Christmas Love: TV Movie Edition

Today Janice from from Janicu’s Book Blog is here to tell us all about her favorite made for TV Christmas movies! You know the ones that you obsessively cannot stop watching (just me?) but you know you should? The ones where Joey Lawrence makes a gal fall back in love with Christmas and into his arms? THOSE MOVIES. Take it away, my friend!

When I volunteered to guest post over here at Books Take You Places, I knew EXACTLY what I was going to post about: Christmas movies. And not just Christmas movies, TV Christmas movies. Every year after Thanksgiving, I clap my hands with glee and set TiVo to record the made-for-TV movies produced by Lifetime, Hallmark, and ABC Family. My husband, who is Jewish, rolls his eyes and pats my head, but this is what he gets for marrying me. I likes my cheesy holiday movies. 

Much-used tropes include:

  • A workaholic who spends too much time WORKING and not APPRECIATING the love of FAMILY during the holidays. Bonus points for their children not getting to see their parents enough because of their job.
  • Some back story where someone’s past has made them cranky during the holidays, and someone else has to show them how to enjoy it again
  • A family struggling financially before Christmas but thanks to the HOLIDAY SPIRIT things are always sorted out by December 25th
  • Matchmaking Santa / Elf / Mrs. Claus
  • An office Christmas party where someone makes a fool of themselves
  • A character who believes in extreme Christmas decorations
  • A character named “Holly”, “Carol”, or “Nick”

Here’s a selection of what I’ve watched this year and my thoughts on each. This may be a long list but it is no where near as many Christmas movies I have seen. Should I be admitting to this? Eh, what’s a little indulging… 
(links are to the channel pages for these movies)

It’s Christmas, Carol! (2012, Hallmark)
Carol (Emmanuelle Vaugier) is a heartless head of a publishing house who only cares about profit and not about good books. She treats everyone badly – to the point that her employees are starting to revolt. They remember the good old days, when Eve (Carrie Fisher) was still alive and heading the business. On Christmas Eve, Carol is visited by Eve’s ghost, who shows Carol her past, present, and future in order to have Carol think about the way she’s living her life.


My take: This is set in book publishing, so you’d think I’d be more enthusiastic about this one, but I’m leaning towards telling you to skip it. Carrie Fisher can do no wrong, so it’s not her fault – this was just a really cheesy remake. The character of Carol was pretty extreme, and I had trouble holding back my disbelief at several things: that she fought against the ghost right up to the point that she suddenly gave in and flipped over to being Good; that she had to use a search engine to look up the plot of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol even though she’s a BOOK PUBLISHER; and that her employees can start revolting but then do a 180 just because of one speech at the end. I wouldn’t rewatch this. 

All About Christmas Eve (2012, Lifetime)
Eve (Haylie Duff) is an event planner struggling to please a demanding boss (Connie Sellecca) when she meets a cute guy at a bar named Aidan (Chris Carmack), and gives him her card. He turns out to be the CEO of a giant social network company called Gobble and hires Eve’s company for a end-of-year event. Eve has to fly to California for the job, which means missing a trip with her boyfriend Darren, but on the morning she takes her flight, two different paths emerge: one in which she misses her flight, and one in which she makes it.


My take: Hmm, I don’t know. This was very Sliding Doors, complete with the coming back home in time to catch her cheating boyfriend timeline. The upside of the plot being literally two stories was that this was one of the more unpredictable Christmas movies I’ve ever watched. I suspected Eve is supposed to be with Aidan in the end, but while she was in California flirting with him in one timeline, she’s unemployed and nursing a broken heart in another, and I wasn’t sure how everything would all tie together. The downside is that there are some very weird, what-just-happened moments in this movie, and I’m not sure how I felt about how things ended (although – yes, this has that required happily ever after). 

Christmas on Chestnut Street (2006, Lifetime)
When an employee at the Great American Store overorders Christmas lights, his friend Lou (Robert Moloney) saves him from being fired by suggesting a Christmas light competition. Daughter of the store owner Dianne Crouch (Kristen Dalton), a rich overachiever with her life planned out, decides that Lou needs to decorate his house and win the contest (with her supervision of course). This give the two of them an excuse to get to know each other. All the while, the town goes crazy decorating their houses for a chance to hours of free shopping at the store. 


My take: Lots of nutty neighbors going overboard competing for the prize in this one. At one point there’s a fistfight over the last roll of some white covering. This couple has a very in-your-face relationship – arguing over everything, including if they are on a date and if one is falling for another.  But the impediment for their relationship (besides their class difference) becomes the contest itself. Has a little twist ending, which might not be that twisty.  There were things I liked about this relationship (the chemistry), and those I didn’t (Dianne was made out to be the flawed, not-easy-to-get-along-with character while Lou is painted as patient and perfect one she’s lucky to have found – it was unbalanced). 

A Bride For Christmas (2012, Hallmark)
Unable to disappoint people, Jessie has said ‘yes’ whenever her boyfriends have popped the question, which has been during a weather forecast, on a theater marquee, and on a Jumbotron. As a result, she’s broken three engagements – the latest on her wedding day to a plumber named Mike (Sage Brocklebank). Bachelor Aiden (Andrew Walker) bets his friends he can get a woman to want to marry him by Christmas, and chooses Jessie when he meets her at a art show. Despite her turning him down for a date, he uses her interior design business as an excuse to spend time with her. 


My take: Cute. Despite the whole “bet” thing, Aiden doesn’t really come off as a jerk, which is a feat, and I liked the way they actually seemed to complement each other (both dog, card game, and horror movie lovers). I also liked that there was a good use of sappy, happy faces when this couple admits they like each other. Rather nice romcom holiday fare and a cute couple. 

Once Upon A Christmas (2000, PAX Network – showing on Hallmark now)
When the balance of Naughty versus Nice tips over to “Naughty” for the first time, the daughter of Santa Claus (Kathy Ireland) leaves the North Pole in order to prove hope still exists. If she can get one family, the Morgans – single dad Bill (John Dye) and his two spoiled children off the Naughty list by Christmas, her despondent father won’t give up and retire as he threatens to. 


My take: Eh. This falls on the treacly side of the Christmas movie spectrum, where Santa Claus is real and Kristen Claus is his perfect, good daughter. Her older sister, Rudolfa (yes, really), reminds me of a cheesy Disney villainess come to life and plans to turn Christmas into a holiday were people give each other joke gifts. Kathy Ireland’s character is generally angelic and speaks in hushed, reverential voice that really grated on my nerves. The point of the story is to have Morgan siblings Kyle and Brittany learn to be less spoiled and for their father to realize he needs to spend more time with his children, but this story was just so preachy it was difficult to enjoy. (There’s a sequel, Twice Upon a Christmas that I haven’t seen).

Hitched for the Holidays (2012, Hallmark)
A couple of single people, Rob and Julie (Joseph (Joey) Lawrence and Emily Hampshire), pretend to be together to fool their families (she to stop her parents from setting her up with her ex-boyfriends, and he to fulfill his sickly grandmother’s wish to see her grandson married). 


My take: Decently cute. This had a traditional romantic comedy storyline with Christmas trappings. There’s the meddling but well-meaning families on both sides and both have issues they have to overcome in order to get together (she would rather tell “white lies” to spare people’s feelings than tell it like it is, and he runs away before his relationships get serious). The movie involves a lot of getting to know each other time in the guise of their pretending for their families. It’s a pretty typical romcom, but I did like that she’s Jewish and there is a funny storyline that involves him pretending to be Jewish too (so we have a bit of Hannukah overlapping with Christmas in this one). I liked this couple’s friendly banter. 

Come Dance With Me (2012, Hallmark)
Jack (Andrew McCarthy) decides to secretly learn how to dance in order to impress his girlfriend Demi (the boss’s daughter) before Christmas, but begins get close to his dance instructor Christine (Michelle Nolden). Jack is in for some trouble in more ways that one: he’s involved in development that means demolishing buildings that the dance studio is part of, and Christine, not knowing this, turns to him for advice when she gets a notice of eviction. 


My take: Depends on if you can overlook the hero being something of a dishonest guy. For most of the movie Jack lies through omission about his part in the dance studio being torn down, and the longer he did this, the less comfortable I was. I was in accordance with his best friend who told him to tell the truth early on (who Jack ignores by the way). In the meantime, he isn’t the best boyfriend to the girl he’s supposedly dating – you get the impression he’s with her for because of status and not for herself. There was good chemistry between the main couple though – I think their acting holds this story together. 

The Mistle-Tones (2012, ABC Family)
The Snow-Belles are an elite Christmas caroling group that performs every Christmas at the local mall. When a slot is finally open for a new member, Holly’s (Tia Mowry) bad luck robs her of getting to the audition on time, and the Snow-Belles dictatorial leader Marci (Tori Spelling) wouldn’t let her in the group anyway. Still determined, Holly starts her own group out of people from her office and convinces the mall manager to make the performance a contest for the best group to sing at Christmas. 


My take: A little campy, but they know it, and the singing is good. I spent a lot of the movie marveling over how much Holly’s uptight boss Nick (Jonathan Patrick Moore), looked like Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s younger brother. This has a lot of training montages and at first seemed to be about the Snow-Belles versus the Mistle-Tones, but a romance sort of sneaks in there. It’s predictable fluff. Nice karaoke bits in here. 

Lucky Christmas (2011, Hallmark)
Holly (Elizabeth Berkley) is a single mom struggling to make ends meet with three jobs and a son, when her car is stolen with a winning million-dollar winning lottery ticket in it. She goes on TV to stop the thieves from being able to cash it in. Mike (Jason Gray-Stanford) is a construction worker whose dad’s company is in trouble. One night when Mike is sick, his idiot friend’s car is booted, so he “borrows” Holly’s car. Now Mike has to deal with the repercussions and try to make things right without getting in trouble himself. 


My take: Is alright. On the drama side of the romantic comedies.The lottery ticket/ stolen car thing is a reason to get Mike and Holly together while also throwing a wrench into their relationship before it starts (see also practically every romcom). This is one where the side stories add substance to the main romance (Holly’s son’s need for a father figure, Mike’s problems with getting his older brother to listen to his ideas for the business). And I sort of wanted to strangle Mike’s friend for most of this movie. 

Love at the Christmas Table (2012, Lifetime)
Sam (Dustin Milligan) and Kat (Danica McKellar) have spent every Christmas Eve together with their parents and their friends. From 4 to 30, we get to see these two grow up together, but somewhere in their twenties, things get complicated. In the present day, Sam is ready to ask Kat to marry him and looks back at the years. 


My take: I actually really liked this one. These holiday parties look like fun. Everything takes place at Elissa Beth’s house (Lea Thompson), a friend of Kat’s father, Kat’s surrogate mother, and a Christmas junkie (something that gets explained – with a surprising link to Great Expectations). Kat and Sam pretty much indulge in a lot of shenanigans at the kid’s table every year, and when they get into their twenties, they start getting romantically attached, but never seem to actually get together. The relationship is further complicated by Sam leaving for college and job opportunities in the city while Kat stays and works at her father’s business. There was a nice amount of depth to their characters as these life choices and other things are actually discussed and part of the story. And the ending was pretty sweet – it was on the side of “this wouldn’t happen this way in real life”, but it was still nice. 

If you want to catch some of these (or to see what else is showing), here are some links for you.




And THE MEGA LIST here at the Christmas Specials wiki

Wow! How bad is it that I desperately want to go and watch all of these holiday movies? Even the ones that you said weren’t that good? Personally, I stay away from Lifetime and Hallmark but when I was a Companion my little old lady friends would watch them obsessively and once I started I couldn’t. stop. watching. Thanks so much for helping me indulge in my closet love of (somewhat cheesy) holiday movies!!

Have a Very Cherry Christmas!

Today Candice from The Grown-Up YA is here today to talk about one of her favorite holiday treats! Try to have a snack handy because your tummy will be rumbling after reading this post!

For as long as I can remember, giving my dad chocolate covered cherries has been a NECESSITY for Christmas. I would hate to see what would happen if we didn’t give him any for Christmas; I imagine it would be similar to the events described in the Book of Revelations.

My dad is also an expert at “guessing” what’s in his gifts. Which is annoying, especially when we go to great lengths to try to trick him. You know, wrapping a DVD in a giant box. We’ve event tried it with his chocolate covered cherries, but I truly believe he’s like Toucan Sam. He can smell those things a mile away and just follows his nose to them.

After Christmas, those cherries become high cotton in our house. He may offer you one on Christmas morning, ‘tis the season and all. But after that they are OFF LIMITS. Seriously. He puts them in the freezer – they last longer that way you know – and I actually think he takes inventory of those things.

Luckily, I’ve never developed a fancy towards them, so I’ve never wanted them. I don’t think any of us really like them. Thank goodness for Daddy, right?!

Several years ago I discovered how to make homemade Chocolate Covered Cherries and my dad LOOOOVVVEEEEDDD them. I try to make an effort to make him some every year for Christmas, in addition to the store bought ones. Of course, it’s even more of an effort not to eat half of them BEFORE Christmas!


Chocolate Covered Cherries

Maraschino Cherries (approx. 50-60), with stems or without

Dipping Chocolate

2 C Powdered Sugar

1/4 to 1/2 C Sweetened Condensed Milk

¼ C Margarine or Butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (almond adds a great flavor)

Dash of Salt

Drain and rinse cherries; freeze.

Mix powdered sugar, ¼ C sweetened condensed milk, margarine or butter, extract and salt until it makes a dense paste ball. You can add more condensed milk as needed.


Roll paste into 1” ball.


Flatten into disk and wrap around cherry until completely covered. You can roll the paste covered cherry in your hands to help shape it into a ball. Repeat for all cherries.

Melt chocolate. Dip cherries into chocolate, covering completely. If you don’t have cherries with stems, use a fork to help. Shake off excess chocolate and place onto wax paper.


Sometimes cherries can juice out of any cracks or weak spots in the chocolate. Use a toothpick or tine of a fork to cover with extra melted chocolate.

The cherries will “ripen” after you cover them in the fondant and chocolate, meaning the sugar in the fondant will cause the cherries to juice, creating a sweet liquid between the chocolate and the cherry, kind of like the store bought ones. The longer you let them sit, the more they “ripen.”

But good luck making them last that long!



These sound delicious, Candice! I have never been fond of chocolate covered cherries myself but my mouth was surely watering after looking at these pictures! Your dad is one lucky man! 

How about you, friends? Any special holiday treats you make or receive every year?

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Moving along with our Holiday love over here, we are focusing on our favorite holiday movies from our childhood! I have some of my favorites which I hope to review on the blog in the next few weeks. (Namely, those holiday classics like The Island of Misfit Toys and of course, A Muppet Christmas Carol) Brittany from The Book Addict’s Guide is here to share her favorite holiday films with us. Let’s see what some of her favorites are!


Christmas Everyday is a movie with YOUNG Erik Von Detten before he appeared in several Disney movies/TV shows and decided never to wash his hair again. This movie is sort of a Groundhog Day for a different holiday – Christmas, of course – and our protagonist EVD needs to figure out how to get his act together, be nicer to his family and his little sister and also figure out how to get the girl! He’s gotta get it all right or else he’s doomed to repeat Christmas (which doesn’t sound half bad to me) until he figures it out!

This was one of my favorite Christmas movies as a kid and every year I try to catch it on TV (when it’s actually on) and somehow each year I keep missing it. 


The Santa Clause is another Christmas classic – and this one I DO usually catch when it’s on TV. I love the idea for this movie and I usually enjoy Tim Allen’s roles (in case you didn’t remember, the Home Improvement episodes are my all-time favorite Halloween episodes…). I hated the mom’s haircut in this movie and totally didn’t get that, but I guess that’s only a minor thing, right? It distracted me as a kid. Loved Bernard’s role at the head elf – although I felt bad that Santa DIED. What!? – and I always thought that one other kid elf that kept popping up was kind of cute (I think I was young enough at the time to think that….). Anyway, love the movie and the message behind it! Lots of Christmas fun!


My family has always loved the Muppets! No need to go into deep explanation here since (I HOPE) we all know who the Muppets are – but we used to watch Muppet Family Christmas MANY times over when my sister and I were kids (“Watch out for the icy patch!”) and for some reason our Christmas party at school when I was in elementary school (Catholic Pre-8 school) ALWAYS had a viewing of A Muppet Christmas Carol. I’m not sure why, but I’m pretty sure we watched it almost every dang year while we got sugared up with candy and cookies. These two are definitely a big part of my history!


White Christmas isn’t specifically a kid’s movie, but it was another family favorite in my household! My mom always loved Danny Kaye and maybe a little less Bing Crosby since these were actors she grew up with in her home as well. We LOVE musicals and my mom, my sister, and I always used to watch old movies with Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby (Holiday Inn would be a good Christmas one too!) so I always get nostalgic when watching this one!


So the Harry Potter movies aren’t Christmas movies (but apparently ABC Family doesn’t know that), but I really like the Christmas scenes that are in each one! The clip above is from HP1 and it’s one of my favorites! It still helps me get in the Christmas spirit.


I’m pretty sure I don’t have to say much about Elf! This is more of a movie for my sister and I – We try to watch one of the MANY showings that play on TV each year and I swear, I never get tired of it. I think I even saw it two, maybe three times in theaters when it first came out. Can’t wait to watch it again this year!!


Mean Girls isn’t a Christmas movie either. Not by a long shot. But would it be Christmas without a skeazy rendition of Jingle Bell Rock? I guess the answer to that question is yes, but I still think this scene is ridiculously fun. Fun fact: One of my friends in high school (male friend, by the way) loved this scene in Mean Girls so much (yes, he loved Mean Girls) that he convinced our choir teacher to include Jingle Bell Rock in one of our holiday medleys. Very true story.

Britt, I also had a rather interesting winter show for choir after this movie came out. They wouldn’t let us do the moves so we added them (inappropriately) to our dance in the pep rally…Rebels, I know. I also agree with you, The Muppet Christmas Carol is like my FAVORITE and I put on every year while decorating my tree!! Also, HP totally counts.

Happy Ho Ho Ho To You!

Today is the kick-off for the CHRISTMAS FUN that will be happening on the blog this month! We have Kristina here from Gone Pecan talking about her favorite holiday tunes! I’m a hateful sort of person so I made her stick to only SIX titles lest she get carried away with the Christmas LOVE, bah, humbug indeed!

I am partial to The Christmas Song performed by Nat King Cole myself but I have been rocking my “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” Pandora playlist since Thanksgiving! Let’s hear what K has to say…

When Alyssa asked me to guest post I agreed automatically since she is awesome sauce but to say I’m slacking in posts for November / December is putting it mildly. It’s the holiday season and life gets in the way of the blog.  It also doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of Christmas. Maybe it’s because I live in south Louisiana where even though we are in December it’s still in the 70s and there is always at least a 50/50 chance I can wear shorts on Christmas day.  Maybe it’s because everyone makes enough money to just buy what they want so Christmas is filled with less gifts each year and more cash and gift cards or maybe because I make my grandmother’s pralines and I have so many requests each year that I have to start making them three weeks before taking up what little weekend time I have left after trying to shop for gifts.  Or the real reason may be that it doesn’t help me with my anti-social tendencies.  (Bah Humbug!)
Regardless of all these things there is one thing I love that is a direct result from this holiday. The music. Ah yes, I’m a sucker for Christmas music. We even have a couple of stations where I live that switch to all Christmas music all the time after Thanksgiving.  So after thinking about what kind fo Christmas related post I could do why not talk about my favorite songs of the season?
 Louisiana Christmas Day by Aaron Neville – I’m from Louisiana so this one doesn’t need much explanation.  🙂
Last Christmas by Wham! – Ah, George Michael my first crush on someone that later came out as gay.  Note I did say first because apparently I have a knack for picking the closeted gay member of any boy band (I’m not saying that they all have at least one gay member nor that there is anything wrong with that, just that is who I end up crushing on and they are playing for the other team.)  But come on, George Michael when he had that scruffy beard, leather jacket, and aviator glasses?  I know I wasn’t alone.
Hard Candy Christmas by Dolly Parton – Hard Candy Christmas is hands down my favorite Christmas song of all time.  We’ve listened to this song so much that my brother who is NOT a country fan can identify this song by the fifth note.  (Believe me we’ve tested him.)  This song plays in one of the best movies ever The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and if the name alone doesn’t make you want to watch it I have nothing left to say to you!
All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey  This is my second favorite Christmas song.  I sing it every single time it comes on (and maybe do a little dance) regardless of who is around me so I apologize to anyone that has been subjected to this demonstration.  How can you not want to sing/dance to it though?  I feel the need to point out this is the ONLY Mariah Carey song I like and I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay that way.  (SIDE NOTE:  They sing this in Love Actually as well, a version that I can accept since the little girl singing is so darn cute.)
Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley – Every now and then there comes a song that my whole family sings.  This is one of them.  We not only sing it, we act it out, and definitely include the back up singers.  There is a local radio DJ that loves all things Elvis and he said something about Elvis hating this song and not wanting to record it so he told the back up singers to make up the most ridiculous riff they could.  I have no idea if that’s true but I find it funny.
Mele Kalilimaka by Bing Crosby – I admit it, I like this song almost entirely for that fact that I learned how to say something in Hawaiian.  I feel more cultured.  I know, it’s sad.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra by Wizards of Winter – Have you seen that new Volkswagon commerical with the guy playing air drums in his car?  (my favorite part is when he tosses the drumstick up and catches it).  This song has the same effect on me and I LOVE IT.
So while I spend Christmas with my family trying to pretend that I actually like it (not hanging with my family mind you, just the holiday) and trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t stuff my face with everything sweet I’ll be listening to all my favorites.  What about you??

Thanks, Kiki! Some of these songs brought back some fond memories for me and some I have actually never heard before! Love me some Dolly Parton though! Rock out kids! Share the love, what songs do you HAVE to listen to this time of year?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!



Okay here it is, my “I have been seriously slacking on the blog lately but I promise to get better” post. Honestly between moving and life changes and new schedules I just have had ZERO time, and more importantly, energy to blog. Sure I could have thrown together a few reviews but they would have not been my best work and frankly, you deserve better!

So here’s what’s up, I love, love, LOVE the holidays. It is my birthday month and there will be SNOW and pretty lights and yummy smells and SNOW!! These are my FAVORITE things, people! But, you know what is terrible? Life changes that happened recently mean that I won’t have a Christmas tree or stockings hung with care or any of those things. To put it lightly, I got a little depressed recently and that is really the biggest reason for my lack of blogging. So today I was thinking about how to fix my sads and I decided that to make myself happier, and to celebrate with all of you, I will deck the blog out with ALL THE THINGS! This means that for the next few weeks, you will find delicious holiday recipes, reviews of both holiday shows and movies, and holiday crafts. Some of my favorite bloggers will be helping me out and providing me with some fun posts as well. This mini event will work around all of my catch up reviews that I MUST post before the end of the year and my wrap-ups in which I include my favorite things of 2012.

I don’t have a lot of free time in December, so I have determined (with help from my Twitter friends) that I will be reading and reviewing at least 4 more books this year. I put the word out that I needed titles of books that I absolutely MUST read before the end of 2012. So in addition to the multiple titles I read months ago and need to review, I will also be reading and reviewing:

Graceling by Kristen Cashore

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

Krampus by Brom

I tried to pick an older and newer book of both YA and MG and I love me some Brom (plus it’s kind of Santa related,) but my number 5 pick might be a little different depending on birthday presents (I’m spoiled, you see)! Not to mention the fact that I have heard AMAZING things about The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay and just got it, thanks, Netgalley!

In a nutshell, BE PREPARED for the holiday awesomeness and PLEASE tell me if you want to take part, I would love to hear from you!