Meet Me at Christmas

I heard some buzz about this movie ahead of time. Mainly, that it was the first movie of the year to feature a love story for people…later in life…which must mean your fifties. Oh well. I really loved Christmas in Montana, despite it’s absurd ending, so I was optimistic about this one. Let’s dive in!

So, the movie begins with to flashback to a snowman building competition? One of the guys borrows a little girl’s hat to win. This main pair seemingly win the race! Later, the competitors stroll through the Christmas Fair. The girl asks to ride the Ferris Wheel. The boy seems a bit nervous but he agrees.

They get on the Ferris Wheel and the boy shares he is a little scared of heights. SAME. He asks her to be his date at the Christmas Tree lighting. She asks him for the time and he pulls out a pocket watch. Neither of them know each other’s name yet. They agree to meet at 7 at the Tree Lighting and promise to tell each other their names then. Well, that is really dumb, honestly.


A bride and groom panic about their flowers in a floral shop. Joan, our lead, steps in to help. She has a great idea for a winter appropriate bouquet. Who wants peonies in December anyway? Silly gooses. Joan has a great idea for their flower girl issue too. Joan’s coworker thinks she should just start her own company already…to… compete with the store she works at right now? Anyway, Joan says she just can’t start a new company right now. She can’t leave, VANESSA! Not since Morgan died!

THAT LODGE! Joan is at the Snowfall Lodge and walks up to a tree and looks at the ornaments. And then, we flashback to her putting one on the tree. It’s a wreath with a picture of her and her competitor pal. He must not have showed up. Back to present, a guy approaches with a camera. She is in the way but she is a little sassy when he asks her to move. Like, weirdly sassy? She’s like, no I’m standing here in my own little pity party so you CAN WAIT GF. Also, SO HE’S THE GUY FROM WAY BACK WHEN, RIGHT?

She arrives inside the lodge and sees her son, Liam. He fills her in on the latest wedding details. She wonders what the bad news is. He is still trying to decide what job he wants to take. Two BIG CONSULTING FIRMS in NEW YORK both want to hire him right out of college. He’s like the prettiest girl at the dance. She gives him mildly good mom advice.

OH NO. The wedding coordinator QUIT. DISASTER. And our bride Kate’s Uncle Beau is the sassy camera man. He offers to help with the wedding coordinating business. NOW Joan feels a little bad because she realizes he is doing the photography for the wedding. Wait, Liam says Joan met his dad at the Christmas Tree Lighting and he fell in love before he knew her name. But Beau had to be the snowman guy. SO WHAT HAPPENED.

UH OH. MORE PROBLEMS. Kate’s parents’ flight is CANCELLED. I hope they make it. Joan and Beau offer to split the list of remaining responsibilities with Liam and Kate. Kate hands Beau and Joan a GIGANTIC LIST. Don’t worry, she already picked up the napkin rings. What was this coordinator even doing? Have these guys done ANY advanced planning for this wedding? Joan still seems unnecessarily prickly to Beau.

Beau is worried the decorations for this Christmas Eve wedding are TOO Christmasy. Isn’t there something to be said for the natural decorations of wintern? No, Beau, there isn’t. Also, Beau doesn’t DO Christmas. Joan continues to take items out of her car one at a time.

They scope out the event space. VERY FANCY. They can’t decorate for the reception until the morning of the wedding. The lodge’s concierge is like, if you need help with anything, don’t ask me.

Joan and Beau head to the Christmas Fair to get more wreaths and garland and stuff. She shares that her husband passed away right before Christmas once. Then she shares that Snow Fall Lodge was where her family spent all their Christmases growing up. Then Joan admits she read an article about Beau where the author called him a “Lone Wolf.” He doesn’t have a problem with it. He likes to be on his own. But also, how many photographers work in groups?

They head to the most lovely looking bakery. This place specializes in GINGERBREAD DONUTS. I immediately look up a recipe. Beau says he spent a Christmas here once. The NUMBERS. OMG. Comically huge and Christmas-y.

Joan flashes back. The boy with a GIANT number 4 switches with her so she can get the last gingerbread donut. And then he…leaves? So he doesn’t get anything? Why doesn’t he just get something different? She finds him outside and offers to share. I really want a gingerbread donut now. He offers to get her hot chocolate. She needs THREE MARSHMALLOWS y’all. Three is apparently the perfect amount. The perfect amount of marshmallows for me is ZERO unless they are burnt to a crisp. Then the two get roped into a snowman building competition and they don’t say their names to the game host. WHY? SO DUMB. Honestly, no one would do that. Back in the present, Joan hands Beau a gingerbread donut. He whips out a pocket watch to check the time. They REALIZE WHO EACH OTHER IS. That was fast.

Now it’s cake tasting time. WHY DIDN’T THEY DO THIS EARLIER? They definitely should have had this cake business locked down a month ago! Liam proudly says he wants all the guests of he wedding to attend the town tree lighting after their reception! Why is the Christmas Tree Lighting ON Christmas Eve here? They talk about Joan’s love story with Morgan which sounds AN AWFUL LOT LIKE HOW THESE TWO MET.

That night, at the lodge, Joan looks out over the tree and flashes back. A guy taps her on the shoulder and Joan thinks it’s Beau. It is actually a young Morgan. He invites her to hang with him and his friends while she waits for her friend.

Beau finds Joan and wants to explain what happened. She’s like, no don’t explain. It’s fine now. But she doesn’t want anyone to know about them. She doesn’t want to tarnish Liam’s memory of how his parents met. But Joan, I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

Liam pops by to say the wedding party all arrived and they want to head into town to do some “Christmas shopping.” Sure, Jan. Joan runs off to bed.

The next day Joan and Beau argue about where everything should go. They have OPINIONS. Katie pops in and settles it. Beau is like, girl can you just like LET ME EXPLAIN. And all of us watchin are like, YES PLEASE! We’re ALL DYING TO KNOW. Joan continues to shut him down.

The next morning at breakfast, Joan and Beau are making things so awkward. Liam shares that he turned down both job offers! He wants to stay in Colorado. Joan is surprised. Beau is like, why would you turn down BOTH OFFERS YOU IDIOT. Then Beau gets himself into hot water by accusing Liam of not being responsible. Well, honestly, that’s fair. But probably not absent Uncle Beau’s place. No one is offended apparently…except Joan. Then they DEFINITELY DON’T ARGUE ABOUT HIM NOT SHOWING UP 28 YEARS AGO.

Katie and Beau definitely don’t walk on a treadmill in front of a green screen while they have a conversation about moving to New York. Katie inadvertently takes a swipe at Beau’s life choices.

Joan arrives just in time to take Katie’s place at the…SNOWMAN BUILDING CONTEST. Just like old times. Poor Beau is just sweating to death in that coat. After the contest, Beau and Joan apologize left and right. They decide to work together on the list again. Joan knows exactly where to put Dr. Perkins at the reception.

Beau invites Joan to go out to eat that night. Joan tries to shut him down. Beau is like GIRL JUST…COME ON. Oh, they are going to have a wreath making party. Charlie the concierge has completely turned his attitude around because he LOVES WREATH MAKING.

It’s wreath party time. Everyone is being such a good sport about this. Charlie has always dreamed of participating in a wreath making class and this is his first opportunity. It’s everything he ever dreamed of in his little concierge heart. Joan finds Liam out in the lobby chatting with Beau about his vows. Joan wants to chat with Liam. Liam is just DROWNING in job offers apparently. Everyone seems to want to hire a kid right out of college. Liam is like, why wouldn’t you go to dinner with Beau?

THIS LODGE THOUGH. Beau looks longingly at a receipt in his room. Joan stops by to tell Beau she’s in for dinner tonight. He moves the old receipt so she can’t see it. She invites herself in to see his photos. Beau doesn’t want to do ANY POSED photos for the wedding. He just wants to do candids. BEAU. Have you ever taken wedding photos? You do need a few posed photos, man! Come on! Joan puts her foot down about the posed photos. Yes, girl.

Joan leaves and I realize he wasn’t holding on to a receipt. He was using the receipt to cover up an old photo of Joan. That’s not weird! Beau makes Joan take a horse drawn carriage to dinner. He tells her she looks “amazing” in her regular clothes. I feel he is not reading the room.

Oh my gosh this restaurant is just covered head to toe in Christmas Lights. Joan asks why Beau never settled down. And then Joan says she hasn’t really dated much since Morgan died. Beau had one serious girlfriend but that was it. They chat about life, love and other mysteries. Beau thinks they need to be spontaneous. He asks her to dance. UGH. I need to add this to my list of tropes: Dancing when its not appropriate to dance.

Beau says he’s always wondered about her. And he has ANOTHER IDEA. The Ferris Wheel. After the Ferris Wheel, Joan admits she never stopped wondering what happened to him, But then, Beau’s editor keeps calling with like the LOUDEST BUZZING SOUND EVER.

Joan flashes back to taking baby Liam around the Christmas Festival. Morgan tells Joan he knew right before he met her that she was the one for him. So now, back in the present Joan is all standoffish and cold again. Poor Beau has no idea what just happened.

Joan leads Katie into the ceremony room to see how it’s all decorated. Katie loves it.

Joan’s parents are here. Oh good. I thought they were Katie’s parents at first. Joan’s mom knows WHAT’S UP. She is just so desperate to hook Joan up with any age appropriate warm body at the lodge. When Joan tells her mom that Beau is THAT GUY, Joan’s mom FREAKS OUT.

The next morning, the room where the ceremony will be held is a complete wreck after an unexpected storm came through overnight. Joan has some ideas to fix it. She suggests everyone freezes their buns off at an outdoor ceremony. Can you get hypothermia in 20 minutes?

Katie’s parents FINALLY arrive. They are so grateful for Beau and Joan’s help. Beau and Katie’s dad have a little bro time out by the fire. Beau’s brother, Peter KNOWS WHAT’S UP AS WELL. Beau says he wants to be different and not be so busy. But then his editor calls and says he has an assignment on December 26. So just kidding about all that not missing out talk. His brother is understanding. He’s like, this is just your job bro!

They get ready for the rehearsal dinner. Joan shares that she wants to start her own wedding planning business. She even started a little website. Good for you, Joan. Beau says he’s been thinking about quitting his travel job and sticking around here! He wants to publish a new collection of photos too.

Liam needs something from Beau…He knocks on Beau’s door and then just barges into his room instead of waiting until Beau is ACTUALLY THERE. He goes ALL THE WAY into his room and sees the old picture of his mom and the old receipt. OH NO. Katie’s mom, Sarah blabs that Beau is off to the next thing right after Christmas. Katie’s mom is just running her mouth. Meanwhile, Beau is like ACTUALLY TRYING TO GET OUT OF THE JOB.

Liam approaches his mom about whether she knew Beau before. He seems weirdly upset by this. So she tells him the truth. Liam is like, okay that’s fine that you didn’t like him then. What about now? Then Beau actually overhears the WHOLE CONVERSATION. And it’s bad. She’s like, no I don’t like Beau at all. You can only love one person ever so that’s that.

Then Beau tells her about the job offer and she’s like you should definitely take it because I don’t like you. SEE YOU AT THE WEDDING BYE.

The next day, everyone uses all their energy not to freeze to death at Liam and Katie’s wedding ceremony. It does look really pretty. Liam and Katie don’t say any vows. She just gives a speech about the first time they met. Liam also only gives a speech. Everyone there tears up anyway and the tears freeze on their cheeks.

It’s reception time. Joan’s mom asks Joan how she’s doing. Joan’s mom is like, GIRL GET IT TOGETHER. AND then Liam OVERHEARS JOAN say the worst thing ever too. Girl, Joan, take a quick sweep of the room before you say this kind of stuff.

Liam solemnly looks at photos at a table at the reception. Liam is like, actually I don’t care about how you said you met Dad the same day you met the actual love of your life? Just tell me the truth lady! It doesn’t change anything. Wow. Liam sure is a nice young man. I would love to hire him at my consulting firm. What are we consulting on? Who cares? Then she tells him the rest of the story of that day. Liam is like, now I also want to know why he didn’t show up.

Now it’s time for haggard old Peter gives a speech at the wedding. Peter shares what happened that night when Beau was supposed to meet Joan. Peter ran into traffic and Beau saved him. They must have gotten hit by a car. DAAAANG. Well that certainly does explain things quite well. Now it’s time to head to the tree lighting.

Charlie catches Joan to tell her they want her to coordinate some more weddings at Snowfall Lodge. YES! At the tree lighting, Joan looks for Beau. She looks at the tree and Beau shows up behind her. He wouldn’t have left without saying goodbye he says. AND He’s staying in Colorado. He says he spent months in the hospital after that accident! But now he doesn’t want to waste another moment without her. Joan didn’t get a chance to make an ornament but Beau whipped one up real quick for her. And he made one with her old picture in it. NOT CREEPY. He also just made a wish! AND THEY KISS and the tree lights up. They are standing right in front of the tree just making out in front of everyone. OMG. And that’s Meet Me at Christmas.

So, this movie was fine. I thought Joan was just kind of a grump the whole movie. I guess she was supposed to be torn because she probably liked Beau better the whole time and then married this other guy and had a kid. But I guess those emotions are hard to display. But I don’t know. I do love a movie with a Christmas wedding…at a lodge. So that was nice too. But, yeah, “fine” about sums up my feelings on this one. Find one that’s more fun to watch while you cook or do laundry or whatever. Let’s see how it ranks: Really? Only 2/20? Did I miss anything?

  1. Single Mom
  2. Christmas Tree Lighting

Christmas in Vienna

Our first movie of this weekend is Christmas in Vienna. There was ALOT of buzz about this one. Probably because it cost a fortune to film on location there. But, I appreciate the thought of doing a “destination Christmas movie once a year though. Let’s get into it though, shall we?

The movie opens on a beautiful Christmas square/market situation. I really would like to go and see it in person.

Then our lead, Jess, plays the violin in a big theatre and then sits for an interview in anticipation of her upcoming Christmas Eve concert. The interviewer asks if music is her life. She says it allows her to live in a magic world She tells the interviewer she has two weeks in Vienna and she plans to eat her way through the town. GET IT GIRL. The interviewer says there is no Christmas like Christmas in Vienna. I don’t doubt you there, sir.

Mark, our other lead approaches some…familiar people at an outdoor winter Christmas market. His business partner, maybe his assistant (?)t brings them cookies. Oh, these are his children and their…nanny? maybe. They are doing some crafts. This CHRISTMAS MARKET. Then, He and Jess stand next to each other at the market’s outdoor advent ceremony. Jess turns to him and asks if he speaks English. He does! He’s American. He explains what is happening at the ceremony. This week, they are lighting the “JOY” candle. He asks if she is a tourist. She says yes, but doesn’t say why she is really in Vienna; alone…at Christmas. He imagines this single spinster might like to see the Children’s section of the market and tells her where to go.

So, it turns out that Jess’s old roommate, Tori is Mark’s nanny. She does not have an accent AT ALL. Nor does she seem old enough to have ever been at college at the same time as Jess. Jess meets all of Mark’s kids, who are really involved in this market. Summer has a solo! Then Tori decides to abandon these children in the middle of a busy Christmas market in a large city because JESS NEEDS SOME APPLE STRUDEL. I’m getting some strong Winter in Vail vibes. Tori talks about her cousin, Mark and how she “watches” his children. Tori could have also easily played his daughter. What is happening. Also, if she is from here, why doesn’t she have any accent? Mark is a diplomat who works in Austria. And his deceased wife is from Vienna. Jess tells Tori that she is struggling to find the heart of her music. Then Tori suggests they go get chocolate cake. Who cares about those kids, anyway? But we just had strudel? Wouldn’t deter me! Then, Tori says, “welcome to Vienna.” So is that how we are to view Vienna? Just dessert after dessert? If so, I will be the first flight out of here.

Tori must have realized she could not abandon the children further, so later at a a hotel restaurant, Jess makes the waiter uncomfortable while she sits alone and orders a chocolate cake for herself. The restaurant is BEAUTIFULLY DECORATED. Jess decides to practice in her room but HATES IT THE WHOLE TIME.

IS THAT MARK’S HOUSE. Tori is just making ornaments for days. She does sell them in a little Etsy shop though. She wants to sell at the market but can never get a booth. Oh boy. Tori, let’s not put all our ornaments in one basket. Mark’s assistant’s (Vincent) tells Tori that his mom has a bakery booth at the market. She might be willing to share it! Everyone, even Mark, is stoked about that.

Later that night, Jess is at a fancy party making small talk. The rest of her quartet arrives next week. Then, she sees Mark from across the room! They have an awkward exchange. Jess gives some history of the Viennese Waltz. Oh Jess. Bless her heart. Jess asks Mark to dance. He is like, no I don’t like dancing. Then he says he has to leave. Oh Jess. You did YOUR BEST, GF. Screw that guy.

The next day, Jess arrives at Mark’s house. Jess tells Tori about how she put herself out there and how he rejected her. And how we all died inside. Then Tori asks Jess to help her babysit so she can sell her ornaments at the Christmas market. WHAT NOW. Before Jess can like, recover from the shock of being asked something so outrageous, Tori DRAGS her into Mark’s office. Well, what do you know. It’s MARK. GUYS. I would hardly agree to watch my close friends’ children IN TOWN. FOR ONE NIGHT. And I HAVE KIDS. If I was a single 40 year old woman, I would have NO interest in hanging out with strange children ON MY GD VACATION. For heaven’s sake TORI!!!! Also, I just want to reiterate that Tori and Jess CANNOT possibly be the same age and also have Jess be interested in Mark.

WHAT! Why would Jess agree to babysit! She is a professional violinist who has stuff to do! This is ridiculous. Jess is just supposed to take these kids with her everywhere? And find time to practice for like, the biggest performance of her life?! YOU. GUYS. Tori gives Jess the rundown and compares the children to Gremlins. SHE’S NOT WRONG. I am still so annoyed on Jess’s behalf.

Jess overhears Summer practicing. Summer is panicking. SUMMER’S ROOM. It’s so insane. Jess gives Summer some advice on singing. The boy (I never catch his name) hasn’t unpacked his boxes yet from their move here a year ago. Jess goes to check on Isla. I think she has the best room of all. Okay DO THESE KIDS HAVE ACCENTS?

Jess and the kids head out to see the sights. Jess gives them some musical history along the way. They’re like oh, yes we definitely never heard any of this from our VIENNESE MOTHER. They head into a cathedral and get some more history lessons from Jess. SUCHA FUN TIME. They ask her to climb the tower. I would have told them to have at it and I would meet them later. The kids tell Jess that their mom used to take them to the tower when they came to visit. Then, they head into a chocolate shop and vow to try everything. HERE FOR THAT.

They walk along the street that night (WHAT TIME IS IT!) and Jess shares how much she likes to stop and listen to live music. The streets are so pretty. I just love how some European cities decorate their streets for Christmas. (hair flip). They stop to listen to a cellist on the street. They dig out some money to give her. The cellist seems to be more interested in her music than Jess is these days. I suppose she has a lot of thinking to do in the coming days.

Then they play a song my mom DOES NOT HATE, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. They meet up at a tree lot for yet ANOTHER TREE. And the kids immediately tattle about all the sugar they got to eat. Jess awkwardly plans to leave but Mark realizes she has nothing to do so he invites her join them to pick a tree. Mark tells Jess that he’s lived all over the place. His parents were in the army so he is mostly used to moving. So that’s what his kids are getting as well. What accents do these kids have?

The family get to decorating. Poor Vincent tries to head home for the day but Mark makes him stay and decorate the tree. He and Tori chat. Okay we’re supposed to believe these people are all the same age? Jess shares that she’s from Philadelphia. Philly is the “Vienna” of the US. Did you know?

Mark tells Tori he’ll make dinner. So he makes the kids grilled cheese. Tori gives Jess a “hey girl” look. Then Jess says she’s planning to leave the orchestra. Her heart isn’t in it anymore. Tori is like, I would rather talk about you and my cousin.

Poor Jess has to practice for this HUGE CONCERT at Mark’s house while she babysits. The boy is stoked to hang with Jess today. Isla is wearing an adorable sweater. Oh is someone going to do this poor girl’s hair? Jess lets her hold and use her violin. She give Isla a little awkward girl pep talk.

At the market, Summer has pageant rehearsal. Summer is stressing pretty hard about her solo. Jess gives her a nice pep talk. ALL BETTER. Mark shows up and invites Jess to go ice skating with them.

THAT SKATING RINK. And what do you know; Jess can’t ice skate. Summer is great at ice skating. Mark gives Jess a lesson. She falls forward and he catches her. Then, they get the CUTEST MUGS of hot chocolate. Who is watching the kids?

Mark shares that he wants to be an ambassador someday. Jess says she has always wanted to be a professional violinist. She shares some of her struggles. Playing feels like a chore now. It’s not fun. She tells him she is quitting the orchestra after this concert. Then, an old lady comes by and says they’re sitting under mistletoe in German. So, Mark, a gentleman, kisses her hand. THESE TWO.

The next morning, Jess gives Isla another lesson on the violin. Mark overhears. Deadbeat Tori comes down the hall with a box of her ornaments. Mark worries that the kids are getting too attached. Tori gives him some advice and then flees her responsibilities. Mark comes in and tells poor mixed up Isla she’s doing a good job on the violin. Jess shirks her own real job to go to the Christmas Market for the 100th time. They make wreaths there. Mark and his kids take a family pic. And then the kids ask Jess to join them in a photo. Not awkward! Then they decorate gingerbread cookies. ALL AT THIS LOVELY MARKET. That looks fun.

Jess tells Mark says her parents used to dance to Silent Night. Mark says you’re not supposed to dance to Christmas carols. Is that a thing? Mark says her parents sound lovely. They’re not dead though, right? Then, Mark gets an urgent message and has to bail. Jess takes the kids to the theatre.

They meet the conductor of the “Vienna Philharmonic.” So, I thought for sure this was fake. I was just livid at the lack of originality. But it turns out I need to take this up with like SO MANY CITIES’ lack of creativity because there actually is a Vienna Philharmonic. So uncultured Ol Cal got taken to task a little. The conductor asks her if she will open the concert with a speech. That seems appropriate. Just have a random violinist emcee the whole thing? Jess tells Summer about her good luck…”heart” charm. It is a necklace from her parents and she wears it for every performance. Meanwhile, the boy sits alone on the stage. Jess asks him why he’s learning German. He says it reminds him of his mom. She reminds him there are a lot of different ways to hang his hat.

That night, Tori tells Jess that Mark was offered a job promotion in Zurich. Jess is a little bummed on behalf of the kids. Tori scampers off to focus on ornament making. Mark wonders why Jess isn’t stoked about his promotion opportunity. She doesn’t want to share her opinion. He pushes her to share her opinion and she says he shouldn’t move. He doesn’t take it well. Even though he BEGGED HER to tell him. Don’t be such a baby MARK.

The next morning, Jess is at the house because Tori continues to shirk her responsibilities to focus on her ornament hobby. Mark is still a little put out about Jess giving her opinion after he asked so Jess pokes a little fun at him being so tightly wound. Oh no! A snow storm is coming.

Later, Mark talks to Vincent about the promotion. He apparently would have to move a week from now. Vincent says it’s a great opportunity. The last stop before Ambassador. Dude, you just need to make a big donation to the winning presidential candidate to become an Ambassador.

Jess and Tori have a heart to heart about Mark and his…mood swings. She’s like, he is just a nonstop drama queen and I can’t deal with that. They end up standing next to each other at the advent ceremony again. Mark pretends he doesn’t know what is going on. FUNNY BIT, MARK. He apologizes in a round about way. He says he felt a little too convicted after hearing her opinion about his job possibilities. Then Mark invites her to get some kind of Viennese spiced wine. They walk around the market drinking it out of boot shaped cups. What is this, Vegas?

Mark asks Jess if she’s done all her Christmas shopping. Jess shares she has impossibly high expectations about receiving gifts. She is horrified that Mark buys socks and gift certificates as gifts. They part ways and Lena, the conductor calls. Jess has a huge favor to ask her.

That night, Jess shares that the Opera House has agreed to host the pageant before the concert. Mark is appreciative. Then Mark says he has a gift for Jess. It’s a monogrammed stocking so she can spend Christmas with them. Well that’s REALLY NICE. She says it’s the perfect present. But it’s not a Peloton, so I don’t understand. Yes, that’s right. A year later and I still don’t have one.

Sometime later, Jess is back over at Mark’s house talking to Tori. WHO IS DEFINITELY OLD ENOUGH TO BE HER COLLEGE ROOMMATE. Jess says she might not quit being a violinist now. Tori is so glad for her.

That night, Jess does some practicing and seems to like it this time.

Wait, so now is it the NEXT night? Mark plops down and interrupts Jess and Tori talking. He says that even though he “brokers peace deals” (what, between the US and Austria? What year is it?) but the most difficult thing is bed time. AMEN BROTHER. Tori plays wingman and suggest the two of them go out for a drink. So Tori has an accent now?

They go to that hotel restaurant where Jess ate alone before. She says she’s enjoyed playing more since she’s been in Vienna. They get a TINY piece of cake and are supposed to be sharing it. Oof. It breaks my heart. GET YOUR OWN PIECE, MARK.

They stroll around the street and Jess finally shares that she was engaged and it ended. Mark opens up a little bit about himself as well. They sneak into some fancy building so they can see Vienna at night. And then they hear Silent Night playing. He asks her to dance. JUST LIKE HER PARENTS. He insists that you’re not supposed to dance to Christmas Carols. Is that right? And then it starts snowing. But then they DON’T KISS.

Jess does some practice at the Opera House. The conductor invites her to join the Vienna Philharmonic. She is so shocked! Backstage, Jess sees the boy chatting in German with new pals. She hears Isla playing and says she’s doing a good job.

At Mark’s house, Jess wraps all her gifts. This poor woman doesn’t get any time to herself! Tori is planning to take the kids sledding (Doing her job for once!!) So Mark offers to take her to A DIFFERENT MARKET. Then he says, “euro” for your thoughts. So, now the price of a thought has gone up from 1 penny to 1.5 US DOLLARS. Jess has another little beret and a great coat. Jess says she likes the touristy places better than the local outdoor market. So, Mark has another place to show her- a FERRIS WHEEL. I’m good, thanks. ARE THEY INSIDE THE LITTLE CART? They have champagne even. Mark asks if she would ever come back to Vienna. Why doesn’t she tell him about the job? He wants her to stay. She’s like, well you should stay too. But they DON’T KISS. Then Mark says the wrong thing. That he might one day be able to love again. She’s like, wait, you don’t love me after 3 days of knowing me? So then, she decides to bolt.

Tori gabs to Jess about Vincent and his mom. She may even be going into business with Vincent’s mom! Great idea! Then Tori makes a dumb joke about Mark rejecting her again. Why are they EVEN FRIENDS. Jess is like, dude shut it. And then she tells Tori about the Vienna Philharmonic.

Vincent says ZURICH NEEDS HIS ANSWER TODAY. Mark says he’s going to take the job! Come on!

Despite all the constant awkwardness between Jess and Mark, she is still babysitting these GD kids. So, downstairs, Jess gets the kids all organized to bake in the dining room. She lets Isla, the youngest, crack the eggs. Mark walks by and sees what they’re up to. He walks away. Jess heads after him and asks what’s going on. He tells her he took the job. He is all stern and no nonsense with her. Jess says she thinks he made the easy choice and that he’s running away. He says, TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE MISSY! She’s like, GIRL GET WITH IT OKAY. Oh no. They overhear Jess blab about the move. Oooh.

Later, Mark does some damage control with his kids. He asks their opinion about moving to Zurich. They all say they want to stay in Vienna. WHY DOES ONLY THE LITTLE GIRL HAVE AN ACCENT.

Jess practices again at the theatre. Her playing is terrible again. Lena is like GIRL, GET IT TOGETHER. The Board is Coming to the performance and they’ll never let you in to the Vienna Philharmonic if you play like that.

The kids are getting ready to leave for the pageant and Tori says there are gifts from Jess they have to open. Summer gets a special necklace charm. The boy gets a hat hook. And ISLA GETS A GD VIOLIN. Totally the same. Oh and then Mark gets a blanket so he can be alone in front of the fire.

At the concert, right before it’s about to start, the kids all rush backstage and thank Jess for their gifts. And they tell her they aren’t moving! Oh, and Summer isn’t going to sing Ava Maria anymore. She’s going to sing Silent Night and she wants Jess to play for her. Mark is like, I’m way different now too, Jess!

Jess kicks off the concert with a speech about the true meaning of Christmas and Vienna. So she is the violinist and the emcee for the night. That seems appropriate. Okay so the whole dang family is singing Silent Night in German and English. And poor little Isla is playing the violin too. Wait, we’re not even going to hear Jess’s song?

Tori is back to child rearing and takes the kids back home. Mark is waiting on the stage for Jess with a single rose. They have a nice chat about how they are both silly gooses. And then THEY KISS. And that’s it.

So, I love the European Christmas vibes. But I had a lot of head scratching moments throughout this movie. I mean, it was perfectly fine. I felt like these characters were just like so awkward with each other but were like, should I really be this picky? At my age? Plus have you seen his HOUSE? So that’s I think why they ended up together. But overall, it’s still probably better than Christmas in Rome. 10/10 as far as Christmas Markets go, at the very least. Let’s rate this bad boy. So, 7/20. Pretty standard, I guess.

  1. Single Parent
  3. Christmas Pageant (Well there was certainly a lot of talk about one; though one round of Silent Night should hardly count)
  4. Christmas Festival
  5. Christmas Baking
  6. Winter Athletics
  7. A sassy (not wise) best friend

The Christmas Bow

Alright guys. We did it. The last movie of the weekend. And we get to do it all AGAIN THIS WEEKEND. Let’s get it y’all.

We open on a Christmas party at a music shop. Two kids talk about their upcoming performance at the party. The girl is very nervous. The cute little boy is apparently tone deaf and he tells the girl to just keep swinging. BASEBALL. Little Kate Malone gets up on stage to do her performance.

Flash forward to grown up Kate auditioning for the Rocky Mountain Philharmonic. She calls her Grandpa Joe to tell him she thinks the audition went really well. She won’t find out until Monday but her Grandpa is stoked for her and wants buy tickets for the front row for the Christmas Concert. Then she opens the door for someone and gets her fingers slammed in it!! That’s why you should never open doors for people, or use heavy doors to catch your balance.

The doctor tells her she is out of commission for 6 weeks. She says she hasn’t even gone 6 DAYS without playing the violin.

Six weeks go by and next we see Kate talking with her mom at their family music store. She is feeling a little sad because this would have been the night of the Philharmonic Christmas concert. But her mom says the silver lining is that she’s really enjoyed having her around the store. The dad is loading up on Christmas Trees. He is a true Hallmark hero.

Patrick is out choosing a tree with his… child cousin? His cousin, Gavin picks the tallest tree in the lot. It looks like one we find out in the forest and cut ourselves with a $10 Forest Service Permit. It doesn’t quite fit in the living room but they are going to try and make it work. It looks like he lives with his mom. She has a chronic disease. Patrick is waiting to hear from a charity doctor organization about whether he got a job with them.

It’s time to get Kate’s splint off! Her doctor, Dr. Burk, is in a jolly mood. Perhaps he should read the room. He doesn’t. Instead, he cracks jokes. She asks if she’ll ever be able to play like she did before? He says physical therapy will be key. Dr. Burk has great Christmas socks.

Kate, wearing a great jacket, gets lost in the music at a coffee shop. Michael’s cousin, Gavin asks if she’s sleeping. Patrick approaches and recognizes her. He was that little pudge from the flashback earlier. They catch up. Patrick says Kate is world famous around the town of Boulder. He asks what she’s doing in town. But she doesn’t tell him about her injury. They both say they’re in town for the holidays. EVEN THOUGH THAT’S NOT TRUE.

At home, Kate gets out her violin and starts to play. Her hand hurts pretty bad. She gives up and heads downstairs to talk to her parents and eat some cookies. She tells them about the appointment. Then, her dad wants to put more bows on their tree. IT’S COVERED IN BOWS. Grandpa Joe surprises them all by coming a few weeks early. I bet his son in law is STOKED. Grandpa Joe thinks the tree needs more red bows.

The next day, Kate has her first physical therapy appointment. Well, would you look at that. Guess who is Kate’s physical therapist? They both were like, wait you said you were just visiting? Patrick fills Kate in on his mom. His dad died last year and his mom has “CMT” which is a common disease with no cure. He was in Philadelphia for 10 years. He is recently divorced. LOTS OF INFORMATION, PATRICK.

They switch gears to actual therapy. She tells him she tried to play the violin last night and it really hurt. So, she’s worried that she’ll never play again. He promises her that she’ll be better than ever. Then, his mom comes by. Very professional. She is also his patient! That seems like a bad idea. Maybe it is off the books. Tess invites her over for dinner that night! GETTING RIGHT TO WORK, TESS!

That night, Kate helps Tess make wreaths. Patrick says wreath making is a great activity for her hands. Why is it so dark in their house? Kate says she can’t imagine doing anything else besides playing the violin. Patrick just creeps in the background while his mom and Kate chitchat. Kate shares that she first went to the Philharmonic with her grandpa at five years old.

The next day, a little girl comes in to the music store prepared to ruin her family’s life for the next school year by requesting a recorder. She proves me RIGHT by just blasting it as loud as she can in the store. Then, Patrick casually stops by the store with Gavin. Kate’s mom starts working OVER TIME for her and Patrick. Gavin, Patrick’s cousin has NO CHILL. He totally sells Patrick out about their intentions for coming in. Then, Kate gets Gavin all set up on the violin. She says the right bow is important. Just like wands in Harry Potter! Gavin asks if she can teach him. She can only “do.” She can’t teach. She says she’ll find him a teacher. Gavin has a holiday fun list and has “learn a Christmas song” on it so learning the violin is crucial. Can I interest you in a recorder, Gavin? Tired of the violin, Gavin invites Kate to join them at the Christmas market. Gavin blurts out, how’s that for being a wingman? KILLING IT, BUD.

The Christmas Market is outdoors at night. And it is a HOPPING place. There is a…like acrobat? Gavin runs off unsupervised. Patrick tells Kate that Gavin’s dad died two years ago. Gavin returns to announce that he’s settled on a giant nutcracker for his mom for Christmas. Excellent gift. Kate helps Patrick shop for a secret Santa gift for Dr. Burk. She finds holiday socks and a tie for him. Then Patrick volunteers her for the Christmas sing along.

Back at home, Kate struggles through playing the violin. Her grandpa listens at the door. He says he loves hearing her play. he asks him about giving lessons, but he says he doesn’t want to do that anymore. But they miss him in the store! He says it’s just not the same since Grandma passed.

Patrick talks to his mom about Kate. He might kind of like her. But he’s not getting ahead of himself.

The next day, Kate’s grandpa shows up at the shop with an old out of tune violin. He is over his little pity party I guess. He starts giving Gavin lessons.

Gavin, Kate and Patrick head to ride on a Christmas train. Patrick asks if they stopped doing the party because her grandma died. PRETTY MUCH. She tells him she auditioned for the Philharmonic and then she hurt her hand. And she GOT the job and had to turn it down. He puts his hand on hers in sympathy. Then NO CHILL Gavin blabs to Kate that Patrick is going to be a traveling doctor.

Later, Gavin talks to his mom about the job. He is one of the finalists but he’s not even sure that’s what he wants to do! She says she hopes he isn’t thinking of turning it down on her account. She wants him to live his life.

At Kate’s house, Grandpa Joe remembers Christmas with his wife. In the flashback, she seems pretty out of it while they all sit together in the living room. Joe encourages Kate to play the violin. The grandma starts to sing along to the music. NOBODY TEARS UP ABOUT IT. Not Kate, and certainly NOT ME. Okay?!

Later, they strategize about Christmas and Grandpa Joe wants to have the party again! Kate is going to have to play though.

The next morning, they get to planning. Kate’s dad must be a Hallmark employee because he needs MORE TREES. He only has EIGHT.

Kate brought her violin to her PT appointment. She plays “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” She asks if Patrick noticed anything while she plays. He was totally zoned out listening so, yeah, he’s no help. Kate says she has to get in shape in time for the Christmas Party. He says, she’ll know her limits. They go get hot chocolate. He talks about the traveling doctor job. He is not sure what to do, so he asks her to dance. AND THEN THEY KISS!! OMG HALLMARK.

Later, the gang is setting up for the party. Joe is giving Gavin a lesson. He is really coming along! No one is willing to cater for their party. And then, wait, GAVIN’s mom is a CHEF! Ann is all in to help out. Kate’s dad is KILLING IT in every scene he’s in. He has a Griswald size ball of exterior lights to untangle.

Patrick’s family invites Kate to decorate gingerbread houses. She’s never done it before and says it’s fun. SHE’S LYING. Tess makes a beautiful gingerbread house. Actually they all look good. Nothing is falling apart or sliding down the sides or the roof. MUST BE NICE. Gavin continues to have ZERO CHILL. He asks Patrick if he LIKE LIKES Kate.

After Gavin leaves, Kate and Patrick have a heart to heart. Patrick says he doesn’t want to get in the way of her life. She’s like, oh yeah for sure. WE’LL JUST SEE OKAY.

Kate does some more practice in her room. Her hand gets really hurt.

Patrick gets a call from Hearts to Heart? Or whatever the charity doctor organization is called. He got the job! He has a heart to heart with his mom about the job and Kate. This job was his dream! And maybe his dad’s? He’s not sure if it is anymore. Then Kate calls about her hand injury.

He meets Kate at the doctor’s office. He tells her he’s fine. She has phantom pain. She kind of panics about that but he tells her it’s fine. Then Patrick tells her about the job. She is glad for him but all of a sudden is like, I GOTTA GO BYE. Patrick is like, no let’s talk please! And she’s like, no no I’m too busy. Bye.

Then, Patrick runs into his mom at the Christmas Market. She encourages him to tell Kate or SHOW her how he feels.

Kate sets out to practice again. While she plays, we get a little montage of party prep. Kate stops again because her hand hurts. Her grandpa is still so supportive. She is having a hard time with all of this. Grandpa Joe knows she likes Patrick. She doesn’t want to be selfish so she doesn’t want to tell him how she feels.

It’s Christmas Party Time. It just looks lovely. Dr. Burk is there. Oh and Ann and Kate’s mom look so cute. Dr. Burk LOVES his gifts-tie and socks. Then, it’s Gavin turn to perform. Are we sure about that? Actually, he’s not too bad! Grandpa Joe comes down the stairs dressed as Santa and passes out gifts to the kids. He gives Kate a gift. She is surprised and hurriedly heads upstairs to open it. Patrick sees her and then heads upstairs too. It’s a bow! She likes the bow a lot. Is it just a nice bow? Or is there any other sentimental reason behind it? Did she need one? I missed this. I mean, obviously aside from the TITLE OF THE DANG MOVIE. Then Patrick starts to give her a speech. She interrupts him and tells him how much he means to her. Suddenly, Gavin shouts, SHE TOTALLY LIKES YOU! Killing it. He tells her his dreams are now here with HER. AND THEN THEY KISS AGAIN. And now it’s time for her performance.

One year later, she is auditioning for the Philharmonic again! She feels good about it. Patrick is downstairs waiting for her. She says, let’s just say, you picked the perfect bow…the perfect CHRISTMAS BOW. And that’s it.

This was a cute movie. It was a nice, different story idea. And I liked that the lead was a REAL violinist. I believe the actor who played Patrick’s mom really has CMT as well. So those were two nice things to feature. Everyone was really great in this movie too! So great job all around. Let’s see how we did on the checklist. There weren’t many tropes in this movie! 4/20.

  1. Single Parent
  2. Christmas Festival (Market and Party)
  3. Christmas baking
  4. Christmas montage.

Christmas with the Darlings

I didn’t know anything about this movie before I started it…except perhaps that one of the characters had the audacity to group Oatmeal Raisin in with actual Christmas cookies. Be warned, that DOES happen. Let’s dive in!

A truck pulls up to a big house with a gigantic tree. The Darlington house. Jessica is their assistant. Looks like there are three Darlington brothers. They have a lovely, GIANT living room. Jessica is going to start being one of their attorneys. That is quite a shift-assistant to lawyer? One of the Darlington boys, Charles asks her to meet with their family lawyer, Nina.

Their nieces and nephew are coming back from Australia. Their other brother and his wife died and now their current guardian, their great Aunt Matilda, has had some health challenges and can’t take care of them. So this brother and Max are going to raise them. Jessica seems skeptical about Max.

Max is skiing with his bros. He seems to just like living his life going where the wind takes him. Back at the office, Nina tells Jess all the details about the kids. Charlies is going to be in Europe all of December. He tells Jess that the kids will be going to boarding school over Christmas because everyone is too busy or sick to spend Christmas with them. So, all Jess has to do is get them to boarding school. Max is too busy skiing in Vermont. He seems to just bounce from Ski Lodge to Ski Lodge throughout the winter. Not working, just spending money. T

Max doesn’t seem to know about the boarding school plan. Wait so Jessica says she started the job as Executive Assistant 2.5 years ago? Instead of gaining practical legal experience she worked round the clock as an executive assistant? I mean, I guess it paid off for her but that is a dumb plan.

Later, Jess reviews a flyer for a Christmas Fair with her friend Zoey. She thinks the kids would probably like the Christmas Fair. Later, Jess looks up the boarding school the kids are going to.

The next day, Jess goes over Charles’ schedule and the details of the Christmas Party. EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE PERFECT. Charles is working on a deal with Victor Lee. A big Christmas party is going to be crucial to securing this big deal.

Max arrives at the office. He is very clearly an absent “President.” He has a bone to pick about the Peyton Academy boarding school. He wants to be involved in the decisions about the kids. Max wonders if there is anywhere else they can go. Charles is like, who is going to watch them? Then, Jess offers to watch them over her vacation. She says she knows what it’s like to be a kid alone at Christmas. Then Max agrees to help too.

Jess has a fireplace IN HER OFFICE. Dude, I would be an EA for that. Jess and Max strategize about having the kids. Jess wants to give them an old fashioned New England Christmas. Oh I am so sad for these kids.

The next day, Jess and Max wait at the airport for the kids. She brought their Christmas presents to the airport. Why? The kids arrive and are very polite and well mannered for being sent across the world right before Christmas. Okay, they hand the kids some welcome gifts. They all got Christmas sweaters. Just what every kid wants! Oh, the little one, Abby, does love it.

They arrive at the house and meet Mrs. Brooks. The kids remember her. Max takes them up to their rooms. Jess and Nina talk about how hard it’s been on the kids.

Mrs. Brooks and Jess chat downstairs in the kitchen. That’s a pretty basic kitchen for such a wealthy family. Mrs. Brooks talks about how hard it was on the Charles and Max when Jared, their brother died. She thinks that’s why both brothers are gone so much.

Max goes in to check on the girls and he can’t find them. He finds them all in their brother’s room. And they all wanted to stay in their dad’s old room.

Then we get a little sense of Max and Jess’s personalities. She wants to make a list of FUN Christmas activities. He wants to just see how things go. So he is a free bohemian spirit and she is…not.

The next morning, Max oversleeps! The rest of the crew are downstairs having a formal organized breakfast with everything beautifully spread out on the table. Are they all going to eat cold waffles because they were waiting for Max?

Jess asks for their ideas for fun Christmas activities. One of the girls suggests decorating a Christmas tree. But their interior tree is already decorated. They decide to go get another tree. Jess’s idea is to decorate a tree outside with ornaments that animals can eat. She used to do that with her mom. I actually love that idea.

They head back to the kitchen to make the ornaments. MONTAGE TIME. The older sister. Emma, does a lot of parenting and helping it seems. She says they’ll be alone again when they go to boarding school. Abby says, “that’s okay! We can handle it!” Sad.

Then, Max organizes a carriage ride. The oldest sister, Emma likes to read about horses and ride. They kit a bump and Jess gets closer to Max. After the ride, Jess shares that she doesn’t have any family to spend Christmas with. The kids realize that their grown ups are like them. Well aren’t they all a sad little bunch? Then, they decorate all the trees outside. So cute!

Jess calls Zoey on the phone. She fills her in on the day before. Zoey asks what he’s like. Then Jess reads an article about Victor Lee, the important businessman they need to impress with the Christmas party. He likes family! Not fancy! The party will NOT impress him. Uh Oh. And the only solution is to change the theme of the party because Christmas parties are what make or break big deals.

Later, the Darlington crew stroll through town. The boy sees a shop full of JUST PUZZLES. I guess it is a toy store. Max takes him inside and Jess takes the girls for hot chocolate. The boy (I never catch his name) quickly calculates how many hours it will take to do the puzzle he picked out. The shop owner blabs that Max usually buys all the toys in the store for the Boys and Girls Club but likes to keep it anonymous. Oops. Did he just say that out loud?

Jess and Max tell the kids that they have to change the Christmas Party plan to accommodate that potential…investor or client or whatever? Emma says they should have it at a house. Max says they should just have it at the house. Max gets that classic whipped cream mustache. FUNNY GUY. Max tells Jess to tell Charles about the changes to the Christmas party. Max doesn’t think Charles will listen if he thinks the idea comes from him.

The next day, they whip out the puzzle. Max is all in on helping. Meanwhile, Jess fills Charles in on the new plan for the party. Again, this whole deal hinges on an impressive party. Jess gives credit to Max for all of the new ideas. Jess also wants to invite the families of the employees. Charles doesn’t want it to look like a circus. Amen, brother. He agrees. Then Jess checks in with Nina. Jess asks her how she got into family law. She was inspired from personal experience. Jess shares some of her experience and how she ended up taking the job at Darlington. The family law attorney tells her she would be a great family attorney.

Jess gets back tot he house in time to see the whole gang baking Christmas cookies. Uh oh. Jess puts on an apron and asks where the raisins are. WHAT. She wants to make oatmeal raisin cookies. KICK HER OUT OF THIS HOUSE AND FIRE HER. Is anyone’s favorite cookie oatmeal raisin?

Emma says her favorite thing is toffee. Mrs. Brooks has her mom’s recipe! She shows it to her and it’s in their mom’s handwriting. Oh that’s very sweet.

Later, Max makes grilled cheese and tomato soup for Jess and himself. That sounds good. He opens up a little about his life choices and all that. Jess shares a little about herself too. Max says she is part of their family.

The next day, gang heads to the Christmas Fair and they all brainstorm ideas for the party. Jess sees Zoey. Zoey is spiraling about the barista she likes. Zoey recognizes Max from volunteering in the pediatrics ward. She didn’t realize he was a Darlington. Zoey is like, you should have a crush on him, okay.

Then they all do Christmas crafts together at this fair. Max says Zoey looks familiar. Jess says she knows about his sneaky volunteering. He says you should do the right thing because it’s the right thing; not to brag about it.

Later that night, Abby comes in to Max’s room and says she has a nightmare about a fish. She asks him to read her a story. She’s got the Wizard of Oz all ready. Jess encounters Emma in the hallway. She is looking for Abby. All these kids out of bed in the middle of the night is stressing me out!! They carry sleepy head Abby to her bed. Emma is still awake! Go to bed girlfriend! Emma says Abby usually goes to her when she has a nightmare. She is worried that Abby is getting too attached when they are about to be shipped off to boarding school. Max reassures her that this is their home when they’re not in school. That seems to help for now.

Max and Jess chat downstairs. He tells her how they weren’t ready to be guardians when his brother died but he wants to be more involved. He really loved Jared. Charles must be quite a bit older than Max because Max says he already had his own life when Max showed up. He feels that after everything Jared did for him growing up, he owes Jared’s kids a good Christmas. Mrs. Brooks walks down and interrupts for no reason. After Jessica goes to bed, Mrs. Brooks tells Max not to “mess this up.” She knows he’s liked Jessica for a long time! Max thinks she doesn’t take himself seriously.

In the next scene, the street sign is TOTALLY BLANK. Jessica admits to Zoey that she has a crush on Max. Zoey tells her that she is too cautious. She didn’t used to be!!

Jessica comes home. Max has just opened a package with the kids’ uniforms. The kids see them and are very polite about them but sad. To lighten the mood, Jess suggests they make snowmen. They have a little snowball fight and run right into Charles! The kids fill him in on all the fun they’ve had. Charles is surprised that Max has been so good at parenting and everything. Max takes this opportunity to ask Charles to talk about his role at Darlington. Charles asks if they can talk about it later. He is SO TIRED.

It’s party time! The girls look so cute. The boy needs help with his tie. So Max helps him out. Zoey arrives with the barista, Kate. Zoey tells Max that Jessica has been having a great time with him. Jessica sees Nina and walks over to chat. She says she can’t be a family law attorney because she doesn’t have any experience. She’s been an executive assistant the whole time she’s been in law school so she doesn’t have practical experience in any field! She’s lucky anyone wants to hire her!

Max runs into Victor. They share a love of some random winter vacation spot. Victor wasn’t aware that Darlington was a family company! The party makes that VERY CLEAR. Then, Charles shows up and wants to introduce Victor to the other board members. Charles tells Max to do what he does best-have fun and not worry about Victor or this deal. So Max goes outside and stares at the trees. Jess joins him. She gives him a nice pep talk and says she believes in him. Then Abby bounds out and says she made more ornaments.

Victor Lee comes out and sees the trees. Jess says “Merry Christmas” in a language he also understands. Abby does a good job inadvertently reinforcing how family oriented they are.

The next morning, Charles shares some good news. Victor Lee picked them to…do business things with! The Christmas Party won him over. There is no other reason. Victor told Charlies he really liked Max and wants to meet up with them next month at that vacation spot. Charles apologizes to Max and says that Victor wants Max to be the liaison for their company. So now Max gets to “run the Taiwan” division. He would be in Taiwan on a more permanent basis. Oh yikes! He will miss Christmas with the kids!

Jess and Max talk about what a great opportunity this is. They both seem sad. And they realize they have to tell the kids. The kids seem bummed. Jess says she’ll stay for Christmas though.

Max gets ready to leave. The kids all say goodbye in their Christmas sweaters. Oh, they have like 5 pieces left of their Christmas puzzle. How can he leave before that’s done? Outside, Max dramatically pauses and looks at his family before getting in his car to drive to Taiwan. Jess stares after him in the driveway.

Max sits at the airport and sees a family walking by. They must have muted the parents yelling at their kids to hurry up or stop whining or remind them that no, they just had a snack or tell them we have to get our gate first. He doesn’t hear any of that so he feels wistful instead of relieved to be traveling alone. He decides to make a pro and con list of staying versus leaving.

The kids all say they like it at the house. Emma reminds them they’ll get used to Peyton as well. Jess goes in to Charles’ office to talk to him about boarding school. She thinks the kids should go to Riverside school instead, which is just down the road. She says she can take care of them. He’s like, you would give up your career? She’s like, no, it’s the 21st Century, dummy. People (EVEN WOMEN) can work AND raise children. The choices aren’t boarding school or quit her job you silly goose!! She wants to figure something out because she loves them too much! Charles agrees. Charles says Nina was right about her being a good advocate for children. He asks why she turned Nina down? She says it’s because she has a job with them! And they’ve treated her really well. Then, he gives her permission to work for Nina. So then, Jess gets a big gust of courage and tells Charlies she’s leaving to be bold and brave. So he needs to watch the kids.

Jess runs out of the house and calls Max. He doesn’t answer. Then she tries Nina. She leaves a message accepting her job offer. She passes Max in the driveway. She says she was on her way to stop him at the airport! He’s like, you’re being impulsive?! And then he shows her the little list he made about the pros and cons of staying. Then he says he’s been in love with her for 2.5 years. And they KISS. TWICE. Wow they love each other. Okay.

I notice Charles’s sweater for the first time. Charles is like, what is the deal, dog? Why are you back? Max says he wants a bigger role at work but he wants to be with the kids and Jess. Especially during Christmas. He wants to figure out a way to travel to Taiwan less. Charles is like, Mr. Lee wants you to be the liaison. So you can be the liaison. Max advocates for the kids to stay home too. Charles is like, I already know that.

They finally finish that blasted puzzle and have lovely little Christmas. Charles makes a toast to everyone…and Christmas. And that’s it!

The Christmas Ring

So, I knew there was a movie called “The Christmas Ring.” And this is that movie.

A woman, Kendra comes out of the elevator and is accosted by a woman with a plate of cookies. She needs Kendra to taste test them to see if they are good enough for her boyfriend’s family. Kendra suggests less peppermint.

Kendra and her friend have a mini pep session before a big meeting. Kendra’s assignment is to write a list about regifting. This sounds like a dumb magazine or website or something. It’s called Quizzer? Oh it’s like Buzzfeed. Kendra wants to write a human interest piece but all they do are lists and nonsense.

Kendra and her friend go shopping at a vintage store. She is looking for a specific ring-her mom’s engagement ring. It was lost after her dad passed away. She sees one that looks similar! But it has an inscription from 1948 so it’s not the right one. She decides to get the ring and figure out who it belonged to. She thinks it will take Quizzer to the next level.

She talks to her boss about her idea. Linda is not stoked about it. She ultimately says no to the story idea. Kendra works late on her “What Kind of Elf Would You Be?” story. And then she does some googling about the ring. It seems she finds a jeweler that matches the initials in the ring.

Kendra takes a day off to do some research on the ring. She is in a small cute Christmas-y town outside of Boston. She has big plans for Quizzer and it is all riding on there being a good story behind the ring. Oh no. There is a bakery where the jeweler is supposed to be! She asks a “random person” where the jewelry store is. The guy tells her there’s no jewelry store in town. He’s a little salty with her and she gives it right back.

Kendra heads in to the bakery. Well, as long as she’s there; might as well get a cookie or something. She asks the baker about the jewelry store. The owner of the bakery, Paul, says his grandfather owned the jewelry store but he turned it into a bakery. She shows him the ring. The baker loves her company’s quizzes! He offers to check his grandpa’s ledger for her. He finds it right away. The ring was made for William Jones. He suggests that she talk to William’s grandson, Michael. Oh, and his wife owns a Bed and Breakfast if she wants to stay in town while she figures this all out. HERE. WE. GO.

She rings the doorbell on Michael’s house. GARLAND AROUND THE GARAGE DOORS. Well, what do you know. It’s the grouchy guy from the sidewalk. What a coincidence. He is very, very salty. She shows him the ring. He says there is no way his Grandma Pearl wore a ring like that. And he thinks Kendra is using the ring as a guise to interview him. He tells her he “doesn’t want to talk about it.” And then he tells her to leave. Her friend finds an article about him. He had a salacious, tabloid break up earlier this year. And we have ANOTHER ARCHITECT. COME ON Hallmark. That’s FOUR!

Kendra decides to stay at the B&B. She tells Paul’s wife what she’s up to and she shows her the ring. Kendra wants to ask her some questions about Pearl. Oh, check out that spread of treats! Kendra talks to Paul’s wife some more about her story. She took over Christmas Festival responsibilities from Pearl a few years ago. So Kendra asks about the Christmas Festival. What do you know, a Tree Lighting AND a Christmas Dance. Paul’s wife shows her an old picture of Pearl. Apparently Pearl and William met at the Christmas Dance. Paul’s wife says to try the other grandson, tomorrow. She runs into Michael instead. He reiterates that he doesn’t want to talk to her.

Kendra meets Scott and Trish, Michael’s brother and his wife. She explains that she’s not there for Michael and shows them the ring. They don’t recognize it. Trish offers to be helpful. She runs the newspaper there. Hmm…Kendra is also a journalist. Trish talks about working for the newspaper and shows her around the newspaper. Kendra gets to work! Lots of Christmas news. Oh and she finds their engagement photo.

Outside, Kendra notices that the tree lighting sign. It seems like something she would like to attend. She runs into Michael again. He thinks she’s following him. She shows him the picture she found. Pearl is wearing the ring in the picture! She shares how she was looking for her mom’s ring and found this one and would really love to know its story. Kendra is all in on the town’s festivities. She has been alone the last few years since her parents died.

Later, she video chats with her coworker. Uh Oh. Linda overhears about Michael. Linda wants her to come back and work on her elf story or whatever, but then she decides she wants Kendra to stay and dig into the family. I think they are working on two different stories.

It’s Christmas Tree Lighting time. Michael approaches while Kendra places a pastry order at Paul’s little outdoor cart. Then Kendra offers to help Michael put up more garland around the stage. He tells Kendra what the Festival looked like back when his grandma used to run it. Maybe it was even more Christmas-y. Scott doesn’t decorate the store very much. It looked pretty dang Christmas-y to me. Kendra asks more about Pearl. Michael says he heard a lot of stories about his grandparents but his grandpa died when he was 10. Kendra shares about her parents too. After a couple of pathetic staples, Michael is satisfied with his work on the garland around the stage.

Trish and Scott talk to Michael. Michael says he’s suspicious of Kendra. They suggest he give her a chance to prove she’s there for the right reasons. Wait, is this the Bachelor? Meanwhile, Kendra is gathering intel about Pearl from other Festival attendees.

Trish is somehow in charge of announcing the Tree Lighting. No Mayor or anything? What about Paul’s wife? The Festival Chair? Michael offers to show Kendra some of his grandparents’ things the following day.

Michael is back at work in the garage when Kendra arrives. She asks what’s under the blanket in the garage. It’s his grandpa’s old car! Kendra knows what it is. She knows because it’s the “mid-Century Christmas era”? Okay. He understands why she loves that era so much.

Michael shares that his parents died when he was young so he lived with his grandma in this house. Even the attic is decorated for Christmas…still? I think Michael hasn’t taken the decorations down in a few years? Michael shares that he and Scott are getting the store ready to sell. Kendra roots around in the boxes and stuff. Michael shows her a tiny dress up chest. Somehow he managed to fit a reindeer costume in that tiny box. He talks about the reindeer quiz he took. She admits she created that quiz. Dang, lots of people are eager to know what kind of reindeer they are. She tells him she’s trying to work on something better and improve Quizzer. But like, Quizzer is probably not ever going to be the place for “human interest pieces” right? I mean, it’s called QUIZZER. They are kind of boxed in. She hasn’t left her job though because the pay is good and she’s comfortable. Michael tells her that he started his own company after six years. She is like, oh dang girl, that’s too risky for Ol Kenny.

Michael offers to make hot chocolate downstairs. I’m in!

Looking through the stack of papers, they learn Pearl was a debutante. And William worked on the railroad. OPPOSITES. They find all his old paystubs. Why did he save those? Sounds like my Uncle Alden saving medical records from the 1920s. They find blueprints and a deed to the property from 1948. He says the store didn’t open until 1951. MYSTERY. They wonder if Pearl’s parents didn’t approve. Michael has a mini freakout about parents not approving. Probably his own stuff.

Paul tells Kendra about “Magnify Main Street.” Sounds like they just LIGHT UP Main Street. At this point, I tell my mom how disappointed I am about her Christmas decorations. I mean, she doesn’t even have a wreath over her stove.

Kendra heads to the general store and asks why they don’t decorate it. TOO BUSY. But it actually IS decorated for Christmas. So what are these people talking about? Kendra offers to help. Michael begrudgingly agrees to help too.

Michael and Kendra go fix up some of the outdoor Christmas stuff…like a giant sleigh. And they see some initials in the ground-dated 1949. The plot thickens. She tells him she thinks there is a reason that ring went missing. I already know that.

Kendra asks about his ex-girlfriend. He opens up a little about what happened. They built a business together and got engaged and then she met someone new. And he didn’t still want to run the business together.

Paul calls and says he has some info about the ring! He found a letter from William to Carl, the jeweler about designing a ring. He had to hurry up and propose because Pearl’s parents were going to send her away. So he bought the ring instead of putting the money into the store.

They decorate the inside of the store and find one of Michael’s old homemade Christmas ornaments. She wonders why Pearl wouldn’t keep the ring if she was so sentimental. Hello, she sold it to help pay for the store. And yet somehow, they say they are still missing more pieces of the puzzle. Michael said he’s glad she found that ring. Her boss calls and needs that story! Kendra says all she has are some rough notes.

Back at the B&B, Kendra vents a little to her friend on video chat. Kendra talks a little about Michael. She has a sparkle in her eye when she talks about him apparently.

Kendra comes by the store later with more lights. The guy who put an offer on the store told them he would just tear the whole place down and put in…I swear he said Coffee Mats, but that makes no sense. So everyone is bummed about tha. Michael has all kind of great ideas to remodel the store after looking at the old blueprints. Kendra encourages him to talk to Scott about it. Michael really doesn’t want to overstep.

Well this is just the cutest little Hallmark town. Michael shows up that evening with his Grandpas old car. The exterior looks cute. Trish and Scott come out with hot chocolate. They are all so glad Kendra got the store all decorated. Kendra asks about old bank records. She is trying to figure out how he got the money to open the store after he bought the ring.

Scott and Trish notice that Michael looks happy. They encourage him to invite Kendra to the Christmas Eve dance. He likes her!

Michael gives Kendra a ride home. Kendra is about to give Michael more detail about her assignment when Michael interrupts. He sees a shooting star and wants her to make a wish. THEY KISS! Two movies in a weekend with an early kiss?! This really is a new Hallmark.

Trish tells Kendra that she couldn’t find any loans in William’s name. There is one other bank where she couldn’t find records though. Then they look through some old photos of the store. Kendra tells Michael to tell Scott about his ideas for heaven’s sake. Trish suggests doing a cookie exchange at the store the next day. Kendra offers to help Michael make Pearl’s favorite cookies-Peppermint Whoopie Pies. Those sound good.

They find the recipe. There is a note on the recipe from her mom. Basically her mom is like, I don’t approve of your marriage but everyone needs to know how to make Whoopie Pies.

Oh good. A baking montage. They break up the candy canes and…like none of them are broken. Like they basically show a completely intact candy cane. But they cheer for themselves anyway. She gets a text from her boss that says “GREAT NOTES ON MICHAEL” in all caps. Why, if she wasn’t planning to include the gossip, would she include details of his breakup in her notes? Come on, Kendra. They sit outside and wait for the cookies to bake. She asks why no one has bottled the scent of “baked goods.” Well, yes they have? Like every candle? Michael thinks she’s talking about perfume but I’m pretty sure they have that too. What is that spray realtors use? Or is that just a pretend thing they do on TV? Anyway, the scent of baked goods has indeed, been bottled and these two are dum dums.

Trish emails and says she found out that William DID get a loan and he only had 5 years to pay it off. They finally realize that they probably sold the ring. DUH.

Later, they are all at the cookie exchange. Trish thinks maybe the boys don’t want to sell the store.

They see a picture where Pearl wasn’t wearing the ring anymore. Things are really starting to line up.

Kendra’s boss calls and really wants her to focus on Michael’s break up in the story. She literally does not care about any of the rest of it. She’s just gotta get those click y’all!

Kendra and Michael rehash what they know. Kendra says they stopped seeing her wearing the ring in 1954 which would be when the loan was due. Then Michael blurts out that he doesn’t want to sell the store. Kendra asks if she can use his name in her story. He says he’s okay with it, but he doesn’t want it to be that obvious that he is that Michael Jones.

They head into a consignment store to see if the ring was sold there. The clerk calls her uncle to see if he recognizes it. He says, “You found it!” So yes, Pearl sold it to save William’s store. She came back later to buy it but it was already sold. THE END. Just kidding.

They head back to the store and Scott says he doesn’t want to sell anymore. He likes all Michael’s ideas. They decide to talk about the store ideas later. I think they hug. It’s nice. Then, Kendra gives the ring back to Michael. She says it should go back to the family. Well yeah she should have given it to him right away! And then he invites her to the Christmas Eve Dance! She heads back to the B&B to finish writing her article.

Her friend calls and asks if she’s doing the article she wants or the one that Linda wants. Sounds like she’s doing what she wants. Too bad Linda has all those notes. Paul’s wife comes in with some hot chocolate. Kendra has a nice revelation about her mom and her ring.

Kendra wakes up to see that Linda did exactly what I suspected. She totally rewrote the article to get that ad revenue y’all. She tries to explain what happened to Michael but he feels hurt. That is kind of understandable. She says this isn’t what she wanted and her boss rewrote the article. He doesn’t believe her and asks her to leave.

Kendra heads back to her office. She is upset and gives ol Linda a piece of her mind. Linda says she just “colored it up” a little. What’s the big deal? Linda tells her she truly just cares about ad space. Kendra has a little revelation about her job and quits on the spot!

Kendra calls Trish. Trish believes her about the article. Kendra asks if Trish will publish the real article in HER newspaper the next day. She agrees. Kendra gets to work doing some editing. She adds some of her own personal story to the article. Including that SHE LOVES MICHAEL. It sounds more like a diary entry at this point. Linda might have liked THAT.

Well dang, the revised/original article makes the FRONT PAGE of that town newspaper. Kenda says in the letter that she’ll be waiting for Michael at the Christmas Eve dance. This is like, a classic Hallmark set up.

So, Kendra is at the dance. Everyone is rooting for her. BUT, no sign of Michael so far. I love Trish’s dress! Then, Michael arrives. He tells Kendra that she looks beautiful. He apologizes for not believing her. And then he asks her to dance. Well dang. Michael is moving to Boston and starting a firm there. He plans to spend his weekends in Pine Grove though. Maybe she wants to come there on weekends too? He wants her to hold on to Pearl’s ring!! On a necklace. But shouldn’t we maybe offer that to Trish? They’ve known Kendra like 4 days? Nobody else seems to care though so the movie ends.

This movie was perfectly entertaining. Classic Hallmark story. Nice main characters, classic Hallmark town. So I liked it. It was fine. Let’s see how we did on our Checklist. Okay, 7/20. Not bad.

  1. Clumsy Meet Cute
  2. Christmas Festival
  3. Christmas Tree Lighting
  4. Christmas Baking
  5. Small shop in danger of going out of business
  6. Someone working a corporate job instead of chasing their dream
  7. A sassy best friend

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater

Okay! I was looking forward to this one. Aside from the VERY AGGRESSIVE name, it looked like a fun premise. And I love the lead actors. So let’s dive in to this puppy.

Maggie is a second grade teacher and is wearing a great sweater dress. School lets out for Christmas break. Her student, Reed hangs back to chit chat with Maggie and her daughter, Ellen, about winter break. He is missing his dad but excited about some kind of Christmas camp.

Ashley is going to be alone for Christmas. Her-ex husband will have her daughter for Christmas. They are maybe…walking home from school. They happen upon Lucas, who is wearing an outrageous ugly Christmas sweater. His son falls at the playground. Ashley steps in to help. Ooof. I love her jacket too. Mint. Joey, the little boy, is perfectly fine. It is much ado about nothing.

They go to the military base. It is CHRISTMAS CENTRAL. Oh this must be where the Christmas camp is. The have about 45 trees but the camp director needs a live one. Maggie offers to go get one. She is wearing another great sweater. I’m so pleased. You know I love a movie with great sweaters. This is going to be Maggie’s first Christmas without her daughter. She and her friend talk about ALL THE STUFF Maggie is going to do in the next two weeks. She does so much for others. Will she ever do anything for herself?

Maggie gets a tree…we don’t even see the selection. The tree lot helpers are all busy so Maggie decides to take the tree herself. Lucas is out jogging and Maggie totally knocks into him with her tree. She panics, legitimately thinking she killed him. Did he fall that hard though? He does seem out of it. She calls an ambulance. What a WASTE! Just load him up into your car, you silly goose.

Maggie decides to wait at the hospital and it turns out he broke his wrist. Maggie decides to stay until they track down his family. She apologizes to him while he’s out cold. She promises to apologize when he’s awake. A woman and the child from earlier arrive. Maggie thinks they are his wife and kid. But NO, it’s his sister-in-law. Oh dear. Lucas is supposed to leave tomorrow to go skiing in Aspen. That is not going to happen. I think he also has a concussion. Is this going to be an Overboard situation?

She chit chats with her friend at home. Maggie seems to be a bit of a hobby painter. Now we get the friend lecture-Maggie spends too much time on others, not herself. She also hasn’t “moved on” from her divorce. He has.

She goes back to see Lucas and brings him flowers. She apologizes again and says over and over how it was all her fault. Someone from her insurance company jumps out and hits her over the head with a mallet. He remembers her. Sounds like his trip is totally dunzo because he has a follow up appointment after Christmas so he can’t leave town!
Lucas is tired of sitting in his room so they go and chat outside in the courtyard. Maggie asks him about his ugly sweater. He tells her he was participating in an ugly sweater party. But, Christmas isn’t really his thing, which is why he wasn’t planning to stay. Then, a friend arrives from architecture school. He offers to let him stay at his house so he doesn’t have to spend all his money on a hotel. No, he likes his own space. And his pal Cam has…newborn twins? So Lucas is like, no really, thanks but no thanks. Hotels…blah. It’s all too expensive. Wait a minute, MAGGIE has a guest house! Wait, what is happening in the shots of Maggie over Lucas’s shoulder? They are so weird! Like a split screen! What’s up with that?

Oh, Maggie has ANOTHER great shirt. She fills her friend (Elizabeth) in on the latest development with Lucas. Maggie’s friend is both a Grade A stalker and a typical best friend. Oh, Maggie says the name of the movie.

Lucas arrives and gets himself all settled in. Maggie invites him over for dinner that night. She is quite overeager to be a good hostess. He doesn’t want to come over for dinner. Oh good. A Christmas grouchy grouch. Lucas’s brother and sister in law tell Maggie that he is pretty prickly. They stopped by to bring him groceries. Maggie seems to think he’s prickly because he’s mad about that whole knocking him out with a tree business.

Maggie comes by later with a plate for dinner…and an architecture magazine. The girls invite him to decorate the tree with them. They are really coming in hot. He turns them down.

The girls get the tree decorations all ready. Okay what is the deal with this house?! On an elementary teacher salary? Lucas stops by because the internet isn’t working. They rope him in to helping with the top of their tree because he’s tall. He asks if this tree is his nemesis. That’s great. They ask whether Joey tattled on him for falling. (He did). Maggie asks about his trip. (Postponed). Then Maggie shares that her daughter is spending Christmas with just her dad for the first time. Maggie is like, way cool about this whole arrangement and her step-mom and stuff. I find this all to be a pretty intense conversation considering he only asked them to fix the WiFi.

After Lucas helps with the lights, he sprints back to the guest house to watch his movie. That giant porch! Maggie gives him some unsolicited advice about getting out of his little funk. She tries to cajole him into volunteering with her tomorrow.

The next morning, Ellen’s dad and stepmom come to get her. Everyone is really adult and cool with each other. Then Lucas wanders out. Maggie is tearing up a little. Lucas invites her to breakfast. Oh dang she already ate. But what about second breakfast MAGGIE? He goes out with his pal, Cam instead. Lucas says it’s not bad over at Maggie’s. The pal talks about…”what happened in New York.” He got burned out and oh! Shannon called off the engagement. He is on sabbatical and he might want it to last forever. Or maybe do something else. Cam still loves architecture. But Lucas is pretty dang burned out. Burnt out?

Maggie fills Lucas in on the place where they volunteer. It’s a camp for kids whose parents are deployed. He finds the tree that he knocked into. OH NO. They changed the theme of the Christmas Eve party for children FIVE DAYS before the party. How dare they. Oh, the theme was Winter Wonderland. SO LAST YEAR YOU GUYS. The theme now is Gingerbread Houses. (Cryface emoji). Lucas helps reinforce a girl’s gingerbread house. Well, he is an architect. This is the third Hallmark movie THIS YEAR with an architect.

Maggie and Elizabeth bring up the title of the movie. Is this an old saying or not? I think… NOT.

Then, it is time for an organized snowball fight with the kids. Whoever is dryest wins! Good strategy. Lucas and Maggie are about to leave when he gets roped into building a giant gingerbread looking house for the Christmas Eve party. All the kids offer to help. He can’t say no.

That night, they strategize about the big gingerbread house. He comments on her paint supplies. She says she wants to turn that guest house into an art studio. He says she’s good. She should paint more. Okay, but don’t quit your job please. I just love that outdoor porch situation. Luke’s brother and sister-in-law stop by and Maggie gets invited to the ugly sweater party too. She says it sounds fun. I panic thinking about going to a party where I only know the hosts. Oh and it’s a white elephant gift exchange. That part is fun for sure. I love those.

Maggie is inside just staring at her tree, thinking about how it’s important that we do what we want to do, which is something Lucas said to her. She really wants to change how the tree is decorated. He offers to help her redecorate it.

Okay THIS HOUSE. I love it. There is no way she can afford it though. She must have gotten it in the divorce or something. She talks about how she did everything in her marriage while her ex-husband was growing his insurance company. And pretty soon, she and Ellen were second to the company. She always wanted to go to Paris. He tells her she should go! She says maybe when Ellen graduates. WHY! If you can afford that house, you can afford a trip to Paris. Then Lucas shared how he got into architecture. He kind of abruptly changes the subject to ask about her job though. Maggie loves her job. She asks him what brings him the most joy? He doesn’t know!

Another day, another great outfit. Maggie talks to Elizabeth about Lucas some more. Maggie is concerned that Lucas is just like her ex-husband.

Lucas brings some blueprint paper to the camp. He gets the kids’ input and starts drawing up the plans. Okay, now we’ve got a little montage situation. He isn’t too bad drawing with that cast. Reed wishes his dad could see the house. Lucas tells Maggie he’s worse than that tree…his nemesis… for being so self-focused when there are so many kids missing their parents at Christmas.

They head to a coffee shop with Elizabeth to strategize ideas. They suggest having the deployed parents MAKE GINGERBREAD HOUSES that represent where are. GREAT IDEA they all say. NO, it is not. I don’t have time to explain why. They smartly decide to meet with the Colonel on the base to see if that would be possible. She’s like, you guys, this is an idiotic idea. Oh, okay, only 5 families. That might not be too bad.

They head back to the…camp headquarters? Maggie heads out to do some shopping. Lucas gets a call from Aaron, at work. They want him to be the lead on some big new project. He’s not ready.

Maggie does some work at home. Oh, she is looking for an out of print book for Lucas. He arrives in his ugly sweater. Lucas waits for her on the couch flipping through a magazine. Okay, Maggie’s sweater is actually CUTE. Wait, is it a dress? With a great necklace. I for sure want it. Lucas wonders if it might look like they’re on a date. They quickly decide it’s not a date.

Okay THIS PARTY. Even introverted Ol Cal would love to sit on a coach out there and drink hot chocolate and not talk to anyone. If I see I dog, I might jump through my screen to participate for real. They can’t believe grouchy old Lucas came to the party willingly.

Lucas chats more with Cam (his name is Cam, right?) Lucas is like, my life is in New York you silly goose. His brother and sister in law think he’s doing everything because he likes Maggie. Maggie gets a sloth mug in the white elephant exchange. NOT BAD. Last year, I got an old shirt. Oh and now we have a video chat white elephant participant. Maggie gets an idea. She says they should do a live video of the deployed parents at the party with their gingerbread houses. Wait, isn’t that what they were doing? They both say they are too scared to ask the Colonel. THEY SHOULD BE.

They chat on their way home about the fun they had and Maggie missing her daughter. Blah, Blah, Blah. Lucas reminds her that they have to do things that bring them joy.

The next day, they head to chat with the Colonel again. She is going to try and help coordinate all their nonsense because she appreciates how much their doing to make Christmas special. Back at Christmas HQ, Lucas’s brother and Cam are helping. Lucas looks over to see Reed sitting alone. Reed is missing his dad. He coaxes him into helping build the big gingerbread house.

Ellen calls Maggie. She feels like she is missing so much. Maggie tries to give Ellen a pep talk to hang in there to stay with her dad. They get in the car and Lucas asks how she’s doing. Lucas wants to drive. He is taking her somewhere! We don’t know where it is. Looks like… a horse drawn carriage ride. They chit chat with Santa, the driver.

On the carriage ride, Maggie asks what Christmas was like for him. He said he would spend time with his ex fianc√© and then go back to work. Has only dated a little bit since. Her too. Oh, they like each other. She is enjoying spending the Christmas season with him. And he is even glad he’s not skiing. THEY KISSED. OMG.

Maggie fills Elizabeth in on the night before. So, now what? They don’t know what it means yet though. He still lives in New York. Maggie seems excited about it.

They do more work at the children’s center. Maggie says he’s doing architecture work he enjoys.

That night, Lucas stops by. She tells him she got the video chat all set up. Lucas has another surprise. AND a Christmas present too later. He brings her into the guest house and sees he’s set up her little studio. Oh, he organized everything for her. It must have been a disaster before. I think she said that earlier.

The next morning, Lucas is sitting on a park bench drinking coffee and Maggie spots him while she’s out running…no headphones…not sweating. They talk about him going back to New York. He still doesn’t know that he wants to go back to work there. That street is lined with so many Christmas trees.

Later Elizabeth and Maggie talk more about Lucas. Maggie thinks he’s going to go back to his old life in New York. Elizabeth tells her to tell Lucas off his feet. Then they need a good dress for the party.

OMG I love her dress. 10/10 for Maggie this movie. She says he looks nice but I didn’t realize he was ready to go. It’s party time. Covid me clutches her pearls about the buffet. The giant gingerbread house looks great though! Ellen shows up with her dad and stepmom. The Stepmom looks lovely. Maggie really appreciates them all coming. What a modern, mature crew.

I cannot believe all these deployed parents made gingerbread houses.

Maggie only overhears the part of Lucas’s conversation with his pal where he says he booked his flight. She misses the part where he says he’s hiring movers!! Lucas comes up to her and she is very cold to him. COME ON MAGGIE.

Maggie gets up and gives a little speech. Lucas comes up and speaks too. Then they show the livestream of all the parents share the gingerbread houses they all made. The kids all love it.

After the party, Lucas says he is going to get a ride back with his brother. Oh no. These crazy kids. Can’t they just figure it out? Maggie tells Elizabeth that he’s leaving. She was right. NO YOU WEREN’T, MAGGIE.

Lucas seems to wait around for her to get home. Then he gives up. In the morning, Maggie take her coffee outside. No Lucas. Ellen comes home and they open gifts. Then Lucas shows up! He has a gift. And he came to say goodbye. His doctor said he was cleared to fly. So…he has to leave on Christmas Day Night?! Lucas has a gift for Ellen. Oh! Maggie has a gift for him. They tell each other they can open their gifts later. He wants to tell her something but Ellen is still creeping at the door…HELLO ELLEN READ THE ROOM. Go Get a cookie or something!!

Ellen sits down and plays the piano. Finally, Maggie opens her gift from Lucas. It’s an ugly sweater and…tickets to PARIS. Ellen says she wishes he wasn’t leaving. Maggie says she is going to make a quick phone call. UH..YEAH YA BETTER. He doesn’t answer.

Cam drives Lucas to the airport. He asks why Lucas didn’t tell her how he feels. Because he’s a big dum dum. Cam tells Lucas to open his gift. It’s that book! Alright, now we’re cooking with oil. He tells Cam to stop the car. They’re going back home. I just notice Cam is wearing driving gloves. Lucas comes back! She is wearing the ugly sweater he got her. Now it all comes out. He tells her she misunderstood the whole conversation. UGH IDIOT. OMG YOU GUYS. They kiss again. She invites him on the trip to Paris. Well, that’s a little soon. He comes back out and gets his suitcase. That’s cute. And that’s it! We did it.

Okay. I loved this movie. It is probably in the running to be my favorite of the season. There was lots of funny dialogue and it was a fun twist on the classic Hallmark set up. Let’s see how we did. 9/20! Our most Hallmark movie yet.

  1. Workaholic who is normally too busy for Christmas
  3. Lead stranded in the small town
  4. Single Parent
  5. Christmas Party
  6. Snowball Fight
  7. Nonsense Drama
  8. Someone working in a corporate job instead of pursuing their dream
  9. A sassy and wise best friend
  10. Christmas montage

Holly & Ivy

So, I was really dreading this movie. The preview looked unbearably sad! I wasn’t sure I could get through it. And then we had some DVR issues where we recorded the wrong airing so I am behind on a movie I didn’t want to watch anyway! So here we are. Let’s dive in.

Our lead, Melody, shows up to a house she just bought. A little pup wanders out of another house. She meets her neighbor, Nina and her two daughters Holly and Ivy. The house is a fixer upper. BIG TIME. Melody’s car is stacked to the gills with books and she tells them she wants to be a librarian! She had a job and moved here for it and then they backed out…but she apparently couldn’t back out on the house at that point. The bank still loaned her money? With no income? What is this, 2007?

Melody looks around the big old house and puts her vision board up. Then she puts a few horrifying elves up on her mantle. Dang this house is old. She starts making a list of repairs.

Later, Melody goes to ALL the libraries in town…how many could there be? Anyway, she goes to all the libraries with her resume. No one is hiring. She walks into one last one and just loves the children’s area. A little girl approaches her with one of her favorite books. And then she recommends another book to the little girl. And then Ivy walks up. Apparently her mom is using the library as daycare. Melody meets the head librarian and tells her she will take any job the library has. The head librarian doesn’t have any openings. The librarian gives her some practical career advice instead. But that isn’t Melody’s dream!! Melody wants to do a program for free and then maybe get paid after that. But…they JUST SAID there isn’t any money? What difference will two weeks make!!! Come on, Melody.

Melody heads to the hardware store. We hear a couple dudes talking construction. Adam comes over and mansplains door knobs. Oh! He even admits he was doing it. Melody actually knows what she is doing, at least as far as door knobs go. Adam knows exactly the house she bought. He is a contractor.

Adam’s dad stops by. He is expanding the car dealership and wants his son, of course, to take over. Adam wants to remain a contractor and maybe more.

Melody gets home in time to help Nina get her tree off her car. Nina seems pretty worn out. Nina tells her about a book they looked all over town for. Melody has it! I love that these cute little girls love to read so much.

Later, Nina stops by Melody’s with a plate of food. They chat about how they both don’t do a lot of cooking. The girls made her little thank you cards. Nina stays for tea. No hot chocolate? Is this even a Christmas movie? At least they have Christmas cups. What is this room they’re in? I don’t see a fridge or any cabinets? It’s just a sink and a big gas fireplace? They chat a little about their background. Melody is cagey about her parents. Nina opens up about her mom. Also, 10/10 for both women’s sweaters. Nina kind of passes out or…collapses. They don’t really show it. Nina says she’s just worn out. Melody offers to help out with the girls and tries to resist doing it for money. Melody makes Nina make a doctor’s appointment.

Melody gets her makeup done by the girls. It’s actually not too bad. They decide to make some ornaments. That’s a fun idea. Oh and Melody has cute nails. They decide to take a little field trip to the hardware store. She runs into Adam and he remembers her. Adam is very nice to the girls. They chit chat while the girls run around in the hardware store unsupervised. Adam recommends a bakery that has the best hot chocolate. Oh, this might be the cutest date request I’ve seen yet. I love to see someone actually give someone their phone number too. REALITY.

Nina gets home. She just seems worn out. Now they are going to do a little dance. Nina has some more trouble. Nina opens up to Melody that she has had cancer before but had been clear for two years. She is pretty sure it’s back. Melody offers to do whatever she can to help. I think perhaps Holly overhears? I’m not tearing up already so don’t worry about that. The girls all eat dinner together. Melody notices something is up with Holly. She lets her come over and get more books. She shows her some of the projects she’s done. She shows Holly her vision board and explains the concept.

Oh I love Melody’s coat. How many coats can someone with no job have though? She heads to the library to do her kid program. Melody offers to keep volunteering. Then she has her hot chocolate date with Adam. She has all kinds of good ideas that probably cost a lot of money. Then they talk about her remodel. He offers to take a look. Honestly, how is she living in this house right now? All I saw was a sink and a stove in the…kitchen? And for real is she going to just fix this giant house up by herself? Electrical? Don’t you have to use professionals for some of that?

Then they have a nice moment at her house. Adam shares that building furniture is his passion but he’s very focused on his contracting business. Melody gives him TERRIBLE ADVICE. Oh, apparently, Melody did school smartly and has a nest egg so she can be a librarian. Okay, well, good for her then. But no, Adam should not quit his contracting job to build artisan furniture full time. Oh! They could be broke together living their dreams! NO YOU GUYS. But it is compelling to Adam so he asks her on another date.

Melody and the girls (and the dog) go look for trees. Ivy finds the perfect tree for Melody. Now we have a montage of decorating Melody’s tree. Oh and the dance! The living room looks much better. Nina asks about those horrifying elves. Melody shares that she was in foster care and those elves are from her first foster family. She lived with a family for five years and then they couldn’t afford to keep her. OOF that is heartbreaking. I really can’t believe she wouldn’t have been eligible for adoption before turning 5 either! I only know about our own experience fostering but oh, I hope that is not something that would happen.

Melody shares that there was a librarian that was a huge role model to her. Nina worries that her girls will end up in the system because they have no other family. Her cancer is back. Melody offers to take them. Nope, not crying. They talk a little more about it.

Melody looks at her vision board and it says “family” on it. So she decides to start looking for a job. I’M NOT CRYING. YOU’RE CRYING.

The next day, Melody has lots of good idea for the library. A giving tree, a book donation, just nonstop. This poor old woman is overwhelmed. I believe she is credited as “harried librarian.” Bless her heart. Adam calls her and wants to get together tonight. This is all going well.

Adam’s dad stops by his office. He has a good lead for a big construction job. But Adam is like, what about my artisan furniture? His dad is not having it. He actually gives him some good advice, but I don’t think we’re supposed to be happy about it.

Melody meets with a lawyer. It is a huge process to be their guardian. She is worried her house will not be suitable in time!

Now it’s time for her date with Adam. She says she needs his help getting her house up to code. Wait, is she like wanting to do the plumbing and electrical herself? Also, where are they? It’s cute. Adam is like, no don’t give up on your dream for those kids? He kind of like…gets mad about it. But then realizes that is kind of silly. He kind of shares that his own dream has to wait too. Oh, he needs a raincheck on the concert. All this dream crushing talk really bummed him out. Also, what concert? Melody listens to the four children singing and runs into the librarian. The kids singing are her grandkids. She wants to talk to Melody anyway. The library is going to be closed on Sunday now. Just like Chick-fil-A.

Adam rage plans a remodel on a house. Then he goes to his garage to work on his sled. The he calls Charlie Case…at the city. He wants to hear about the project their doing. We’re NOT supposed to be rooting for that right? We’re supposed to want the artisan furniture?

Melody talks to the librarian more. She doesn’t seem to understand how government funding works. As she goes to her car (with the windows down in WI) she must notice Adam’s car. She heads to that cute coffee shop to get a hot chocolate and a donut. Get it girl! She gets a call about an interview at a data management company. She heads to her car to write down the info and sees Adam go into the coffee shop with another girl!! She tries to like shove him off but he is like a very mature adult and apologizes and she is still short with him.

Later, the girls help her paint. They talk about whether cats or dogs are better. What a ridiculous discussion. Obviously, dogs. In a dark moment, Melody asks the girls what color they would want in a bedroom.

They all head to Kayla’s grandma’s house with tons of books. Where was Kayla? How did she get into the mix? Holly suggests they drive around and drop off books to people. She googles bookmobile and realizes there aren’t any in the area.

Melody talks over the idea with Nina. Her phone buzzes. They set her home inspection for the guardianship papers. They talk about Nina’s treatment options. Nina says she doesn’t want Melody to be her nurse. And Melody is like, no I will do anything for you. IT DOESN’T MAKE ME TEAR UP. This movie is DUMB. AHH. She wanted that big house to fill up with anyone who would be her family. IT’S NOT SAD IT’S DUMB.

Melody goes to her interview. She is filling in for someone who is on maternity leave. And it is a classmate of hers from school! She takes the job! She calls Nina to tell her the good news.

Then she goes to the lawyer and gets all the paperwork to her.

ANOTHER CUTE COAT. She talks to…who is that guy? The owner of the hardware store? Anyway, she talks about all the house stuff but doesn’t want Adam to help. But she continues to misunderstand Adam even after he explained his freak out to her.

Adam goes to a big Range Rover party. His parents tell him “they only want what’s best for him.” Girl, SAME! Please don’t throw it all away for artisan furniture.

Adam comes by to go sledding. Melody keeps trying to push Adam away. But he is not giving up! He gives her a nice speech. She finally agrees to go sledding. But she refuses his help. So he offers! She suggests they bring the girls. So they all go sledding but Nina doesn’t wear a coat or a hat! Oh and they’re all in jeans. Don’t these people understand sledding! Or winter! Or Wisconsin!

Later they all go to Adam’s garage/shop to see his woodwork. He made some ornaments for kids at the library. So, now they’re going to make some shelves for Melody. His dad shows up. He looks around the shop. He says the work is beautiful. Adam fills his dad in on Melody. He tells him about the Bookmobile. His dad says he came to see Adam’s workshop.

At Nina’s, Holly reads How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After the girls go to bed, Nina gives Melody a gift. It’s another elf because SHE IS PART OF THEIR FAMILY. NOT CRYING.

Melody is awoken to a whole bunch of people there to help with the house. MY NIGHTMARE. Melody’s too. He tells her to go get dressed and leave but she wants to help. Guys, this is more than a day of work, right? OH DANG. Adam is a cat person. I love it for Melody.

She and Nina chat and then Nina notices that all the workers are wearing elf hats. So that’s a nice little thing. Adam brings her back into the kitchen and then walks her through the rest of her house. It’s 100% up to code, he says! And he has one more present-a window bench! Childhood Cally’s dream. So then Adam’s parents show up. They ask if this is gift giving time. They say they have a tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve. They got her a big van! Adam is very surprised.

Now his parents apologize for pushing him to continue growing his successful business. OH! They both have a practical plan for their dreams though so I’m back on board.

Oh, now we’re at a court hearing. Oh, Nina did pass away that summer. So this is their adoption hearing. NOT CRYING SO DON’T ASK. THEIR ROOMS! And the dog is all grown up. The girls get her a frame for Christmas. Well Adam for heaven’s sake are you going to propose. Okay, good. He will! They give a nice toast to the girls’ mom with very cute cups. And now they do the dance. But I would have liked to see it! Come on. Okay yeah so that was definitely sad at all. Let’s see how we did on the Checklist. Not too bad. I might have stretched some of these to make them work. 7/20

  1. Single Parent
  2. Clumsy Meet-Cute
  3. Winter Athletics-Sledding
  4. Dramatic conflict (I feel Melody was a bit overdramatic)
  5. Both of them were trying to chase their dream jobs
  6. A wise best friend
  7. And a Christmas Montage

The 12th Date of Christmas

This was the other movie I was looking forward to this weekend. Tyler Hynes has become one of my favorite Hallmark men. I might have turned off the Mistletoe Secret had it not been for Tyler Hynes’ cardigans. And I genuinely loved Winter In Vail. If THAT had been a Christmas movie, I don’t know if I would have ever recovered.

The movie begins with Jennifer finishing up some cookies. She is hoping that she will earn a promotion at work by bribing her boss with baked goods. She says the job she wants is head game developer, so I naturally assume she works at a video game company. Spoiler alert: I am wrong. She’s baked just enough for her coworkers.

Meanwhile, Aiden is over at his sister’s house before work because a pipe under her sink is broken, along with a million other things in the house. He gets water or something all over his shirts so he goes upstairs to borrow his dad’s clothes. This means another year of Tyler Hynes rocking cardigans. Giddyup! I can’t find any pictures of it, but I have this memory of Tyler lounging in the hotel lobby eating breakfast wearing a floor length sweater in Mistletoe Secret. I’m certain.

So Jennifer gets to work to discover that the person who was supposed to put in a good word for her quit and sort of…burned every bridge on his way out. So now all those cookies she made will go to waste. Maybe she should make some cookie butter?

Her coworker, Annie gives her a little pep talk about just talking to their boss themselves. It is at this moment that I realize this entire company is a scavenger hunt game app. And well, honestly, THE AUDACITY!!! To pretend that this concept is enough to warrant this GIGANTIC multi-floor office space for this very niche-Chicago focused APP!!! This concept for employment is really up there with ridiculous “only in a Hallmark movie” professions. And so Jennifer wants to be the LEAD game designer? What in the world? Oh bless everyone’s little hearts. I am going to have to briefly suspend reality to get through the rest of this film. I’ll do it for Tyler. But let me say this, if I find out that what they are designing are not actual scavenger hunts, well, I’m going to write a strongly worded letter to Hallmark.

Downstairs, Aiden is talking to his work pal Bill. Bill is having a mini panic attack about the impending birth of his child. He does not have his head in the game, which is unfortunate because they have a BIG SCAVENGER HUNT meeting. Honestly. So Bill is…well he’s not doing his best…but he is kind of trying to keep himself together. So the presentation gets started but all of a sudden, Bill has to go. He is completely paralyzed by shock so Allister, his boss, has to kind of snap him out of it. Godspeed, Bill.

Meanwhile in Jen’s office, she talks through her draft email to her boss with a stuffed snowman. She decides she’s going to just talk to him in person. Get it, Girl! She heads upstairs at just the right time to pinch hit for poor Bill, who is likely wandering aimlessly on the sidewalk by now.

Wanda, who works at a fancy hotel in town, tells them what she is looking for in a scavenger hunt game to promote their hotel. So, to use this app, you need to have a game custom made for you. Or is the app just a component of this Scavenger Hunt game company? I think that’s right.

Aiden’s presentation goes right out the window and Jennifer just comes up with one good idea after another. Wanda takes notice. Aiden suggests “Winter Wonderland” as the theme. AIDEN! YOU IDIOT! That was the theme of every Hallmark movie LAST YEAR. Get it together. They ultimately decide that to promote the opening of the hotel, they will do a 12 Dates of Christmas Scavenger Hunt leading them to the hotel for a grand opening party. Or, maybe a soft opening party. They’ve got to come up with the whole concept by the end of the following day. So that all sounds like a scavenger hunt so far. So this is fine.

After the meeting, Allister gives Aiden a stern talking-to. He can’t be the grumpy old hermit crab he usually is. Aiden is like, I really only like Bill here at work. Allister is like, Aiden, Bill is gone. Probably forever. You have to get over him and work with someone new.

Jen is all ready to be right in Aiden’s face and talk about their game ideas. Aiden thinks it would be best if they check in with each other tomorrow.

Poor Jen is looking for anyone to connect with so later she tries to chat with her neighbor. He isn’t interested in chitchat either.

That night, Aiden is back at his sister, Shannon’s, making paper wreaths with his niece. It looks like Tyler is committed to making sweaters work for him again this year. We learn that Shannon’s husband is deployed. We also learn this house has been in their family for a long time and it is a huge hassle to deal with. Aiden reveals that he wants that same promotion Jennifer wants!!

Jen decides she is going to turn Aiden from an introverted hermit crab into an extroverted golden retriever by baking more cookies. Look, it might work on me, so it’s worth a shot. So, Jen is planning to make vanilla meltaways, which is, presumably a cookie of some sort. I have never heard of them, but I would very much like to try one. Jen calls her grandma for some advice on the cookies I think? Anyway, all that happens is the grandma tries to get her to move back home. She says everything she wants is back home in Iowa. Is there a Scavenger Hunt APP company in Iowa, grandma??!!!

In the morning, Jennifer the golden retriever comes in HOT. She brought coffee and homemade cookies to hopefully persuade Aiden to work together in the same room as opposed to working independently and having a check in at some point during the day. Because this is apparently the only thing either of them have to do.

They take a call from Wanda and learn they need to have their final ideas done to present to her by 2 pm! They’ve lost 3 hours! For some reason, this means leaving Aiden’s office to go work together in Jen’s office. I forgot to mention that Jen’s office is decorated more than any Hallmark office I’ve ever seen. She has mulling spices cooking in her office as well which is probably not even legal? And of course cookies. So, clearly, a lot of work business is happening in this space.

Aiden grumbles through his review of Jen’s ideas because it is clear she IS NOT a Chicago native. She is from that strange foreign land of Iowa and can’t possible put together a good list of essential Chicago stops. Honestly, the way they talk about Iowa in this movie makes me wonder if the writers meant for it to be Idaho, which would actually be quite far away from Chicago. Wouldn’t be the first time someone made that mistake. So now it’s Aiden’s turn to share his ideas and Jen doesn’t think a couple would like to eat onion rings on a date. SAYS WHO JEN!!!? Aiden takes offense to this and decides to finish up in his office. He does agree to take a cookie.

They spend the next few hours pretending this is a real job and that they are doing an honest day’s work. They arrive separately at the hotel for their meeting. Wanda is running late so they wander aimlessly around the hotel and get to know each other. Aiden talks about picking out Christmas trees with his family as a kid. Jen reminds Aiden that he’s a grumpy hermit crab. And she shares that she basically can’t do any work alone. She has to work in a group. Boy, these two crazy kids could NOT be more different. Will they ever learn to work together? Aiden does already seem to like her a little. He awkwardly spills that he doesn’t have girlfriend.

They head to the restaurant and are the only ones there. The chef asks if they’d like to see a wine list. Aiden checks his watch and says, well, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, am I right?! The chef really works overtime making assumptions about their relationship. Everyone is uncomfortable.

Aiden asks Jen how she got to Chicago. Instead of a normal response like-oh more job opportunities, or I applied for this job and got it so I moved! She gives this weird, rambling speech about how all of her family is still in Iowa and they all want her to move back and don’t believe she can “make it” in the big city. So basically, if she doesn’t get this promotion…after only working at this company for a year and a half, she will essentially be pressured by her family to give up and move back. They don’t understand that her dearest ambition is to design web based scavenger hunts for the people of Chicago. Perhaps they never will.

The chef returns with five small plates. I would probably burst into tears at this point. First, they had to wait until 2pm to eat lunch and now…surely they’re not expected to split those tiny plates of food? And with Wanda too? Oh, I hope they ate something before they came.

Wanda finally arrives. She approves of all but 4 clues so Aiden and Jennifer have a little more work to do. Wanda pulls Jen aside and gives her a nice girl power motivation speech. I appreciated it.

Jen is so psyched about scavenger hunts that she wants to just keep working into the night. Aiden is like, we can just do this tomorrow.

So Jen goes back to the office I think. She sees Allister eating some of the cookies she made and gets the courage to tell him she wants the Head Game person job. He says he is already considering 4 other people. Why should he add her to the mix? Good question. She stumbles through an answer, but then gets her courage up and gives a more eloquent speech. I zone out because it’s about her passion for scavenger hunting. I notice that everyone, including Jen, seems to think being from Iowa sets her back. I don’t understand. Anyway, Allister says he’ll add her name to the list.

The next morning, Aiden and Jen are just stumped over what to do for the 3 French Hens themed clue. Annie comes in with a cute little thank you gift basket to leave in the…break room area? Anyway, it gives them a good idea for their clue dilemma. They head to the…brewery? Or whatever it is that makes and sells this particular hen cider? When they arrive, they realize this place offers a “paint and sip” type class. You know, the type of event you see all over groupon? So this is great place to send people on their scavenger hunt. I would still really prefer that this scavenger hunt require people to find and collect items, but this is definitely closer than last year.

They decide to test out the painting activity to make sure it’s worth doing. Okay. Then of course, they have to take a selfie! So now they are very hungry and its lunch time. Aiden wants steak. For lunch, Aiden? Right around the corner, they find a place that sells that famous Chicago…coq au vin. They proceed to say “coq au vin” 70 more times. They decide to stop in and see if that would be a good stop on the hunt. They have a lovely lunch, and what do you know, this restaurant hosts cooking classes. And of course, the owner stops by. They think coq au vin would be too complicated for a couple to make together for a date night experience so they wonder if they have any other ideas for cooking classes for this particular event. They settle on a Yule Log, which I feel would be a bit tedious for a cooking class. Also, no one at Hallmark calls it a Yule log. They insist on calling it “Buche de Noel.” Whatever, I guess the restaurant is French. This chef is just as presumptuous about their relationship as the other chef. Aiden suggests they take a selfie at the end though and he puts his arm around Jen. Not very Keanu of him.

Jen brings the Yule Log home and Facetimes with her grandma again. Her grandma is kind of…um like rude? She just wants her to live in Iowa.

So that night, Jen and her roommate go to a fundraiser at Aiden’s niece’s school. How did this come about? Did I stop fast-forwarding through the commercials too late? Anyway they’re inexplicably at this event and Jen’s roommate Carly has no chill.

Shannon continues to fill Aiden in on all their house drama. The electrical work is going to cost 10K!!! At what point do they gut this thing and just start over? Jen comes over and meets Emma. Jen buys a wreath from Emma which is all it takes to win her over for life. Emma takes Jen to go buy other kids’ Christmas crafts.

Emma’s music teacher approaches Aiden and mentions that her sister, who is now a remodeling contractor, was a student of his dad’s and really liked him. IDEA! Shannon and Aiden decide to reach out to their dad’s students to get some help with the house. That evening, Jen tries to give her neighbor the wreath she bought but he doesn’t come to the door.

The next day, Aiden and Jen are scouting more locations and Jen talks about her love of ice skating on her grandma’s pond. Oh, now we have some carolers singing on the street. Aiden gets into the Christmas spirit at last. They decide to get hot chocolate and it turns out to be the best they’ve ever had. This gives them a good idea for their last clue. Wanda cancels their meeting which gives them the rest of the day free! Aiden decides to take Jen to a tree farm so she doesn’t have to get a tree from a dumb city lot.

Jen finds the tree and Aiden jokingly tells her to cut it down herself. She tells him to hold her purse. My husband usually stands next to my purse on the ground when I ask him to do that. Anyway, Jen knows the exact right way to cut the tree down. Great news. But feminism hasn’t completely won the day because Aiden still has to load it all up.

Inside the cute little tree shop, who do we see, but Jen’s neighbor. He is quite perky when he’s at the tree farm he owns. He just has a place in the city for…NO REASON? But he is just a chatty, happy guy out here at the tree farm. He even gives Jen his cell number. Jen invites Aiden over to help her decorate her tree. I swear he asks if there will be Moulson beer at her house. She says they’ll have eggnog so that’s the same.

Jen is wearing a great sweater. As soon as they finish decorating, Carla makes up an excuse to leave. But Aiden has to go too! He is going skating with his sister and niece. But he invites Jen to come along. She is STOKED. So, TWIST, everyone is good at ice skating, except poor Emma, who falls right on her butt trying to do a bunny hop. After they’re done skating, Jen pulls some cookies out of her purse for everyone. GREAT IDEA. Very solid planning. At this point, I ask my husband if he likes this movie and he says it’s “mildly entertaining” which is high praise.

Jen and Aiden come up with another idea for a clue. I thought they were done already. Aiden finally shares that he is gunning for the same promotion she is. Jen actually takes the news like a normal person and doesn’t freak out.

The next morning, Annie and Jen are both wearing great sweaters. Aiden brings JEN a coffee. They give their presentation to Wanda. Now, at this point, I realize that all of the participants are…in ONE DAY, expected to complete all of these clues. So this means they have to participate in the paint and sip. They have to ALL make a yule log, they have to buy coffee for a stranger…and a bunch of other things they didn’t even show. who’s expense? Because one cooking class would probably be at least $50 right? And the pain and sip is probably $20-30? And there’s just not enough hours in the day to cram in 12 dates all over Chicago? Guys, what am I missing?

No one asks these questions though and Wanda is just psyched out of her mind about this promotional activity. The CEO of their hotel chain wants to meet this marketing team. After Wanda leaves, Allister is just so excited. He asks Aiden to talk privately. Aiden tells Jen he thinks he is about to get offered the promotion. Jen is bummed, but gracious.

Allister actually gives him a DIFFERENT job…Wizard of…operations? I think? These quirky little tech companies. Allister says Jen is going to get the other promotion. Aiden goes down to give Jen the news but she’s gone home for the day. Aiden then gets a call from that contractor! She wants to meet.

When Jen gets home, she discovers that her grandma is there! What a surprise. And why do they make that woman wear those glasses? Why can’t they just make her Jen’s mom and not try and make her an old lady? So dumb. Her grandma gives her a handmade ornament that is meant to maybe symbolize that she is okay with her living in Chicago. Then Jen gets an idea to invite her neighbor over and play matchmaker for her grandma. He comes over and he and the grandma have a lovely little chat.

Aiden has a great meeting with the contactor. She is going to round up other alumni and help them out. Aiden calls Jen and she tells him that her grandma is there so she can’t watch the game play out at work. He makes sure she is still going to the party though.

The next day, Aiden does ALL the scavenger hunt activities with his niece. And Jen does all the activities with her grandma. They fit them all in in one day and didn’t spend all their money so I guess the joke is on me.

So, now it’s PARTY time. I see some people wearing jeans. And then Jen walks in in a very formal dress. And okay, that woman playing with the grandma should be playing her mom. She is too young to be her grandma.

Wanda gives a little speech and gives a special shout out to the Scavenger Hunt company. Afterwards, Allister approaches Jen and just blurts out “Congrats!” with no context. Oh, maybe he means on this project. He pulls her aside and tells her she got the promotion. YAY! And then he gives her a note from Aiden. So, real quick, no issues with this inter-office romance? Not against company policy or anything? Okay, just making sure.

So, the clue tells Jen he wants a 13th date on the roof. So that’s cute. They have a nice classic Hallmark movie and they kiss and live happily ever after while remaining work colleagues. Let’s see how we did on the Checklist.

  1. I’m going to call this a contest.
  2. Christmas Gala
  3. Christmas Baking
  4. Winter Athletics
  5. A sassy friend (she provides no advice)

Dang, only 5/20

Cranberry Christmas

I was really looking forward to this movie. And well, it did not disappoint. I am not going to have many notes. However, I found myself scratching my head numerous times at the notion of basing an entire festival around cranberries. Do we really want a week of only cranberry desserts? Are we really putting cranberry syrup in our coffee? Is that something we should be getting excited about? I’m not sure it’s enough to drive an entire Christmas festival with its own Tree Lighting and Christmas Dance. So, let’s get after it.

My husband planned to watch at least part of this movie. But, as the opening credits began, he announced that he already hated this movie and left the room.

Nikki Deloach is rocking bangs and I begin to wonder if bangs are back in? My sister texts me an old picture of me in bangs to remind me that, no, bangs are not back for me. But they sure work for Nikki, so you do you girlfriend. Her character, Dawn, is on an…Oprah (?) maybe Martha Stewart type show with a woman named Pam. They fight over who deserves to be crowned “Queen of Christmas.” Nobody wins. She is talking about Christmas crafting, her company Cranberry Lane, and her husband Gabe. Gabe isn’t there because he’s so busy at the farm and also, he doesn’t want to.

He IS watching it on TV though! His dad catches him and he pretends like he wasn’t watching. We get a little preview of their marriage trouble. Gabe really likes farming cranberries and Dawn likes capitalizing on the cutesy name to build a Home and Lifestyle brand. They decided to take time apart these past few months to see what they both want.

After the show, Dawn arrives at her sister’s house. We get a little background on the sister-she’s trying to date but keeps cancelling. I missed the backstory here so I don’t know if she’s divorced or widowed. Either way, there is zero mention of this former husband/father to her child. Lauren does not share her sister’s homemaking gene though, because apparently her cookies taste terrible. Lauren is rocking a casual braid and I get mad because I never look that cute in a braid. Alice gets a candy cane in exchange for making a cute Christmas card display which bums everyone out.

Dawn decides to sneak home to grab more clothes. Well, unfortunately for her, Gabe is home. The house is TOTALLY decorated for Christmas. If I was gone for 3 months, I can assure you, there would likely be very few Christmas decorations up upon my return. But Gabe did forget ONE CRUCIAL decoration: mistletoe. But that (alone apparently) seems to be her job.

Dawn heads to the Cranberry Festival to start setting up. She runs into her in-laws and they all seem very happy to see each other. So that’s nice. They have a booth for baked goods. Dawn’s grandma also sells jewelry. So we just have a family of little hustlers.

Then, Dawn runs into Gabe again. They are very surprised to see each other. He thought she would be too busy to plan the festival and she thought HE would be too busy. So, I want to make sure I understand. They decided to take a 3 month separation, knowing that separation would end at the beginning of the festival, and did not decide beforehand who would be responsible for what. Oh wait, I get it. THESE TWO HAVE COMMUNICATION ISSUES.

Alright so they will just do everything together. That will be fine, right? Then Dawn helps a volunteer get set up with the Christmas ornaments. Because you KNOW there’s gonna be a TREE LIGHTING y’all. Are we 6/6 on these movies having Christmas Tree Lightings? I think yes, we are. But PROBLEM. All the ornaments are inexplicably broken, which is a huge bummer because the town has been collecting them for years.

Then Pamela calls. She wonders if she might feature the Cranberry Festival on her show? She has time. And she really wants to feature Mr. and Mrs. Cranberry Lane working together, being happily married. So that should be no problem. Then we get perhaps the worst news of all. There will be NO frozen hot chocolate booth this year!!! What a disaster. Then she talks to Gabe about the possibility of the festival getting featured on Pam’s show. They decide that this is probably not the right time to do the show.

Then Gabe talks to his parents. They ask him how Dawn took…the news. What news? He tells them they said no to Pam’s show. They essentially call him an idiot. They convince him to allow Pam to do the show.

Later, Gabe shows up at Lauren’s to talk to Dawn. Dawn invites him in for hot chocolate. So that’s nice. Gabe surprises Dawn by saying they SHOULD do the show. It would be so nice for the town.

The next morning, Dawn is up early and we learn that she has stress decorated and baked. Lauren shares that she’s been trying to get their grandma to move in with her and her daughter. The grandma does not want to. Lauren thinks the grandma needs to be around people. She asks Dawn to talk their grandma into it.

Then Dawn heads to her own house to meet the camera crew. She notices a for sale sign next door. Well, that is interesting, isn’t it? The camera crew is ready to go and they want to start at the farm. They really want to focus on Gabe and Dawn together. As they wander through the farm Dawn says some nice things about Gabe. Gabe gives Dawn a backhanded compliment when he says she is the dreamer and he is the “Doer.” Kind of harsh, Tai!

We also get some background on their lives. They’ve known each other basically their entire lives. They got married ten years ago but were too busy to buy wedding rings? I guess Dawn wanted to design her own so they just didn’t get around to it? I don’t know about all that. Unless she’s just not a jewelry person.

Then they get roped in to doing a big family tree decorating event that night for the cameras. That sounds fun. Then we learn Dawn’s grandma has her own Instagram. I DOUBT IT.

Their family has a seemingly cute idea for their annual tree decorating evening. They make their own ornaments and use their old family ones too. Eh I am going to guess they are all pretty crafty so the ornaments probably look fine. But let me just say, that if this were a tradition in my family, our tree would be filled with ornaments that look like a 2nd grade art project. Dawn and her niece, Alice, are working their way through an advent calendar of Christmas activities. Tonight is sleepover night, which means Dawn gets to sleep on those hardwood floors right next to the tree. I wouldn’t even do that for my own children, let alone a niece or nephew.

As Gabe leaves, he chickens out telling Dawn the big important news.

The next morning, there is a flurry of activity at the festival. Lauren is still hounding Dawn to convince their grandma to move in with her. Gabe got the frozen hot chocolate booth back so Christmas is saved. And THEN PAMELA SHOWS UP. Hasn’t Dawn like, checked her phone at all today? So anyway, Pam just wanted to come to the festival and film some of her own stuff there because she doesn’t have any Christmas programming planned at all. So Pamela wants to film some of her show at their tree lighting. Dawn and Gabe look super uncomfortable but then Gabe decides to ask Pam to stay and do her show. OH and Pam showed up there with no hotel arrangements. So, Gabe offers to let Pam stay with THEM! SO not awkward.

In the morning, Dawn is up and ready to go and has made Pamela a cappuccino. SO FANCY. But she put…cranberry syrup in it. YUCK. Oh I would be so bummed that she ruined a perfectly good cappuccino. Remember, its peppermint mocha or its nothing. Then Pam wants to go see where the syrup is made.

Gabe is already out there making all kinds of disgusting cranberry things that no one would want-syrup, extracts, juice…okay well cranberry juice is fine I guess. But extract? What are you making with cranberry extract? Pam asks about their five and ten year plan and they have no plans. They just see what happens. Well guys, MAYBE THAT IS WHY YOUR MARRIAGE IS IN TROUBLE. But, they do say, they just want to end up sitting on rocking chairs together on their porch.

After Pam swipes some jelly, they decide to head to the festival. Grandma’s jewelry is just flying off the shelves. Gabe and his parents freak out a little about Pamela being there. Gabe still hasn’t found the “right time” to tell Dawn his NEWS.

Now it’s time for the tree lighting. Dawn’s big idea for this, in light of the broken ornaments, is to have all the festival attendees quickly make some ornaments to hang on the tree. They all audibly grown and head off to do this chore. But they’re making cran-lemonade out of broken ornaments as the old saying goes.

Finally, Gabe decides this is the appropriate place to tell Dawn that he put an offer on the property next door. Oh, and he doesn’t want to be part of the Cranberry Lane side of the business either. Dawn is very shocked. And they don’t really talk about it anymore.

Later, Gabe has another heart to heart with his dad. His dad is like, you honestly just need to work on your communication skills in general. Inside their house, Gabe and Dawn hug. I am surprised by this because they had been so awkward before. But now it seems like they’re just getting along again. Pam the third wheel comes down and interrupts their little moment. She’s decided she would like to stay for the whole festival. Gabe and Dawn are both very uncomfortable. Pam is like, oh yeah that is super inappropriate of me to invite myself to stay at your house for several more days. But then they are like, no… no….it’s fine. We definitely want you to stay. Pam is like, don’t have to tell me twice! I’ll go put all my stuff back in the drawers in your guest room.

Then Lauren drops Alice off to bake cookies. Alice does not care about any of Dawn’s baking tips. Then we learn the cookies at the festival’s cookie competition have to be cranberry inspired. Why don’t we just have a raisin festival for heaven’s shake. Only cranberry cookies? How disappointing.

Pamela doesn’t seem to mind because she is just pounding cookies at the festival. Gabe’s mom is so pleased. Gabe approaches Dawn to talk again. At the festival! So appropriate.

They have a nice, very mature conservation about their issues. This is surprising considering that their strategy thus far has been to just avoid difficult conversations. He apologizes for making a huge financial/business decision without her input. She says she wants to be part of his dreams.

Now it’s time for the winner of the sad cookie contest. Gabe’s mom wins with the only cranberry cookie flavor I’ve ever actually heard of. Her recipe will be featured on Pamela’s website! But what if Mary uses a recipe from Pinterest like everyone else on Earth? Mary has no chill when it comes to Pamela.

Later, Dawn makes cookie butter out of all the leftover cookie competition cookies. And well, that is A REALLY GREAT IDEA. I am definitely going to do that the next time I have too many cookies left over and don’t want to be forced to eat them before they go bad. Dawn’s grandma gives Dawn some really good advice about marriage. It is truly shocking though, that ten years in, along with running a business together, Dawn still expects things to be easy? Anyway, this conversation seems to make Dawn feel a lot better so that’s all that matters. And Dawn decides she doesn’t want to give up.

Dawn heads outside and finds Gabe. They end up chatting and strategizing about the potential expansion of their farm. it is a very lovely moment. He says he likes getting to be the dreamer in the relationship. He didn’t think they both could do that. That is a little sad.

They decide to skip the festival that day and watching Christmas movies. So that is nice. Gabe tears up at the end.

Pamela returns from the festival and is just having the time of her life. She pulls Dawn aside to tell her that she wants to create a new show with Dawn and Gabe on her network about Cranberry Lane. At this point, my dad pops in to the living room and gives some spot on marriage advice to Gabe and Dawn. They ignore it for now.

At the festival, people continue to go crazy for Dawn’s grandma’s jewelry. Dawn, of course, hasn’t told Gabe about the television program. Pam comes by and wonders why Dawn isn’t excited about the show. Dawn shares she really wants to prioritize her marriage. Pam is very understanding and shares that her career ended one of her relationships early on.

Then they have a little fun at the festival with all the little janky carnival games. Dawn is wearing a cute little conservative dress. Gabe and Dawn say they miss each other and take a little photo together.

Later, Gabe is outside whittling. I guess he is getting ready for smores. Again, I don’t think smores are a Christmas thing but I guess that’s my own personal problem.

Gabe tells Dawn that their offer was accepted. Dawn is genuinely very excited about it. They both say they want to do everything together. Then they kiss! But they’re married so it’s okay.

Okay so is this the same day? It’s the day of the Festival Dance I think. Pam pulls Dawn aside to ask if she’s made any decisions about the show. Pam says she needs an answer by tomorrow. She shares more about her regrets in life. After Dawn leaves, she makes a phone call.

Dawn comes home to find two rockers on their back porch. So that’s cute. Then they get all dressed up for the dance. Gabe says a lot of really nice things to Dawn and they head to the dance.

At the dance, Dawn tells Lauren she is going to turn down the show without talking to Gabe about it at all. She knows he would make her do it and then they would be in the same situation or worse! And she knows she’ll regret missing out on all the time with her family. Then Pam blabs to Gabe’s mom about the show idea. Mary immediately runs to Gabe and is like, why did you turn down the show! OOOH Boy. DRAMA.

So then Gabe pulls Dawn aside and is like so, what’s up GF?!! So Gabe of course doesn’t want her to give anything up for him. And he feels like maybe they are just growing apart. And Dawn is like, oh here we go again with this! And Pam creeps in the background and overhears. SO AWKWARD.

The next morning, Pam and Dawn are talking at Cranberry Lane HQ. Dawn is wearing a great green dress. Dawn tells Pam she is going to turn down the show. Pam tells Dawn she’s inspired her to spend Christmas with her family and hopefully reconnect with her long lost love!!

Dawn goes over to Lauren’s and finds her grandma. Grandma decided to move in with Lauren after all. Then she abruptly leaves to deliver a Christmas present. Dawn tells Lauren she doesn’t want to give up on Gabe.

Now it’s time for Grandma to give Gabe some good advice. She is just working overtime this movie!

So now it’s like Christmas Eve dinner maybe? Gabe’s parents arrive. And then Gabe arrives and he and Dawn go outside and talk. And then my husband starts yelling up from the laundry room asking me whether certain items can go in the dryer and at what temperature and I nearly throw my coffee mug at him to be quiet until the movie is over.

They have a really nice convo that definitely doesn’t make me tear up. Surprise, surprise, he has a new ring for her that he designed and her grandma made. It is a really pretty cranberry ring. He re-proposes to her and again, nobody tears up about any of this so it’s fine. Alice ruins the moment by telling them it’s time to eat.

Is this whole meal cranberry themed? How much cranberry can a person eat for heaven’s sake.

So this movie is still not over. The next morning, Dawn comes downstairs and can’t find Gabe. He’s sitting on their porch rockers freezing his buns off with that light little blanket. He has some news. INSTEAD OF TALKING TO DAWN FIRST, he pitched a different show idea to Pam. It would be about them expanding the farm on the new property. Luckily Dawn is thrilled. Then she sees he hung the mistletoe she made outside above the rockers and thus far it has not been damaged. They kiss and nobody learns any lessons about communicating any differently.

Okay so I loved this one. It will probably end up being one of my favorites of the season. Nikki Deloach is one of my faves and I loved Benjamin Ayres in Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas. All the characters were very fun and I liked the idea of Hallmark showing two people falling in love again after going through a difficult time. So, this is definitely worth a watch! Let’s see how it did on the checklist. Since we didn’t have two “new to each other” leads, we missed out on a lot of common tropes! Maybe that’s why it was so good. 4/20.

  1. Cranberry Festival
  2. Christmas Tree Lighting
  3. Christmas Baking
  4. A sassy and wise friend (Grandma!)

One Royal Holiday

Well we’re back with week 2 of Christmas movies. I had no expectations for this movie, but I was hoping it would be better than last year’s Royal Movie, which was straight up nonsense from T to B.

We begin with a cartoon intro… It makes no sense. There is no reason for it…other than, whimsy? I suppose? There is never a call back to this whatsoever. So that all fades away and we’re in a cute Christmas store. Our lead Anna, is getting all her Christmas shopping done and tells a complete stranger that she will be away from home for two weeks.

Next we see Prince James and Queen Gabriella at a fancy event. I think they are donating money to a hospital. The King was treated there a few years ago and they said he was treated very well so they are donating a lot of money.

At the hospital, Anna is finishing up a shift as a nurse. Her friend and coworker is like, you should go to the fundraiser. You heal everyone’s hearts but you need to heal your own. Yes, she did say that. Like 5 minutes in. Anna is like, no I won’t do that. I’ll just keep all my feelings bottled up inside and live like the WASP I was born to be. A patient’s spouse comes up to her with a big tin of Christmas popcorn as a thank you for being so nice to her husband. At home, she adds that popcorn tin to like 20 other popcorn tins she’s placed under her own tree. So, if gratitude is measured in Christmas popcorn tins, people are pretty grateful for ol Anna.

Anna decorated her apartment to the gills, including TWO Christmas trees. She has so much fun eating her popcorn that she falls out of her chair. It could happen to anyone, I suppose. Not me. But, other people I guess. My dog, for sure.

In the morning, Anna’s wearing a cute driving sweater. She calls her dad to let him know she’s on her way home. But she’s already tired so she decides to stop for coffee. I mean, great, but who needs that as an excuse to stop for coffee at the beginning of a road trip?

James and the Queen are headed out too. Queen Gabby hounds James about his Christmas Speech. He tells her he’s all set, THANKSSOMUCHMUM. She is cold in their car, so instead of asking their driver to turn up the heat, she asks if they can stop for tea. SO BRITISH; I TINY UNKNOWN EUROPEAN COUNTRY. The best their driver can do is “Donny’s Donuts.” The prince himself decides to run in and get their tea.

Anna is at the register and orders a Christmas Kruller…cruller? And guess what, it’s buy one get one free. Anna’s like, I only want one though? And I personally don’t understand. But, she graciously offers to give it to the person behind her in line…who is of course, Prince James. And he is like, horrified at the thought of eating an American donut. He says, well I only like the Galickwan Yule cake. And then describes the exact donut Anna is eating which, you guys IS NOT A KRULLER. It is basically a chocolate eclair. I even looked it up to make sure it wasn’t a regional thing. But a cruller is like an egg based twisty round donut and I really love them. She was eating something between a chocolate eclair and a Boston Cream style donut. So let’s just ALL stop calling it a cruller or a yule cake.

So then, James is like, oh I don’t take food from strangers. And Anna, I SWEAR to you, LICKS the frosting off her fingers and extends her hand to shake his. Even pre-covid, I would be clutching my pearls at this. Then James’ staff person comes in along with the Queen and we all learn their plane is grounded. Anna interjects herself into their convo and gets the Queen to try the donut. She has no qualms about taking food from unusually perky strangers and dives in. Guess what it tastes like? Galwickien chocolate donuts.

The royal crew continue to discuss their dilemma. They can’t go to the airport and they are going to find a hotel. Anna continues to eavesdrop and offers her family’s Inn in Cantberry…Canterberry? I didn’t quite catch it. It’s only an hour away! The Queen is super on board and just up for adventure apparently. James and Christopher, their lone staffer, are having mini panic attacks.

Their driver is apparently done for the day in light of the weather and is unwilling to drive them further… which is just NOT how it would work at all. That person would be like, a State Trooper and they would be in a vehicle meant to handle pretty inclement weather. They would be getting home to Galwick. But that would mean no one in this little universe would get to experience One Royal Holiday so here we are.

So Anna, unconcerned about the fact that these people seem VERY fancy and have British accents is like, just come along with me strangers! I’ll take you. The Queen is again, just up for anything and James and Christopher are certain they’re all about to be murdered. Christopher tries to announce that she’s talking to royalty but James prevents him from doing so. James tries to sit in the back with his mom and Christopher but there’s no room, so he has to sit up front.

Anna makes him hold a tin of popcorn on the drive. And James is pretty jumpy. He thinks she’s driving too fast and eventually, the popcorn spills everywhere when she hits a pothole. Anna is like, have you never sat in the front seat?

The Queen is just SO HERE for all of this. The town looks like a postcard. She’s just so pleased about the whole experience. Anna shares about their big Christmas Event-the Pajama Ball. Everyone in town gets together on Christmas Eve and wears their pajamas. So that’s kind of cute. James is horrified because, if I may be so bold, he is proving to be a bit of the stick in the mud.

Anna’s dad comes out to greet the crew. And it’s that guy from Heavyweights and…I feel like he was on Everybody Loves Raymond and a few other 90s sitcoms so I’m stoked he’s here. Christopher desperately wants to formally introduce the Queen and Prince but they shut him down again. They tell him they want to leave in the AM and then Christopher cannot chill out about them being royal and he lets it slip. Ed has no chill either and has a mini freak out. They continue to stand outside in the cold. Anna has inexplicably ducked inside. She comes back out without a jacket to chat some more…because that is where everyone wants to stand in the middle of winter. James relents and tells Anna they are royalty but they don’t want anyone else to know. She does NOT believe them. And you guys, after observing how they travel, I would actually not either. They have no security, no contingency plans for weather…they seem to be just bopping around, letting the wind take them. Finally Anna wants to talk to her dad inside. THESE POOR ROYALS continue to wait OUTSIDE in the COLD. For heaven’s sake can we move this whole thing indoors? Ed calms Anna down and they finally bring them inside.

James asks for a bellman for their things and Anna and Ed are like, oh that’s us. And James LETS ANNA carry their stuff in. Inside, James thinks better of that and carries his own luggage upstairs. Ed shows them all their rooms and lets them know when dinner starts. James wants a room service menu and we all have a good laugh about that. You silly fancy person.

Anna’s BFF and also the town mayor shows up. She walks Anna through all the town Christmas events. And it sounds like the Inn is Christmas Central. James comes down for a pillow menu. And well, look, I have stayed at some fancy hotels in my day. I have NEVER heard of a pillow menu. IS THAT A REAL THING? Anyway, Ed is like James, you are a silly goose, but I am going to write that idea down.

Sarah immediately recognizes the royals and becomes our third character with zero chill. Anna tells James he is very brave to sleep with whatever pillow is on the bed. I really appreciated that part. Sarah eyes Christopher and just when I thought she couldn’t BE any less chill, she just freaks all over again about how cute he is. He seemingly feels the same. He wants to talk with her about security. I don’t think anything related to the safety of the royals ever comes from that conversation.

James comes downstairs for dinner wearing…a zoot suit? There are some SERIOUS pinstripes happening. Anna is practicing with the town carolers. Anna is like, so dinner is “casual.” And James is like, this IS my casual. So, are pinstripes casual? I didn’t think so. This reminds of this time I went to visit my sister and I hadn’t changed my clothes from my flight. She said the restaurant we were going for dinner was casual so I didn’t need to change out of my leggings before we left. Except the guy sitting at the table next to us was WEARING A SUIT JACKET and I was in a workout top and leggings. So that was fun.

They have a sad little buffet set out for everyone. James is obviously only accustomed to fine dining. He wonders where his place card is. They have lobster mac and cheese though! So that should be fancy enough for ol James. They share they have both lost parents and Anna gives him some encouragement.

Then he gets an urgent call from the Prime Minister and that really stresses him out. The Queen, of course, is all in on this little buffet dinner and helps herself to a bread bowl. So we’ve got soup, bread bowls and lobster mac and cheese. So everyone will be in a nice food coma in no time. James is outside being a grump about his phone call. Anna tries to coax him back inside but he refuses.

The Queen loved her food and wants to thank the “Chef.” Duh, it’s cheese and bread? What’s not to like? Anyway, it’s just Diane, you silly goose. But Diane is just so flattered the Queen liked the food. It’s actually very sweet. And then we see that maybe Ed and Diane kind of like each other.

The next morning, Anna’s sweater is fine. I do hope to see some better ones this weekend. The royal crew comes down with all their luggage, only to learn they are totally snowed in. And the plows only plan to take care of main street since everyone can just walk there. THAT ADDS UP. James is pretty panicked about that but Anna has some helpful news. Now they can watch the Christmas parade! Isn’t that the silver lining here? Totally.

James says he’s a very busy business royal person and he has so much work to do. Anna is like Oh, what do royals do all day? James has no good answers but he does say they have elaborate picnics. JOKES.

It’s parade time! They load up toy donations on sleds to take to the parade. James has his “water proof” shoes on. Anna is like, girl you’re not going to make it in those. Apparently there is no winter in Galwick despite them saying…I think that it’s in Northern Europe? But he only packed impractical fancy clothes.

As they walk, everyone says hi to Anna and everyone thinks James is her boyfriend. How could they possibly make that mistake? When they get to their seats, Ed gets hot chocolate for everyone. They call it hot cocoa, but I am ignoring that. Apparently Ed was not getting hot chocolate for Anna and James though because they get their own. And then Anna wonders why a man in his thirties is not excited to see a man in a Santa costume.

After the parade, James admits Anna was right about his shoes. She suggests he takes a carriage ride home. All of a sudden, James LIFTS her up in to the carriage because he can’t ride alone…But wow. So many boundaries crossed…I don’t care how good looking you are…you may not attempt to lift me in a carriage. Speaking of good looking, I can’t believe I’ve made it this far without mentioning James’ hair. It is…something. It’s very long. And he either drenches it in hair product or it’s time to invest in some dry shampoo. Ultimately, I think I am undecided about it, but I definitely don’t want to touch it.

Anyway, Anna doesn’t seem to mind having her personal space violated in such a way…but we must remember she licked her hand before offering it to shake so her bubble must be smaller than mine. Once inside the carriage, she makes sure James’ feet are all tucked into a blanket so he doesn’t lose his toes. James notices that she likes to take care of people. He talks about his dad. She suggests he show more of his “real self” to his country in his speech.

Christopher and Sarah are walking arm and arm back to the Inn and James is certain that Christopher will make fun of him for getting a ride. Unfortunately, this must all take place in private. James and Christopher are long time best bros and now he works for the family. I’m sure that isn’t uncomfortable ever.

Inside, Anna suggests James wear some fuzzy Christmas socks. We learn they will likely be able to fly out tomorrow. GOOD. But Ed has some bad news about the pajama ball. The snow has destroyed the roof at the venue. It doesn’t sound like there are any other good spots in town. Sarah is TOTALLY up to speed about building codes, etc… That’s why she’s mayor! I think she campaigned on putting together a good Christmas festival and having all the building codes memorized. They wonder about having it at the Inn. I actually thought that’s where they were having it anyway…but they wonder if it will be big enough. But let’s put a pin in that, shall we? It’s time to decorate the Christmas Tree. The royals have never decorated one so Ed coaxes them into participating. They all sing Deck the Halls because it’s in the public domain and have a jolly good time.

The Queen tells them all about their royal events. They would have the kids in one room in their pajamas and the adults would all dress up. They wonder if maybe they shouldn’t do that this year? The kids could all be in that sad little dining room. How about the kids all go to bed for heaven’s sake.

Anna doesn’t like this idea though because it is not TRADITION. Her dad is like, actually yes it is but you were so exhausting as a child that your mom didn’t feel like dressing up on Christmas Eve. They don’t say this is a Balsam Hill tree, but they do use a remote to turn it on so…it might be?

Later, James is just helping himself to a snack in the kitchen. How far he’s come in just two short days. Anna is in cute jammies and has her hair all done. She calls him Captain Von Trap but girl, you’re basically dressed the same way. She suggests he have hot chocolate instead of the…sandwich? He was planning to make himself? Why not both Anna? Sheesh.

They go into the living room and he sits down. Then Anna makes it weird by making him close his eyes and asking if he trusts her…He’s like, well no. What are you doing? But he acquiesces. And…ALL SHE DOES IS RECLINE HIS SEAT FOR HIM. Help me, Rhonda. Surprisingly, he does not spill his hot chocolate all over himself as his seat reclines with his eyes closed.

Then they chat about the Pajama Ball. He thinks she would enjoy getting dressed up and that all the ladies in town probably have a dress they’ve been saving for this occasion. I…just doubt that. She says she is worried she will lose her connection to her mom if they change it. That is actually a fair point. He thinks she’ll feel even more connected to her mom if they change the format so Anna just pats him on the head.

The next morning, the ONLY street into town is closed so they are stuck AGAIN. James seems less annoyed today but they are missing Christmas responsibilities in Galwick. Anna is wearing a cute sweater and skirt today. Anna thinks they should do “Fun” things like having local kids go to the palace to decorate gingerbread houses. I…don’t have time for this. You know my feelings.

Despite putting on a skirt and tights, Anna’s plans for the day involve going up to their attic to see what kind of old Christmas decorations they have. She invites James along. The lighting in this attic scene is a little wild. It looks like someone is just shining a flashlight in James’ face. They decide they need MORE WREATHS and ribbon and head into town. James decides he wants to change first. So just to be clear-in the attic, he wears a suit. For the trip into town, he borrows Chis’s jeans, boots and sweater. Anna, after giving James all that grief last night, is wearing impractical heeled boots for their walk into town.

On their way to the store, she asks James to throw a snowball at her and she’ll hit it with a stick. SO FUN AND QUIRKY. Then they have a nice mini heart to heart and she says he should say all that stuff in his speech. He’s like, oh shoot I just forgot it all.

At the cute Christmas-y store, James eyes an ornament shaped like the Inn. Anna notices. They load up on wreaths and get to decorating. It is Hallmark movie worthy for sure. They have a mini moment and I am again distracted by James’ hair gel situation. They both reveal they have the same favorite Christmas song. Well, guess what, the Christmas Waltz is also MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SONG. So Anna, do we have to fight over James now or what? Then they dance to the Zooey Deschanel (I think?) version of that song in their head. I prefer the Harry Connick Jr. version, personally.

Poor old Ed ruins their moment. He gives Anna a LOOK. Ed is like Anna, you should think about yourself sometimes. Also, he found her mom’s old fancy dresses if she’d like to take a look!

Now it’s gingerbread house time. It looks like they’re using graham crackers though. While they work, they discover that James’ dad was at the same hospital where Anna works! But she doesn’t recognize the name he was admitted under. Hmm…

Anna gives James the ornament he spotted at the store as a prize for making a surprisingly good gingerbread house. He, pointlessly, majored in architecture in college. He says he’s never used his degree.

That night, the Queen proudly shared the Galwick Yule Cake with their little crew. She made two… surely the recipe makes more than that? Anyway, it looks just like a cheap messy √©clair with colored sprinkles on it. No offense to the Queen or anything.

In the morning, everyone is running around the Inn saying, there’s Black Ice! We can’t leave for another WHOLE DAY! And everyone is stoked about it. It’s kind of cute.

Sarah and Anna have a little heart to heart about making it work with men who live in Europe and are kind of stuck there.

That night, they have a candlelight singalong. This is really the only time we get to hear all these Broadway stars sing, which seems like a big waste.

Later, James wants to dance with Anna again. She’s like, it was weird before without any music and so no, I don’t want to do that again. They kind of start to talk about their feelings but James’ phone keeps buzzing! She’s like OMG JUST ANSWER IT ALREADY. So he takes it and it’s not good news. Even though NO ONE in town is supposed to know who they are, someone snapped a picture of James and Anna and posted it on the internet. So, even though it would be the middle of the night in Europe at that time, it’s all over the news in Galwick. This sole picture apparently suggests that James is shirking his royal duties at home to just “hang out” in the US. WHAT A CRISIS.

Anna’s like, okay see? So this is why it will never work out between us. And James is like, what? Okay well bye then.

The next morning, Anna hides in her room while they load up their cars, which is honestly pretty rude because she didn’t say goodbye to anyone else. So, the Queen comes up and says Anna will always be part of their family. Anna is like, whoa it’s a little soon for that isn’t it? And then the Queen says she’s left some nice dresses in her room for Diane to wear to the ball. So that is really nice. James looks up and sees Anna creeping at the window.

Later, Sarah is like, Anna, get over yourself. Christopher and I already have this all figured out even though I’m an elected official in this town and can’t move and he’s an employee of royalty and presumably can’t move either. Anyway, she’s going there for New Year’s Eve!

The Royals walk up to their castle which I think is somewhere near Mordor, judging by the scenery. James is still holding that little ornament. There’s only 10 minutes left now. I just don’t see how these two crazy kids are ever going to make it work. They are just TOO DIFFERENT.

The Queen and James get all set for their big speech. All of a sudden its 1940 and he’s giving a radio address. What in the world.

Back in Connecticut, everyone is bustling around getting ready for the Ball. Diane looks very nice in her new dress and she and Ed have a nice moment. As Anna is walking down to the event, she gets a text from Christopher with a link to James’ speech. It is basically all about Anna so she decides she needs to go straight to the airport or something to see him. I’m not totally sure even Anna knew what her plan would be.

Luckily for her though, James and the WHOLE CREW somehow made it back. I am thinking we may all be expected to do some mental gymnastics for this to make sense. But they’re there.

So she and James talk about wanting to make it all work. No details but love will probably be enough, right? Oh, I forgot to mention, back in Galwick, they found the King’s last speech and apparently he spent most of that speech talking about the hospital in Boston and his nurse, “AJ.” So James is like, that’s you right? But Anna still doesn’t remember his dad. She’s like, I would remember a King, even though they already told her he used a fake name. But then he shows her a picture of him and she was like, YES OKAY. I did sit with him a lot. This is a nice little moment because James gets to hear all the nice things his dad said about him to Anna.

They go inside and dance to the Christmas Waltz and this movie is still not over.

Later, they are opening presents or something and Anna gets everyone fuzzy socks. THANKSSOMUCH they all say. Okay, and here is where things get REALLY REALLY weird. I can barely recount it to you it’s so weird and dumb. I’ll try. James is like, I have a gift for you Anna. She opens the box and he says, they’re royal slippers. She is just…so overwhelmed by this gift for some reason… did I miss something? They’re like straight up house shoes. AND THEN HE PUTS THEM ON HER FEET FOR HER. Ugh. So weird. And she whispers, it’s a perfect fit. And I just immediately throw up. WHAT WAS THAT ALL ABOUT FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE. A weird homage to her being Cinderella on Broadway? Please help me understand. And that’s it! That’s how they end the movie. Ugh.

So this was your pretty standard bad Hallmark movie. It was MUCH BETTER than last year’s Royal movie. But, no part of the Royal story line made any sense whatsoever. It just doesn’t work. But the characters are all pretty dang likeable so even though this is not a good movie, I enjoyed watching it…and isn’t that the whole spirit of Hallmark Christmas Movies? So yeah, go ahead and fold some clothes or clean your kitchen while you watch this. Or put it on while you take down all your Halloween decor and put up your Christmas decorations. It’ll probably be in the bottom tier of my 2020 rankings though. Let’s rank it against our Checklist, shall we? Only 5/20!

  1. Lead stranded in a small town
  2. Clumsy meet cute
  3. Christmas Ball
  4. They kind of had a snowball fight…should I count this?
  5. A sassy and wise best friend.