Cheesy Christmas Movie Countdown


It’s that time, friends! Christmas movie time, that is!

Grumpy Cat says: NO.

Wait. Did you think I was talking about White Christmas (or, my preference, Holiday Inn), It’s a Wonderful Life, or A Miracle on 34th Street? The Grinch and Scrooge? The classics? No. I’m talking about the CHEESY Christmas movies on CABLE.

The ones with our favorite childhood stars (or crushes, WHATEVER) – Mark-Paul Gosselar, James Van Der Beek, Mario Lopez, Joey Lawrence, Luke Perry, Dean Cain. And don’t forget the ever-present Melissa Joan Hart, Haylie Duff, Lacey Chabert and their friends Joanna Garcia, Ashley Williams, Tatyana Ali, Danica McKellar, Tia Mowry, Jennie Garth and Jenny McCarthy.

Wow. It sounds a little crazy when I list them all out like that. I don’t care, though. I love every one of those silly movies!

Well, that’s not true. I do have a threshold for cheese, and some of these movies bust right through it. Still, most of them – with their small town charm and desperate business owners and quirky neighbors and snow globe magic and alternate universes and childhood sweethearts – are my favorite things to watch in December.

Even my favorite pop culture writer from the very prestigious NPR agrees:

“Holiday time can actually be a little fraught and a little stressful. You know, you want something uncomplicated, and sometimes saving the Christmas tree farm from foreclosure is a pretty good option.”
- Linda Holmes, NPR’s Monkey See

I was going to make a list of my top 10 favorite cheesy Christmas movies, but after listing all the actors who star in them, I realized it would be impossible to narrow it down. (After all, I didn’t even bring up the not-so-famous actors or the Henry Winklers, Tom Cavanaughs, Steve Guttenbergs, Tom Arnolds and the Doris Roberts, Markie Posts, Teri Polos, Candace Camerons. See? I can’t even make THAT list a short one!)

So instead I’ll finish this so I can finish watching…um…Holiday in Handcuffs. (I KNOW.) And I’ll leave you with a few links so you, too, can get your fill of Christmas cheese!

Now, I’m off to do something productive. I’m most certainly not going to follow a rabbit trail of cheesy Christmas movies in hopes of finding this one movie I watched that one time that either had a girl from a show I used to watch or a guy from a show I used to watch and there was a Christmas tree scene and SOMETHING. I think the girl had red hair.

No. I’m not going to try to figure out what movie that is. That’d be ridiculous…right…?

What’s YOUR favorite cheesy Christmas movie?

The Good, the Bad and the Cancelled


It’s that time of year when we talk about how fast time flies, when we lament the loss of autumn and short sleeves and those days when our kids were so cute and well-behaved. (That was a thing, right? Back then, before time went so fast and we got here?)

It’s also that time of year when we talk about how stressful the holidays are and how this year is going to be different and should we shop early or often or never or what?

But I’m thinking we take a break from all that today and talk about another timely topic. You guessed it: the new TV shows of the fall!

A couple weeks ago at Allume, a friend asked me what I’m watching these days. My real answer was too long for conference lunch small talk – but just right for a blog post. The parameters? I’m only talking shows that debuted this fall, and I’m only talking about shows I watched (or listed in my fall TV preview post).

The Short Answers

  • A to Z – cute but cancelled. *sad trombone*
  • Gotham – haven’t watched and probably won’t.
  • How to Get Away with Murder – ditto.
  • Manhattan Love Story – awful and cancelled.
  • Mulaney – didn’t watch and won’t bother.
  • Red Band Society – and ditto again.
  • State of Affairs – hasn’t started yet, but I’m still looking forward to it.

The Longer Answers

  • Black-ish – I watched a few episodes but I didn’t love it. Lots of people love it! I know! I wanted to, but so far . . . I don’t.
  • NCIS: New Orleans – I watched it but wasn’t impressed enough to keep watching. There’s nothing wrong with it; I just don’t need to add it to my already-overworked DVR.
  • Scorpion – I really liked the first episode but haven’t watched any others. I’m hoping to catch up over the holidays.
  • Selfie – Well, this is a real bummer. I didn’t like the first episode and wanted to write it off. But Lisa-Jo convinced me to watch it because she loved it so very much. So I gave it another try and watched six episodes in a row. Then? It was cancelled. *VERY SAD TROMBONE*

The Best Answers

  • Benched – This new 30-minute sitcom on USA is hilarious. It’s also rated a solid PG-13, so don’t pick this one up if language bothers you. It stars Eliza Coupe from Happy Endings as a high-powered attorney who had a breakdown, lost her job and now works as a public defender. It also has the guy from Better Off Ted, so that’s another plus.
  • The Flash – I love this show! (And I’m watching it as I write this!) It’s as good as the Arrow, but a lot lighter. Except for Tom Cavanaugh’s character, which is a bummer because I really only want to see him as Ed (from Ed, one of my favorite shows EVER). But the rest of the show is super fun, and I’m loving it.
  • Forever – Okay, so this one really is a basic procedural that’s not that much different from all the others. But I like the main characters, so I’m going to keep watching for a while.
  • Jane the Virgin – It’s a ridiculous premise, right? A 23-year-old virgin is accidentally inseminated by her boss. And then there’s a fiance who’s a cop, so there’s a murder mystery, too. And her Lorelai-like mom and a surprise dad she never knew until now, big coincidence, and oh, so much more. (Did I mention that one time a long time ago she kissed her boss, before he was her boss? Yeah, that’s a thing, too.) I KNOW. It sounds crazytown and silly, and being on the CW doesn’t help my sales pitch here. BUT IT IS SO GOOD! It is funny and quirky and melodramatic but in a winking sort of way that’s charming despite the ridiculousness. And all the twisty drama that other shows would draw out for seasons and seasons? They just cut to the chase and deal with it. In soapy, dramatic (and almost always funny) fashion.
  • Madam Secretary – I was trying to tell a friend why this is one of my favorite new shows of the season, and her husband interpreted my words to mean I think I could’ve been the Secretary of State. I’m not saying I couldn’t have been (you don’t know, maybe I could’ve been!), but that is not what I was saying. I was SAYING that watching this show reminds me of who I used to be or who I wanted to be or the days when I wore nice clothes and walked down hallways in clicky shoes. I don’t know. It makes me feel feelings, and I have half a whole blog post written about it, if you must know. In my head. So, stay tuned for THAT brilliance and in the meantime, watch this show if you like political things. I’m not sure how realistic it is, but since so far, the good guys keep winning (and the family relationships are realistic and just GOOD), I’m pretending like this is real life. (Not to be confused with thinking it could have been MY real life. I never said that part, okay?)
  • Marry Me – Oh, guys. I didn’t think this would be good, but it turns out . . . it is. It’s really funny, and totally worth half an hour of my life. I’m glad this one (as opposed to all the other, similar ones) hasn’t been cancelled yet. It’s pretty much like watching Happy Endings with a few different characters.

What’s your take on this fall’s new TV shows?

Photo source

What I’m Into :: October 2014


Arrrgh, mateys! Annalyn decided to dress up as Izzy from Jake and the Neverland Pirates this year, which meant – of course – that Adrienne would be a parrot. (Coincidentally, she did eat quite a few crackers on Friday, which led to many Polly the parrot jokes. Because we’re hilarious like that.)

Annalyn wanted me to dress as the Pirate Princess (or is it the Princess Pirate?) from the Disney Jr. show, but I opted to stick to generic pirate attire instead. Mark was supposed to stick a hook on his hand and a patch on his eye at the least, but he woke up with an allergy attack on Friday and missed the Halloween festivities.

Halloween 20141

Every year we go to my parents’ house for Halloween. Their neighborhood is nicer and safer than ours – plus they have the Great Pumpkin video to watch. We ate taco soup, made-from-scratch pumpkin pie with made-from-scratch whipped cream courtesy of my brother, trick or treated to a dozen houses (all we were up to in the cold!), and made s’mores while we watched Charlie Brown. All in all, a darned good Halloween!

Did you do anything fun for Halloween?

The rest of October was just as full as last Friday. A birthday, a conference, a road trip and more. And since I didn’t write a September What I’m Into post, I’ve got two months of stuff to share. Here goes…!

Reading October 2014

What I’m Reading

Too many books, not enough time: this will forever be my complaint. [Do you think maybe in heaven we'll get to read all the books we missed during our lifetimes? Does anyone else wonder about this???]

I read a lot of books over the past two months – as usual. Here are the ones that stuck out:

  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor – YA fantasy, first in a trilogy, super creative. It was weird, honestly, but also captivating. I have the next book in the series on my Kindle right now.
  • Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay – This is a book of letters, written from a young woman to her anonymous benefactor. Samantha, the main character is obsessed with her books – especially those by Jane Austen, a coping mechanism that’s helped her throughout a rough life. “Mr. Knightley” and his foundation give her a generous scholarship and the only stipulation is that she write him letters. Even though I saw the “twist” coming well before I read it (and don’t even love Jane Austen…gasp!), I still really enjoyed this book.
  • Can’t Let You Go by Jenny B. Jones – I recently realized I’d never finished the Katie Parker series, so I quickly amended that situation. And just in time, because this follow-up book came out this fall. It takes place a few years after the original series, so the book is more new adult than young adult. And it’s called a novella, but it felt just about as long as a normal novel. And, of course, it was great, continuing Jenny’s streak of writing books that I love. (I figure I can call her “Jenny” since sometimes she replies to my comments on Facebook. That’s how this works, right?)
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith – This was the second Cormoran Strike novel by J.K. Rowling using a pen name. Like the first one, it’s a gritty detective story. And when I say “gritty,” I mean that the crime was super gross. But the book itself was detailed, complex, occasionally funny and interesting from start to finish.
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness – I was wrong. Okay? I was wrong when I said that I didn’t like the first book in this vampire and witch trilogy. It was history and time travel and fantasy and romance, all rolled up together in a trio of very long, very interesting books. This final book in the series was jam-packed with characters, almost to the point of being too complicated to follow. But once I managed to wrap my brain around who was who, I found this book a satisfying conclusion that wrapped things up nicely and answered most of my questions.
  • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill – Yes, it’s YA. And yes, it’s time travel. But it’s also a story that raises some really interesting ethical questions. Specifically, if you found out that someone you love would change and do something terrible in the future, what would you do to stop it from happening? (Assuming, of course, that you have a time machine. Of course.) I’ll admit that the cover for this one is pretty lame, and it kept me from reading it right away. But once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down!
  • Power Play by Catherine Coulter – Same old, same old with the FBI agents in this long-running series. But I keep reading them because I love the characters and the mysteries are good enough to keep me turning the pages. Nothing complex here, but I enjoy each book just the same.
  • Expertus by Holly Lauren – When one of my friends announces on Facebook that one of her friends has written and published a science fiction-y YA novel, I do not pass go and I do not collect $200. I go straight to Amazon and buy it. And then I love it and wait impatiently for book two. Expertus is the second book in the GenEx Saga series. I realize the word saga might make it sound a little soapy, but it’s not. Well, not much. I mean, it is YA, but it’s also well-written with interesting characters and believable dialogue, not to mention secret organizations and people with super powers. Of course, the problem with devouring book two is that you have to wait around for book three…


And the books I have lined up, on my shelves, on my Kindle and at the library (must pick them up today!):

  • Firewall by Diann Mills
  • Deceived by Irene Hannon
  • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan – The last in this series, so I’ll probably put off reading this as long as I can stand it!
  • Time’s Edge by Rysa Walker – I’m re-reading the first book in this YA time travel series before I read this one, book two. There were enough twists and turns (and I read it very shortly after having Adrienne) that I knew I needed a refresher.
  • Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Everyone says this is great, so I got it during a Kindle sale.
  • Time and Again by Jack Finney
  • Why Your Weirdness is Wonderful by Laurie Wallin – I met Laurie at Allume and am excited to read her book!


What I’m Watching

The fall season is in full swing – and when you combine that with a busy month (or two), it means we are way behind on our Friday Night Lights viewing. Poor Mark disagrees with my viewing strategy and doesn’t understand the importance of clearing off our DVR first. Priorities, man!

Someone asked me at Allume what my favorite new show(s) of the season are, and I have plans to write a longer post on just that soon. But until then, I’ll say two things. First, I’m not overly impressed with this season in general. And second, my favorite new show is Forever. If you don’t like procedurals, you won’t like this one. But I do – and so I do. It’s also got a fantasy/sci-fi element to it, which never hurts in my opinion.


I also discovered, on the day I forgot to cancel my free trial of Netflix, that I could watch the entire series of Greek. If you’ve been around here for a while and remember everything I’ve ever said about TV shows (seriously?), you might recall that I started watching this ABC Family show a few years ago when I was using my treadmill. I checked out the DVDs from the library and only allowed myself to watch them while I was on the treadmill.

But then I stopped using the treadmill, so I stopped watching the show. It was only fair. But since my treadmill is in storage at the moment and I’d already accidentally committed to one more month of Netflix, I figured it would be okay to finish the series. And it was. (I also realized it was available On Demand and watched several episodes that way.) I’m not [too] embarrassed to admit that I teared up watching the finale – and to falling down a rabbit hole of Google searches when I swear I saw the Kappa Tau house used in a recent episode of Franklin & Bash. Google let me down, but I’m still about 95% sure that the two shows used the same house.

this is where i leave you

I also managed to get to the movie theater a few weeks ago. Smitty and I went to a theater connected to a restaurant. I mean, the restaurant was inside the theater. Well, in the same building. And it wasn’t the kind of restaurant that served you inside the theater, but you could get your food to go and eat it while watching the movie. Which we did. In the dark.

I don’t know, guys. And I know this has nothing to do with the movie itself, but the whole setup of this theater was so confusing that I’m still thinking about it!

ANYWAY. We saw This is Where I Leave You. I tend to believe anything with Tina Fey is going to be good. Same for Jason Bateman. And this movie did not disappoint. It’s the typical big, dysfunctional family gets together for long weekend/reunion/holiday movie, although in this case the catalytic event is the father’s funeral. So if you don’t like that sort of thing, you might not like this either. But I liked it a lot. Smitty and I both laughed and cried through the whole thing. The critics I read later say it’s lame and not nearly as good as the book (I didn’t realize it was based on a book!), but whatever. I liked it a lot.


What I’m Doing in Real Life

Despite the crazy long list of books and very busy DVR I have going on, my non-entertainment life has been full this fall. Annalyn has started piano lessons, we took a trip to visit our friends in Springfield, I raised a little bit of money for Children’s Miracle Network with the Miracle Marathon (THANK YOU to everyone who donated!), I flew to South Carolina for the Allume Conference, and I went to Des Moines for both work and visiting friends. We also celebrated my nephew’s birthday and Annalyn’s.

Oh, and I spoke at a couple MOPS meetings, which was super fun. AND Adrienne has started crawling. Well, almost. She’s rocking and scooting and inching backwards.

Whew! No wonder I’ve felt so tired!

One last thing for you. In case you missed the news, Daniel Radcliffe (aka, Harry Potter) can apparently rap. Like a boss:

[Click here if you can’t see the video.]

What were YOU into in October? (This post will be linked up with Leigh. Read more What I’m Into posts there!)

Ain’t No Party Like a Liz Lemon Party…

Liz Lemon-002

Look at Liz, being all optimistic! Not exactly known for her cheerful outlook on life, Liz Lemon of 30 Rock still managed to find the bright side a time or two during the series’ run.

  • “I don’t care. I’ll start my own group. Rejection from society is what created X-Men!”
  • “Trying on jeans is my favorite thing! Maybe later I can get a pap smear from an old male doctor.”
  • “I have been watching The Mentalist a lot lately because my TV’s on CBS and I lost my remote. I think I’ve become a body language expert.”

See there? She TOTALLY found the lemonade in those sour situations!

I have a lot in common with the fictional Lemon. People tend to call her by both her first and last names. She was Liz-Lemon much more often than Liz or Lemon alone. And, as I realized only after getting married and hearing so many friends, on so many occasions, holler, “Mary Wal—CARVER!”

It was weird, really. I’m not sure what compels people to use both my names, but it still happens now. It’s not like there are a lot of Marys around, especially around my age. Although, I was at Panera earlier this week and I swear I heard my name called by the sandwich people about half a dozen times in the hour or so I was there. And this happens every single time I’m at Panera. Apparently Panera is the place for the Marys of the world?

ANYWAY. As I was saying, I have a lot in common with Liz Lemon. She likes NCIS. I like NCIS. She loves Pop-Tarts. I love Pop-Tarts. She likes saying, “I want to go to there,” “Blergh,” “Shut it down,” and “What the what?” I do, too. (Granted, she may have said them first.) But see? We’re practically the same.

Okay, maybe not. But keeping her expectations rock bottom so she’s not disappointed? Well, THAT we definitely have in common – as well as the tendency to react to bumps in the road with a tiny bit of dramatic disgust.


I’ve got more thoughts about Liz and expectations and optimism (or a lack of). But for a Saturday I think I’m going to leave it here with the funny quotes and photos.

(And hey, the upside to this post, which I finished on a day I kinda, sorta felt like everything was the worst? Reading pages and pages of 30 Rock quotes had me literally laughing out loud. Win, win, lemonade!)

31 Days Lemonade Footer

This post is part of a 31 Days series. Make sure you don’t miss a single post by subscribing to this blog. Once you confirm your email subscription, you’ll be entered into an exclusive weekly drawing [during the month of October] for a Daily Grace pitcher from DaySpring.

It’s Here! TV Premieres of Fall 2014

Fall TV Preview - 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .

Well, fine, maybe we shouldn’t compare the fall television premiere season to Christmas. We shouldn’t. Right?

Okay, so we won’t. But I also won’t deny that I am ridiculously (though, unsurprisingly) excited for old shows to return and new shows to start. Especially after the past two weeks of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BEING ON.

I asked on Facebook which shows you all are most looking forward to beginning this fall, and you had lots on your lists! You’re excited for Parenthood (tons of votes for this one, no surprise), The Good Wife, Scandal, Blacklist (the previews are making me question my choice to not watch this one last year…thoughts?), Person of Interest, Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, Newsroom, Agents of Shield, Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Galavant (I can’t wait for this one, but unfortunately it’s a mid-season premiere.), Gotham, Scorpion, and NCIS: New Orleans.

Wow! That’s a lot of shows and a lot of variety. You all have good taste! (Although I’ll confess I’ve never watched a single Batman movie and I’m just not sure Gotham would make sense to me.)

So let’s talk specifics. Shows. Dates. Thoughts. Opinions.

(NOTE: All times are CST because that’s where I live.)

Returning Shows I’ll Be Watching:

  • Once Upon a Time (Sundays at 7pm, premieres 9/28)
  • Castle (Mondays at 9pm, premieres 9/29)
  • NCIS (Tuesdays at 7pm, premieres 9/23)
  • New Girl (Tuesdays at 8pm, premieres 9/16 – tomorrow!!)
  • The Mindy Project (Tuesdays at 8:30 pm, premieres 9/16)
  • Arrow (Wednesdays at 7pm, premieres 10/8)

I’ll probably DVR Brooklyn 99 (Sundays at 7:30 pm, premieres 9/28) and About a Boy (Tuesdays at 8:30 pm, premieres 10/14), but I’m not quite ready to commit. Oh, and Hart of Dixie and Parks & Recreation are returning mid-season.

New Shows I’m Thinking About:

[Don't worry. I'm not planning to watch all of these. Yikes! Can you imagine? TOO MUCH TV!!!]

  • A to Z (NBC, Thursdays at 8pm) – This one feels like How I Met Your Mother all over again – partly because the main female character is The Mother, partly because the concept of the show is based on a relationship with an expiration date. I watched the pilot on Hulu, and it was cute. I’m not sure it’s a keeper, but I’m going to give it a try for now.
  • The Flash (CW, Tuesdays at 7pm) – A spinoff of Arrow, based on comic books. I don’t read comic books, but I do watch – and like – Arrow. So I’ll at least watch the first episode of this one.
  • Forever (ABC, Mondays at 9pm) – So. This show is about a guy who can’t die. Every time he does, he comes back to life, waking up naked and in water. Also, he’s a medical examiner and works with a pretty cop. I realize that might just sound a little ridiculous, but I will be watching it anyway.
  • Gotham (Fox, Mondays at 7pm) – Batman before Batman was Batman, apparently. Lots of people are real worked up about this one, but since – like I said – I haven’t watched any of the Batman movies, I think I’m going to sit this one out.
  • How to Get Away with Murder (ABC, Thursdays at 9pm) – Lots of you mentioned this one and lots of critics have talked about it. But…I don’t know. I gave up Grey’s Anatomy a long time ago and never got started with Scandal, so I’m not really inclined to add the latest Shonda Rhimes show to my list.
  • Jane the Virgin (CW, Mondays at 8pm) – A Christian girl accidentally gets artificially inseminated and then her show is compared to Ugly Betty. Ummm…okay? I figure I’ll give this one a try, since I liked Ugly Betty. We’ll see.
  • Madam Secretary (CBS, Sundays at 7pm) – Former CIA agent becomes Secretary of State and “shakes things up.” The preview looks good, so I’ve already put this one on my schedule. (Yes. I have a schedule.)
  • Manhattan Love Story (ABC, Tuesdays at 7pm) – Oh my gosh, shoot me. You know how people joke about reading each other’s thoughts and how it might not be a good thing? Yeahhhh, it’s NOT. Just watching the preview was painful. And this is coming from someone who’s currently watching Greek and loving it (the show this one’s main character was in).
  • Marry Me (NBC, Tuesdays at 8pm) – I liked Happy Endings, Penny included. And Vinnie Van Lowe from Veronica Mars always cracked me up. But I do not buy these two together, and I am not interested in this show. Watching the preview felt like watching a bit, like they could not possibly be serious – BUT THEY WERE.
  • Mulaney (Fox, Sundays at 8pm) – It’s the new Seinfeld. It might be funny. I’ll maybe watch it if it’s on On Demand.
  • NCIS: New Orleans (CBS, Tuesdays at 8pm) – No, I do not need another procedural in my life. But I liked the episodes that previewed this new spinoff last year, soooo…I don’t know. Maybe? I’ll try it? I guess?
  • Red Band Society (Fox, Wednesdays at 8pm) – Uggggghhhhhhh. You guys! It’s another show about sick kids! I blame John Green for this new trend, and I do not approve. Because TEARS. But the critics are all over this one. And I don’t want to miss out on the Next Hot Show (unless it’s about Batman). So I’ll watch the pilot. If it makes me cry, though, I’m out. (I mean, not really. Reruns of HIMYM make me cry. So.)
  • Scorpion (CBS, Mondays at 8pm) – A crew of super smart people save the world. I believe I saw one critic say it’s Big Bang Theory meets the Justice League of America and/or Fast and the Furious. Clearly I will be watching this from Day One.
  • Selfie (ABC, Tuesdays at 7pm) – I don’t know why (I was bored?), but I watched this pilot on Hulu. It was not good. I don’t plan to watch. Annnnnd that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
  • State of Affairs (NBC, Mondays at 9pm) – Katharine Heigl is a CIA agent, working with the president and tracking down the terrorists who killed her fiance. I know, okay? But I’m going to watch it anyway.

Some TV Resources for You:

What shows are you looking forward to this fall?

Photo source