Well, Niall, it’s the day before your big day! And lucky you! Your birthday landed on a Saturday! Hopefully with your schedule that’s still a relatively free day. What are your plans? I bet your “saint” of a wife and your two “bosses” are going to do something to make you feel special.

And to everyone else kind enough to tune in, WELCOME! And welcome to #FlashbackFriday, Niall Matter style. Obviously, we’re going to pinpoint a moment featuring Mr. Shane Cantrell. Given his disappearance, and the fact that some Hearties are rooting for a romance between Shane and Elizabeth, this may be an odd choice, maybe even a bit awkward. But the truth of the matter is that this scene is just too darn adorable to not highlight: when Shane asked Faith to dinner.

For starters, I love that Elizabeth gets involved in helping Philip and Faith bond; because let’s be honest, it’s always the kids of the widow or widower who need to REALLY be won over, right? Shane shows in the first two minutes of the episode how sensitive he is to the fact that Philip might not be ready. He won’t even ask Faith out for the very reason that he feels his son has been through enough. But Elizabeth, even though she’s feeling alone and downcast with Jack’s departure, cheerfully plays matchmaker. It’s Operation Get a Date, and it all starts with caterpillars. And good for Faith to not be a wimp concerning bugs. But I guess if a person can handle the blood and gore of nursing, creepy crawling things should be a breeze.

When they run into Shane, he has the perfect “Dad response”. Whoever wrote the line “Ah, is that for dinner?” had to have been a father. Then Philip starts singing Faith’s praises; then the ultimate “kids have no filter” moment: “ Are you going to ask her to dinner?” Shane does a really good job of handling… or trying to handle the very nerve-wracking silent moment or two. He tells Philip to go play with his friends. Usually, a happy-go-lucky boy would instantly say, “Okay,” and scoot. But a total turn of events, he innocently says, “But I want to hear what she says.”

Now, most adults would try to pass that off as childish antics, and talk over it. Or they might say how busy the other person is, and insist their son go play. But Shane has learned a thing or two recently about being a good father and having a real connection with his son. Not only that, I think he’s finally giving himself permission to move on, and an endorsement like that from Philip was just the right push. So Shane very sweetly says, “So do I.” And of course Faith, like any adorable woman who is totally smitten with a man, and wants to make a good impression on the family, plays along perfectly. She answers both of them, and replies, “She says ‘yes’!”

Such a great moment regardless of how future plot lines turn out. And such a great actor to watch and celebrate. Happy birthday, Niall! And Happy Weekend to all of you! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

         

Well, it’s Hump Day, Hearties! Wow, you’ve NEVER heard that one, have you? Halloween is getting closer, how are your costumes coming along? Our family is still a little up in the air, so I won’t reveal quite yet, but it’ll be good!

Now, let’s get to the guest of honor: our buddy, Niall. Given the impending holiday, I’ve got the project closest to Niall dressing up that I could get: Niall playing a character who is really somebody else! Sound confusing? Yeah, I was confused at first too. I am speaking of a SyFy series called Eureka. And let me tell you, it is SyFy to the MAX! I almost had to stop a couple of times because of all the “geek speak”, but I pushed through for a few reasons. One of them is Kavan Smith plays a robot cop, “RoboCop” if you will, (and he is AMAZING!); and another is our boy Niall. The basic premise is: a U.S. Marshall (played by another Hallmark favorite Colin Ferguson,) who accidentally drives into a secret, government-funded town called Eureka. This is where the smartest inventors EVER live, but they need a new sheriff; so he stays on to become that sheriff. It’s all about his adventures of being a very average guy dealing with a bunch of brainiacs.

Niall comes in after a few seasons as a bad-boy, hothead brainiac, and mixes everything up. However, I’ll be reviewing a literal mix up. But actually, this one is not his fault. Before I go into depth, I thought some fun pieces of trivia would be worth reading. First of all, Niall credits Colin Ferguson for mentoring him in acting, which I thought was really sweet. Not only that, but he is still good friends, and keeps in touch with his Eureka castmates. I really loved hearing that because I’m a sucker for the stories of co-stars being friends in real life.

This particular episode (Season 5 Episode 5 “Jack of All Trades”) really proves how close they all became. The beginning of the story is: through yet another in-work experiment gone wrong, poor Sheriff Jack Carter, (yes! We have a law enforcement officer named Jack! Go figure!), finds himself swapping bodies with several 3 different people in the town at random times. According to Colin Ferguson, the actors had ZERO prep time before they started filming this episode. They started filming at 11:00 am, directly after wrapping the previous episode the night before, (and probably using wee hours of the morning too.) Colin said all the impressions of each other were “after working with people for six years.” For him, Niall’s character Zane was the hardest. That makes sense because Niall came on later in the game, so those two hadn’t worked together for six years.

Here’s the interesting thing: Niall’s impression of Colin’s character Jack was SPOT ON! I thought he impersonated Jack the best. To me, that’s just another feather in his cap of how talented he is! Jack goes into Zane’s body while Zane is in the shower, and in walks Zane’s significant other, Jo. Awkward! Niall had Colin’s mannerisms down to a T: his nervous laugh, his eyes darting everywhere, the way he moved his hands…everything. I was totally convinced that I was watching Jack. Colin also did fantastic as Zane; I don’t know why he found it hard.

When they both figure out what is going on, Jack (in Zane’s body) calls Zane in Jack’s body. Basically, they just threaten each other not to touch one another’s girlfriends. “Jack” says, “You touch Allison, you’re a dead man.” Then “Zane” replies, “Yeah, well, that goes both ways, pal! And I got a gun!” (speaking about the Sheriff’s gun, now in his possession. Yikes!)

Probably their best interactions are when they’re dissing one another physically. “Jack” complains of how “bulky” he feels because Zane works out almost religiously. And at one point when “Zane” is mouthing off, “Jack” threatens to mess with Zane’s body: “I’m gonna pack down another bacon cheese scone!” Of course, body builder “Zane” panics, and literally turns the body profile to see the effects; all the while he’s yelling, “Another?! It’s gonna take me MONTHS to work that off!”

“Zane” gives it right back though. While driving the sheriff car, he’s got LOUD music playing, and can’t stop looking in the rear view mirror with the comment, “These wrinkles are DEEP!” But I saved my absolute favorite for last. While a few coworkers are trying to keep “Zane” calm, and it’s obviously not working, he shouts: “I’m half scarecrow, half Andy Griffith!” Yeah I laughed pretty hard at that one!

Now, as tempting as it might be to just go find this one amazing display of talent, don’t give in! It’s so much better if you watch the whole series and get to know the characters. Then watching them imitate each other is even funnier!

I hope your week is going well, and you’re staying warm. Down here it was 89o and cloudless on Sunday, then 45o and raining cats and dogs on Monday…and it’s still there. So we got winter overnight, and we’re trying to transition. Good luck with all you need to get done this week. I know it can be a struggle, but I believe in you! So keep your chin up! And watch one of Niall’s movies or TV shows to help celebrate his birthday week. Something like that always helps, right? This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

    Niall Matter as Zane Donovan — Photo by: Art Streiber/Syfy

         

Well, I would say, “Anyone want to venture a guess?”, but it’s a little obvious, given the title. Some of you are probably jumping up and down, (yes, YOU, Sarah!), some of you are probably raising an eyebrow, and the rest of you probably wonder if I’m off my rocker; Niall not being a permanent member of the cast and all. But I do have a few reasons. First of all, Niall played a VERY prominent character on WCTH in Season 4, (Shane Cantrell). Secondly, there have sure been several speculations that Shane might be coming back as a love interest for Elizabeth. I mean, he didn’t just disappear into the Black Hole of Hope Valley; there was a reason for his being gone. And Phillip adores Elizabeth, so who knows? Third, regardless of the WCTH connection, we LOVE watching him with Erin in the Father Christmas series, and I for one am sure looking forward to chapter 3! Last of all, I have a friendship to uphold, and I don’t think the relationship would survive me ignoring one of her favorites. (Love you, dearest!)

So let’s get to know Niall a little bit better. I was able to find a little bit more information on Niall than some of the others; not as much as Lori, but luckily, he doesn’t mind sharing personal information in interviews. Niall was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and grew up on his parents’ dairy farm. I’m pretty sure he lives in Vancouver now, but don’t quote me on that. He has 2 older brothers, the oldest of whom is named Trevor. They grew up working on the farm together, then he and Trevor became 3rd generation oil riggers.

As for his current family, he has a beautiful wife named Sara. The two of them eloped to Kauai, Hawaii in July of 2016. Together they have 2 little boys, whom Niall affectionately calls his “bosses”, at least when asked if he’ll be LIVE tweeting during the premiere of a new Hallmark movie of his. Good for him, putting family first! Don’t forget the furry members of the family too! He has a German Shepherd and Huskie. In view of the season, here’s a picture from Niall’s Twitter account on Halloween when he only had one child.

 

              

 

The third spotlight question, if you remember, is “What do you do for a living? What are your hobbies? What did you study in school?” Let me tell you, this guy has done SO MUCH! He’s basically 3 careers, and a boatload of hobbies. This is one busy man! Like I mentioned before, he worked for a long time on the dairy farm. In fact, his dad tried to bribe him away from film school by giving it to him. Yeah, didn’t happen. He attended Vancouver Film School. Unfortunately, that left him with “massive” school debt, and that’s when he started working on oil rigs.

Like Daniel Lissing, he didn’t REALLY get into acting until his mid-20’s, but Niall’s story is a bit more dramatic…okay, a LOT more dramatic. You already know he went to film school, and before that, he acted in high school. However, bills will be bills, so that’s where the rigs came in. But when he was about 25, he was in a serious accident on one of those rigs in Canada. He was almost crushed, and nearly lost his right leg. So…acting took the priority. His first big break was the Canadian series The Best Years. As luck would have it, he also got a role on the Canadian series Artic Air with none other than…drum roll please! Pascale Hutton! THAT would be fun to watch, huh?

He just filmed the Blockbuster Predator. He said in a Home and Family interview “My wife is a saint!” Apparently Predator reshoots were happening at the same time as the filming for Marrying Father Christmas, so those were some very long hours when she was basically a single mom. I bet he was super exhausted too!

As far as hobbies go, the big one started when he was 4, and it was to give him an excuse to tag along after his older brothers. That hobby is hockey; which is funny because I’ve seen him play a hockey player at least twice. Don’t think he had trouble getting into that character! In fact, if you’ve seen the Hallmark movie Frozen in Love, he plays a total bad boy hockey player. He admitted that that was totally him. He called himself “a bad boy” and “a scrapper”, admitted he has broken 3 knuckles in the right hand and his nose in various fights, and he doesn’t remember how many games he has been thrown out of. BAD BOY!

Speaking of bad boy, I’ll share one more piece of trivia I learned. Niall was driving through Oregon to get to the filming of the show Eureka, and he was going a little too fast. He ended up being arrested for speeding. Of course everything turned out alright because we’re enjoying him in so many different projects nowadays.

Well, I think that’s a very thorough introduction, especially given the lack of information I’ve had on other stars. And Niall’s birthday isn’t until Saturday, so we have lots of time to work up to it. Hope you had a great kick-off to your week, everybody! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

 

Photo credit: zimbio.com

 

          

          

Okay, Hearties, as promised! Let’s finish up Johannah’s Birthday Week! First, let me just say a big “heart”felt thank you to all of you who read the story yesterday. Your support means the world! I’ll be posting the whole story soon, so you can read it from start to finish. But I’m not telling you when, so keep your eyes peeled!

As for the Johannah Newmarch edition of #FlashbackFriday, I tried to pick a moment that was…a little less obvious. Do the words, “I adore meatloaf!” ring a bell? They’re from Season 4 Episode 8: Healing Heart. To set the stage – the railroad has just opened a commissary, so Abigail is considerably low on customers. Carson tries to get her to fire him, to which she refuses. So he does his part by handing out handbills for specials at the café. He just goes WAY above and beyond the call of duty, and drums up business by bringing a date! Lucky Molly! It’s funny to see Molly smitten, mostly because we’ve never seen it before. We’ve seen Florence and Dottie smitten, and we’ve seen Molly PRETEND to be smitten. But we’ve never actually seen her flirt with a man before now. From this we see that she has a very coy and revealing smile that makes her look incredibly silly; add to that half-closed dreamy eyes that make it impossible for her to look neutral; and she has no idea what to do with her hands after being asked out, so she just fans herself with a flimsy half-piece of paper.

I felt a little bad for Carson being so obviously ogled over the top of a teacup, then getting a VERY non-subtle hint from Dottie that Molly doesn’t like to “dine alone”. Nice one, Dottie! But Carson was so sweet to put his personal sadness aside, run with it, and ask Molly to dinner. He got business for the café, he saved Molly from an embarrassing situation, and he gave a lonely woman a lovely night out.

Molly does much better when she has time to prepare, because she was amazing on the date. She told Carson all about herself, but remembered to ask about him. When he says he doesn’t like to talk about himself, she’s intuitive enough to reply, “Most people who don’t like to talk about their past don’t because it’s painful. I’m guessing your heart got broken, and you’re still putting the pieces back together.” Then immediately after, she shows how classy and sensitive she is by assuring him he doesn’t have to talk about it, and takes the pressure off by telling him it’s okay for them to just be friends. She pays him a compliment too: calls him smart and charming. I think my favorite part though, was that Molly brushed aside the tense feelings and the drama with (in Abigail’s words,) “a little levity”. She says she’ll only be “just friends” if he’ll give her the meatloaf recipe. They have a nice chuckle, and go on with their dinner. Good going, Molly! (And speaking of levity, don’t miss the photo at the end for a little more. If you’ve seen Anything for Love also with Paul Greene, it’s a joke from there.) 

Well, that ties up Johannah’s birthday week with a nice little bow! Happy birthday once again, Johannah! You make a wonderful Molly, and we ADORE watching you! Come back Monday to find out who’s next! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

Photo credit: Crown Media
Artistic credit: Sarah Nitsch

 

         

            

Well, Hearties, it’s finally finished. Here is the last installment of A New Arrival. I know I was supposed to finish up Johannah’s week, but I seriously wondered if you all would come at me with pitchforks if I didn’t post this now. 😀 So, I have decided to post this now, then I will finish up Johannah’s birthday week with a special post tomorrow. Here you are: the 6th and final installment of A New Arrival.

 

 

“I have to know how all this happened. I got the official report from Mountie Headquarters, of course, but details were so scarce. Please…tell me everything.” Elizabeth’s eyes were pleading.

“Everything?” Nate asked warily.

“Everything,” she insisted. “My imagination is driving me crazy, even causing me nightmares. I need to know exactly what happened to my husband.”

“I don’t know if that’s more difficult to ask or answer, Mrs. Thornton. But if you can ask it, I’ll do my very best to answer. If I may, I’ll start with a little bit of my own history?”

Elizabeth indicated the need to keep walking, but also interest in what Nate had to say. So they talked as they walked. Nate was glad that the townsfolk had taken to staring from afar. He didn’t think he could bear eavesdroppers as his words got more personal. He was going to have a hard enough time getting them out to his audience of one.

“I grew up in the East; my family owns a very fine mercantile. We worked hard, and we had some rough times, but our lives were comfortable. We had it easier than most. When I was eight, I started working there with my father and brother after school; he’s two years older, you see. And by the time I was fifteen, I was working there full time. I had no other ambition for my life, so I just stayed on. I was always restless though, wanting to do something with my time. But it sure did make my father happy to see his sons running the family business together before he died.”

They had reached the schoolhouse, and gone inside. Elizabeth motioned for Nate to take a seat, then sat down in the desk in front of him. “Oh, I’m so sorry! How long since you’re father passed?”

“Two and a half years; right after my younger sister got married. At least he made it to the ceremony. Oh, she made a beautiful bride! And Joshua looked so sharp in his uniform.”

“Uniform?”

Nate reluctantly met her gaze. “My brother-in-law was a Mountie.”

Elizabeth’s voice filled with sad enlightenment. “Oh no…‘was’?”

“He was…he was killed in the line of duty…in the Northern Territories.”

Elizabeth hid her tearful gasp behind her hand. Nate almost hated to continue, but she’d asked for everything. “We got the telegram a month after Cynthia announced she was expecting.”

“Oh dear!” Elizabeth said, making a futile attempt to wipe her tears. “That’s why you were so affected by my pregnancy.”

Nate nodded. “That’s when I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to fight against those gangs, and others like them; to get justice for my family, and to make our world a safer place. So I joined up, along with a bunch of kids.”

“I thought you looked older than the average recruit,” Elizabeth commented as she offered a small smile.

“Yeah, just a little.” Nate smiled self-consciously, stalling the next bit of the story. Blowing out another forceful exhale, Nate leaned on his forearms on the desk, his tone reverent. “This is the difficult part: what happened to Cons-“ No need to be formal now, “to Jack.” Elizabeth imitated his deep breath, obviously preparing to hear details that every wife dreads hearing, but can’t live without knowing. For this reason, Nate chose his words carefully.

“You were right when you said he trusted me a great deal. Even though he was my superior officer, we formed a kind of kinship, given my age and all. When we were out on marches, we would often talk by the fire after we made camp. He even allowed me to call him Jack…in private, of course!” he hurried to add.

“Of course.”

Nate swallowed the lump forming in his throat. “Truth be told, I don’t remember everything that happened. A lot of it has been told to me. We were on a March in the mountains, on our way back to Fort Clay. I don’t know why it happened; maybe because Jack was shouting orders, maybe all the noise from our marching. Whatever the reason, a landslide started. I remember looking at the man next to me, Jacobs was his name, then we both looked at Jack just in front of us. Before either of us had time to react, I saw Jack come at us, then I felt a hard shove. I must have hit my shoulder pretty hard when I fell against a boulder, because I blacked out for a few seconds. When I came to, they were trying to dig him out. We eventually got him free, but by then it was…too late. I could tell he was bleeding on the inside. That’s when he told me where to find the picture, right next to his heart.”

Elizabeth put a hand to her heart as tears started to form again. But Nate pressed on.

“He made me promise to find you, and give you that drawing. He wanted you to know he loved you so much, and his last words to me were, “Tell her ‘Eternity’.” Does that mean anything in particular to you, ma’am?”

“A great deal,” Elizabeth replied quietly through her tears. “It was part of our wedding vows.”

At this, the tears Nate had been holding in couldn’t be held back any longer. They streamed down his cheeks as he whispered, “I’m so sorry! I’m ever so sorry!” He hung his head, and finally released the emotion stored in his soul since the incident. Elizabeth placed a comforting hand on his arm, and they sat together in a tearful and reverent silence. For Nate, it was a strange, yet peaceful relief to not have to grieve alone.

Finally, Elizabeth broke the spell, and asked the final piece of the puzzle. “So, how did you come to receive orders to this post?”

Nate shoved the moisture away from his eyes with the heel of his hand, and continued the story. “When we got back to Headquarters and gave our report, I knew I had to find my way here. So I put in an official request for the position then and there. The officer I handed it to said I had no hope in…well, suffice it to say, my chances were not very high. I tried to explain the situation, but he wouldn’t budge. Then Superintendent Collins came out. Apparently, he’d heard the whole thing, including my extenuating circumstances. He also told me how fond he was of Jack. He agreed that because of my age, I was probably capable of handling a town like Hope Valley on my own; but with my lack of experience, he thought a trial run was in order. He wrote a letter to Sheriff Avery telling him that I would be acting as his deputy, then gradually take over. It seemed the best way to do my job, and keep my promises.”

“Indeed it is. Indeed it is.” Elizabeth seemed lost in thought for a moment, then she shook herself, and stood. “Well, I really do need to prepare for my class tomorrow.” Nate followed suit, and Elizabeth warmly shook his hand. As much as it appears to the contrary, I do so appreciate everything you’ve told me today.”

“I’m just grateful I got to do it myself. I owed Jack at least that much. Thank you for being so gracious and understanding, Mrs. Thornton.”

Elizabeth put her other hand over their two clasped hands. “Constable Grant, with what Jack meant to you, and after all you’ve shared with me, I insist you call me Elizabeth.”

“Then please call me Nate. Goodbye, Elizabeth.”

“Goodbye, Nate.”

Their hands parted, and Nate put his hat on as he stepped down the stairs.

“Nate!” Elizabeth called, and he turned. “From everything I’ve heard, I believe Jack put his faith in the right man. It seems Hope Valley will be in very good hands.” She gave him a small but sincere smile, then walked back inside. Nate couldn’t help but smile as he made his way back to the jail. The town looked the same as when he first arrived, but the air felt different now. He offered up a quick prayer of gratitude that everything had gone as smoothly as it had, and that his spirit no longer bore that heavy burden.

Rusty was waiting for Nate right where he’d left him. Nate patted his back affectionately, and Rusty nickered happily, as if sensing the success of the venture. “Well, boy, you still haven’t lost your magic touch.” Nate sighed in relief. Maybe he could make it here after all.

 

 

Thanks so much for taking this journey with me! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!