“A Godwink Christmas” review

The second installment of my Hallmark movie review is of “A Godwink Christmas”. This beautiful tale had a special sparkle to it, being set in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Being a New Englander who has been to and loves Martha’s Vineyard, having this movie have a quintessential New England feel was lovely. A New England Christmas has a special EVERYTHING about it.  I’m a lucky girl to have experienced it all my life.

I’ve read some of the Godwink books and they are really beautiful stories of God orchestrating events in people’s lives in remarkable ways. I have been a fan of Kathie Lee Gifford since I was a child, watching her and Regis regularly with my mom. We were very excited when we heard that she was going to be in this movie.

So it was with high expectations that we sat down to watch “A Godwink Christmas” and I have to say none of the aforementioned things disappointed in any way. The set was gorgeous and stunning and captured New England charm. The story of God bringing Paula and Gary together was sweet and very well told. And Kathie Lee’s character was a delight and the warm heart of the movie.

The main actors were superb – Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell were natural, real, down to earth, heartbreaking and funny.

There were a few inconsistencies or oddities in events that I think could have been corrected or ironed out Those things can bug me in movies but they didn’t take away from the beauty of this movie.

Paula’s complex and confusing emotions are beautifully portrayed and Gary’s emotional openness is lovely.  It was a really well made, beautiful in every way movie and I would love to see the sequel where Paula owns the antique store a short walk down the road from the Charlotte Inn that she and Gary now run together.

One last note: being a true story, they showed the real life Charlotte Inn and real life Gary and Paula at the end which was a great touch!

Stay tuned for my next Hallmark movie review. I’m also going to be starting a new series chronicling my family’s and my move into our new home. We are moving before Christmas! It’s all come together very quickly all of a sudden and it is EXCITING!!

Talk soon!

Moving!

We are moving!!! After a very long, extensive search for just the right  home and three almost-purchases this summer that didn’t end up working for various reasons, we have found our own little piece of heaven in our wonderful town. And at Christmas time no less! It being the holiday season has added a whole other level of magic to the experience. Chaotic magic, but magic none-the-less! 🙂 I will be documenting the moving, painting and decorating process on the blog!

A Very Hallmark Christmas

Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries get me, they really get me.  Not only do they premiere over 20 new Christmas movies every year, but they start to air them in late October! This is the stuff that my dreams are made of. I actually like to credit Hallmark with the fact that stores and people seem to be decorating for Christmas earlier every year.

My mother and I devotedly watch every premiere Hallmark Christmas movie every year. It is a highlight of our year in fact. A personal dream of ours is to one day appear in a Hallmark Christmas movie, even if only as an extra. These movies transport us to a different place. They are like two hours of living in a mug of hot chocolate or a human-size gingerbread house. The coziness is unparalleled.  I love the fact that the actors are most of the time familiar faces from previous years’ Christmas movies. It all creates such a feeling of home, comfort, warmth and joy.

I’ve decided this year to write up my own recaps and reviews of the movies as I watch them. I have to admit, I’m a bit behind but I have the seven that have aired so far on my DVR and so will catch up quickly. I will be honest in these reviews. If I don’t particularly like one of the movies, I will say it. (Hello, “Christmas Festival of Ice” from last year.)

My first review will be of the first movie to air this season, “Christmas at Pemberley Manor”.  Ok, so let’s just start with the fact that not only is this a Hallmark Christmas movie but it is a Hallmark Christmas movie roughly based on Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”. I mean how much better could anything get?!?! The movie is set around the small town of Lambdon, Connecticut’s annual Christmas Fair. (After watching this movie, I want my town to start a Christmas Fair. Gonna see what I can do about that for next year :)). The newly minted town mayor calls in his old friend and still-crush, Elizabeth Bennett to organize the Fair. She works for an event planning company. Mr. William Darcy just so happens to be arriving back in Lambdon to sell his uncle’s family home, Pemberley Manor. The town doesn’t want Pemberley sold but Mr. Darcy is a bottom-line kind of guy, committed to pretty much only his work and is going to go ahead with the sale. Pemberley Manor is a character in this story. The location scouts picked an absolute stunning and very authentically New England-looking home for it.

One thing I especially appreciate about this movie is that the initial friction and combativeness that most heroines and heroes start out with in romantic movies wasn’t really there in this one. There was a moment of it but it was soft and the characters were still kind and respectful and for most of the movie, there was only genuine warmth and kindness between them. A lot of that is due to the superb performance by Michael Rady. His Mr. Darcy could have gone either way. He could have chosen to say the same lines as an aloof and unfeeling man but he infused his dialogue with a true warmth and goodness. His eyes alone conveyed and held so much emotion. He was so like-able and really made this movie for me. (Side note: He was also excellent in “A Joyous Christmas” last year on Hallmark).

The drama that was created to create a barrier to the two protagonists getting together was handled well, it wasn’t too far-fetched or ridiculous as it sometimes can be. I give really high marks to this movie. It is a really beautiful, sweet story. Hallmark started its Christmas season off with a bang. I’m hoping there’ll be a sequel to “Christmas at Pemberley Manor” next year where we get to see what Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have done with the house. In my mind they live there year-round and Elizabeth runs her own event planning business out of the home!

Stay tuned for my next review!

 

 

Birthday Cakes

Posted by Megan

I’ve always loved to bake. It invokes so much that is important to me – family, home, celebration and general coziness.  I have such strong memories associated with baking. The gingerbread that my mom and I made for “Colonial Day” at school. We used the gingerbread to write our lessons on as we re-created life in Colonial New England. The Indian Pudding I made in fourth grade as part of a history class lesson on the same. The chocolate cake that had molten lava pudding inside that my mom and I first made the Christmas I was 10. The boxed marble cake with canned frosting that my 5th grade teacher made to help teach us fractions. My great-grandmother’s date square recipe that was passed down through my grandmother and that I make often for my mother’s birthday. So many memories, stories and feelings attached to baking.

When my first nephew, Gideon, was about to turn one, I decided I wanted to make a special cake for him. A bit of a physical manifestation of the enormous love and affection I have for him. I went online and came up with a design – a gigantic number one covered with fondant. Fondant being something I’d never used before in baking.

I made my paternal grandmother’s white cake recipe that had been used for many of our family birthdays through the year. Then I bought white fondant and used food coloring to get the fondant to the colors I wanted it. I cut the cake into the number one and then covered it in fondant and added some tri-colored fondant balls and flowers to complete the design.

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When Gideon was turning two, he was able to tell me what he wanted as a theme for his cake. He wanted a “Cars” theme (not surprising due to the deep love he had for that movie series at the time). He specified which characters from the movie he wanted on the cake – Mater, Lightning McQueen and Chug. I scoured Amazon, Toys R Us, websites, all my local stores and could not find Chug. I was able to find the other two and some extra characters to complete the cake. But it irked me that I couldn’t find Chug. I was hoping that he may not notice when he saw the other cars and trucks.

Since I had learned the previous year that fondant does not have the best taste, I decided to use regular frosting this time around and limited the fondant just to the number “2”. I made the two out of black fondant to be a track that the cars and trucks were driving on. I completed the look with some little checkered flags. My nephew LOVED the cake! And loved eating it. He did however, almost immediately upon seeing it, say, “Where’s Chug?” 🙂 Luckily I was able to find that car later on and give it to him. Thank goodness!

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Next up, my second nephew, Henry’s, 1st birthday! Since Henry couldn’t talk yet, his big brother picked the theme for his first cake. He picked a wiggly worm theme. So cute.  I made a large cake (as in the previous two cakes) to feed everyone at the party. Covered it in frosting and then covered the frosting in “dirt” aka crushed up Oreos. I then covered coconut flakes in green food coloring and sprinkled that on the “dirt” like grass. I put gummy worms throughout and little tiny flower pots with flowers. I put a white picket fence around the cake. It was so much fun and delicious and both boys loved it!

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For Gid’s third birthday, as with his second birthday, he knew exactly what he wanted. A blue dump truck cake 🙂  And so that is what I made and it was so much fun. I decided it would be fun to mix it up and make multiple levels with this cake. It turned out great and  everyone ended up with blue all over their faces. Gideon was also happy about the three new trucks that he got to play with after the cake was served. DSC03585

Next up, Henry turned two! He wanted a Paw Patrol cake. I decided to buy the cake decor online since I wasn’t sure how I would draw the Paw Patrol characters on the cake. The rice paper decor I got was a bit hard to use in the humidity and there was slight panic as my mom and I scrambled to make it work but it all turned out well. I topped it with a personalized Paw Patrol decoration that I purchased on Etsy. DSC05943DSC05945
When Gideon turned four, he wanted a Gumby cake. We had recently bought him and his brother the Stretch Gumby toys and he was a big fan. Gumby required fondant but I decided to frost the cake with regular frosting since, as I mentioned above, fondant isn’t very tasty on its own.  I love the way it turned out.  Gideon was thrilled with it which made me really happy. DSC00285DSC00275
The most recent cake I made was for Henry’s third birthday. He wanted a “Red Supercharged Power Ranger” cake 🙂 I had a lot of fun with this one as well. Henry had a blast with the cake and then spent many days and hours later playing with the Red Power Ranger toy that topped it!IMG_0720IMG_0719

Making their cakes is something that I so enjoy doing. I love anticipating how excited they will be to see it and the look of joy on their faces. I know the cakes will be a memory they hold onto from their childhood birthdays and that they will see the cakes as an expression of my limitless love for them.

Autumn

New England has a magic unlike any other place. Fall is when that magic can be seen in every leaf and every vista. This fall has been especially colorful and glorious. I would say this week was peak foliage and the depth of the yellow and orange hues have been breathtaking. A lot of the burning bushes and maples are also in full splendor.  I have been taking my new camera (a Canon G5x that I got in July and that I am in love with) with me on my fall journeys and have attempted to capture the color of the season with it. Honestly fall in New England cannot be described – it is a living dream.  It has an otherworldly quality where the colors envelop you and add a glow and warmth to everything.IMG_2446IMG_2380IMG_1972IMG_1967IMG_1970IMG_1975IMG_2396IMG_2401IMG_2104IMG_2111IMG_2395IMG_1963IMG_2550

Halloween 2018

Halloween! I love watching how excited my nephew’s get about their costumes and trick-or-treating. It brings me right back to my own years as a child on Halloween – it was so much fun. We were be able to wear our costumes for a parade at school as well as at church the Sunday before Halloween and of course for trick-or-treating. I had a lot of great costumes as a kid. Angel, ’50s girl with poodle skirt, Cinderella before the ball…My love for dressing up in costumes has not waned at all over the years. This year I decided to go as a strawberry and I loved it. My littlest nephew, H, helped me do my strawberry make-up and had me put some eye shadow on him. Then he asked, “Do I look like a real Power Ranger?” in his three year old little voice. Oh my heart! So sweet. His big brother, G, dressed as black panther and they both showed us all their ninja moves in the living room before we headed out trick-or-treating. There were clear skies and thankfully it wasn’t very cold where we are.  The boys had so much fun! They said “thank you!” and “bye-bye” while waving to everyone who gave them candy. H would exclaim, “I see a light!!!!” whenever someone’s porch light was on. He knew that meant they were welcoming trick-or-treaters 🙂 We met lots of nice dogs and saw some very cool (and maybe a bit spooky) decorations. When we got home, the boys counted their candies. G got 41! And H got 37 and it may have been the first time he counted that high as well!  It was a great night. IMG_2153IMG_2148IMG_2178IMG_2227

1940s Themed Birthday Party

Posted by Megan

I have a deep love for themed birthday parties. Especially those that have earlier decades as the theme.  My family and I love throwing these kinds of parties. I will be doing a blog post for each of the recent themed parties we’ve thrown but this particular post is about my 1940s / World War II themed birthday party last year.

It was a real production. We took care to make sure the decor, the costumes, the hair, the lingo, the dance steps were accurate to the time and we had an absolute blast. We built a dance floor in the backyard so that there could be dancing at the party. As a ballroom dance teacher, I loved having a chance to swing the night away!
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I’ve always loved the ’40s as an era – the style is unmatched in my opinion. I used to pore over the pictures of my grandmother and her sisters and friends in their dresses, suits and gloves from that time. The red lips, the victory rolls, the feminine dresses which cinched at the waist and flowed out over the hips (and offer the perfect amount of twirl on the dance floor) – it is all just so romantic and pretty.

THE DRESS
I spent quite a bit of time searching for my dress. I looked at local consignment shops, department stores, costume stores. But I didn’t find what I was looking for until I looked on Unique Vintage. I found them to have the best selection of 1940s dresses. The dresses had the authentic cut, necklines and skirt that I was looking for. I ordered a few dresses because I didn’t know how they would fit. The sizes do vary from dress to dress as they come from different makers.  These are the three I ordered:

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I went back and forth a million times trying to decide as I loved them all. In the end I chose number three because it fit me the best and I loved the neckline (I will show it from the front below). I gave the first one to my sister and she wore that one to the party and I unfortunately had to return the purple one as it was too big in the waist. The style of it also felt a bit more like the 1950s to me than the ’40s.  So with the dress chosen, I went on to choose accessories.

ACCESSORIES
Finding the right, authentic looking shoes was harder than I expected it to be.  After an exhaustive search, I found the perfect pair and ordered them online through DSW. I loved them and they thankfully fit perfectly when they arrived. I’ve since worn them many times to teach dance and they have worked well for that as well. They were comfortable and completely looked the part.

I picked up some earrings and flowers for my hair at Kohl’s and Claire’s Accessories respectively and the outfit was complete.

MAKEUP
I also had to pick up some makeup – false eyelashes and some eye shadow. I watched a fantastic tutorial on 1940s hair and makeup by Zabena. She has been extremely helpful for a number of decade parties we’ve had. You can see the ’40s makeup tutorial by her at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy7SjCCLWWI

My finished makeup and hair.
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DECORATIONS
We included USO themes to the decor and since my birthday happens to be right after the 4th of July, there was a plethora of patriotic decorations to choose from in the stores at that time. Perfect timing!
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PHOTO BOOTH

My mom and I designed and assembled the photo booth. Everyone had so much fun posing there. We spent close to two hours doing just that!
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CAKE
After the pictures, we had some great food and then ice cream cake (since childhood I’ve always had ice cream cake for my birthday cake 🙂 )
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DANCING
And then we danced. I taught some swing steps to the group and most everyone joined in. We danced as the sun set and then well after into the evening.
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DSC05080The party was a dream from beginning to end – an early summer’s dream. It truly felt like we’d been transported to another time. I already have ideas for my next 1940s themed party! You can watch the party video I put together – it is linked at the top of this post.