lead, is a music teacher and she begins her day with music instruction. After the lesson, she heads to the bank, saying hello to everyone on her street. Just a woman of the people. On her way home from the bank, she decides to stop at an outdoor coffee vendor with plans to order one of the most disappointing drinks of all time-black DECAF coffee. IN THE MORNING. GUYS. WHAT IS THE POINT?! However, her plans are waylaid by a grown man asking for extra sprinkles on his hot chocolate. He seems very interested in her, despite her being kind of a grump and invites her to sit down on a bench. She interrupts him when she hears a Christmas song sung by a Children’s choir on the outdoor speakers. “Can you hear the joy in their voices?” She asks. “YES DEFINITEY” Nate replies. When he tells her he didn’t realize her family music store, Reilly’s, is still open, she gets a little offended and decides to leave. She even forgets her hat and doesn’t immediately notice how cold her ears are in that cold Vancouver summer breeze.

When she gets back to the store, she receives a troubling bit of news. The owner of ALL the buildings on Christmas Tree Lane has found a loophole in their lease and has decided to evict them and sell the whole kit and caboodle. But guess what’s going to be built in their place? Did you guess condos? Me too. BUT IT’S NOT CONDOS YOU GUYS. It’s “creative spaces for media technology.” It is a new era in Hallmarkland. Condos are out and “creative spaces for media technology” are the new bad boys of Hallmark.

At work, Nate apologizes for his “disaster zone” of an office, which is the same phrase I use when people come to my house after I’ve spent an entire day cleaning. Nate’s disaster zone amounts to a single box of Christmas decorations on his desk in an otherwise empty office. We learn he works for his dad and has apparently just moved back to Denver.

At her dad’s house, Meg chats about their predicament. He offers her some food but she doesn’t eat it. He’s like, okay well you better go then. She walks around the corner of the house to the mother in law unit she must live in. FUNNY BIT.

The next morning, the tenants of Christmas Tree Lane hold an EMERGENCY MEETING. One extra unhelpfully suggests they buy their spaces 60 years ago. Right now it seems their options are leave within 90 days or take a “buy out” and leave early. They brainstorm some options to drum up business and perhaps…get the momentum of public opinion on their side? I think that’s their strategy. No one suggests filing a lawsuit for wrongful eviction.

Instead, they plan to hold a tree decorating contest, contact a local television station, pass out fliers…you know, the usual Hallmark stuff for saving an historic building or whatever. Oh and all of these activities will culminate in…a Pageant? A Gala? A Festival? CLOSE! A Christmas Eve Concert. Meg does not want to perform though so don’t even ask.

Then, Nate shows up with her hat from the day before! Emma immediately leaves, which is too bad because I might have liked them together better. They chit chat a little… he works at a real estate investment firm…nothing to see here folks…going to run it when his dad retires… you know. The age old tale. But what he REALLY LOVES is being an architect. At least it’s not wreath design. So anyway, Meg proves she’s a real music nerd and again, seems to take offense that Nate doesn’t enjoy listening to music on vinyl. Nate is undeterred. She tries to SELL HIM a record player and then ends up just giving him one along with a children’s record. COOL. He promises to return.

The next day, the street is busy with their preparations to save themselves. Everyone is getting trees to decorate and what not. Nate returns, like a pig to the trough, and wants to buy the record player. He noticed the signs and didn’t realize THE ENTIRE STREET was at risk of going out of business. Meg says it won’t be in trouble if they all just band together and hold a concert. But Meg, that’s not how it works. A building owner can sell his buildings even if people don’t like it? It’s all private property? So anyway that’s where we are with that. Nevertheless, Nate offers to help her pick out a Christmas tree because architects are great at that. She’s like, being an architect sounds a lot like song writing. He’s like, oh, you write songs? She’s like no never mind. Forget I mentioned that. Then she gives him some history about the shop. They arrive at her BFF Emma’s coffee shop. She said Emma opened the shop right after college. And, well, I’m sorry. No. That didn’t happen. I’m just sure of it.

Inside, Nate suggests a really great sounding drink for Meg. She says that would put her in a sugar coma so I think she needs to just up her sugar intake overall. I wrote down the drink because I want to order it: Americano with nutmeg, cocoa powder, whipped cream and chocolate drizzle. There might be caramel drizzle too but I only saw chocolate on the finished product.

They pick out the tree…this whole scene is underwhelming as far as tree picking scenes go. But then Nate promises to buy more records in case he can single handedly save their store. But let me pause here and ask-it is not an inability to pay rent that’s the problem right? I mean, they’re not all getting evicted for failure to pay rent? They’re all making their payments. The building owner must just want MORE money and can obtain that through a sale of the buildings? So, more business really won’t make a difference at this point, unless all the tenants are also committing to increasing their own rent in exchange for staying in their current location…do I just need to leave this alone? Historic buildings in jeopardy! Town needs to band together to save it! That’s all we need to know, okay?

When Nate gets to work, he notices that his dad has given him a shiny, new, clear glass desk and is putting his little drafting table into storage. This is a bit silly all around because there is plenty of room for both that incredibly impractical desk and that miniature drafting table. Maybe it was the right size but in my memory right now, it is child size. His dad has also dropped off hundreds of project files for him to review. GUESS WHAT ONE OF THE PROJECTS IS. Small world.

Later that night, Nate decides to go to the outdoor skating rink alone. He runs into Meg and Emma passing out flyers for the Christmas Concert. Emma immediately makes an excuse to leave and Nate invites Meg to skate. Again, I would have rather seen Nate and Emma together but I’m going to let that go. So anyway, Nate and Meg strap on rental skates from the 1940s and shuffle around the rink. Meg is (of course) painfully bad at ice skating. They run into REGINA, Nate’s ex, who is also presumably out for a solo skate. Regina is unusually happy to see a person she dated for four years. She gleefully talks about suing Nate’s dad and how he took her to lunch after the hearing. SO FUN CATCHING UP! Why doesn’t Nate get together with the old gang at a bar nearby? They’re all meeting for a gift exchange he wasn’t invited to. SOUNDS FUN. Meg excuses herself.

The next morning, Meg gabs with her pals about the night before. Nate shows up AGAIN and comes up with a great idea for decorating the Reilly’s Christmas tree.

That night, Reilly’s has an open house. The place is packed. Nate shows up after everyone leaves. All that’s left is fruitcake. WHY ARE THEY EVEN OFFERING THAT AS AN OPTION. Not even with a mound of whipped cream will Nate eat a piece. Then Nate offers to help her design the concert space. Then they head upstairs to the insanely decorated loft space for some reason. He asks her to play a song for him. Despite all kinds of protests earlier, she just plops down and starts to play an original song. Nate is blown away by her performance. And finally, we hear the reason why she doesn’t want to perform. Are you guys ready? Do you think you can handle it? Apparently a producer had the audacity to suggest she write more “modern” songs if she wants to make it in “the biz.” So she moved back to Denver and began teaching voice and piano lessons. So….yeah. That’s all.

She offers to give him a quick lesson because he’s probably naturally gifted at music because he’s artistic. He is capable of hitting the notes she tells him to!! So, I’d say she’s probably right. Then, another straggler arrives at the open house and the moment passes.

The next day, Nate goes to see his mom…and well, I looked this lovely woman up after the movie was over and she is FIFTEEN YEARS OLDER THAN ANDREW. There is no mention of Nate growing up with a teen mom so I vehemently object to this casting choice. She also LOOKS really young. So, yeah. She was great in this but there are plenty of lovely Hallmark actors that would be an age appropriate choice to be her child. But here we are.

So Nate is at the hospital visiting his mom. She works there, relax. He is dropping off toys for a toy drive. And guess who’s with him?? Meg. She and Lorraine immediately take to each other and she agrees to pass out flyers too. Before Meg pokes her head in, Nate and his mom have a conversation that clearly implies he’s talked to her about Meg alot. Why not? They’re basically siblings.

Later, there is a big meeting and Nate reveals he is unprepared. His dad asks about the status of “CTL.” Hmmm, could that be Christmas Tree Lane? The rest of the board laughs about how pathetic those poor people are trying to save their street.

Later, Meg is interviewed on the news! Lots of good publicity for the concert. She is very focused on emphasizing history and tradition. Nate comes by to tell her the bad news. But of course, he gets interrupted by Emma and her family coming over to go look at the trees on the street. They have a lovely stroll. But, of course, because there’s too much time left in this movie, Nate chickens out again.

In the morning, Meg decides to head to the investment firm to…well, I don’t really know what her plan was. But she’s going there. And she’s bringing flyers. Nate gets some grand idea about something too and decides to rush out and talk to Meg. They run into each other in the lobby and Meg is…understandably shocked. They talk in the conference room. He tries to explain and says he wants to fix it and she needs some space. But I found his pitch to be quite compelling.

Nate comes by later with a pretty good sketch of what he could pitch to his dad and the board. I really like it. I think it’s a great, practical idea. Then Nate decides to bring his dad to the street to see if he can stir up some sentimentality or something. BUT, he is a busy businessman and his emotions cannot be manipulated so easily. He does give the street a longing look as he drives away though.

The next day, Nate AND his mom come by the music store to help them…wrap gifts? Is that where they are now? Lorraine has good news-Christmas Tree Lane is rated one of the top 5 neighborhoods in Denver! And this is FRONT PAGE news you guys. Meg gives herself a pretty heavy pour of wine and chit chats with Lorraine, who is about 9 years older than her. Just so we’re all aware. Nate and Meg’s dad are having a great time as well.

That night, I think? They are walking down the street and Nate realizes the street is probably zoned for residential. Then Nate is like, well what if we added apartments on top and did a mixed used situation. I’d love to be this close to downtown, he says. OMG ARE CONDOS GOING TO SAVE THESE HISTORIC BUILDINGS??!! The twist to end all twists.

So, the next day, Nate is working on his mixed use concept when his dad walks in. Nate takes this opportunity to talk the idea over with him. However, his dad actually has some good points-like two weeks of lots of traffic does not undue decades of retail failure. Fair.

Later, Meg runs into Nate’s dad, presumably on Christmas Tree Lane. He has purchased a dozen pastries…for himself? Or what? He literally plops down on a bench and goes to town. Meg stops and invites herself to sit down. He offers her one of his precious few remaining pastries. She tries to talk him in to saving the street, but he says it’s too late. Then, Meg sees Nate saying goodbye to Regina so she’s just having a DAY.

Nate meets Meg at a coffee shop, apologizing for being late with no explanation. Suspicious. Meg tells Nate she bonded with his dad over the street. Is that how she remembers that conversation going? So now Meg wants to bring the spirit of Christmas to the board tomorrow. They make a a little video to show to the board. Then they head to a cute hot chocolate bar. If you know me, I love a DIY hot chocolate bar. But Nate disappointingly can’t decide between white chocolate or milk chocolate. Barf City. Then Regina calls Nate and he says it’s work…SUSPICIOUS.

The next day, despite what I can only imagine is a top notch presentation, the board votes against Nate’s pitch because it would set construction back a year and would cost too much. That makes sense. Meg is understandably devastated. She doesn’t really want to be around Nate but is grateful for his help.

Back at the music shop, Meg’s dad gives her a nice pep talk. Nate heads to his parents’ house for a pep talk from his mom. She’s like, go to that concert you silly goose!

Back on Christmas Tree Lane, Regina shows up to share what she’s been up to. She’s like, I know I was super aggressive with Nate the other day, but I just like him as a friend now. And also I want to represent your ENTIRE STREET in a wrongful eviction lawsuit against Nate’s company. Also, it was Nate’s idea to sue his own company so this is all totally above board.

It’s concert time. Lorraine tricks Edmund into going. Nate is downstairs in the music shop waiting for Meg. She is dressed VERY FANCY. I do like her dress but Nate is wearing a half zip sweater and Meg is in a vintage velvet ball gown.

Meg gives an impassioned speech and, alright, twist her arm, she’s going to perform… A NEW SONG.. that SHE WROTE. So buckle up y’all.

After the concert, Edmund has of course, had a change of heart. He agrees there is something special about Christmas tree lane, and that mixed use concept might ultimately be more profitable and he will probably be able to price out all of these old tenants when their lease is up for renewal. So WIN WIN WIN. Then Nate says that MEG is the miracle in all of this and they kiss. And it snows. And that’s that.

So, over all…this movie was fine. Maybe it’s because it’s the last one I watched from the weekend. Maybe I’m always prone to be a little snarkier about keeping unprofitable old buildings instead of building something new. I don’t know. But it’s still Hallmark and we’re all still here, aren’t we? Let’s see how we did on that Checklist, shall we? Dang, only 5/20 for this one. But it still felt VERY Hallmark and VERY Christmasy. Perhaps I should boost ratings of movies with a lot of visible hot chocolate drinking? Let me know what you thought of this one in the comments!

  1. Clumsy meet cute
  2. Christmas Concert (in place of pageant)
  3. Winter athletics
  4. Tearing down historic landmarks
  5. Small shop in danger of going out of business

Chateau Christmas

Another day before Halloween, another recap of a Christmas movie. This was the third one I watched and I was just so happy to be on the couch, polishing off a bag of Twix Popcorn while I watched this movie. But you’re not here for that, so let’s get into it.

Margot is a famous classic pianist and she is on the phone with her sister while her sister is trying to load up the car to head to wherever they’re going for Christmas. So, Kate, the sister is just chit chatting away while they’re trying to get going. My husband would be (and frankly, has been) SO THRILLED if I was doing that while we were trying to get out the door. But Margot is obsessing about a review she received that said she had no heart in her performance. Also, she’s a busy workaholic pianist and so she can’t make it for the big family Christmas gathering.

Then Margot heads to piano practice at the theatre. The lights literally start exploding and then water starts pouring through the roof. So maybe she won’t be playing there.

At a hotel that is at once incredibly fancy and wintry, old college buds Jackson and Adam meet up. Adam is the PR manager at the hotel and is scrambling to salvage the hotel’s; excuse me, the Chateau’s Christmas concert. So far, the director quit and so did most of the performers for various reasons. So, he needs his old college pal and now current music professor to help! Jackson is like, so busy at the college during what must be winter break, but Adam twists his arm.

Kate and Margot’s mother ask Kate’s daughter what to get her mom for Christmas. Bless this simple girl’s heart, she suggests a pony. She is TOO OLD to suggest a pony for her mother, okay? The fam is all having a lovely lunch at the Chateau. Margot makes it! Since her theater practically burned down with her inside it, all her concerts got cancelled. So she is ready to celebrate Christmas with her family. I hope there is room for one more! The pianist playing in the lobby or dining area or whatever that is sees her, stops playing, and immediately rushes over to introduce himself. He is a huge fan. He then invites her to play the piano instead. I don’t know much about playing piano in hotel lobbies, but I just feel like it doesn’t work that way. Nevertheless, soon she’s over there playing.

Jackson and Adam are having a lovely power lunch when they hear the piano. Who is that playing? Adam is like, I don’t know. I just work here. They walk over and immediately all recognize each other. They all went to college together! Even though Margot is clearly ten years younger than them. No matter. They briefly catch up and Margot brings them over to say hello to her family. Jackson accidentally spills they are exes. DRAMA!

Later, Margot is playing piano with her niece in…wait, is that their hotel room at this Chateau? With approximately 25 lit Christmas trees and other decorations? I gotta tell you, this takes me back to my early Hallmark watching days. My family and I spent many a Christmas in similar suites at the Sleep Inn in Minot, North Dakota. I wonder if this Chateau is connected to the town shopping mall?

Anyway, Margot admits to her sister that the critic was right about her-she has lost her passion for playing.

The concert bros face another dilemma. Their star vocal performer now has laryngitis. They are in a real pickle now. Adam finally wonders whether they shouldn’t ask Margot. Jackson is very against that of course. You know, because of “their history.”

Later, without changing out of that sweater, he has a meeting with his boss at the college about the Music Department Chair job. She says they have a lot of great candidates and they will let him know. He tells her he is organizing a concert at the Chateau on Christmas…Day? Eve? Anyway, she is intrigued.

So, now with those stakes raised, Jackson decides to bribe Margot into performing. He gets her a hot chocolate and a box of chocolates. Jackson, you’re alright! And he thinks maybe it would give her the joy she once had performing. It doesn’t work though. 9 days is not enough time to prepare for heaven’s sake!! And now, I just want to be clear about something…her family is already here…at this hotel. Staying in that suite…for an additional NINE DAYS. Yes, I did just capitalize and italicize those words. Because it’s all hitting me right now. They are essentially having an upwards of $10,000 staycation? In this economy?

Back in that suite, her whole family is like, no you should definitely perform at the concert. She continues to obsess over the review. Even her brother in law, who has about 5 lines total, pipes in to say she should do it. But Margot’s mom knows there’s more to it than no prep time. So they get into what happened between Margot and Jackson all those years ago.

The mom pep talk must have worked because the next morning, those concert boyz are just giddy about being back in business.

Margot arrives at practice to discover she is the ONLY performer. Well that isn’t going to work because despite her planning to play a bunch of solo Christmas concerts over the next few weeks, she only has one song prepared. So she and Jackson start to strategize about how to get more performers. Then they kind of rehash their relationship and Jackson wonders if Margot feels like she owes him. She does not. Oh. Regardless of all that, Jackson offers to give Margot a ride back to the Chateau. They realize they both have similar errands to run later so they agree to do them together.

Okay, where are they decorating cookies? Is this like a hotel sponsored event? The girls gab about Jackson. Her mom says they were meant for each other. Then Jackson arrives, fully committed to wearing sweaters through this entire film apparently. The girls invite him to stay and decorate but then immediately leave. This is completely unnecessary though, since Margot and Jackson were already planning to spend time together. Also, these ladies just have no chill. Can you guys just be cool?!! Jackson proceeds to get VERY RUNNY red frosting all over himself. I didn’t think someone could be so bad at using frosting and I’ve been frosting sugar cookies with SMALL CHILDREN for the better part of 4 years. They give up on that endeavor and head to wherever they were going to run errands.

They end up at a music shop. The grouchy owner is just jamming out on his violin. Margot recognizes him as a member of the famous classic “Lafayette Quartet.” But, as so many classic bands do, they broke up many years ago and haven’t spoken since. Jackson and Margot try to persuade Sam, the owner to get the gang back together. They go out for coffee and Sam gives them the long sordid history. Fame and greed got the best of them and they lost their way, as so many classical quartets do. Just kidding. Actually Sam and his bandmate Sarah had different goals in life-he wanted to stay out on the road and she wanted to start a family. Hmmm…that hits home a little, doesn’t it MARGOT??!! So Sam is positive that neither Sarah nor their only other living band mate Len will agree to perform. He wishes them the best of luck.

Later, Margot and Jackson rehash their breakup yet again. But it ends up being a nice chat. Margot’s sister is waiting up for her on the couch. Now if that was a pull out couch, it would be like looking back in time to our own Sleep Inn Suite’s pull out couch, were my brother spent many a Christmas break while I was kicked to death by my sister in one of the queen beds.

The next morning, Margot helps herself to the lobby piano to practice. Sure, those are for anyone to play on. Her mom is like, you know, that critic was right. You’re playing just fine but you don’t have any heart in your music. ENCOURAGEMENT!

Jackson shows up and he wants to convince Sarah to get the quartet/trio back together to play. Then Margot’s mom also invites him to go shopping with them later. Jackson is like, oh shopping sounds SO FUN. Thanks.

They just show up on Sarah’s MASSIVE doorstep. She is a little weirded out (understandably) but recognizes Margot so she lets them inside. Inside Sarah’s massive home, I count about 20 Christmas trees in the living room ALONE. They chat about Sam and the gang and Sarah says if they can get Len and Sam on board, she’s in. Oh and did she mention she’s single? So, now they’ve just got to get ol Lenny and they’ve got a stew going.

They inexplicably call Len from a gas station. What, he doesn’t deserve an in person visit? Luckily for them, he’s on board if the other two are. So I think they’re in business. But now they’ve got to circle back to Sam and see if he’s really on board. Instead of immediately going to see Sam, since the clock is still running on this concert, they go shopping at some outdoor Christmas marketplace. Adam calls in a panic. He has to think of something UNIQUE to have at this concert that like…represents the Chateau. Jackson and Margot inadvertently volunteer to take care of that. But he is STOKED to hear they might get the Lafayette Quartet/Trio.. How has everyone heard of this local classical music quartet?!

They finally go back to Sam’s music store and bring in the big guns-SARAH IN PERSON. They are just so happy to see each other. Margot and Jackson creepily stand off to the side during this little reunion. They finally think better of that and decide to give Sam and Sarah some space. They wander around that Christmas market place and then, disappointingly drink apple cider by a fire. If you know me, it’s hot chocolate or it’s NOTHING, okay? Margot says that little reunion has stirred up old feelings, but they don’t get into that. BUT Jackson DOES grab her hand. So things are really HEATING UP! Sam calls to tell Jackson they are officially IN for the concert. So I’d say things are really going well all around.

Okay ARE THEY FOR REAL ALL STAYING IN THIS HOTEL in THIS SUITE FOR 10+ days. They are decorating an additional tree in that room with ornaments seemingly brought from home. WHAT IS HAPPENING. They pause and reminisce over a special ornament that reminds them of their dad. Kate’s husband keeps himself busy in the background. And uh oh…we’ve got a decorating montage! Lots of draping that small child with garland happening here. Margot also announces she has an idea without any context but doesn’t share any further details with her family.

Margot heads to rehearsal. Jackson makes a slightly snippy comment about their suite. Look, we’re all thinking it, okay Margot? She reveals her grand idea and I really hate it. She suggests decorating the event space with the Chateau’s signature snow globes they sell in the gift shop and giving them away as a party favor. I’m fine with that. She also suggests turning it into a dinner. Jackson is like OMG that is an amazing idea. YOU GUYS. If they didn’t have enough time to even PRACTICE for this concert, how are they going to suddenly turn this concert into a dinner? Did they have that much wiggle room in the margins on those tickets that they can suddenly include dinner? No. I’m sorry. Also, all the hotel guests have been listening to Margot play in the lobby for free all week while they eat. So how is this different? Anyway, no one else seems bothered by these issues so I’ve got to let it go.

Then the Lafayette gang show up and they realize they sound TERRIBLE without a cellist. Well, guess what boys, JACKSON IS A CELLIST. Shouldn’t he play with them? No, he is too busy directing the concert’s 2 other performers. No way…alright, twist my arm. They jam out and have a lovely time. Then Margot goes all out and invites Jackson to the tree lighting with her.

Later they stroll through the market or whatever that is and he talks about how he got into teaching.

OKAY NOW THEY ARE MAKING…Yes, MAKING WREATHS IN THEIR SUITE. And we are all just supposed to be okay with this? HOW and WHY did they pack all this stuff? I’m going to lose it. But it gives us a chance to witness a SECOND montage. And this one includes a snowball fight with some of the worst fake snow I’ve seen thus far.

And now it’s tree lighting time. Jackson and Margot have a nice moment but then immediately decide to leave. They talk more about their relationship and then abruptly say goodnight.

Margot then plays the piano in what I can only imagine is the middle of the night and wakes up her whole floor.

Alright, it must now be the day of the show. Or close to it. Adam is elated to share with Jackson that Evelyn March will be there to review it. Oh no. That’s the critic that said Margot didn’t play with heart! Boy, they are really in a pickle now. Jackson decides he has to tell her.

Kate and Margot are leaving the Chateau dining room after breakfast presumably stuffed to the gills. That really takes me back to that first year at the Sleep Inn. There were crockpots FULL of homemade oatmeal and biscuits and gravy, store brand coffee and other homemade classics in their partially finished breakfast nook. I imagine breakfast at the Chateau was very similar.

But then, Margot runs into Evelyn March and her husband. Margot makes it SO AWKWARD for all of them because she quotes Evelyn’s review back to her.

Later, Margot has nice moments with her mom and with Jackson. She and Jackson ultimately decide they’ve had a nice time together but it will never work out. DUMMIES. So now it must be Christmas morning? Is this all the same day? They all exchange gifts. Margot gets the best gift of all-a chocolate piano. And then her niece asks her to play Oh Holy Night, which I forgot to mention is a very special song to their family because her dad used to play it every year.

Now it is CONCERT TIME. Margot looks adorable in her red dress but she forgot her necklace. In a bit of manufactured drama, she runs back upstairs to get it and drama queens Adam and Jackson assume she has bailed on the show. She comes back and is like, can you guys honestly chill? She tells Jackson she is going to play a DIFFERENT SONG THAN WHAT IS IN THE PROGRAM. Oh boy. Jackson trusts her though. Hmmm… I wonder what she is going to play.

So guess what Margot plays? Did you guess O, Holy Night? Well you are spot on, Missy. Did you also guess she would dedicate the song to her dad? Okay, well even I did not suspect that part. Evelyn is so impressed she raises her eyebrow.

After the show, Jackson finds out he got the coveted Music Department Chair job. Evelyn congratulates Margot on finding her heart again. Margot is like, well as long as I just play O, Holy Night for the rest of my life, I should be good there. Then Jackson asks Margot if she’d like to judge a music competition he wants to put together. Surely that wouldn’t be a full time job? No. Not going to be spending 10 days in a Chateau Suite on THAT salary. Then Margot pulls all the stops and says SHE LOVES JACKSON. Now they DO HAVE THE SAME DREAM. They commit to making things work and they KISS. Whew. We did it you guys.

So, overall take-I liked this movie. It was a lot of fun. I like both the lead actors. There was BIG CHRISTMAS ENERGY in this one too. And truly, my mom and I laughed a lot as we reminisced on our days at the Sleep Inn. We spent many great Christmases there, even though we never made any wreaths or brought ornaments from home. I have a feeling this one will check a lot of Checklist boxes too. Let’s see. Alright, we’re at a 7/20. Not bad! Tell me what you thought in the comments!

  1. Workaholic too busy for Christmas (Yes, she says she always has concerts at Christmas)
  2. Christmas Pageant…Concert is the same thing right?
  3. Christmas Tree Lighting
  4. Christmas baking (or, cookie decorating. close enough!)
  5. Snowball fight
  6. I feel like Margot’s mom and sister count as wise friends here.
  7. Christmas montage

Deliver by Christmas

I switched things up and watched the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries movie on Sunday night. I had seen more previews and the premise looked “novel”. But, I gotta say, by the end of the movie, I did miss the classic format. But let’s get in to it, shall we?

I need to disclose right at the top that the opening credits announce that this movie was made “In Association with Build a Bear Entertainment.” Say what now? Build a Bear now has what…an entertainment arm? A production studio? Is this going to be a 2 hour Build a Bear commercial? Let’s find out, shall we?

This movie begins in a BAKERY! ALL DECORATED FOR CHRISTMAS. So I’m ready. We’ve got a quirky baker who uses post its to organize her holiday orders because she is an old fashioned millennial who doesn’t believe in websites or other silly modern advances that would make running her business easier. At first I think her name is Holly and I am very pleased. In fact, I SWEAR TO YOU her niece does call her Holly. But nevertheless, her name is Molly. Molly’s sister Jane hopes Molly isn’t SO BUSY with her bakery that she doesn’t have time for the most important thing of all-LOVE.

Then we meet Josh, who has just finished decorating his giant house and front lawn for Christmas with his son Charlie. I sincerely hope he finds a new hat for the rest of this movie. (Spoiler alert: he DOES NOT). Josh’s brother and sister in law stop by and heckle him so much he and Charlie start pelting them with snowballs. Well deserved, I’d say.

Josh and Charlie are working on a “Best Christmas Ever” Checklist. I can’t even be snarky about it because it is a very cute and reasonable list of activities. I think my kids might like to do something like that too. Josh’s brother and sister in law, Jim and Amy stop by with an early gift-UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATERS. They are throwing them a “Welcome to Town Ugly Sweater Party.” Josh looks STOKED. But really? A Party? With tons of people? In this economy? I don’t think so, pal. Amy laments that she is so stressed with all the prep for the Christmas Tree Lighting Festival. I honestly don’t know how these people spend the entire month of December volunteering for these very elaborate events. Speaking of which, Josh volunteers to help her bake cookies for this party she is throwing for him against his will.

It’s time for the next item on the Christmas activity list-getting a Christmas Tree. HERE WE GO. As luck would have it, Molly and her niece Zoey are shopping for a tree as well. Their meet-cute takes place when they both reach for the same tree. Josh shares his totally useless tree trivia and Molly politely pretends to be impressed rather than weirded out. Is he still wearing that hat? I blocked it out. Josh and Charlie offer to let the girls take the tree, but unfortunately they’re BOTH out of luck because it’s already been sold. TWIST. Molly shakes Josh off and heads in the other direction to find her tree.

Back at home, Charlie and Josh decorate their new tree. Charlie reflects that Molly was quite a nice lady. He is very glad they moved home. Charlie unwraps a photo of his first picture with Santa. It is neither Hallmark nor Balsam Hill brand. GASP. A careful observer will notice Hallmark took painstaking effort to photoshop a women in military uniform into this picture. It is not a natural/traditional posed Santa photo whatsoever. And it is certainly not one I would put in an ornament frame. But it is important we know RIGHT NOW that this mother was a solider and must have died in the line of duty.

Molly and Zoey are also decorating their tree in her bakery. She puts cranberries on the tree. Zoey asks what we’re ALL thinking. WHY? Does anyone actually do this? Does anyone actually put popcorn on their tree? If you do, for real, let me know. Because I don’t think anyone does.

Josh and Charlie are at once decorating their tree and baking cookies but Josh seemingly does not know how to set an oven timer and he burns those cookies so bad the smoke detector goes off.

The next day, Molly apparently blushes while talking about the guy from the tree lot while talking to her sister. People always say these actors are blushing and they never are. I wonder, can you make it appear like they are? Also, little PSA-TELLING SOMEONE THEY ARE BLUSHING IS UNHELPFUL. They know. They know YOU KNOW. They are just trying to calm down enough to make it go away. Oy.

Anyway, Jane asks for some undecorated cookies. Her friend Amy has a cookie emergency. Oh, I wonder what that could be about.

Now it’s time for the big welcome home party. What a parallel universe. This introvert would kill to go to an ugly sweater party right now. Just kidding. That idea still sounds terrible. Anyway, Jim and Amy are working over time to find Josh a new lady. They introduce him to Jessica and she is REAL INTO IT. She is seconds away from water boarding him to get his phone number so she can invite him caroling. Listen, Jessica. Even if you WERE the female lead in this movie, Josh would not want to go caroling with you. NO ONE WANTS TO GO CAROLLING. For real. Josh is every introvert when pressured to commit to future plans while at a social gathering.

After the party, Josh politely asks Jim and Amy to chill. They’re like, no, we won’t. We truly don’t have anything else to do besides find you a new wife. As a consequence for his bad attitude, Amy makes Josh contact all the vendors for the festival and arrange the pick ups and deliveries of the wares.

At bedtime that night, Josh and Charlie participate in a casual Build a Bear ad. Josh suggests Charlie may need a SECOND bear so the first bear has a friend. I guess Josh just has $60 burning a hole in his pocket or something.

At 3:30 or so, Josh finally gives up on being asleep. He goes all in and makes himself a French press of coffee. Look, you knew from the first MINUTE he put on that newsboy cap that he would be drinking French press. Let’s not act surprised. He decides to get to work on his vendor assignment. He starts with the baker. With no other info about the particulars for each vendor, Josh sends an email asking about pick up times. To his surprise, she responds right away. They decide to talk on the phone instead. Josh has no idea what Amy wants from this person and neither does Molly. They have a lovely little chat and Josh agrees to follow up tomorrow. I genuinely like the idea of a cookie decorating booth. It is a fun activity, takes very little up front prep work and everyone still walks away with a sugar cookie. WIN WIN WIN.

The next day, Charlie and Josh go get ice cream. This is not something I am going to put on my Best Christmas Ever list. There are too many Christmas specific treats to waste time with ice cream. (I know, I know.) Look, there is a time and place for ice cream and WINTER TIME IS NOT IT. Even Dairy Queen agrees, okay? Anyway, Charlie is upset that his dad might choose the flavor Rum Raisin. And I am totally with him. Please, Josh, don’t pick that flavor. But CHARLIE IS NO BETTER. This dum dum is wrestling between gingerbread and candy cane? No. NO! I refuse to allow it. You may get peppermint chocolate or you may get NOTHING. Okay? Anyway, Molly and Zoey walk in and Molly is touched that Josh is willing to forgo Rum Raisin so that he and Charlie can share both his selections. She mistakes this conversation to mean that Josh is a good dad. When in fact, he is enabling a lifetime of poor ice cream flavor selection.

That night, Molly eats dinner with her sister and her family. Jane wears the heck out of a glittery white sweater. They gab a little about her run in with Josh. Zoey demonstrates she has zero chill when it comes to Molly’s love life. She is just blabbing all over town. Then Josh calls.

Josh appears to have come straight from a shift on a Norwegian fishing boat given the oversized sweater he’s wearing. He has a cookie emergency. He humble brags that he knows how to turn an oven on to cook Lasagna. Molly is impressed. Molly asks him how long he chilled his cookie dough. He did not chill it at all. BUT YET, without chilling the dough, he managed to ROLL OUT said cookie dough and make shapes. Those things must be absolutely COVERED in flour to make that happen. Just start over Josh. And read the GD recipe. No doubt it includes instructions for dough chilling. But anyway, he puts the whole pan in the fridge and later he sends a pic of finished cookies to Molly.

The next day, all of these adults are working on unraveling lights for the festival instead of their day jobs. Jessica continues to be at an 11/10 for Josh. Meanwhile, I wonder if Josh shouldn’t run a comb through his hair.

Jim pulls Josh aside and expresses concern that his light was on in the middle of the night. Josh is like, why don’t you mind your own beeswax? And then he pronounces “croissants” like “Quasons,” and my eyes nearly roll out of my head.

Charlie and his grandma are wrapping presents for deployed soldiers. He notices Molly helping make videos to send to them as well. Charlie, a seven year old boy, begins to devise a plan to set his father up. This is where the story kind of falls off the rails for Ol Cal. I find it very difficult to believe that first of all, this boy is seven. And second of all, that he would be perceptive enough to be like, my dad is lonely, he needs to get back out there. No sorry. I am not here for any young children setting up their parents. They just don’t notice. But Charlie is scheming to set up Molly with his dad. And his plan is quite good. He is going to bring his dad back to film a Christmas video for the troops and he can meet Molly.

Later, while they are all waiting in line for Santa, Amy and Josh chat about the cookie booth. Josh is back on his newsboy cap nonsense. Josh calls Molly and asks her about gingerbread. She is pro gingerbread. They both wonder if it wouldn’t be more fun to build gingerbread houses. I jump through the screen and knock the phones out of their hands. NO IT WOULD NOT BE MORE FUN TO MAKE GINGERBREAD HOUSES. Are you insane? I DON’T HAVE TIME to explain why. But apparently in this parallel universe the additional hassle of baking individual gingerbread house pieces and standing over children (and ultimately being forced to step in) while they construct and decorate these houses is called “fun.” So here we are. Molly is so on board, she agrees to help. Good grief you guys. Can we compromise and decorate gingerbread cookies? No?

Molly then realizes that she and ice cream/tree lot guy are both in line for Santa, but she mistakes Amy for his wife. Oh you silly!

While Josh and Charlie do more festival set up instead of school or work, Charlie begins to put his plan in motion. He asks about making the video and Josh is just so touched that he wants to do that. Luckily he doesn’t realize that Charlie couldn’t care less about the troops and is focused on getting Josh to meet Molly.

Molly calls Josh to talk shop. He is wearing a Bluetooth earpiece from the early ’00s. And still committed to that newsboy cap lewk. She lists the grossest candy she can think of to use for gingerbread house decorations. But guess what, that’s gingerbread house decorating for you; a bunch of gross candy from 1950 on a cookie house you can’t eat.

They are just strolling around town, chitchatting the day away and just miss each other at every opportunity. She drops a huge personal bomb about being left at the alter and he talks about his deceased wife. Just casual, work chat with a total stranger. They end the call by randomly talking about how dating is too complicated.

The next day, Josh takes Charlie ice skating but he does not participate. So poor Charlie just has to skate by himself. Jane and Molly arrive to watch Zoey too. Why are these adults not skating? They JUST MISS each other as they walk out. The girls are headed to get ice cream. But is clear that NO ONE in this movie has ever actually eaten ice cream because Molly says she is going to get bubblegum flavored ice cream. I die a little inside.

Sometime later, maybe that day, maybe tomorrow, who knows; Molly and Jane talk more about Josh. Jane convinces Molly to sneak a peek of him and they stake out the candy store where Josh is picking up decorations for the gingerbread houses. This “store” is about the size of a bedroom and has about 5 things on the shelves. There has just GOT to be a better way. Jessica runs the store. She and Josh chit chat. Jessica is still at an 11/10. Molly finally sneaks a peek and is so confused…that is the guy she thought had a wife. Jane the Super Sleuth solves that mystery in two seconds because she knows Amy. So now we’re all very excited. Jane offers to buy Molly a dress for when she “meets” Josh for the first time. My sister “borrows” my clothes and doesn’t return them for three years. Josh stops by the bakery but that dum dum closed it to spy on him.

At bedtime we see that Charlie is up to TWO build a bears now. Molly is making all those gingerbread pieces from scratch at her bakery. TO WHAT END MOLLY?!!! She thinks of an excuse to call Josh and they chit chat for a little bit.

The next day, the boys head to record their video message. BUT Jessica is there to record it. Charlie is visibly disappointed. Jessica basically forces Josh to go to dinner THAT VERY NIGHT. Josh is like, girl. Just take a breath! My wife JUST DIED five years ago okay?

Snow fort construction is on the schedule that afternoon and those boys do a bang up job. I would totally hang out in there. Josh runs inside to get Charlie’s Reindeer periscope and picks up his build a bear from the ground. To Josh’s horror, the recording in the bear goes off. It is Charlie’s voice making a Christmas wish? Again, this seven year old boy chooses to record FOR TIME AND ALL ETERNITY that his Dad will find a wife. No, sorry. My kids would be asking for a gamma ray machine so they could turn into the Hulk….or maybe a jet pack. They’re lovely boys but they’re not wasting their Christmas wishes on my happiness. But anyway, Josh decides that he better give Jessica the old college try and agrees to dinner.

Molly calls while Josh and Jessica are out to dinner. Jessica is like, you’re not taking a phone call in the middle of this date are you?!! He’s like no, I would never.

At the bakery, Molly realizes she forgot to deliver like 5 loaves of bread to Mr. Blanchard…the owner of the restaurant Josh and Jessica are at!! She runs over with the bread and is so sorry she forgot. But earlier, Blanchard picks up his own bread and wouldn’t he just send someone to get them? But this is such a serious oversight that Molly doesn’t charge him for it. But obviously this is all to make sure Molly sees Josh and Jessica in the restaurant and she is DEVASTATED.

After the date, Josh calls Molly back but she ignores it.

So it’s festival day and Molly tells Jane she needs to deliver everything which, spoiler alert: is like 3 small cake boxes of gingerbread. She tells Jane she saw Josh on a date, and he told her he wasn’t interested in dating so she is understandably a little hurt and embarrassed for reading into their conversations. Jane continues to be the best sister in the universe (Sorry mace) and agrees to handle it.

Poor newsboy cap Josh is so eager to meet Molly and is so disappointed to realize he’s meeting Jane. Jane comes up with a great cover story but Josh wants Molly to know he still wants to meet her. I think Jane suspects that Molly was probably right in the first place. Throughout the festival, Josh is calling Molly and checking his messages. She continues to ignore him. Meanwhile, she makes her own killer gingerbread house alone. WHY. This brings up a good point though. She was supposed to like… run this booth right? Like any other adult there knows how to make a gingerbread house with homemade gingerbread pieces? But instead she just makes her own for…surely not for fun?

Josh and Charlie take a break from the festivities. Charlie inexplicably is wearing a stocking hat with his name on it. No one says anything about it. He reveals his top secret plan to Josh.
Meanwhile, Jane catches up with Amy. Jane discovers through her top notch and discreet sleuthing that JOSH ACTUALLY LIKES MOLLY. She RUNS back to the bakery and makes Molly get all ready to go in her cute new dress.

Back at the festival, it’s time for the tree lighting. Molly arrives as they start the count down. Josh sees her and walks towards her, not yet realizing she is Molly the baker. They remain standing about 20 feet apart from each other (Which is too far even in “these times”). She sends him a text to reveal that she and Molly are ONE AND THE SAME. They have one of those gross end of the movie conversations and Josh closes by saying “this is one of the simplest things in the world.” I promptly throw up. They kiss and live happily ever after. And then we see Charlie’s video message to the troops and it is very cute. And THAT’s IT.

So, overall, I liked this one. ALOT of good Christmas decorations and lots of Christmas baked goods. There were some cute sweaters. And I appreciated the novel concept of them only chatting by phone. BUT I did miss not getting to really see them together for most of the movie. It is hard to show a relationship growing through texts posted on screen. But I did enjoy it. Definitely one to watch!

Let’s see how it ranks on the Checklist; with two half points, the total score is 7/20.

  1. Single parent
  2. Clumsy meet-cute
  3. Christmas Festival
  4. Christmas Tree Lighting
  5. Christmas Baking
  6. Winter athletics (a half point because neither adult participated)
  7. Snowball fight (another half because only one lead participated)
  8. A sassy and wise best friend

Jingle Bell Bride

You guys! It’s here. A week earlier than last year. A week before Halloween. But of all the years to start celebrating Christmas BEFORE even Halloween, I think 2020 is the one, right? So this year, Hallmark is at it again; doing 23 movies on the Hallmark Channel and 17 movies on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. I am not going to commit to recapping/reviewing all of them because man, that was just ALOT. And you guys can’t/ don’t want to read 40 recaps, right? It’s too much. And Netflix seems really committed to occupying this space too. And I just have to watch them all. So, I’ll recap. Don’t worry. But it will be more manageable for ALL OF US, okay?

So here we are. In a world where there was no global pandemic that forced all of us to push pause on life as we know it. A world where a mega pop star is planning a GIGANTIC wedding around Christmas. It is truly a magical parallel universe. And I for one, was SO HAPPY TO LIVE IN IT for a brief hour and a half (fast forwarding through the commercials, obviously).

So, Jessica of “Christmas with the Kranks” fame is a busy workaholic wedding planner in New York. I imagine in New York, you can be a busy workaholic wedding planner. But it’s that same old Hallmark movie job and I am just so happy to be HERE FOR IT. Oh and guess what? She is up for a BIG PROMOTION that would take her to LONDON. Because this is a multinational wedding planning company.

Her nice bridezilla Renee, a mega pop star, decides she absolutely NEEDS this special flower-the Jingle Bell Flower in her bouquet, an arch, and every other detail of the ceremony. Her grandmother had it in her bouquet so it’s very important and very special and she just thought of it two weeks before the wedding. No big deal. Oh, and it only grows in this remote part of Alaska. And so begins my constant refrain throughout this film-How in the world did her grandparents use this flower 100 years ago if it’s only in Alaska? Renee never mentions some special relationship with this town and it doesn’t seem like they SELL this flower or are in any way prepared for tourists who are interested in this flower. But anyway, it all happened and I can’t think about it too much because this movie is just getting started.

Of course, the ONLY logical solution is for Jessica to fly to Alaska and pick up the necessary flowers and bring them back herself. Her boss is like, you know this is a Hallmark movie right? You’re going to get stuck there and ruin this wedding. Also, it’s going to cost like $10,000 for this whole endeavor? And what? In addition to PURCHASING the flowers, we’re also covering the cost of their music festival? Girl. GIRL.

Everyone seems to know what is going to happen besides Jessica though, because even her sister gives Jessica her Christmas present early before she leaves. We see that Jessica is constantly missing big holiday family activities for work. I wonder if she’ll ever learn?

She makes it to Alaska on a tiny plane. She is the only passenger and there is no one else in the airport when she arrives. She has her MEET CUTE with Matt. She tries to get some ancient cookies from the vending machine. It gets stuck. She does not realize that Matt is there to get her. There is a weird moment where we all wonder why else she thinks he might be the only other person hanging around the “airport”? She was expecting someone… (don’t say it)… with a sign! With her name on it. Oh. Okay. Relief.

So they load up and she lets him know she has exactly ONE HOUR to get all the flowers and get back on the plane out of there. Even under the best circumstances, this seems like poor planning. NY to AK and back in 24 hours? Needless. Oh and just one other thing? She needs a BUNCH more flowers than what she said on the phone. She forgot to mention that bit about the arch and the boutonnieres and all the bouquets or whatever. I can’t keep track. But it’s several crates full. Matt agrees if she lets him have those expired cookies from the vending machine. How did she not scarf those down on the ride into town though? 6o years old or not, I’m eating those cookies if we’re not stopping somewhere for lunch. Anyway, she gives them to him. He surprisingly does not die of food poisoning and they get to cutting. They get done in plenty of time and head back to the airport. Jessica heads back to NY and the wedding goes off without a hitch. The End.

Just kidding. They have to stop on the seemingly unplowed highway for a moose. That all adds up. We’re in Alaska, after all. However, then the truck can’t get going again! They’re stuck. Jessica suddenly becomes unfussy and offers to push the truck while Matt drives. No, she’s in jeans for heaven’s sake. That’s not truck pushing attire! So she drives and Matt pushes. No luck. Finally, the airport traffic control person/tree farm owner offers to dig them out. They make it to the airport but the plane JUST left. Did it leave empty? Was there no thought about holding on for a few minutes if they knew she’d be right back? No. So, she’s going to have to wait until tomorrow to leave. NO! Worst news ever!

She asks Matt to take her to a hotel. No hotels in this town of 112 people. Then she goes, okay well is there an Inn? A Lodge? a B&B? And Matt is like, don’t you think I knew what you meant? Like no, sorry, no hotels, but we do have a LODGE. Why didn’t you say so? So she asks to be taken to the mayor’s office. Luckily, Matt’s aunt Mary is there and she offers to let Jessica stay with them. Matt is pleased. Not really. He is tasked with getting her settled at the house. Poor sweet Jessica seems to know nothing about Alaska. She is AGHAST that the sun is setting already at 4 pm. Girl, just count your blessings.

Matt takes her to his aunt’s house and I award it a 10/10 for decorations. Jessica’s bed even has truly lovely evergreen boughs on the footrest. (Is that what the thing is on the end of the bed)? Anyway, it’s so impractical and I love it. She has a suitcase filled with everything she needs for a trip-her laptop and some very complicated looking toothbrush. She truly did not plan on changing her clothes at all.

Matt tells his aunt Mary that the tree lot owner/air traffic controller set aside a tree and some wreaths for her. We all agree he probably has a crush on her. Mary shrugs it off.

Mary lets Matt know he got a letter from Lexington University. He ignores it…MYSTERIOUS.

Later, Jessica comes out of her room and sees Mary making A BUNCH of fruitcake. She says she always makes it for the Jingle Bell Flower Festival volunteers. And they must all politely (and perhaps tearfully) choke it down each year. Can’t we just all agree it would be better for everyone if she made cookies? She says Matt used to come over and sneak tastes of the batter as a kid and now I know she’s lying. Mary shares that Matt’s parents retired to Florida. It seems that perhaps he is hiding out in Alaska for some reason. Also, why don’t they come back to AK for Christmas? Or vice versa? Then Matt comes home and says it is only going to snow 1-2 FT (!!) tonight. No problem.

The next morning, Jessica heads to the airport ready to fly out as planned. Jack, the pilot/mechanic says the plane is grounded until a part can come in…THREE DAYS from now. Well, well, well. Just as I suspected. We’ve got a busy workaholic city girl trapped in a small town. Giddy-up. Jessica understandably has a panic attack.

She and Matt head to the one store that sells clothes. After she gets all stocked up, they head to…I guess it’s the center of town? Where the mayor is announcing things related to the Jingle Bell Flower Festival. There will be a dance on the last night and then, of course there is a Flower Festival princess. Word must have gotten out that Jessica was stuck because she is crowned Festival Princess. The conditions of this title are that Jessica must keep Christmas in her heart all the days of the year. She agrees. After the coronation, Jessica meets Matt’s cousin Amanda. Amanda thinks they are dating. Unsurprisingly, considering Amanda likely knows everyone in this town and Jessica is a stranger. It gets awkward briefly.

Amanda tells Jessica that Matt used to live in New York. Well, what a coinky-dink. He used to be professor but he moved all the way back to AK to help his aunt after her husband died last year. Sounds like a real stand up guy, Jess. Jessica of course gets invited to decorate their Christmas tree with them.

Later, Jess contemplates the meaning of Christmas and FaceTimes her sister.

The next morning, Matt and Mary are chitchatting in the kitchen about the logistics for the festival dance. I notice a giant, impractical wreath hanging above the stove. Jessica cringes at every idea they have to troubleshoot their location problem. For example, how dare they serve lasagna??

The mayor arrives with a new location for the dance. BUT it is a mess. Jessica waltzes in and has a vision for it. And why shouldn’t she help? It’s not like she has anything better to do.

They start setting up and Jessica and Matt argue a little about floral arrangements. Jessica bounces around from person to person helping get the dance all set up. She offers to go get lights but they are too high for her. Matt comes in to help at just the right time. Okay now we’re cooking with oil. She sees there is a bunch of stuff from the kids’ Christmas pageant in there. That gives her an idea…but I don’t think we ever see it come to fruition. Jack the pilot reveals he kind of likes the mayor.

Later, Matt and Jessica make the most pathetic melty snowman. Was that her big idea? Are the snowmen supposed to be decorations? They are not gonna make it.

Back in NY, Rebecca, Jessica’s coworker, tries to undercut her with Renee the pop star bride. But THEN, Jessica’s princess obligations keep her from answering a phone call from Renee which confirms her worst fears-that Jessica is not at her beck and call every minute of the day.

Amanda has a heart to heart with Matt about moving on from his broken heart. He says he’s fine. He also calls pancakes flapjacks. Does anyone who doesn’t work at some old timey diner call them that?

Later, Matt and Jessica clip more flowers for her to take home and he asks about her job. She says she is a busy busy bee. Last year she was somewhere fancy for Christmas…working. Then she asks him about living in NY. He shares he WAS MARRIED! Edgy.

Then he comes out of somewhere in a suit so she can display the boutonniere. She is very surprised by how nice he looks. She takes a few pictures of him to send to Renee. Then the sun starts setting and she is worried about the contract she signed with the sea witch. Matt wants to show her something. Well, finally! They see the Northern Lights.

Back at home, Jessica helps Amanda’s son with the piano. Is there anything she can’t do? She shares that she used to help her niece with the piano but now she’s TOO BUSY with work. She feels nostalgic for home and opens her Christmas gift from her sister early. Then Matt takes her to make snow angels in jeans. It really bums me out.

Back in NY, Rebecca continues to try and undercut Jessica. This time though, it works!

At the house, Amanda loans Jessica a cute dress for the dance. Everyone looks so cute. Jessica runs into Jack the pilot/mechanic and he tells her they can leave tomorrow! She’s so pleased she plays wingman to him with the mayor. Then the Tree Farm Owner/air traffic control shoots his shot with Mary. Mary asks him to dance. Jessica and Matt dance too! But then, Jessica’s phone rings. Everyone seems to forget that NY is four hours AHEAD of Alaska so this is quite insane.

Anyway, her boss is like, nobody cares about those flowers anymore. We need someone physically here to get the wedding over the finish line. If you can’t get here tomorrow then Rebecca is going to be on the account. Jessica kind of goes on a ramble that doesn’t make much sense. she says she just needs more time but obviously the wedding is… like, on a specific day so there isn’t alot of flexibility.

Matt finds her outside and she is kind of melting down. She says she’s lost everything. I don’t really understand but Matt is there and he’s trying his best to be supportive. She takes her anger out on him and is like, I CAN’T HIDE OUT IN ALASKA LIKE YOU MATT!! He’s like, way harsh, Tai!! She runs off and FORGETS HER CROWN.

At home, Amanda tells her to get her stuff. Matt got the whole town to work together to get her a flight out tonight! Everyone worked together. Matt gives her some of those gross old cookies as a parting gift. We all wish it was a sandwich.

So, Jessica makes it to work the next day with the flowers! Rebecca is OUT and Jessica is back IN. But, she immediately turns down the promotion in London. She knows family is more important now.

Jessica celebrates Christmas with her family. And I guess Matt does too. Mary pushes him to get his life back on track and to get his butt back to New York.

It’s Renee’s wedding day. RIGHT as she is about to walk down the aisle, Jessica saves the day with the jingle bell flower bouquet and maybe the arch. She SAVES THE DAY.

Outside, after the ceremony, Renee gives Jessica the bouquet because she’s so grateful. But then… WE SEE MATT waiting there! He is all dressed and waiting to take her to the reception. He also got his teaching job back. But then Jessica ruins it by saying ” I guess wishes do come true.” So he changes his mind and goes back to Alaska. Just kidding. They kiss. They live happily ever after.

Overall, this movie was…fine. I would have liked more “will they or won’t they” moments. I would have liked to see better Christmas sweaters and seen more hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. But there was a lot of nice Christmas feels and some wonderfully over the top Christmas home decor. And I do love a small Christmas town. So I imagine this one will land in the middle of the back when this is all said and done.

And that’s it! We did okay on the checklist too! 8/10

  1. Workaholic
  2. Lead is stranded in a small town
  3. Single parent (2!)
  4. Clumsy meet cute
  5. Christmas Festival
  6. Christmas Tree Lighting
  7. Christmas baking
  8. Do Snow Angels count as winter athletics?

The Secret Ingredient

Alright, the last Valentine’s Day movie. What is next? Spring? A break? Or is the whole month of February Valentine’s themed? I’m fine with that.

Erin Cahill, Kelly, walks her little dog around the neighborhood. His name is George. Kelly agrees to make two dozen lemon bars for her neighbor. She just leaves her dog to roam around inside her house. She heads into the bakery. Everyone is at work. Really beautiful cakes and cookies and stuff. She does a quick taste test. She sets her purse down in the front of the store. How nice it must be to come into work well after all the employees are there. That is the main downside of owning a bakery-that you’d have to basically get there in the middle of the night to get stuff ready for the day. But not Kelly. She let’s her employees do that so she can take her dog for a leisurely walk before work. Inside, a customer can’t seem to make up her mind. Oh, no she goes back to her usual. Girl, I’d be struggling too. That bakery truly looks phenomenal. I’d be going there every day.

She asks if there are any messages, because apparently there are no cellphones and people still take messages. She reminds her employee that she is happy being single. Someone important named Dawn called too and needed a last minute order for Andrew’s homecoming…oh, her ex fiancé. She seems pretty chill about it.

She waves across the street to maybe…her parents? The diner across the street has America’s favorite cooking show on. Kelly brings over a bunch of cakes or baked items over in a little wagon. The lead shares that she orders pizza and organizes her closets on Valentine’s Day. Sounds fun! Her parents share that they are selling their restaurant to retire. And Kelly is too busy with her own business to take over her parents’ place. Then she shares that she heard Andrew is going to be in town. Apparently their plan was to run her parents’ diner. But Andrew must have blown that all up.

Kelly brings a fabulous cake over to Andrew’s welcome home party. His sister is SHOCKED that Kelly isn’t going to stay. I mean, duh? Oh, it’s a surprise welcome home party. On the drive to the house, Andrew suspects there is a surprise party in the works. Andrew gets a call from A VERY FRENCH PERSON named Francois. There is an emergency at the French restaurant where he works? He must be coming from Paris? Wow. Dawn, the sister, keeps stalling to keep Kelly there. These Hallmark people work harder than EVERYONE. And it works. Andrew walks right in the door as Kelly is trying to leave. They see each other. The room is silent.

Later, Andrew catches up with his mom and sister. He is obviously surprised to see Kelly there. She stays and serves the cake. Andrew is only in town for a few days. Quick stop over on the way to New York to help open a friend’s restaurant. Very busy, very important. Andrew says Kelly’s cake is a slam dunk, even though it is lavender flavored. Oh wait, no, it’s honey ALMOND. Actually, that is probably pretty good. Andrew’s mom volunteers him to drive Kelly home so she can stay. If I had been Kelly I would have rather died.

He is surprised by the house she lives in. Their initials are carved into the tree out front. And she must have done some renovations at this house. Guess what, WE NEVER HEAR MORE ABOUT THIS. We never learn the significance of this house to them. Just that tree. Andrew is the executive pastry chef somewhere…in Paris, obvi. He decides to walk her to her door. What a gentleman. She says George is probably waiting for dinner. She makes it seem like George is a man which is great. A VERY GOOD BOI runs right to the door and says hello. He hopes to run into her more while he’s in town. But she’s SUPER BUSY OKAY?

The next day, a camera crew just shows up into the bakery. Kelly has a panic attack. I’m panicked that they started filming without asking her permission! But Kelly got selected to be in some Valentine’s baking show. She can’t believe it. She’s so stoked. Someone nominated her. But they can’t tell her who nominated her. It’s very serious and secret. The show host needs a red velvet cupcake. She charges her $5.

The producer goes over everything with her. Ten days in New York. But what about the bakery?Figure it out, Kelly. A lot of money is on the line. So, the show a HUGE SECRET. She can’t tell anyone she’s going except one person. And none of the contestants know who each other is. So, okay. Andrew is definitely also a contestant, right? But she’s close with her parents. So, like, what is she supposed to tell her parents? She’s supposed to be like, okay well I’m going on a solo vacation for ten days but don’t worry about it, okay?

Later, Kelly brushes up on some old recipes. Kelly shares that she really wants to tell Andrew…to like, rub it in his face. Same, girl. Kelly does some practice baking that night after the bakery closes. Andrew shows up. He would love a tour. He said he couldn’t sleep. WHAT TIME IS IT? What now, this was a ribbon factory before a bakery? What in the world? A tiny little ribbon factory? I can’t. I don’t have time.

I’m disappointed. She was making cranberry orange muffins. She’s not going to win with that recipe. He offers to help and suggests a cinnamon glaze. That might work. Still not going to reach for that over something else. Andrew is wearing a great sweater. He shares that he felt horrible about how things ended. She’s like, well I’m over it. He’s like, okay, bye then!

The next day she starts to spin the web that gets her to sneak to New York. She tells her mom she’s going to Atlanta and her mom is like, oh I’ll come! And she’s so excited. And Kelly’s homegirl backs her up. She can’t come. Only room for one lady at that bakery retail conference. Her parents are way too concerned for a a woman in her… late thirties? To be traveling alone.

Wow, Kelly got to fly first class! And seems like she has a sort of like, assistant? She has a phenomenal hotel room. The producer says she can’t take any pictures of the view because of her NDA. But um, she could take pics? Just can’t share them until later. Geez Louise, lady.

Andrew strolls along NYC with a lady. She wants to eat but he doesn’t. He says he misses his hometown, the North Carolina one; not the Paris one. Ooooooooh.

The next morning, Kelly seemingly doesn’t set an alarm and wakes up to a phone call from the producer telling her she’ll be there in 30 minutes. THAT’S NOT ENOUGH TIME TO GET READY.

Regardless, she gets there in time. She gets a little red chef top with her name on it for the show and her own little studio kitchen. The producer explains the ground rules again. AH! They just like START! I’m so panicked for her. No practicing? No tips on how to be on TV?!! AHH. Andrew’s totally there, right?

Maneet, the show host, explains the rules. She has to make something for a 50th wedding anniversary. How about sugar free chocolate pudding? Or a plain banana? Instead she needs to make something with chili peppers and chocolate. No 70+ year old is eating chili peppers in dessert, lady!!!

Kelly seems to know immediately what to make. She makes one of those cute decorated cookie cakes in the shape of “50”. I LOVE IT. So great. It looks gorgeous. The producer comes down to get her when the time is up.

She and her producer walk around. And SHE SEES Andrew. Uh oh. So that other lady is also a producer I’m guessing. They walk over and say hi. She scrambles to come up with an excuse for being here. Brenda and Lori pretend not to know each other. Andrew suggests they all eat together. Kelly suggests a place and Lori is like, girl good luck. Andrew makes a call and they get right in. Andrew IS WEARING A TURTLENECK. I can’t focus on anything else. They’re talking about their childhood or whatever but all I can see is Andrew’s turtleneck.

From above the turtleneck he says he’d rather own a restaurant than be a pastry chef. Lori gets a ding and says she has to leave. And well, so does Brenda and Kelly.

Back at the contest, Kelly shares what she made. It sounds awesome. The judges share what they think. The first judge LOVES it. The second judge is that dopey guy from one of the Christmas movies. He loves it too. But the third judge says she wasn’t daring enough. But he still loved it.

On the way back to the hotel, Brenda asks about Andrew. Brenda thinks Andrew still has a thing for her. Kelly decides to call him in the car to say thank you again. And then, she asks to keep catching up if he’s not too busy. DAAAANG GIRL. Get it. They’re going to have dinner. And now we know what I knew already. HE IS ALSO ON THE SHOW. Well, duh.

Back on the show the next day, Kelly panics about getting eliminated. There is a plate on their tray saying whether or not they will move on to the next round. Kelly and Andrew both got tickets. Kelly and Andrew are shocked about who got eliminated. After the day, yhe producer is too wiped to hang with Kelly. But then, Kelly’s phone pings. Andrew wants to hang! Brenda doesn’t seem bothered that they are both contestants and might find out…

Later, Kelly checks in with her friend and employee. Kelly says she’s just looking for closure with Andrew. The friend shares that her mom told her they are close to closing on the restaurant. Francois, who is DEFINITELY FRENCH, OKAY? Is not pleased with Andrew being gone again. He wants to fire the assistant Andrew left in his place. He and Kelly meet in a park. He has an idea. Oh sad. He is taking her to a hot dog stand. Look, I’m in. But I’m still going to be hungry. They sit outside in the freezing cold and eat their hot dogs. Why do they actually film these in the winter but not the Christmas ones? She shares that her parents are selling the restaurant. He’s so bummed.

The next day, Kelly shares with Brenda that she was hoping for closure but that was not what she got last night. Brenda is just HUSTLING for these two. I want to see Kelly bake more stuff! So, this time they have to make something for a kid’s birthday party….using things kids would NEVER eat-rose petals and nuts. There is no birthday party in America using nuts. Maneet walks around and talks to the contestants. Kelly is smartly making cake pops. Andrew is making some kind of French version of the same thing… oh no, he’s making cream puffs. She made edible roses too. I’m confused. The third contestant made puppy cupcakes. That seems like the only kid appropriate dessert. One of the judges is like, oh Andrew the thing you made is not practical for a kid’s birthday party. Duh. Neither is Kelly’s! All the judges had something critical to say to everyone! Ah. I’m in suspense. It’s dome time.

Kelly gets to advance to the next round. And so does Andrew. But poor puppy dog cupcakes does not. Kelly can’t believe it. Later, Kelly and Andrew do an interview for the show. Kelly shares a story about her first Valentine’s Day. Andrew says there IS someone he would want to call if he won.

Later, Brenda and Kelly toast and decide to go get cheesecake. But then Brenda gets a call and has to do work. She tells Kelly to go by herself. Sad. Oh Lori and Brenda are SCHEMING. Why didn’t they call each other to hang out that night anyway? Kelly sits down and loses her mind about the world’s greatest cheesecake. Is this a real place in NYC? I didn’t know! And then, Andrew shows up. Koinky dink!

Kelly asks the owner about the cheesecake. They chat and he ends up saying that her bakery is his favorite place in the world. Kelly is way to eager with the taxi. Andrew asks if they can continue this later. Kelly is like, well no. You’re going to Paris and I’m going back to North Carolina! And he’s like, oh yeah. I forgot.

The next day, Brenda gives her a pep talk. Andrew tells his producer that this money could be a fresh start for him. Oh, so he’s going to win and buy Kelly’s parents’ diner.

Maneet shares they have a surprise. Her producer gets to help! Okay, now they have to make a tall proposal cake. She comes up with a pretty bland idea for a design. But she decides to make her classic cake. Andrew comes up with an idea too. I wonder if they decide to make the same cake. Maneet wanders around and is very unhelpful. The time is runnng out . Andrew’s cake LOOKS way prettier. Oh wait, no, I like Kelly’s. Andrew’s looks like a wedding cake.

The judges are sampling the cakes. And NOW THEY GET TO SEE WHO THEY ARE COMPETING AGAINST. They bring Kelly out first. Lori and Brenda giggle. They look at each other and smile and laugh. Maneet asks if they’re dying to know who nominated them. Maneet reads the nomination. They were nominated at the same time with the hopes that they get together. Oh, his sister. So what about those other two contestants. Were they just pawns? The judges say they are stumped because they made the exact same cake. The judges can’t tell the cake apart. Maneet gets to break the tie. Kelly seems confused by this.

Later, Kelly is mad. She says it’s HER recipe. Andrew is like, no we made that cake recipe TOGETHER. They kind of get in to it. He asked her to come, he left and her home is in Bailey’s Fork. Eh. They’re both wrong. But she should have gone to Paris.

Maneet brings them back and is ready to announce the winner. Kelly wins! Oh Andrew is a good sport but gets pushed out of the way by everything and just fades away. Her cake was prettier. Kelly goes back to her dressing room. Brenda says they have lots of press to do now. Oh, I love Kelly’s sweater too. Andrew is actually still in the building. He was hoping to catch Kelly. Now all of a sudden, Brenda is not working it for Kelly and Andrew? Oh maybe not. Kelly left her jacket and Andrew offers to bring it to her. They run into each other in the hotel lobby.

Kelly is off to the airport. She’s late. Andrew tells her to have a safe trip home and they have a weird hug. Then he tells her why he never comes home to visit. He says that he knew if he saw her, it would be too hard to leave again. AND IT WAS TOO HARD. He still has feelings for her. He misses Bailey’s Fork every day because she’s there. And that’s why he made that cake. It reminds him of home and her. He says he couldn’t leave without telling her how he feels. They never stopped loving each other. Oh he grabs her hands but he’s wearing leather gloves so she is horrified and runs away. She is like no we can’t be together. But it’s for different reasons than you wearing those weird driving gloves. She tearfully walks away.

Back in his hotel, Andrew talks to SUPER FRENCH Francois on the phone. He is exasperated. His ride is there but his suitcase is still wide open. Then he makes another phone call.

Back at the Cake Factory, that lady who always orders the same thing, decides to change it up. The lady shares that it’s her anniversary, so Kelly gives her the order for free. Her friend is like, let’s go watch your show. The whole town is assembled in Main Street Cafe to watch the finale. Kelly thanks Dawn for the nomination. Dawn congratulates Kelly’s parents on the sale of the restaurant. But this is news to Kelly. Then she gets a text from Andrew. It is very direct. She texts back, where are you? But why doesn’t she just call him? Anway, he’s outside her house by their tree. He tells her again that he has to talk to her. SHE’s MISSING THE FINALE WITH THE WHOLE TOWN.

They go inside and Andrew says he’s moving back. He’s very sure. Ugh They should go to Paris. She asks what he’s going to do for work. He’s like, you just won 100k and run a bakery. I don’t need to work, girl!! Just kidding, he’s buying her parents’ diner. And then they kiss. And then she remembers that the finale is on. Geez Louise. So they make it back just in time. Everyone cheers for Kelly. Andrew is humiliated all over again. Oh, one year later!

Kelly walks out of her shop and over to the diner. Both places are decorated for Valentine’s Day. Great blush coat. Andrew is handing her cupcakes and then hands her a ring box. RIGHT IN THE RESTAURANT. Right in front of everyone. Great ring. I don’t love that as a proposal though. Pretty rushed and anticlimactic. Oh well. That’s it! We DID IT.

Matching Hearts

Here we go. I have high hopes for this one. I have to believe that it’s better than last week! It’s on me at this point though. Let’s give it a go.

Our very tall lead, Julia is jogging in the park with her friend, Madison. Sounds like they’re wedding planners. Oh good. Haven’t had a wedding planning plot in a while. A very good pup runs up to them. They are on the outside looking in on a dog park. Oh, apparently they run by the dog park every day and there is always a dog adoption event happening there. A VERY GOOD GIRL approaches them at the fence to say hi. But Julia can’t take on a dog. She is too busy. Madison is being a GREAT friend and tries to talk her into getting a dog. Julia has a lot of great, logical reasons for not impulse buying a living animal. But Madison is like well I got married thanks to taking a risk like this so maybe just get the dog. And the lead is like, what? That’s not the same thing. Your husband wouldn’t sit alone in your apartment all day trying not to poop his pants waiting for you to get home to let him outside? And surely, your husband wouldn’t chew up all your furniture because he’s bored home alone all day? Or split his ear on some barbed wire while you’re out on a leisurely stroll by the lake and then make your bathroom look like a crime scene while you’re trying to get him cleaned up? I could go on. And I say all of this as a dog person. She waves at the dog and they wander off.

Julia heads into work and a coworker is reading an article about a guy who tells people to stay single if they want to be successful. Oh they are a matchmaking company. Madison was just PLANNING her wedding and used the matchmaking service and that’s how she and Julia became friends. Got it. They have a new employee, Timothy. Julia is supposed to let Timothy shadow her, even though he is not doing matchmaking. He is doing marketing. Regardless, Julia takes Timothy along to a restaurant. They are meeting Alexis, a new client. She is the chef. Alexis wants to do some restaurant prep while they talk.

Julia asks her about why she wants to try matchmaking. It looks like Alexis is doing some pancake art. It is her signature dessert. Pancakes are not a signature dessert you guys. Pancakes are MANY WONDERFUL THINGS, but they are not dessert. I would be so disappointed if someone said, and for desert, PANCAKES! Now, if someone said, and for dinner, PANCAKES! SIgn me up. I’m there 5 days a week. But after dinner? No. But what about a really thin Scandinavian waffle with ice cream and jelly? Absolutely. Yes. Okay where were we? Yes, Alexis’s dating profile. Julia asks lots of great questions. Alexis says her perfect date wouldn’t be food related. Timothy helps himself to the pancake sample.

Back at the office, they talk about the company Valentine’s Party. Oh I love Julia’s shirt? Or dress? I can’t tell but I’m here for whatever it is. The owner doesn’t want to change anything about the party. It’s not broken, don’t fix it. It sounds like a stuffy boring party.

Julia and Timothy head back to the restaurant with a sealed envelope. It’s got all the date details and all Alexis gets to know is the guy’s name is Jeremy. It has to be a blind date. Apparently that helps? Then they send someone to spy on them. The date goes well and it seems some amount of time passes and Julia gets lots of picture updates. It sounds like it is all working out for Alexis! Great job.

Later, it’s Julia’s friend and coworker, Gwen’s birthday. She has been in some stuff. Can’t remember what. She runs into Madison. Julia says she will be at the engagement party tomorrow. Julia stands at the bar and observes a nice guy help a woman with her scarf. A creepy guy is also observing the scene also. Now they both comment on others in the restaurant, including a couple who are both on their phone. The guy makes a little dig about matchmaking and then she hands him her card. And then he feels bad. Julia is like in case you want to be matched up. He’s like, a matchmaker? I would rather die. No offense.

Julia is wearing a lovely pink coat. I should really try to make my outfits more seasonal like Hallmark does. All I want now are some blush pinks. But it’s already the week of Valentine’s Day so I’ve wasted the entire winter blush pink season haven’t I?

She is at her parents’ flower shop. They seem to do the floral arrangements for all the events at the matchmaking agency. OOOOH, Daniel walks in. He is opening up a pet adoption place down the street. Doesn’t he just mean dog rescue? They have that awkward..oh, do you two know each other? Oh, it’s a pet project of his. Great. So just a side gig. Again, I think it’s just called a dog shelter or rescue?

Daniel is like so your parents own a flower shop and you’re a matchmaker eh? Julia is judgy about Daniel not being on board with matchmaking. Why is she so aggressive about that? She’s like, you have my card!

At the office, she talks to her boss about attracting more appealing clients and competing with apps. Elizabeth wants HIGH ROLLERS, like the good old days. Yeah, how does anyone use a traditional matchmaking service that seemingly has over 20 employees? In 2020? Oh, another article from Mr. Stay Single. So now they want to find HIM a date. Why would a guy even be doing that? Writing articles about encouraging others to stay single? Oh no. Guess who Mr. Stay Single is? It’s Daniel. Wow. I did not see that coming.

Later, Julia heads to Madison’s engagement party. Her fiancé OWNS the building with his business partner which I’m pretty sure is Daniel. Yep, he’s there at the party. Yep. He just admitted to it. Julia shares that she read his article. He’s like, oh yeah that whole stay single thing? I kind of just said that in passing. It should definitely not be the theme of this entire movie. And Julia is like, yeah I’m single too! It DOES make my career easier. Ya, doy.

Then the engaged couple gives a speech. Julia shares they were a 91% match. Then Matt gives Daniel a coupon for the matchmaking service. Seems like that means he’s now FORCED to participate? I’m not sure that’s how coupons work.

The next day, her boss, Elizabeth shares that her husband just got a job in Paris but she isn’t sure she can go with him. She’s like, this matchmaking job is just TOO IMPORTANT to live in Paris with her husband while he does his dream job. Julia is like, are you insane? Julia shares that she got Mr. Stay Single to agree to a free consultation.

Later, Julia stops by the rescue to drop off the flowers from her parents and sees her pal, Luna. She is a VERY GOOD GIRL. Daniel is like, why don’t you just adopt the dog? Julia says that Matt paid for his consultation. DUDE. That is SO AGGRESSIVE. Julia is like, yeah it’s really easy! There is just a really long online form and and questionnaire to fill out! He’s like, yeah I’m leaning towards…HARD PASS. She’s like, okay how about just the in person interview?

So, they head to a restaurant he likes. He shares that his passion is other people’s passions. Helping other businesses be successful. Quick question, do Hallmark stars drink hot chocolate year round or do they switch it up in the spring and summer? Then Daniel shares what he wants in a date or whatever. And now he’s gotta fill out that dang questionnaire. She shares that she has filled it out too just to test it? Oh guess what’s going to happen? They are going to be like a 100% match.

Oh, I think Gwen is in Christmas on my Mind…? Is that what it was called? Also, Liz, the boss, is on vacation so Julia decides to change EVERYTHING about the party. And now, a double NOT DATE with Madison and Matt and Daniel. Matt agrees to let Julia host the Valentine party at their venue for free. Matt and Madison head to dance class. Julia and Daniel decline to join them. They’re like, we don’t have that non Groupon dance class money?

Julia keeps pushing him to use the matchmaking service. Does she work on commission? Dang girl. Chill.

Julia stops by her parents’ flower shop again. Her dad shares that he’s been thinking about getting out of the flower shop game. He’s tired of all this floral arranging. What is that mom on? Oh and Julia is changing all the flowers too! Her dad is like, isn’t Liz going to be SUPER PISSED? Julia is not bothered.

Later, Daniel and Matt walk some dogs in the middle of the day. Daniel complains about the questionnaire. Matt tries to have a nice heart to heart bro moment with him. I’m truly just sympathetic about filling out such a tedious form.

Back at the office, they have a meeting to reveal Daniel’s matches. This seems totally unnecessary. But how else is everyone going to reveal they have a 100% match? Oh, Julia goes on and on about how great Daniel is. Oh, and now she wants to take a risk and match this skeptic with someone who is only a 75% match. Boy she has really let this two week acting manager thing go right to her head!

At the pet rescue, she sees poor Luna again. WHY HAS NO ONE ADOPTED THIS SWEET GIRL.

She pops her head back up and barks. She is a VERY GOOD GIRL. WHy is she still there?! Alright so Daniel has a date with a 75% Match. They go to a stargazing class. That does sound cool. Who pays for the dates?

Later, Julia walks alone at night and sees a bunch of happy couples. It is so IRONIC that Mr. Stay Single was like, sure set me up! And here she is, all alone.

The next day, Julia is at a painting class. Gwen says that she’s getting lot of “No” RSVPs for their company party. Julia thinks maybe they should invite all their clients; not just the success stories. Julia shares that part of her goal with the painting class is scouting for new clients. She seems to have snagged the owner of the painting class. After the class, they run into Daniel. And GUESS WHAT, he was not a match with Miss 75%. But he is open to another match, though. Seems like the Mr. Stay Single thing has kind of fizzled. Julia tells him they are on their way to do some chocolate sampling. Gwen takes the hint and BOLTS.

They head to the chocolate shop. Okay, I’m in on this activity too. A chocolate tasting? It is called “The Romantic Ride.” Oh yuck. The employee suggests that everyone hold hands as they walk to each station. Pass.

They chat about where they came from. I don’t love the sweater she’s wearing. She likes that her parents like to work together still. And then they talk about love. They keep being pushed to the next station! At one station, Julia has nothing on her face but we are made to believe she does and Daniel wipes it off for her. I would die. They leave with like 6 pallets of chocolate. On the way home, they see a (homeless?) guy playing the guitar and people are dancing. Daniel asks if she wants to dance but she declines, as I would. She suggests he come by on Monday morning so she can try again with his matches. She wanders off into the park…alone…at night. She is abducted and murdered.

Just kidding. She goes onto her computer and runs a check of Daniel’s questionnaire against her own name. I don’t see the results. She immediately shuts her computer though. Timothy is like SUPER eager and has put together a whole campaign about finding Daniel a match. Oh no. Daniel walks in and sees the marketing materials. But he was actually coming in to say he doesn’t want a matchmaker anyway. Probably because he likes her! Julia is just desperate for that commission though.

Later, Julia FaceTimes with her boss, which is not at all a weird thing to do…It seems like maybe she’s going to stay in Paris. She asks about the Stay Single guy. Julia hedges. Gwen lingers creepily in the doorway. Gwen is like, oh so you’re going to keep lying to your boss? Hope you know what you’re doing!

Later, Daniel and Matt walk even more dogs. They talk about his time out with Julia. Matt is like, oh you like Julia. DUH. Oh and he shares they’ve gotten 12 dogs adopted. And then Matt decides he’s going to take one.

Julia stops by her parents’ flower shop again. Both her parents seem worn out by the floral biz. Julia stops by the pet shop and sees Luna. The best girl with her little tail wagging. Okay, Julia this is just heartless. Julia is still all in on the business. Only wants to talk about matches. Daniel suggests she just start her own business. Daniel says he will come back to the business but they can’t use him in any advertising. And he wants her to adopt Luna. This poor beautiful pup! She’s like the only dog left!

Later, Julia talks to the art class teacher about her date. Hey, she’s in the same Christmas movie as Gwen. Oh, she’s setting her up with Daniel. Is she just throwing all the algorithms out the window? Ugh. I feel bad this art teacher is just thrown into middle of this mess. She deserves an actual nice guy even though I don’t even know her.

Julia stops by the pet shop. There is a guy taking pictures of the dogs. Hey, he should be set up with the art teacher instead. Daniel got his photography business off the ground. Oh! Now we have a dog photo shoot montage. I love it. She asks the photographer to attend the party and she hands out her business card. SHE IS HUSTLING. Oh and they’re going to add a little pet adoption to the party. Great idea.

Later, Julia and Daniel chat more over coffee. She says she wouldn’t use a matchmaking company right now. She shares that she was engaged once already. Poor Daniel says one of the great things about being single is sitting around all night in his sweats. What does that have to do with being single? I do that now? Then she hands Daniel his date card info. Daniel shares that he saw the spy on his last date. They are not exactly covert.

Julia heads to her spy appointment. Oh Gwen arrives to help. Oh it’s Daniel and Chloe. Dumb Timothy gave her the wrong assignment. Daniel and Chloe are a 91% match! Julia is not stoked that they are hitting it off and she decides to leave.

Julia and Madison go running again. The friend wonders if she’s avoiding Daniel. She’s like, it’s okay to like him, even if he’s a client. They’re wearing too weird of clothes for running. And why aren’t these people putting their hair up when they run? Am I the crazy one here?

Julia and Gwen chat about the party. Gwen noticed that they hadn’t updated older, seemingly yet to be matched clients’ questionnaires so the results might be skewed. Okay, now we will discover they are a 100% match. Julia gets a text from the caterer. Apparently they just realized they can’t accomodate the larger venue and guest list.

Timothy is at Julia’s flower shop having a nice heart to heart about his career with Julia’s mom. Daniel arrives. He saw Julia through the window and wanted to say hi. And thanks because he had a great date. Oh, he wants to take her on a second date. Oh sad. She shares about her caterer dilemma. He says, utilize resources you already have. Good idea.

Julia heads to Alexis for help. Alexis really doesn’t want to do it. She wants to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Jeremy. Alexis mistakes Julia and Daniel for a couple. Great. A fancy Valentine’s party with pancakes. They hug and immediately feel awkward. He reminds her to stop by and see Luna. Literally, Luna’s story line is a TRAGEDY. She has been wasting away at that rescue for WEEKS? MONTHS? AND NO ONE HAS ADOPTED HER? And she’s still just so happy with her tail wagging? I can’t.

Julia and Daniel both drop in on the engaged couple’s dance class. They dance together and seem to like dancing.

Julia meets Gwen at her parents’ flower shop to do her interview. She shares why the flower shop is her favorite place. She doesn’t want to share why she “signed up” for the service. Obviously. She didn’t sign up. Gwen makes her answer anyway. Daniel sees her in the window with all his dogs.

Back at the office, Gwen shares that they realized they hadn’t done the work to not match people up again…like accidentally match ex boyfriends and girlfriends to each other. Julia realizes that the photo booth guy, Henry CAN’T be matched with Chloe because they dated already. Oh, that’s probably why Elizabeth only invited matched successful clients. Elizabeth arrives and is kind of passive aggressive PISSED that Julia made ALL KINDS OF CHANGES to the party.

Julia stops by to see Luna, who is out on a walk. Daniel asks if she’s avoiding him. She admits she’s been avoiding him. I hadn’t noticed. She says they have to cancel the photo booth because it would be too awkward for Henry to be working at a party where his ex girlfriend is attending. Because this is apparently a junior high dance. Daniel already knew and he and Henry talked about how Daniel is now dating his ex girlfriend and everyone is going to this party. Henry is fine with all of it apparently and just wants that paycheck!

Then Daniel admits he wanted to ask Julia out! Get it girl!! Wow. Then Chloe walks in after walking Luna. Wow. Daniel says he just took the hint that Julia is not interested because she was being SO AGGRESSIVE about the matchmaking. Then Chloe and Daniel tell Julia they aren’t going to the party. Poor Chloe. Always playing second fiddle.

Julia stops by the flower shop again. Her parents announce that Timothy is going to help out at the store. He finally found something he loves. They give her some generic career advice.

It’s party time! Everyone looks great. Elizabeth tries to be a good sport about all the changes. And then Julia shares that Daniel isn’t coming. Elizabeth gets an alert that, surprise surprise, Julia is a 100% match with Daniel. Wow. Did not see that coming. SUCH a surprise. Julia hides in the coat closet. Elizabeth’s husband finds her. He shares that the reason the party was always the same was because it was just like the party where he and Elizabeth met for the first time. That seems like a story worth sharing with her employees? He tries to get Julia to rejoin the party but she declines.

Out at the party, Julia of course has to give a speech. She thanks Elizabeth. Oh good, she didn’t work out her feelings in the speech. I was worried that was where we were going. Elizabeth catches her and says that she wants Julia to take over the firm. She is going to support Colin in Paris. Great idea Liz!

Julia sees Gwen taking a picture with a big fluffy cat. Then Luna arrives. Oh Luna. You poor baby. FINALLY. Julia is ready to get her. Then Daniel arrives. They look over and see Chloe dancing with Henry. So those two worked it out. And then Daniel says he came for Julia. He says he wonders what their algorithm would be. She says when she checked, it was 48%. He’s like, oh dang, that’s really bad. And then she continues…based on her answers from five years ago. Then she shares what their NEW compatibility is, which is, as we know 100%. And then, they KISS. And poor sweet Luna FINALLY gets a home. I really hope that Julia takes good care of her. They flash to all the party attendees and even Timothy found someone!

What did you think? Better than last week? Better than WinterFest?

A Valentine’s Match

Here we are! The next series of movies. Do they get better or worse? Which is the worst season of Hallmark movies, in your opinion?

Our lead is coaching a chef shooting some kind of something. Oh, looks like a TV series. Our lead is the host, Natalie Simmons. She and the chef do a take. It is TERRIBLE. The director gives zero bothers on either performance. Natalie seems pretty nit picky. Oh if she says “roulade” like that one more time….I swear. And then Natalie complains about three inch heels. Giirrrrrrl. Ted called by the way. He has to talk to her today. Uh oh.

She is FIRED. Her boss is like, girl, open your eyes. This show sucks. You suck. You’ve lost your edge and you’re no fun.

Back at her house, she has a mental breakdown and does jumping jacks. Her boyfriend seems like an angel by offering her chocolate ice cream. She’s like, I don’t like chocolate ice cream, remember? Wait, isn’t she supposed to be the protagonist? I’m rooting for her boyfriend now. He suggests she call her mom.

On the phone, she’s running and her mom is painting. Natalie can’t seem to stop exercising. I wish that was my problem. Trade out that chocolate ice cream for a giant box of Honey Comb and that’s me, girlfriend. Her mom wants her to come home…of course. For a Valentine’s Festival. Sh is co chairs with Natalie’s ex boyfriend’s mom.

The presumed ex works at a hardware store. His coworker asks how his date went last night. Not good apparently. Then the coworker’s wife lets him know how disappointed she is. They seem like a gross happy pair. Oh, this guy owns a hardware store AND is an artist.

At Steve’s Diner, the two moms work on the festival. Oh they are going to have a puppy kissing booth! I’m so there. Natalie’s mom mentions that she is coming home for a few weeks. Sue, the other mom is like oh. Neat. Natalie’s mom is like, what’s up? Sue is like, okay I have to tell you something. But then we don’t know what it is!

Outside, Sue says it was Zach’s secret to tell. Oh now these ol birds start scheming. They decide to try to get Natalie and Zach back together.

In the rental car, Natalie listens to a self empowerment audio book. And Natalie’s mom apparently goes ALL OUT for Valentine’s Day. She hung a giant weird collage over Natalie’s bed. Was it her high school vision board? This is the second movie this year where a high school vision board was saved and displayed by a parent. Natalie says she needs to go to the hardware store for festival supplies.

Her mom is like, in that? She’s dressed all fancy but tells her mom she’s wearing weekend heels. Wasn’t she just complaining about wearing three inch heels? Natalie’s mom calls Sue to fill her in.

Sue calls Zach and is like, girl you need to head to the hardware store ASAP. I need something. He drops what he’s doing at the art studio to to go the store.

Natalie arrives and recognizes the coworker, Eric. They catch up very briefly. Natalie is cagey about how she’s doing. She hands the coworker her list of items. Zach arrives and starts looking for his mom, I guess. And keeps missing Natalie. I do love Natalie’s outfit. Even if she is way too fancy. But I’d wear that outfit to work for sure. Natalie hears how the coworker met his wife. They met at the store.

Sue arrives pretending to be in a huff. She’s great. Dang, Natalie’s total is $92. Finally Sue tracks her down. And Zach sees her too. And then Sue asks Eric to help her with some grommets. So great. She’s just going to let the two of them catch up. What is Natalie doing here, he wonders? Natalie asks what brings him back…too? Oh, he lives here. She thought he would be “off doing his art.” He shares that he bought this hardware store a few years ago. She is really confused. And then she tries to be polite about it. and then they get really awkward.

She tries to take everything out to her car and Zach lets her… What is happening? He should insist. I would die. That COULD NOT have gone worse, for either of them.

At home, Natalie tells her mom she ran in to Zach. I’m loving her mom’s capes by the way. Oh and Natalie doesn’t want to talk about Zach anymore. But then she keeps talking about him. Natalie says her boyfriend Brooks is amazing. But her mom is like, we wouldn’t know. We’ve never met. Then Sue calls Natalie’s mom. They want her to help with auction items for the festival. Natalie doesn’t want to be helpful at all while she’s here. She’s fired? What difference does it make? Natalie agrees to help with the auction. Oh boy, And Zach is helping too. What a coincidence!!

Natalie freaks on her mom for pairing them up. Zach freaks out also. Sue is stealing the show. Actually I would rather watch a movie about these moms’ friendship. Then she meets Jess, who is married to Eric. Oh! Jess is in “It’s Time for YOU to Come Home for Christmas.” Then the moms set Zach and Natalie on a double date with Jess and Eric. Jess learns that they all go WAY back. Everyone is wearing jeans and Natalie is wearing tights and a skirt. Eric is on the mom’s team and says they don’t have room in their car for her. Okay. New plan. I want to watch a movie about Jess, Eric and the moms. Don’t care about these two.

On their way out to the car, Natalie yaps away to Zach about her dumb old job and immediately mentions the boyfriend. Who again, I’m rooting for over Natalie as well. At the car, Natalie asks how he’s doing. No girlfriend for poor old Zach.

They all head to Steve’s Diner. Natalie kind of complains. It’s not Jenny’s anymore? But don’t worry, the burgers are the same. Is Natalie too good for burgers? They talk about the festival. Oh, Eric and Jess have lost me. They asked for a “ fry bite” and like interlock arms and eat a fry. Gross. Is Natalie not eating? Is she too good for burgers? Oh, she almost has a panic attack? Why are only Jess and Eric eating?

Zach joins her outside and reminds her that this is where they had their first date. Natalie says he doesn’t have to do the “sensitive artist” thing. They agree to still help on the auction. Everyone is being real weird.

Natalie and Jess head to get twinkle lights.

Eric is like, Zach this is so painful. I’m having a hard time watching this. Why did you break up, anyway? Zach is like, oh it didn’t end well.

Natalie tells Jess that he went to art school instead of marrying her. They were about to get married and she had just gotten this job and he got into this art program. And she was willing to move but he said he wanted to just focus on art and not get married at all. So yeah, I might have flipped a table if I learned that he now owned a hardware store. Or laughed hysterically.

At home, Natalie talks on the phone with Brooks. He does not get up from the restaurant table he’s at to talk to her. Oh weird. She says she’ll talk to him next week. Are they not very serious?

Back at Steve’s, Natalie and Zach go over the auction items. They’re not great. Zach is judgey about her using a spreadsheet. They start arguing about the options. Aren’t they sort of limited to like, what people are willing to donate? They both finish their milkshakes and Zach tries to give her the rest of his and he dumps it all over her coat. She is really annoyed. Guess what, I believe that these two DON’T LIKE EACH OTHER. They genuinely seem miserable being around each other.

Zach suggests they donate a quilt with hearts on it. He knows a guy. The guys he knows is obviously an elderly woman. She does make beautiful quilts and I would definitely bid on one. Zach gets some shortbread cookies from her kitchen. The lady tells Natalie that whoever locks Zach down is going to be a lucky girl. As they leave, Natalie continues to be a grouch. Zach finally asks what’s wrong. And then Natalie just UNLOADS years of anger on him. Zach doesn’t know what to do with that information. He just stares at her dumbly.

They drive off in silence. Natalie turns on the radio in a huff. He drops her off and Natalie is still annoyed. She sees that Brooks has delivered flowers to her…Lillies; which she is allergic to. She inhales them anyway and sneezes. Would you sneeze with an allergy like that or would your throat close up? Inside, she has her dad throw them away.

Later, Suse and the mom are gabbing away in the kitchen. The mom drops a bomb. They haven’t met Brooks and Natalie’s been dating him for TWO YEARS. That is actually unacceptable. Meanwhile, Natalie is outside complaining to Brooks about Zach. Brooks has to run. He’s late for a meeting.

Back to Suse and the mom. They’re panicked that their little scheme isn’t working. Natalie heads out. She’s wearing a super cute skirt. Zach is waiting for her and brought her something. Oh bummer, Zach tells her to change into jeans. He has a surprise for her. And then she says she’s fine getting dirty in what she’s wearing. I would not be fine.

When they arrive at their destination, she decides that she does want the little snack that Zach got her. He got her the carrot cake as an apology for making fun of her boyfriend. And then he makes fun of Brooks’ name. Great work. They arrive at a barn.

The guy in the barn asks if they’re ready for some pickin’. Oh! Like the show American Pickers. Except in this movie, everything is organized and beautifully arranged and easy to find. They find old books and old Valetine’s cards. I hate this movie. It’s all I can do to finish it. Oh now Natalie is creating a back story for the pair attached to the Valentine’s cards. And to tell the story, they both have southern accents. It would be cute if I wasn’t already so annoyed by this leading lady. Then Natalie gets sad because this reminds them of how they used to be. She shares that she used to be more comfortable in her own skin and that she’s been accused of being inauthentic.

They leave with boxes of stuff. Zach shares that he’s really into “picking”. Then Natalie asks how he got started at the hardware store. He is like duh, I wasn’t making a living as an artist? So he started just working there. The previous owner asked Zach to clean out all the junk in the attic of the store. There were all kinds of treasures up there. I’m not sure if he sold them on his own or what? But I think that’s how he found the hobby and also enough money to buy the store? It’s unclear. Then Brooks calls. Total buzzkill.

At his workshop, ol Suse suggests that Zach tell Natalie the truth. ABOUT WHAT! I couldn’t care less honestly. Zach doesn’t see the point in digging up the past now. I mean, she has a boyfriend that her parents haven’t met. It’s SUPER SERIOUS.

The Fab Four start arranging auction items, I think. Or they’re just going through everything? The friend who’s name I forgot now asks if she and Zach are getting along. And Natalie is like, oh no I have a boyfriend. And it’s super serious but I actually don’t like him that much, now that I think about it.

Natalie is surprised that Zach still does art as a hobby. Natalie wants to see it. It’s pouring rain so poor Zach takes his sad little jacket and covers them with it to get to the car or to his workshop or whatever. It shouldn’t work but it does. Natalie is blown away at his artwork. I’m indifferent. Then she asks if he remembers the mug he made her. He calls it the first piece of art he ever made. Ugh. She asks why he never did anything with his art. Zach says he’s too practical for his own good. But like YES ZACH, you made the right choice okay? Then he asks if he can buy her a hot chocolate.

They start setting up for the festival. Zach asks if she ever misses their small town. She says what would she even do there? Then Zach says he watched all her shows. She admits that she got fired. She just lost her passion or something? Oh, burnt out. Yes. Thank you Zach.

Oh here we go, Zach needs to tell her something. Of course, Eric or Derek or whatever his name is interrupts. It was too early in the movie for the reveal anyway. Oh no, all the auction items are ruined because of the rain.

Natalie’s dad catches her running. EXCEPT HER HAIR IS DOWN. There is NO WAY she just went on a run without putting her long hair in a pony tail? Is she insane? But now she and her dad have a nice chat and stroll but I don’t really care what they’re talking about.

Later it’s time for the festival. It looks super cute and I think I would attend. Especially for the puppy holding booth? Oh geez. They’re so cute. Oh you don’t actually have to kiss the dogs right? Oh gross. No don’t charge people for that. Dog+a bunch of random other people’s germs? Everyone is going home sick.

Now it’s auction time. Natalie is TERRIBLE at this. Oh Zach is terrible too. Nobody wants to buy this quilt. Why isn’t this a silent auction? This is stupid. Oh and now Natalie wants him to make up a back story. Zach knows some stats about quiltmakers. Oh geez. This quilt has pieces of her grandmother’s handkerchief? Why is she selling it? Oh that backstory really got people going. This is stupid. Addy seems pleased that her quilt sold for $100. I don’t think that’s enough for a handmade quilt. Somehow these idiots doubled last year’s donations with their horrible disorganized approach to auctioneering.

The interesting couple heads out to dance. Zach asks Natalie to dance. This wordless dance scene is WAY TOO LONG. What is going on? Addy finally interrupts them. Addy says they made quite the team. Zach agrees with her. And oh, even Natalie agrees. They’ve been coming to this dance since she was 14. Oh, Zach drops a bomb on her. He never went to art school or Europe. He never sent the application in. He just didn’t want to leave his hometown but didn’t want to hold her back. Yikes. That is pretty insane. She understandably storms out. He didn’t want to hold her back. And she’s like, no you were scared. And he’s like oh yeah that makes more sense. And wow, ol Brooks shows up. Little late for that. He has really great news! He got her a meeting and booked her a flight for the next day? That seems weird that he would do that?

Oh wow. Brooks thinks getting her a meeting for a job is the best Valentine’s present ever. And he only showed up because it was close to where he was for work. What happened to the sweet guy offering chocolate ice cream from earlier?

The next day, Suse and Derek give him some advice after the disaster of last night. Derek’s wife and her parents are like hey he did this for you. And I am actually siding with Natalie here? Her dad thinks she should follow her heart. And then Brooks shows up again. I do actually think they are a better match. Like how could Zach moving to San Francisco and supporting her be holding her back? He just didn’t want to move? That is just so insane.

Oh good, Zach shows up to the house. He has a gift for her. And now we get a little speech from Zach but then Brooks interrupts again! So then Zach gives up and heads out.

Brooks and Natalie sit in the nicest airport waiting area I’ve ever seen. She finally decides to open Zach’s card. It says “loving you always and forever. I never stopped.” Instead of rolling her eyes so hard they fall out of her head, Natalie seems touched. Brooks is catching up on his shows. Now she looks in the box and it is that metal mountain sculpture she noticed in Zach’s workshop. I do like that as a gift. Obviously she is now in quite a quandary.

Back in San Francisco, Natalie interviews for a new job. The interviewer basically tells her all the reasons he likes her is all the reasons she got fired from her last job. And this seems to really trouble her. It truly sounds like a great opportunity but of course she is not sure.

Back at home, she tells Brooks she turned it down. She wants to be authentically herself and do something she’s proud of. Brooks is like, nobody wants to see who you really are. But apparently the guy she turned down did want that for her so they just changed the program I guess for her. So great. And then Natalie sees the mug Zach made for her. Then she starts quizzing Brooks. He actually doesn’t know anything about her which is weird because they’ve been dating two years. He doesn’t know her birthday. But I truly don’t fault him for not knowing that her favorite color is “mustard yellow.” That is a terrible favorite color so she’s wrong about that.

Natalie decides to rush to the airport to get back home I guess. Oh no. They won’t let her on the flight. So then she gives the flight attendant the whole story. And well, what do you know? Zach shows up. And hears her whole insane speech. The flight attendant tells her to turn around and well there you go. And now it’s Zach’s turn to give a little speech. And he asks her to be his Valentine and I throw my iPad across the room. And then they kiss. Finally. It took me an entire week to get through this movie it was so terrible.

Flash to them making a new TV show. Oh! It’s American Pickers but with these two. Alright, I might watch this show. Then the moms take credit and I’m fine with that.

Whew. We did it. I think we’ve got one more of these Valetine’s movies? I hope the next one is better.

Hearts of Winter

This is the last movie in the WinterFest series. I have really enjoyed these. I love celebrating Winter for Winter’s sake. Also, this title has NOTHING to do with the plot of this movie. Hearts of Winter premiered on January 26 on the Hallmark Channel.

The movie begins with intro shots of people doing fancy place settings. Oh, looks like Jill is an interior decorator again. Here, her name is Bethany. Bethany seems like a perfectionist. Her friend/coworker is trying to rush her out the door to beat traffic. She is going to be on the news to talk about her book!

Bethany gets interviewed on a show called “Hello, Today”. She’s developed a system for interior design. She is trying to help bring meaning, abundance and peace into people’s homes.

At another house, a tween, (Zoe) makes pancakes for herself and is watching the show. Her dad, Grant is doing laundry….and failing. He turned her white skating or gymnastic leotard pink. Zoe reminds her dad that she wants to get some knickknacks to decorate the kitchen. She asks her dad to tell her the story about the pancake bowl they use.

Back on Hello, Today, Bethany announces that a family in Denver can win a home makeover! Yes, I’m in. Zoe writes down the contest info and she and her dad book it out the door.

After the show, the good news keeps coming. Her assistant/coworker says a magazine wants to cover the home makeover. But to get it done in time for the issue, they have to have it done in three weeks. Which means now people only have two days to enter! Doesn’t it seem like people would be really upset about that? Only getting two days to fill out the application?

Grant is a busy business man at work. Maybe he works at a ski lodge? He’s walking and talking with an employee with a clipboard. Very serious business.

His employees just keep hitting him with bad news. They overbooked a cooking lesson for guests and a sleigh is broken and there aren’t any others available. He is just stressed to the MAX.

Then we learn that the man wearing a chef apron that is just labeled as “Chef” is his best friend from high school, Joel. Zoe calls and asks if he got her the book she needed for her book report. She seems old enough to figure that out? He is too busy and didn’t get it done.

Bethany does a book reading of her book “The the Neat of Your Own Drum” at a bookstore. Oh, coincidence. They rush to the bookstore to pick something out. Bethany inserts herself into the conversation. She makes a suggestion-a book series that she loved as a kid. Zoe recognizes her from TV this morning. Bethany gives Grant a nice look. Also, Jill is definitely pregnant while filming this.

Back at home, Joel shows up to help make dinner for the guy and Zoe.

At Bethany’s, her brother shows up to say hi. She has a nice heart to heart with him about the contest and stuff. Her house is surprisingly not super modern.

Joel seems to do very little work. He has conspired with Zoe to enter this contest without her dad knowing. They agree that she reads and he’ll type. First of all, she’s reading way too fast. Second, he doesn’t even pretend to start typing. And finally, why can’t she type it herself?

Bethany sees the application and is so moved by it that she wants to choose them.

Later, Zoe has a skating lesson. She realizes the time and tries to hustle her dad along. Oh, now I see. Because the home makeover people are arriving. Grant is sort of…more chill than I thought he would be. Bethany shows up to the house with cameras and stuff behind her. They both realize they’ve met each other. If you told me that Zoe was a short 30 year old, I would believe you. They walk in and Bethany starts to take everything in. The camera people are just going crazy. The assistant seems to brush off the fact that Grant didn’t agree to let his home be photographed for the magazine spread. Or that he wasn’t the one that sent in the application.

Bethany is making plans and talking into the camera with all her ideas. Grant is growing more reluctant by the minute. Bethany finally realizes that Grant did not want to participate in this. Bethany goes back and forth between saying they are just making minor changes to saying things like “all this furniture has to go.” Then Bethany asks for an extra set of keys and he doesn’t have any. Not concerned about getting locked out? Then the assistant asks for a phto of the three of them. Now, normally for this photo, you would have Bethany take off her jacket. But Jill is pregnant so obviously the jacket stays on.

At bedtime, Grant tries to get Zoe to be more apprehensive of this whole thing. But it doesn’t work. Then they say a prayer that her mom used to say with her which is sweet. Then, Grant trips over Zoe’s skates at the bottom of the stairs. Grant should chill. He’s for real getting like all brand new interior for nothing.

Back at home, Bethany drinks “wine” with her coworker and realizes she needs to help Grant picture what she plans to do.

The next day, Bethany calls Grant at work. Bethany invites Grant to go furniture shopping with her. Wow this is ALOT like Jill’s Christmas movie. He agrees but he is a BUSY SINGLE DAD BUSINESS MAN so can she meet him at Zoe’s skating practice at 3?

Zoe practices skating and Grant watches. Bethany arrives. They talk about the makeover and talks about Bethany’s intentions for the house. She wants him to love it. Grant is like, okay we can go while Zoe finishes this practice. So, they have two hours to shop! At the furntiture store, Bethany tries to talk Grant into a couch that doesn’t look very comfortable. She cannot articulate what is wrong with the couch he has now. She wants him to close his eyes and visualize himself in the house with the furntiture. Grant is uncooperative. She immediately gives up on furniture. How about knickpacks and pillows? He COULD. NOT. CARE. LESS. I immediately start laughing at the thought of Jay being forced to do this after my death. It would be about the same. Except I’m not sure you could get him to three interior decoration stores. He reluctantly picks out a lamp and then he gives her a spare set of keys.

Later, Grant grumbles to the Chef. He suggests that Grant invite her to dinner at the restaurant. Bethany should be able to tell that all this stuff reminds him of his deceased wife so getting rid of everything all Willy nilly is probably hard for him. In the kitchen, Bethany almost tosses the special pancake bowl! He tells her it’s special to him and she immediately sets it aside. Then he invites her to dinner at the lodge and she is super stoked about that. I notice that she is wearing a GREAT pink sweater.

The next night, they meet for dinner. The hostess asks to JUST TAKE HER SCARF. Oh good, she got her jacket too. Another great sweater. The Chef, Joel, made them a special menu. Joel whisks Zoe off to see them make bananas foster. Grant tells Bethany she looks nice. Grant pours her wine but ol Jill can’t drink that! Even for pretend! Jill says she wants to honor the special bowl and suggests a shadow box. But he wants it to be used. Grant thinks about a display shelf. Then Grant agrees that he will have a better attitude about everything.

The next day, she has another heart to heart with her brother.

Later, Bethany and Grant try shopping again. They both joke around about a piece of art. Grant is drawn to a painting. Bethany asks what he likes about it. It’s a scene of a cabin in the winter in the woods. It reminds him of his grandparents’ cabin. He tells a very lovely story about it. Bethany is like cool but it doesn’t really go with anything. Actually she says it “goes with the whole theme” because he loves it. What if he had seen that painting of the dogs playing poker with each other and had a nice story about that? What would you have done then, Bethany?

Back at home, they show him the home office they put together. They have the desk looking out “On nature” which is just the houses across the street. But she did make a pillow for one of the chairs out of the old comforter in Zoe’s room, which he really loves.

Back at work, Grant is all Colorado business. He has a blazer, jeans and no tie. He can’t get Zoe. She says she’ll call Joel and ask for a ride. Shouldn’t that be Grant’s job…to arrange something? Joel’s phone goes straight to voicemail. Zoe very BOLDLY calls Bethany and asks for a ride. Brazen. How does she have her number?

Grant gets home and the girls are reading/discussing the book that Bethany suggested. Grant brought some treats home to say thank you. He notices that they have a new kitchen table.

The next day, Bethany talks to her assistant. She has some…news. Her video updates that she’s been posting have the internet “shipping” her and Grant. Everyone wants them to get together! Bethany has a modest 200k followers. Bethany is “trending” ever since the contest started.

Bethany does more silly visualization technices with Grant for pillows. Grant is not totally on board. But this approach leads to Grant picking the ugliest pillow. He hits her with the pillow. Winterfest’s version of a snowball fight! Zoe gets in on it. Later at a coffee shop, Joel meets the assistant.

They talk about when they’ll see each other next. Probably later tonight. Joel suggests taking her to do something fun. But he’s so busy with the cross country ski tour and the snowman building class…Oh, come on, GRANT!

Later, Bethany’s brother is back over. Didn’t he say something about having kids? Why is he over there all the time?

Grant calls Bethany to tell her that he will be at the house when she gets there tomorrow and he has a surprise for her. Her brother wonders if he needs to help her come up with an excuse to bail. She’s like, no, I’m good. And then the brother is like, oh you LIKE him.

Ugh. Bethany arrives the next day with the best sweater yet. Grant and Zoe are both being weird. Bethany wonders if we should bring in the tables first? Nope. They keep standing in the doorway and won’t let her in. Just tell her to get in the car for heaven’s sake, you weirdos.

At the lodge, they yell “surprise” when they approach a woman holding two sets of cross country skis. Bethany is like, cool the surprise is…exercise. No, no this sounds super fun! I can’t wait. I love to use every ounce of strength I have to move 25 feet through the snow. When they’re done with that, they make a snowman. Later, Bethany calls her assistant to check in. Somehow the assistant is not annoyed that Bethany isn’t helping. After she gets off the phone, they roast marshmallows. Bethany says she’s the kind of gal that accidentally lights her marshmallows on fire. The best way! Grant teachers her to get them golden brown. Joel agrees to like do everything for Zoe that evening. Truly Hallmark’s BEST wingman. I hope he gets together with the assistant for all his trouble.

Grant says they are going for a walk around the mountain. Bethany is like, but it’s dark and cold. He throws a scarf at her and says she should be fine. What happened to that big bulky yellow coat she was wearing earlier? That would do the trick. Grant gives Bethany a lesson on space.

Bethany says she hasn’t even thought about Grant’s house all day. She said it was nice to take a break. Even though she probably worked harder today than any day interior decorating They have a nice moment looking at each other and then it starts snowing.

He brings her back home. Then he tells her to stay in the car for a second. Oh, he opens her door for her. Now there are more surprises. They walk to the newly decorated patio and he shows her the lights. She is surprised. He hung them himself! Oof. I love that patio space but she has really short changed them with what she’s put together out there. It should be like an outdoor living room. My dream. He gives her a blanket and they have a moment and then poor Joel comes out with a frying pan. He thought they were raccoons. She leaves in a rush.

The next day, the assistant is like why are we meeting at a coffee shop. She’s like we have to get to the house! Bethany is like girl. We almost kissed. She is SO panicked about. And has lots of rational reasons to panic. But her assistant is like forget all that. She gives her some nice advice though.

Back at the house, I am relieved they weren’t done with the patio. They chat about what happens next after the contest. What will happen with her and Grant? Or her career? Who knows? The world is her oyster.

When Grant and Zoe arrive, Zoe shares that her skating practice went well. Zoe invites her to her skating exhibition. Grant is like, yeah come! Bethany agrees then. Love that blue top of hers.

It’s time for the skating exhibition. Oh good, Zoe is first. She’s even got a nice white leotard. Apparently she only started skating three months ago. Well that’s nice. Bethany is like, oh she’s gonna win. Grant is like oh no there’s no medals. He’s so happy about her performance that he hugs Bethany and picks her up? Dude, chill!

Back at the house, they’ve got a way too small entry way set up. Zoe’s skates fill up the whole drawer! They had all the shoes out by the front door before! This is not a solution. The rest of the house looks great. Bethany points out that they’re almost done which means she won’t be around anymore. It bums them all out.

Back at the house, Bethany films an intro for the spread. Grant and Zoe are all dressed up for the photos and video. She asks them what their favorite part. Grant says the free furniture! JK, the best part was having Bethany there. Oh boy. Was not expecting that! Oh they even made that painting work that Grant liked. Now it’s time for some pictures on the sofa. They take two pictures on the couch and apparently they are all done. Grant suggests pizzas for dinner. Bethany says NO, let’s cook. What! You’re passing up pizza?! Oh, Zoe helpfully reminds them that it’s taco Tuesdays.

Bethany looks out at the patio. It looks much better but he needs a big outdoor kitchen situation.

Oh boy, they are doing THE MOST-homemade tortillas. Zoe gets her mom’s bowl out and puts it on the edge of the counter absentmindedly and the bowl breaks. I audibly gasp. Even though I should have known. Bethany totally takes the blame for it. Grant is so sad. He says, let’s do dinner another night. The assistant comes in at the TOTAL WRONG TIME. Now Grant starts to totally unravel. He wants the glue. Girl, what are you doing with the glue? Rebecca (his wife) wanted to decorate this house and didn’t get the chance. Bethany is very nice about all of it.

At bedtime, Zoe is like, I need to tell you something about Bethany. He’s like not now. And then they say the special prayer. Oh, I didn’t notice the special handshake before.

The next day, Bethany is wearing a great camel (?) color sweater. She is looking at the photos from the house. The assistant is like, you should just call him.

At skating practice, Zoe finally admits that it was her fault that the bowl broke. Grant is like, oh well thanks for telling me. Zoe is like, see now you don’t have to be mad at her anymore. Grant is like, does she even want to be friends? Zoe is like, just do it? Tell her how you feel. What, like it’s hard?

Bethany talks about everything with her brother over some kind of Mexican takeout soup.

Grant mopes at the lodge with Joel. He asks Joel what he thinks of Bethany. Joel is like dude, she’s great. Grant is afraid to upset the apple cart. He says he’s not ready. Joel is like wait a minute. I’m not giving you an excuse to not go after something with Bethany.

Bethany preps for another talk show. I love her assistant’s sweater and shirt combo. The assistant reminds her to be present.

Bethany goes on the show. The host says all they want to know is if something is going on with her and Grant. Bethany says no, she hasn’t spoken to him since the contest ended. The host is like, oh you are disappointing a lot of viewers. Then the host asks to take a question from the audience. Well, guess what, the audience member is Grant. He says he misses her and wants her to come over for dinner. For pancakes. The assistant and Zoe pipe up too. THIS IS GREAT TELEVISION. Then they KISS. And Zoe comes up to hug her.

That night, Bethany arrives. Bethany is impressed by how Zoe has set everything up. Grant is standing outside. He hands her a glass of wine or something? Then Zoe pops out to say that next time they decorate her room, she wants turquoise. They look at each other and kiss again. We see them eating dinner from outside. Wait, are they not going to do something special with the pieces of the bowl?! I was waiting for like a cool mosaic thing? Really? Ugh. I guess that’s it.

And that wraps up WinterFest! I really liked these. Which was your favorite? My favorite was probably Winter in Vail.

Stay tuned for Valentine’s movies which start next week. No rest for the weary!

Amazing Winter Romance

Amazing Winter Romance premiered on January 20, on the Hallmark Channel.

We begin with intro shots of kids running slow motion through a GIGANTIC SNOW maze. And there is a lovely fire pit in the middle. That looks awesome.

Our lead, Julia is in a yoga class. She is about as good at yoga as I am. Actually, no she is worse.

At work a woman double fists smoothies. She gives Julia one that looks like its been half drunk already. So that’s weird. Julia seems to be a columnist or writer at a magazine or something. She seems to be in a state of ennui. She is not inspired and all her articles have been garbage apparently. So, her boss decides to send her back home to get inspiration. Her boss is like, frankly you’ve been really sucking lately so you need to figure it out.

Julia hits the open road. She ends up in WILLISTON. Which is literally where I am from in North Dakota. I am legit freaking out over this. This is obviously not filmed in Williston but I think it is supposed to be my home town!

Julia walks into a coffee shop and sees her friend Nora. She needs some hot chocolate and those famous brownies. Same. She keeps hearing people talking about the snow maze. She gets back on the road and heads to her parents’ house. She gets her mom up to speed on everything happening in the big city. Her parents are like, I wish you would just move home. Also, why did she drive home? Why wouldn’t she fly? Her mom mentions asking “Nate” about all the snow they’ve been getting.

She drives over to…Nate’s? house? And a dog, Theo hops around in the snow. Nate is surprised to see her. Nate is there with his niece, Ava. Julia says she needs to see whatever it is that Nate built. Nate used ALL that extra snow to build a snow maze. Truly top notch idea.

Ava takes off into the maze. Then, Nate uses a shortcut to take Julia to check out the fire pits in the center of the maze. Nate says it takes about an hour to get through but he built a bunch of emergency exits. Apparently Ava’s parents split up.

Oh they have a super cute set up in the middle. Just a free for all of ice cream, cookies and other items. Oh, the ice cream is homemade even. This must be North Dakota. What other type of people would eat ice cream outside in the winter? Nate shows her the plans and gives her the rundown. Apparently Williston is HOPPING in the summer? But business is slow in the winter? What industry is there, in Hallmarkland? What is bringing people to Williston in the summer? Is it the humidity? The bugs? The friendship?

Nate and Julia establish they are both single. And they are both sorry they didn’t stay in touch. He asks if she’s going to be in town for a while when his dog happily starts barking and prancing in the maze.

At home, Julia goes through her photos from the day. Then she puts a blanket on her dad in the living room. Her mom says her dad has been plowing SO MUCH snow. She tells her mom she only sees Nate as a friend. Then her mom says a weird quote of her dads? In a weird voice. Good news, Julia has one too. It’s uncomfortable.

The next day, Julia wanders around town snapping photos with her phone with it’s Boomer case. She helps Nora unload her car. Nora reiterates that summers are busy there. A stranger, Skye, hugs Julia because a handshake is too formal. Oof. Please don’t hug people hello. Respect their boundaries and personal space. It’s not polite. Skye is VERY enthusiastic about lots of things. She is also really bad at art.

Julia heads back home. Her dad has to head out to plow because they got TWO INCHES of snow. Julia is going to help out! She and Nate bet each other how long it will take to plow a parking lot. They make a giant snow pile and they comment how the kids will love this at school. And let me tell you, YES they will. Giant piles of snow were my favorite thing as a kid. Then, they go play on the swing set. Overly enthusiastic Skye shows up with something in a thermos for Nate. Skye clearly feels threatened. About her friendship with Nate, about her connection with Williston. She is so weird. Oh and then Julia thanks her for the tea even though she didn’t bring any for her. Was that a savage dig? Julia and Nate have a weird moment reminiscing and decide to head back to work.

The next morning, Julia tries to be a good sport after only getting 4 hours of sleep. Her mom has made some truly beautiful looking muffins. She heads to the maze. She sees Nate’s sister, Brooke, there. Brooke brought her class to the maze on a field trip. Nate engages them in a snowball fight.

Later, she FaceTimes with her boss and she LOVES the article. Julia isn’t fired! Yay.

Julia goes back to the Maze looking for Nate. Wow there is even a Sheldon in this movie. Just like in actual Williston. Nate is nowhere to be found. Julia continues to take phone pics with her Boomer phone case. Nate dares her to sled down a steep hill in jeans. She’s like are you kidding? No one wants frozen jeans. Are you insane? But then he double dog dares her so she has to. Oh wait no, SHE double dog dares him.

The sledding hill does seem super aggressive. But Nate is just fine so one learns any lessons about the danger of snow sports. Nate wants to show Julia something. Inside the tent is a guest book so people can write down about their experience. Actually he describes it and then Julia says, so like a guest book? And he says kind of…and then describes a guest book. So what are we doing here, guys? Anyway, then he says he heard that if you write something down, it stays with you. Yes, I think I heard like ALL OF MY TEACHERS EVER say that to me to ensure I would take good notes so I could pass a test. Hello isn’t that the entire point of the written word. Alright so I’ll give Nate a little pat on the head for that comment. But Julia goes the extra mile and smashes a big handful of snow in his face.

Later, Nate, Julia and his niece, Ava, who has one of the most annoying chidlren’s voices of all time, head to Nora’s for some ho cho. Look, it’s my blog so I can call it ho cho okay? Call it hot cocoa on your own blog. Julia is super jealous and uncomfortable with Skye and brings her up again. Nate and Nora are like, ::cat hiss noises:: Nora says she’s from Switzerland but has managed to completely lose her accent in the twenty years she’s lived there. After the hot chocolate, Julia decides to take a walk. Ava tells Nate he should tell Julia to stay longer.

Julia runs into Skye. Literally. She notices that Skye has something from a bakery in New York. It’s a care package from her parents in New York. Then Skye complains about how awful New York is. But I have so many questions. Did she just randomly move to this small town? Was she previously part of a failed Hallmark movie where she moved to Williston at the end but then she and the guy didn’t work out? Is she in witness protection?

Back at home, Julia’s dad shows her a snowmobile he bought without consulting his wife. He doesn’t want her to worry about his safety. But I guess he doesn’t care if she had other plans for the THOUSANDS of dollars he spent without talking to her. Like hello you could have gotten her the PELOTON she asked for. Just saying.

The Maze is just hopping. Julia asks how he actually built the maze and he says it was a team effort by the community. That’s nice. I really do like the snow maze concept. I want to go to one and I want to get hot chocolate after. Oh wow, it even has a snow angel segment. Is Julia making a snow angel in corduroy pants? Oh please no. I hope she has snow pants on. Ava makes a theologically incorrect statement but she’s a child so I’m going to give her a pass.

Back at home, Julia does some work on her laptop. All this time, I thought that photo of her and a young boy on her dresser was some yet to be mentioned brother but now I realize it’s Nate.

Julia calls her boss and her boss is like, your articles are finally good again so you should just stay there.

How does Nora manage this place and the shop in town. That VERY GOOD DOG is there just hoping people give him a little bite of something. Julia is like, dog, can you have fries? And he gets sad and just runs off. Now she feels like she has to find Theo the dog in the maze. But she also told Nora she’d watch the place. She leave a trail of French fries but the dog comes back around and eats them all. Julia panics. The dog gives zero bothers. I’m not sure why she felt she had to track down the dog? He seems perfectly fine wandering around the maze and finding his way in and out.

Skye shows up with her art class. How did she get a job teaching art if she’s so bad at it. Then both ladies are little snarky and passive aggressive to each other for like…living in different towns?

Julia gets a call from her dad. He needs help running the plows. Nate agrees to go too. Skye wants to come by Nate’s house later to tell him her “big idea for the maze”. Oh bless her heart.

Back at her house, she shows Nate the snowmobile. Nate is like, let’s take it out! Aren’t they supposed to be working? Or helping. Oh these idiots. Then they stop and stare at a bridge. Again, aren’t they supposed to be working? I’m more mad about that than them taking the snowmobile out without asking her dad.

Nate asks Julia if she misses home. He’s like is Chicago home? And she’s like well I don’t know. Probably not. Nate tries to give her some advice. Then Julia finally comes to her senses and is like we better beat my dad home!

Back in the garage, they furiously wipe down the snowmobile. They are just so casual about this. Oh no. Dad shows up. And they are SO busted. They both throw each other under the bus. He tells them to go. Go where? Nate invites Julia over for dinner.

Oh here we learn that Julia got lost in a corn maze so she is legitimately panicked about being in the maze. Ava wants to go back to the maze and make s’mores. Skye arrives and gives Julia an awkward hug. She only hugs Julia. Her GREAT IDEA is lights. Why didn’t she just show up with these lights like at the maze one day. Also, Skye brings like 5 lights and is like, Nate will you help me put these up? And Nate is like, yes lets go put up this sad half bin of lights.

Ava and Julia have a weird heart to heart as they fill up ice lanterns.

Ew they all call Ava “monkey”. Nate asks Julia to help put up lights inside the maze. She is like naaaahhhhhhh. Oh will her jealousy override her fear. Skye is SO WEIRD. Also, is she 22 or 45? I can’t tell. Skye says Williston is really starting to grow on her. But isn’t she like, weirdly obsessed with the town. As Nate and Skye turn a corner, Julia looks like she’s climbed up a wall of the maze. Julia is like, I should probably write my article. And Skye is like, K BYE.

Later, Julia and her mom hand wash dishes even though they have a massive modern house so they must have a dishwasher.

Back at Nate’s house, I wonder what in the world time it is? He says that Skye just let after they finished up the maze and so it must be the middle of the night. Nate’s sister is like, dude both girls like you. And Nate is like, whaaaaat?

Julia starts her article. And reads what she types out loud. Does anyone do that? I don’t. Maybe I should. I do like her purple sweater. Wait, now it’s the next day? Nate is over. Julia says she’s stalled out on this article. How many articles is she going to write about this maze? Nate invites her to take a little break. Julia’s parents sing that song from Beauty and the Beast…something there that wasn’t there before.

And now it’s night again? I thought it was just morning? Anyway, now they’re ice skating. She is pretty terrible for someone who just said they played youth hockey. Super cute ice rink though. And a cool light up tunnel? Nate is like, you HAVE to go through the maze. Whatever he says sparked her inspiration so she runs home to write the article instead of going through the maze. EVERYONE IS READING HER ARTICLE.

The next day, her boss tells her that EVERYONE is reading the article and there is even a hash tag happening. Williston is about to be flooded with visitors. Sure, Jan.

Later, Nate and Julia take care of some horses. They decide to take them for a ride. Boy, what can’t this girl do? They talk about the maze. And then Julia brings up Skye and goes overboard in being cool and is like I dare you to ask her out on a date.

That night, she stands outside with just a blanket around her. No one does that. Her mom joins her and asks if she’s going to go back to the city. Her mom is like, are you happy in Chicago? And her mom is like you probably aren’t happy. You should move back here and marry Nate. And Julia is like chill mom, there’s still 30 minutes left of the movie.

At the maze, Nate and Brooke have a heart to heart. He’s like, yeah she told me to go on a date with Skye. And Brooke is like yeah she’s just being dumb. Oh good that saved us some time. Thanks Brooke!

Outside, there is TONS OF TRAFFIC. Oh her little ol article brought ALL THESE PEOPLE. The maze is just JAM PACKED. Oh help me Ronda. The news is here now. Julia tries to escape but Nate won’t let her. Nate says he plans to bring the snow maze back every where if there’s snow. Julia shares that she has to head back. She’s like, K Imma go pack. Nate chickens out and says “Thanks for everything.”

Back at her parents’ house, Julia packs up her suitcase. Oh, that’s right. She drove here so she can leave whenever she wants. Her parents are SO dramatic about her not living in the same town as them. Julia asks her dad tons of very logical questions. Like, what would I do in Williston? And he’s like, no idea but we just want you to keep living here regardless.

Skye and Nate hang out after the maze closes. Skye is like I could really use a hot tea. Yuck. He agrees to join her and she needs to chill. Julia walks up to the maze right after Nate turns the lights off and decides to walk through. She holds a sparkler as she goes and looks at all the kid artwork int here. Oh there’s ice sculptures in there. Oh no, her sparkler fizzled out. But she made it! She didn’t get lost or panicked. She runs into the barn area to write in the guest book.

Then she heads to Nate’s house and she wants to talk to him. Brooke is like, oh Nate’s not here. Julia is like, oh is he working with my dad? Julia, you know your dad is at home? It’s the middle of the night? Brooke is like, dang sorry. He’s out with Skye. She’s bummed.

At the coffee shop, Skye asks if Julia is leaving. Skye is like so obsessed with living in a small town. Julia walks by and sees them talking. And she sees Skye put her hand on his arm. Then Nate gives her the “Listen, Skye” spiel. Skye admits that she’s been trying really hard to make this work. Living in Williston. So apparently, she’s going to move back to New York. Boy, what a roller coaster for ol Nate. He decides to go for a drive.

The next morning, Julia’s mom packed her lots of snacks for her drive. Her dad does some dad things. Why doesn’t anyone fly in these movies?

At Nate’s house, Brooke is judgy about when Nate got home the night before. Brooke is like well why did she seem so bummed last night? Go finally tell her how you feel, you big dummy! Instead, he heads to the maze and reads the guest book.

Julia’s parents drink sad lonely cups of coffee. Nate shows up. Apparently that’s just his car…with the shovel on it. Nate is like, I tried a calling her but she didn’t answer. So Nate decides to catch up with her with a road stoppage. Very elaborate. Or was that just a coincidence? Julia gets out of her car for some reason. Oh, no he planned it and now all the people stuck behind Julia are paying the price. Nate tells Julia how he feels. He’s like stay here. Why couldn’t he go to Chicago? It would make so much more sense for him to go to Chicago. What is she supposed to do in Williston? For heaven’s sake. Anyway, they kiss. Oblivious to all the cars that are trapped behind Julia’s car.

Brooke is running another class at the maze. I think she is going to lose her license. Nate and Julia decide to race against the kids in the maze. They are knocking them over and breaking bones. They get to the middle of the maze and kiss again. And then decide to have a snowball fight. And that’s it.

Love on Iceland

I asked everyone I knew if this title is strange. Everyone agreed that it was. I can’t figure out why it’s “Love ON Iceland” instead of “Love IN Iceland”. Ultimately, the premise includes a podcast about couples sharing their stories so I wonder if it is supposed to be a pun? But let me tell you, it DOES NOT work. It just sounds incorrect. Maybe an Icelandic person came up with it and their English wasn’t great but no one wanted to correct them and hurt their feelings? I don’t know. But here we are. Love ON Iceland premiered on January 18 on the Hallmark Channel. Let’s dive in.

Our Lead, Chloe, works for the radio…no a podcast station and stands outside the recording booth listening to an interview. The interviewee is a musician of some sort. They are having a personal conversation. The interviewee says she recently went to Iceland to get some perspective and it just changed her whole life. Well that is interesting, thinks Chloe.

After that, she has a meeting with her boss. He has hipster white/gray hair.

Later, Chloe has lunch with her friend, Isabella. An old photo pops up of them with their friend group from college. They reminisce about taking the best trips in college. With what money? Seriously, how were they traveling every spring break and summer all over the world DURING College? Come on Hallmark. Have them all meet during their study abroad semester or something. Chloe and Isabella decide they should get the gang back together to take a trip somewhere. Presumably, it’s January, so Isabella wants to go somewhere warm. Chloe is like, no, we should go to Iceland! Where it’s dark almost all day long right now. Isabella is like, yeah cool. That sounds fun I guess.

A travel photographer, Charlie, gives a presentation or is teaching a class. At the end, in a room full of allegedly serious photography students, he gets asked what his favorite social media filter is. He seems to suggest he doesn’t edit any of his photos which just can’t be true. But maybe nature photography is different.

We see Chloe booking her flight for like, the next day? Nothing like just being able to immediately drop thousands of dollars on impulse for a trip. Then, Chloe and Isabella arrive in(on?) Iceland. The whole gang made it! Everyone can just drop everything and take a super expensive trip! Neat.

In real life, what would have happened is that this group would have passively debated where and when they should go and for how long, and six months later they would finally be somewhere within driving distance of all of them. But here they all are, ON Iceland miraculously, just days after coming up with the idea.

It looks like their other pal, Kenneth, got married in the last ten years. Ken says they’re just waiting on the tour guide. Chloe is like, wait what? I planne this entire trip and have this detailed itinerary. What are you talking about? Ken is like, no we thought this would be better. We planned something TOTALLY different so you can just relax on this trip. So they booked an all inclusive guide without telling her and without coordinating or making sure people were cool with that expense. But maybe Kenneth and his wife are covering that whole part? But, okay. So Chloe planned the whole week also. Presumably that means she made reservations and got tickets to things. So…the work is already done. It’s planned so she would have been able to relax anyway because now it’s just executing. But now that effort is wasted. And now, instead of completely losing it on these people like I would have, Chloe is like oh, okay. I guess that’s fine then. Then the tour guide arrives to pick them up. Is he taking them to the place Chloe booked or to some other place? SO MUCH WASTED MONEY.

On the ride to their hotel/chalet, Chloe overshares with the tour guide.

They stay at a massive house in the middle of nowhere. When they arrive, Chloe hands the tour guide a very detailed itinerary and hopes there is time to see everything she wants to see. This actually makes me so sad for her. She worked so hard to plan a nice trip with her friends and they just blow the whole thing up without telling her. She hopes there is a way to squeeze in some of the stuff she arranged. Now, look, as I said, I think this is a truly terrible thing her friends did. But wouldn’t the things the tour guide would do with them presumably line up with what she wants to see? It would be truly insane if Ken and his wife had worked out a COMPLETELY different itinerary from what Chloe put together. How did they not talk about what they wanted to do? Oh probably because they flew out like the day after they decided to leave.

They are greeted by their Icelandic hosts and have some lovely almond cake inside. The house is so lovely and that almond cake looks wonderful. Then, Charlie, the travel photographer from earlier, arrives and it is SOO AWKWARD. He’s like, I’m sorry I’m late! And Chloe is like, wait why are you here? And Ken, who seems to be both a colossal idiot and THE WORST human, is like, I thought you said the whole gang? So I invited Charlie without telling you…And again, made a bunch of other decisions FOR THE GROUP without telling anyone. Good thing they booked a house that had enough room.

Later, Charlie and Chloe talk outside and Chloe reiterates how surprised she is that he is there. Johann, the tour guide arrives with Chloe’s phone. They are going somewhere in the middle of the night?!! Ooh they are going to a hot springs.

In the locker room, Chloe gives Kenneth’s wife the backstory of her three year relationship with Charlie. Isabella helps. Then Kenneth and Charlie walk around the hot springs in their bathrobes and chat about Charlie and Chloe’s break up.

They hang in the hot springs. For some reason Johann is there too? Would a tour guide be like, recreating with them? I guess? It seems a little weird. Isabella is extremely brave and holds her phone whilst in the water. Somehow they get to reminiscing and it comes out that Chloe had at one time purchased Charlie a compass so he wouldn’t get lost. They ask if he still has it and he’s like oh um probably somewhere. They keep track of how long it takes for Charlie to wander away from the group. 22 minutes! Charlie invites Chloe to have some hot chocolate.

Later, Chloe and Charlie talk in their bathrobes. They catch up on their lives currently. Then he asks why she chose Iceland in the winter for a vacation. She’s like oh I came up with the idea after listening to a little thing called a podcast. This is literally right after she tells Charlie that she works at a podcast company. So I don’t really get it. He is surprised she isn’t at the same job she was when they broke up. Charlie shares that he didn’t want to miss the gang getting back together. That’s nice I suppose.

Back at the chalet, Charlie surprisingly has his own room even though Chloe booked the place without realizing they would need space to accomodate him. He pulls out the compass she bought him. Apparently he brings it everywhere.

The next morning, Chloe turns into Belle from Beauty and the Beast and starts singing and dancing around in the library of the chalet. She just wants adventure in the great, wide somewhere. She wants it more than she can tell. Later, she reads outside IN THE WINTER IN(ON?) ICELAND. Charlie comes strolling up. They are both dressed inappropriately for the weather. Chloe has a cute cape situation and cute pink beanie though.

Their Icelandic host approaches. She serves them a lovely Scandinavian breakfast. And she serves them Icelandic yogurt. Chloe pretends like she’s never had it even though Siggi’s is ALL OVER THE GROCERY STORES. Then the hosts share the story about how they met. They are a cute little pair. The hostess notices that Chloe found a book on Norse mythology in the library. She tells Chloe to keep it. Just like in Beauty and the Beast! Daring Sword fights, a prince in disguise! Maybe.

Oh geez, they are all eating on wooden cutting boards instead of plates. Then Chloe says that she made all their beds. What in the world? What an incredible invasion of everyone’s privacy? But no one minds. I guess they’re friends like that after not speaking for ten years. And then she’s like we need to get moving. And they were like what about the tour guide? And Chloe is like well I made some tweaks to the itinerary. And idiot Kenneth is like, we hired this tour guide so you wouldn’t have to plan anything. And Chloe is like, you idiot, the planning work was ALREADY DONE and I would be losing all my deposits you ungrateful bumblebees! So they load up and go see a waterfall. Chloe wears a different coat and hat than the one she wore earlier. Then, they TAKE A HELICOPTER to some caves. I cannot imagine what a private tour vacation like this would cost, especially on such short notice. And then Charlie wanders off again.

Chloe finds him. He wants to wander down a path IN A CAVE that’s not on the map. Is he also an idiot? Chloe is like, no we have to stick to the designated route! And he’s like nah, come on. So she agrees, and then the cave falls in on them because there was a reason this path was not on the designated route. Just kidding. No one seems to care that they’re both gone and they have a nice moment together and don’t die and no one learns any lessons. Chloe walks off towards the group and Charlie creepily stares at her for too long.

Later, Charlie and Chloe both grab for the last piece of Kringle. Isabella walks in and snags it. Kenneth and his wife wander in with their arms loaded up. They decide to play a game. They convince Johann to join. They play Pictionary. Where did they get that easel? Johann seems to be getting too cozy with Chloe for Charlie’s liking. Charlie demonstrates that he’s truly terrible at this game. Isabella is also terrible. She guesses too much. This pair is married in real life. Isn’t that a treat? Chloe explains Pictionary to Johann because they don’t have that in Iceland? Oh they have a very fancy timer too.

The next day, Chloe reads her mythology book in super cute Scandinavian jammies. Today seems to be turtleneck day for the group. Charlie wants to disrupt the WHOLE SCHEDULE. Chloe has the WORST friends. Charlie apparently “heard some locals” talk about a sea village on the coast? And poor Chloe gets outvoted. Chloe wears a different coat and hat. On the drive to the sea village, Isabella sees horses and wants to stop to take a picture. This stupidity causes them to drive over a rock and rip a hole in the tire. Isabella doesn’t seem to care. She’s immediately outside snapping pics. They all feel bad for leaving Johann by himself to fix the tire. He’s like, you guys. I live here so I don’t care about seeing the sea village? I’m getting paid either way? Chloe first volunteers Charlie but he’s like no I don’t want to change a tire on my vacation. Have the servant do it. Finally, Isabella agrees to stay behind to help Johann while the gang gets on a bus to the village. I can’t believe the dudes in this group were not even offering to help. Sure Isabella, you stay behind to “help” change a tire and miss out on a day of sight seeing on this trip you paid for.

The rest of the team misses the bus and the next one doesn’t come for 2 hours. MIRACULOUSLY, there is a ferry in this middle of nowhere they can take instead. Kenneth and his wife want to do some shopping. Kenneth says “we didn’t bring enough carry on” like, singular. Also, maybe if they hadn’t packed a different coat for each day they would have room.

Chloe and Charlie decide to go into a museum. Charlie is all in on it because it’s about Vikings. Chloe sees a goblet she’s been reading about in her book. This goblet apparently gave Odin the gift of poetry to woo his wife. Boy, that is a disappointing power. Then Chloe comes up with an idea for a podcast; hearing about other people’s love stories. Okay, I’d probably listen to that.

Later, Charlie and Chloe go to a bar and talk about the format of her podcast idea. They talk about a significant moment in their relationship. Charlie’s phone buzzes. Chloe asks where he’s off to next. Probably Tokyo and then Morocco he says. Then Charlie says “the next photo” he takes is his favorite one. Chloe gets a little judgey. Then Charlie says he got offered a job teaching in Chicago. Yes, he’ll be teaching how to decide which Instagram filters to use. Then Chloe comments that she loves the Icelandic song playing in the bar. So OF COURSE, Charlie asks her to dance. WHY. WHY. WHY. I would be so happy if this trope would be eliminated from these movies. Luckily for them, other people join in.

After the song, Chloe and Charlie introduce themselves to the musicians. Chloe offers to buy them hot chocolate to hear about their story. They’re like, we’re in a pub. It is a nice but boring story. Back on the ferry home, Kenneth and his wife have managed to fall asleep outside on the top deck. Charlie tells Chloe that she should host the podcast. Chloe is like, who? Little ol me?

Back at home, Isabella and Johann say they had a lovely day too. Is Kenneth just drunk all day? He bought a Viking hat for himself. To make up for getting a flat tire that was actually Isabella’s fault, Johann booked them a night at the Bubble hotel, where you sleep in a clear dome to see the stars/northern lights. It looks AWESOME. But who’s paying for it? Did he just commit all of them to drop an extra $500 or is his tour company absorbing the cost?

At the Bubble Hotel, Charlie gets a call about Tokyo. If he accepts the job, he’d have to leave his vacation early. He needs more time to think though! No time. He has to leave in three days. Why are these things always so last minute? His boss is like, dude you’re just on vacation. It’s not like I’m asking you to fly out on Christmas Eve? For heaven’s sake? Charlie looks through the photos on his phone. He gets Chloe’s attention while she’s in her bubble pod and writes her a note on a notebook. He writes something else down but decides not to show her. Cool. Definitely won’t be up all night thinking about that! Thanks Charlie!

The next day, they head back to the house. Chloe has another beanie on. Chloe’s boss calls and is so stoked about her idea. Her boss shoots down the idea of her hosting the podcast. Also, her boss’s name is Rick Rackett. And the company is called “Racket Podcast”. Shouldn’t it be plural? Did non English speaking people do all of the set decor and scripts. Oh, Okay. Kenneth is definitely just drunk 24/7. He starts yodeling. Chloe comes back outside wearing a different coat. That makes 3 total so far.

Charlie has an idea for her to do some work instead of going on a tour they likely paid for already. She’s like cool! I LOVE wasting money. Check out how many coats I packed! They head out.

Charlie tells Chloe they are going to interview this couple that lives near a lighthouse. I think the hostess of their house told him about them? They were featured in the paper for their 30th wedding anniversary.

They interview the couple and seem to have all the equipment they need to record it! They have a nice little story.

After the interview, Charlie and Chloe each get relationship advice from the couple. Next, they interview another couple on a boat. Then they seem to just accost people in the streets to interview them.

Then they walk along a random strip of a barrier wall on the ocean? Or a jetty? For no reason at all and Charlie films her the entire time. He asks her a question he probably didn’t want on film. He asks if she has ever met someone that she feels like she could be with forever and she hints that he was probably it but it didn’t work out and well we all felt awkward.

That night, Chloe gabs with Kenneth’s wife. They are sitting outside with only candles to warm them. Johann comes outside to talk to Chloe. The rest of the gang apparently spent the day at the nature reserve. Johann invites her to run down to City Hall with him tomorrow. It very much seems like he’s asking her on a date.

Later, Chloe and Isabella walk along the water. Chloe wears her FOURTH coat of the movie. Isabella is noticeably bummed that Johann asked Chloe to hang out but is trying her VERY BEST to keep cool and casual. And she is doing a terrible job at that by the way. A normal friend; not even a GOOD friend, would notice that Isabella likes Johann. Chloe is just SO SELF ABSORBED in this moment. It is SO OBVIOUS that Isabella likes him and Chloe either doesn’t care or doesn’t notice. Both make her a truly terrible friend. Maybe this is her getting back at everyone for sabotaging the trip she planned.

Later, Chloe and Charlie share corded earbuds to listen to the first cut of their podcast ep. Not sure why they needed headphones. Charlie’s waffle knit sweater is almost too much for me to bear. Then Charlie asks Chloe for some advice about the upcoming photography gigs. He says he’s thinking about turning down the Tokyo opportunity. This surprises her. The Charlie invites her to hang out that night and take photos. Chloe is like oh shoot, I have other plans. What day is it?

Charlie wanders around snapping pics. He creepily snaps a photo of a child without her parents’ consent.

Chloe and Johann head into town and stroll along the water. Is this yet another coat for Chloe? Johann asks about where she met her friends and her job. And he shares about his own career. Johann shows her a bracelet he purchased made from lava rocks. Chloe is like oh I’m flattered but…and then Johann is like no I brought you all the way to town to show you this gift I got for Isabella. Then Johann encourages Chloe to tell Charlie how she feels.

Later, Charlie says he’s making a “midnight snack” at 9 pm. She asks to see Charlie’s photos from that evening. She loves them. WHAT DAY IS IT. Then they KISS! Oh boy. We still have 20 minutes left. And THEN his phone buzzes and the moment is all over.

The next morning, Chloe has a great teal shirt sweater situation happening. Charlie doubles down on the Scandinavian fisherman’s sweater look. In the kitchen, Kenneth is working on a really great joke for his wife actually-bringing her a massive plate of food. Then Kenneth tells him how he knew she was the one. Charlie says he doesn’t know if Chloe feels the same way about him. Hello! They just kissed.

Chloe keeps reading her book by the fire. Chloe saved Charlie a muffin. Charlie says there’s something he wants to talk to her about. But of course, then Johann shows up. Johann has a surprise cooked up for them later. But there is NOTHING planned for today. Some all inclusive tour guide! Chloe walks off. Then Chloe and Isabella sit outside by the fire. Isabella is like, what did you guys do last night!!! Trying to be SO COOL. Chloe is like oh I don’t have feelings for him. Right then Charlie tries to walk up and of course, totally misinterprets. Then Johann shows up and wants to talk to Isabella. Charlie freaks and tells his agent he wants to go to Tokyo.

Isabella and Johann have a nice moment. He gives her the bracelet he showed Chloe the night before.

Charlie is all packed up. SUCH a drama queen. He tells Chloe he decided to take the job in Tokyo. Chloe gets upset that he’s going. She thought this time was different. I honestly don’t get how Charlie doesn’t realize that she likes him? Or why doesn’t he say hey I overheard you talking to Isabella. I thought we had something this week? Am I so off? THESE GUYS.

That night, they are all out to dinner. Everyone except Charlie of course. Isabella does her best to make things awkward by bringing up Charlie. Chloe gets a call from Rick Rackett, who Hallmark keeps trying to convince us is a real name and person. He tells her that she can host the podcast! Kenneth and his wife have a weird moment. He’s like I like taking vacations with you. We should do it more often. How about when we get home, we don’t “start on things right away” and have a staycation. What in the world is he talking about? Does he mean work? Then they brainstorm for their next group vacation. They pick SUPER expensive locations. Then Kenneth, the idiot, is like and maybe Chloe’s ex boyfriend can still come?

Then they head to an island or a beach or something. Oh, Diamond Beach.

Charlie is literally about to board a bus or something? Not a plane. And rewatches a video of Chloe and decides to turn around.

The rest of the gang is lighting stuff on fire and making wishes. Is Chloe wearing ANOTHER COAT? And then they are waiting for the Northern Lights. Then Charlie shows up! They each make speeches and then KISS AGAIN. Then the Northern Lights show up in the sky. They say a few more barf inducing things and then they kiss again. And that’s it. We did it. Love ON Iceland.