Happy New Year again, Hearties; especially since this is the last post before New Year’s Eve or Day. What are your New Year’s resolutions…besides to be patient, to be kind; not to envy, but to trust? One of my biggest ones for the coming year is to do some serious work on the novel Sarah and I are writing. It’s certainly not going to write itself. 😀

So, on to Part 2 of The Greatest Christmas Blessing. It’s a #FlashbackFriday of sorts…all the way back to Tuesday! I was told that my lack of words about Mr. Henry Gowen left some, (namely #TeamHenrigail) wanting. So I will now devote a paragraph to the ever-evolving Gowen; I just can’t make any promises about the length. 😀

I thought the parts with Henry were very sweet. There I said it. My mom commented, “Is he a full-on good guy now?” 😀 I certainly seems to be leaning that way. But seriously, it was very heartwarming. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him interact with a child one-on-one, but who could resist Millie’s sweet face? Hickam certainly couldn’t, beckoning her in from the cold. He even figured out that she wanted the book read to her. Then Henry took it from there, and started reading. I certainly wonder what the sisters’ father looked like if Henry bears such a strong resemblance. I admit, I wondered if Millie was going to get shooed away. However, my crusty shell against Gowen got a big hole poked in it when he told Millie that his Christmas wish, (despite “not having one” in the beginning,) was that she would read to him. I saw a fan theory wondering if he might switch over to When Hope Calls with the connection he had with Millie. It’s an interesting question; one I’m sure we’ll find the answer to very soon.

Let’s move to a few of the men, specifically Carson and Lee. Was that a cute technique to get Millie to make noise, or what? I did wonder about his question of “Who moved the barn?” upon awaking, but it sure did work. And when he gave Elizabeth his scarf so she wouldn’t “catch a chill while…following orders”? I may or may not have let out an audible “aww”. That’s when my mom spoke up again, announcing that she thinks Carson and Elizabeth should end up together. Well, thank you, Mom! Only time will tell.

Then there’s Lee. Oh, Lee. What a sweetheart he is! His all-encompassing laughter at the first look of Jesse in his suit made me pick up the remote to rewind it, and watch it again. But the best part was when the 3 not-so-wise men are searching through the snow for the 3 lost (and laboring) women. His concern is so touching, and when he sees the baby! Oh my gosh! The other 2 are cute, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Lee! His joy was so full! You know he’s beyond excited to be that child’s uncle, or godfather, or whatever role he’s needed to fill.

Oh yeah, the baby…the actual Christmas blessing. Did you have a guess or an opinion as to the gender? I honestly didn’t know which way they would go; I thought it could go either direction. But IT’S A BOY! And we all know there’s no question as to what his name is! It’s just a crying shame Elizabeth had to go into labor in the car, then walk through the woods. But it all turned out with little Jack coming into the world.

The highlight of the feature: the matching pajamas for the orphans! I love how the Christmas specials bring out the humanity and the goodness in everyone in town. To watch how the children of Hope Valley took the orphaned children under their wings to make sure they had an enjoyable holiday; my spirit soared. And Opal took a giant leap! No more Brownie! How is Hope Valley going to survive?! But she knew he would make Millie’s Christmas. She’s really growing up! They all are! Can’t wait to see how they’ll grow and learn in Season 6.

Have a fantastic New Year, my dear Hearties! Snuggle up with some hot chocolate and a warm blanket while you write those resolutions. And most importantly, ENJOY! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

Happy New Year, Hearties! Did you have a nice Christmas? I must, once again, apologize for my lack of posts. To quote Jessica Lowndes’s character, Layla, in December Bride: “I haven’t had a second to breathe.” Creatures have DEFINITELY been stirring in and out of the house throughout the entire holiday, and it ain’t over yet! So today will be the makeup for yesterday, and hopefully, (fingers crossed!) I will have another post for you tomorrow.

So…The Greatest Christmas Blessing! Wow! What a special! The best part for me is perfectly summed up in a tweet I saw from Papa Heartie, Brian Bird, himself: “Jack will never be forgotten in Hope Valley.” I actually counted the references to our dearly departed man in red serge, verbal and nonverbal. There were 8. In my mind, it was such a lovely balance. They didn’t ignore Jack’s existence, and let him slip into the Black Hole; but they didn’t harp on his absence, and keep us in tears the entire time. Here are my top 3 favorite Jack moments in ascending order:
3) In the very beginning, the first thing we see is an arrangement of photographs of Jack; some alone, some with Elizabeth. The camera pans across them very slowly until Elizabeth appears in the frame reading a story to the baby. It set the tone for the whole show!
2) When Abigail, Rosemary, Florence, and Molly are finished decorating the baby’s room, Elizabeth is overcome with emotion. She is able to talk enough to say that the room is only missing one thing. When she walks away, the women start fretting, wondering what they could have possibly overlooked. She returns with something at her side, but we don’t catch a glimpse until she’s set it down; it’s a picture of Daddy. :’( Then the room is declared perfect.
1) In Benson Hills, after Elizabeth has bought the pram and is waiting for Abigail and Rosemary to pick her up, she sees a father and daughter together. She starts talking to Jack, saying how much she misses him, and all the little things that left with him. Suddenly, the father says, “Take a walk with me?” Elizabeth gasps in surprise, then smiles contentedly. You can tell she received her answer.

Okay, can we talk about Erin for a moment? Lori insisted she needed to be nominated for an Emmy in the final episode of Season 5 because of her amazing performance as the grief-stricken widow. While I agree with that 100%, I think she needs a nomination for Christmas Blessing. She’s never been pregnant a day in her life, and she pulled it off like a pro! I’ve been pregnant 4 times, so I know! I realize the pregnant belly helped, but still! She had the waddle mastered like a champ, the fatigue down to a science, and the aching…well let’s just say I was reaching for my back a lot! And that scene with the pickles and Ned. 😀 I laughed so hard at Elizabeth’s vital decision about whether or not to take the extra jar. As for the birth, let’s leave the labor as is, shall we?

So, Jesse…he’s moving up in the ranks of Hope Valley men, isn’t he? Not only does he pick up the stranded orphans WHILE he’s out cutting down the town’s Wishing Tree, but he’s willing to subject himself to becoming a human puzzle just to go to a BALLET with Clara? What a guy! He used to be out for number 1 and no one else, but he’s really progressed into a wonderful human being. And his hair was amazing to boot! Keep that haircut, Aren! This Heartie is a super fan! But we can’t mention Jesse’s tux without talking about the other men of Hope Valley. In true WCTH fashion, they all pull together to help Jesse go to the big event without being embarrassed. Even though the pants were lent out a bit reluctantly, (poor Mike getting the dirty job of asking Bill!), the puzzle was eventually completed. And Clara! I’ve only got 3 words for her: OOH LA LA! Did she make that dress?

Speaking of Bill, didn’t he and Abigail make quite the team? Say what you like about the characters romantically, but they play off of each other so incredibly. One of the best parts is when Abigail is panicking about the availability of desserts for the Christmas Eve feast, and it is only heightened when Bill says his mother’s figgy pudding is all she needs. When she…”expresses concern”, he gives her such a slow glare, I was momentarily holding my breath.

Well, my extended family just rushed in, so sadly, I must depart before I’m through. If I don’t do Part 2 tomorrow, I promise…to do my best…to do it next week! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

Merry Christmas, Hearties! Once again, I apologize for the long hiatus. With Christmas so close, and me recovering from surgery and getting moving again, things have been pretty hectic. But I couldn’t desert one of my favorite groups of people, could I? Wow! Can you believe that by this time next week, most of us will have already seen When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing? The season passes SO fast when you’re an adult. It’s almost not fair, is it? I’m sure the special will feel far too short too, but I’m sure we’ll savor every moment. And of course, I will be posting a special #WonderWednesday blog to talk about what we will have just seen. I don’t think I’d be able to compose a decent paragraph, much less a whole post, and then get it posted that very night. 😀

Now! Let’s get to today’s #WonderWednesday movie. You might be a little surprised to see that it’s actually not a Hallmark. GASP! Please don’t pass out from the shock! But I found a little gem on Lifetime, which I hardly ever watch. I even had some doubts about tuning in to this one, but it starred our very own Niall Matter, so I had to give it the old college try…and I rather enjoyed it. And if you are a connoisseur of the two Hallmark channels, you’ll see several familiar faces.

It’s called Christmas Pen Pals, in the spirit of The Shop Around the Corner (Jimmy Stewart). Hannah, an overworked way-too-into-technology dating app designer, returns home for Christmas desperately seeking inspiration for her rapidly-failing project. Her father even remarks, “I’m surprised you know how to breathe without [the Internet].” When dear old Dad doesn’t have Wi-Fi at home, she goes to a café hoping for a signal. Not only does she discover a lack of connection, but she also discovers that the high school and part of college boyfriend, Sam, (Niall) owns said coffee shop.

The town is restarting a long-forgotten tradition (as in pre-WWII) called Christmas Cupid. All participants fill out a sheet, then Matchmaker Martha (the town postmaster) pairs up pen pals to help them find a “deep friendship, or better yet, love”. The letters are completely anonymous until the big reveal on Christmas Eve. Hannah wants her father to join so he can finally find companionship so long after the death of her mother, but he says he’ll only join if she does. She reluctantly agrees.

I’m going to have to cut this short…motherhood calls. But the best part about the whole thing is hand-written is mandatory; no computers or cell phones allowed. There’s something about writing your thoughts out longhand. That’s how I do every first draft of every story I write. My mind comes alive, and the thoughts just pour onto the pages. And in this movie, the writers discover just as much about themselves as they do about their partners. You should have seen Hannah’s reaction every time the mail came in. Miss Modern Technology could hardly wait to rip open an envelope. Slowing down can be just the ticket.

If you can find it before the season is over, Christmas Pen Pals is VERY worth watching. Sorry to end so abruptly, but I’ll see you Friday. This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

        

Wow! That title has quite the double meaning for me today. So Hearties, I know I have “some s’plainin’ to do”. I am very sorry to not have posted on Friday, but I do have a very good reason. I had to go to the hospital on Saturday. The test results came back with a rather large hernia, and I had an operation on Sunday afternoon. I’m home now, recuperating and resting comfortably, feeling so very blessed that it wasn’t something worse, and that the hernia didn’t become strangulated; otherwise I don’t know where I’d be at this point.

Maybe that’s why my choice for today’s #WonderWednesday resonates so much with me. It is Once Upon a Christmas Miracle. It spoke to my soul even before I went to the ER, then it just became doubly meaningful. The connection to WCTH is miniscule, it’s true; Steve Bacic, (Mr. Spurlock the Pinkerton) plays Heather’s (the patient) cousin. But his name is Jack, so that counts for something, right? It’s not like any other Hallmark movie uses that name. 😀

Probably one of the best parts about this movie is that it was inspired by a true story. After watching it and how the events unfolded, I couldn’t help but think, “How could these two NOT fall in love?!” There’s no bond that could surpass that! Then I just started wondering which parts were true, and which were written with artistic license. Did it really happen at Christmas, or did they place it in that setting for extra inspiration and feeling? Fun to speculate, but it’s also nice to just sit back and enjoy this love story for the ages!

Heather is a nursing student who finds out she needs a liver transplant, and come to find out, a living donor is the best option. Heather didn’t want to get checked out until after exams. (That was me. I told my husband I’d get checked out after Christmas. He wisely told me not a chance!) Chris is an honorably discharged Marine spending his first Christmas at home in 5 years. He works at Jack’s garden center, and overhears Jack and Ashley (Heather’s sister) discussing the imminent need to find a match for Heather. He goes and gets screened for a total stranger out of the goodness of his heart, and it turns out he IS a match. He literally saves her life!

And as if THAT wasn’t enough, Chris then instigates and heads up a Christmas Eve fundraiser so Heather can pay her medical bills, and return to nursing school. He even decides to make it a Christmas fundraiser because, “I don’t think I’ve met someone who loves Christmas more than Heather.” Well, he’s never met me, but man! What a guy!!! That’s actually one of my favorite parts, the prep. Chris is on the phone with Jack, then there’s a knock at the door. He asks Jack if it’s him. “You know Heather’s going to be here, [open door to see Heather and drops phone down while words fade,] any seco…” Brett Dalton delivers it perfectly. It sent me into a fit of giggles.

That’s got to be the best part about this film, (besides the romance, of course,) is how they find the humorous moments in an otherwise solemn plot. We always need a break from drama, and they do that very well. I can’t possibly name them all, but here are some highlights:

1) After Chris reveals they’re a match, Heather is obviously very emotional. She reaches across the table to give him a very tearful hug. He reciprocates, then casually looks at the menu, and asks, “So, what’s good here? Then he talks about his great love for Mexican food. She smiles knowingly, and plays along.

2) When they’re being prepped for surgery, Chris says, “Nice gurney,” as if he’s flirting with Heather. Good way to lighten the mood, especially because she panics, and tries to back out. “What was I thinking? How can I let you do this for me?” He calms her with, “How can you not?” They squeeze hands, and it goes from light, to intense, to tender.

3) The entire conversation between them after the operation. They
• “What can I say, I leave ’em in stitches.”
• “You better get out of here. They’re coming for ya!”
• “I’ll be here all week.”

4) After they kiss for the first time, he leans back, and asks, “Does this mean I’m staying for dinner?”
So lots of fun amidst the sadness. In addition to the fun moments, there are just lots of great moments! Here’s a great one: During recovery, they watch a Christmas movie. She very expertly informs him, “This is the part where he’s confused about falling in love with her.” It’s so quick, but Chris looks down, the words obviously penetrating him personally.

The moment I started crying was when she walks into the fundraiser, everyone starts applauding, and he makes his way through the crowd to her. And when they dance together, he tries to tell her he is hesitant to take a new job because he doesn’t want to leave her. The vulnerability in his eyes when he says, “Things are a little more complicated now, aren’t they?” Can I get an “Awww!”?

Of course the crowning moment is the very end, which is where the movie started may I add, with Chris proposing. He gets out of a curtained horse-drawn carriage to do it too! Heather does a voiceover, and says something really profound. “He was my Christmas angel, and I was his.” That is really important to remember: He saved her life, yes. And she gave him purpose, as well as someone to love. She saved him too.

And to wrap it all up in a beautiful Christmas bow, I’ll tell you what my 4-year-old said. She watched some of it with me. When she saw the picture of the real Chris and Heather and realized it was a true story, she said, “That story was real?! Someday when I’m bigger, I want to get on an airplane and go meet them.” This is Hooked Heartie, signing off. May your heart let your hope blossom!

         

Hello, Hearties! Merry Christmas! And yes, those words will probably appear several times before the 25th. 🙂 I just love this time of year! It’s funny, because this is the first Wednesday of the season when it wasn’t a done deal what I was going to write about. In November, the 1st two were EASY: Marrying Father Christmas and Christmas in Love, right? No brainer! Then I did the memory post as part of the anniversary, and the last Wednesday of the month was birthday week for Martin Cummins; so that was a given too! I admit, I was getting a little worried. So many Christmas movie premieres, and NO actors from WCTH. Then 2 in a row appear just like that, and suddenly, I had a decision to make.

But then, movies got pushed aside because WOW! Have I got news! Remember in the beginning of the blog a year ago, I said that #WonderWednesday wasn’t just for reviewing other projects of WCTH members, but to discuss events involving the cast and/or crew. Well, an event DEFINITELY happened with cast AND crew this past weekend! DANIEL LISSING WAS IN AUSTIN, TX! I’m not sure if he’s still here, but he landed on Friday. I’ve probably been between 20 minutes and an hour from him the whole time! AAAAHHHH! Several people, including my mother of all people, told me I should just get in the car and drive around the city; maybe call all the hotels, nonchalantly asking to speak to him. WHAT??? With 4 children, my husband’s birthday weekend, a completely booked Saturday, and early church on Sunday? Not a chance! Also, the biggest trouble was that I didn’t know where he was. Stuff got posted on social media AFTER he had been at a place and gone, and “stalker” is not part of my job description. So I opted to not.

But guess who he DID visit? None other than Michael Landon Jr. himself, who happens to live here in Austin. No, I haven’t scoped him out either; better to let both of them be. I did have to laugh to see Dan’s pictures of him at clubs, and having dinner with Michael. Probably not a single soul in those arenas recognized them! That’s probably the way they wanted it, but I still find it ironic when so many of us would die if given the chance to catch a glimpse of them. And can you imagine what would happen if by some chance, we didn’t know he was in our areas, and we HAPPENED upon him? Fangirl freak out!

  

One of my friends totally dared me, (are we in junior high?) to tweet Dan, and invite him to our hometown Christmas parade. I did it, though. I must have been crazy! Here’s the exact tweet:

“@DLissing I hear ur in Austin. If ur looking for a good time 😉 come 10 minutes north to #PflugervilleTX to our Christmas parade tonight at 5. Bring friends! 😁 @PandaHeartie u can come too.”

 

However, I don’t think he made it. Darn it all! But, I was on a float, it was dark, and a spotlight was shining in my face. So who knows? 😉 He does have one more chance to accept an invitation from me to a Nativity event I’m a part of this Friday and Saturday. I don’t think I’ll hold my breath. I want to be alive for this Christmas!

But the REALLY funny part about this whole scenario is the timing. Most of you know I have a 2-year-old son. Well, he has started recognizing Dan in pictures and on screen, and says, “Dack!” It really is adorable! So about Thursday last week, something hysterical happened. We had Hallmark Channel on, and a preview for Christmas in Love popped up. I asked my son, “Who’s that?”, and he answered, “Dack!” So I thought we’d have a repeat of that when I showed him this picture from Dan’s Instagram.

           

To my utter shock, when I asked my little boy who it was, he answered, “Dada!” I laughed pretty hard! It was even funnier because a while back, my son did something totally out of character, (I can’t remember what now!), and Will said, “That’s not MY son! Who’s is he?” He then went on to lightheartedly tease me that it was Dan, saying I’d had an affair with him before I’d even heard of him. 🙂 (I discovered WCTH when I was pregnant with said toddler.) So it was all in good fun!

I thought it would be fun to tweet Dan about it, then the next day I find out he’s flying to Austin. My friend Sarah and I couldn’t stop laughing for a full 5 minutes, joking that Dan was coming to meet his son. Even my husband let out a reluctant chuckle, and this after Liam called Dan “Dada” again. We had December Bride on, but my husband was IN the room, and he still did it! 😀 Will then tried to ban saying the name Jack in the house. HA! To quote Rosemary, “Oh that is so sweet, [Will], like you think you actually have a choice!”

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little change of pace to #WonderWednesday. Everyone enjoy making things merry and bright, and while I’m doing that, I’ll keep my eyes open for any DLS’s (Daniel Lissing Sightings). This is Hooked Heartie, signing off. May your heart let your hope blossom!

*Note: All pictures are from Dan’s Instagram