Recent enjoyments

As usual I’ve been watching quite a lot of things over the past two months or so and some of that I have really enjoyed. I always mean to blog about what I enjoyed but somehow other things come up and I don’t write about as much as I could have done, mostly because I’m too lazy to go into more lengthy critiques. So, now I am summing up some things I’ve been enjoying entertainment wise recently, with shorter comments instead of lengthy reviews.

Let me start with Hallmark, which are basically mindless movies that I can enjoy after intense periods such as closely following elections in the USA or dealing with work stuff that frustrates me. I needed to take my mind off things for a bit, so after a bit of a Hallmark hiatus, I dove back into it to watch some of the Christmas Hallmark movies these past two months. Although most of them were fast forward worthy (I was again reminded of my Hallmark Christmas movie nightmare I once had), there were a few that I did quite enjoy. My fave (of the ones I have seen) is a movie with Warren Christie and Candace Cameron Bure with the very uninspiring title If I Only Had Christmas. It’s about a cheerful publicist teaming up with a cynical undercover rich business owner as they help a charity in need at Christmastime. I found especially the performance of Warren Christie to be quite soulful, which gave the not too surprising story (no Hallmark story ever is) an extra dimension.

I also liked the Paul Campbell and Kimberley Sustad movie, which they also co-wrote together, called Christmas By Starlight. The story is about a lawyer who makes a deal with the heir to a development firm to spare her family’s restaurant from demolition. She spends the week with him posing as the legal counsel his father is demanding he hire in the wake of some costly mistakes. I’ve blogged about Paul Campbell before, I always enjoy watching him, and Kimberley Sustad really is a perfect partner for him and he for her, this is their third film (I think) together. Again, the story isn’t too surprising but there are some fun scenes and there’s some amusing easy banter that goes along well with their easy rapport with each other; I enjoyed watching this.

Last month I already mentioned the Lucas Bryant movie (The Angel Tree) that I also enjoyed, so those were the end of year Hallmark highlights for me.

Putting Hallmark aside (it needs to be enjoyed in not too large doses) I also watched a German movie called Der Vorname (thank you Herba for the suggestion!) about a family dinner where a family member, who is an expectant father, announces that he wants to name his baby son Adolf. Not only the controversy over the name makes this movie good, it’s also very funny at times and the family dynamics and annoyances are very real and relatable. I know not all my German readers will agree, but German movies can be really good and usually tend to be way better than Dutch ones, this is another example of that. I really enjoyed it and actually ended up watching this twice to make sure I caught all the nuances.

I watched the second season of The Alienist (8 sepisodes) at the beginning of November which I really enjoyed, just as I had enjoyed the first season when I first saw it last year or so. Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) now has her own detective agency and teams up again with Dr. Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and reporter John Moore (Luke Evans) to find a serial kidnapper and killer of babies. I didn’t like the ending between Sara and John very much, so I hope a third season will come to correct that.

The Alienist lead me to another period drama detective series which I finally got around to watching about two weeks ago. It’s called Miss Scarlet and the Duke, starring Kate Philips as Eliza Scarlet and Stuart Martin as the duke/inspector William Wellington. It’s set in Victorian London and is about the headstrong Eliza Scarlet who is left penniless when her father dies and decides to continue her father’s detective agency, to the annoyance of her childhood friend and also Scotland Yard detective inspector William Wellington. She becomes the first-ever female detective in Victorian London and is soon solving murders. Of course there is some sexual tension between the two but this series isn’t only about that. There is only one season (consisting of 6 episodes) of this show and I especially liked the last two episodes, which left me wanting more. Apparently filming for a second season was halted due to the Covid 19 epidemic but I really hope that second season will come.

I also watched some more serious stuff that I enjoyed, mostly US political stuff around the time of the US presidential elections. I saw The Way I See It, a documentary about White House photographer Pete Souza, who closely documented the 8 years of Barack Obama’s presidency and also did some photography of Ronald Reagan. It’s a fascinating portrait of the Obama presidency as seen through his lense and from a human standpoint shows such a stark contrast with the current US president. Pete Souza is a soft-spoken, almost shy man, who likes to blend into the background, but for this documentary takes up a bit more of the stage as he presents his work.

In more politics, I also finally got around to watching the four part documentary series Hillary last month, which is an intimate portrait of former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and how she became one of the most admired and also vilified women in the world. It was a fascinating watch and though, yes, she may have her faults, she still would have made a far better president than Donald Trump.

Recently I also watched The Long Song, a three part BBC series from 2018 that I had meant to watch but never got around to until now. It’s about the end of slavery in 19th century Jamaica and follows the life of slave girl July (Tamara Lawrance). The tone of the drama is a bit mixed, in parts trying to be humorous in its voiceover and that feels off, but the story is very compelling nonetheless and I was fascinated throughout. I don’t know how truthful the narrative is, but it really is worth a watch. Tamara Lawrance is awesome as the feisty and rebellious July and so were Hayley Atwell who played her spoiled owner and Jack Lowden as the idealistic overseer who loses himself.

The only book on this list of things I enjoyed these past two months or so, is the only book I actually got around to reading during this time (yeah, too little reading going on here!). Over Christmas I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming. It was a great read and helped me understand more about who she is, her background, and also gave me a little insight into the dynamics of her marriage to Barack. The telling of her years before she became First Lady is almost more compelling than the last part of the book set during the presidency, as the formative years are very much the foundation of who she came to be and those stories were (to me) less known. The book was a very thoughtful telling of her life and was a bit of an analysis of her character as well. I’d already seen (and enjoyed) the documentary of her book tour a while back, I was glad to now finally read the book itself, giving me more insight in the woman behind the icon.

The book reminded me that I had once read about a movie that had been made about the young Obamas love story. It turned out to be a 2016 film that was made about the Obama’s first date back in 1989 called Southside With You. The film is of course speculative in its dialogue but, knowing a bit more about that first date and about the Obamas through the Becoming book, it really felt true to Barack and Michelle to me. It’s got a very calm and thoughtful feel to it (I really liked Parker Sawyers as Barack Obama) and although I wouldn’t give it the 4 stars it gets on this promo picture, I still thought it was very nicely done. Over time I’ve watched a couple of Harry and Meghan love story adaptations, a TV film about the Danish crown princess Mary (who was born Australian) and her prince’s love story; way back I once saw an awful adaptation of William and Kate’s love story and not long ago I saw bits and pieces of the latest season of The Crown. Of all these true story adaptations that I’ve seen, I thought Southside With You was way better than any of them.

Last but not least, and on a completely different note, just after Christmas I binge-watched the new costume drama Bridgerton on Netflix. It’s set in Jane Austen times at the beginning of the 19th century and centers around the Bridgerton family (a widowed mother and her 4 sons and 4 daughters), the eldest daughter Daphne ‘coming out’ during the London season and falling in love with a duke. It’s apparently an adaptation of a romance novel, and while it looks and is set in Regency times, it has some modern twists, with most notably a truly wonderful diverse cast that I love. The characters are all fun and it has quite a lot of sexy times in it too (which I really didn’t need to see that much of but was fine). It’s filled with clichés but boy, is it a fun watch!

This adaptation is made after the Bridgerton romance novel series written by Julia Quinn, aparently there is a book each for each of the siblings. I found them online, dipped through the first book and the story looks to be pretty much like the Netflix series. Instead of reading that, I went on to actually read all of the second book (The Viscount Who Loved Me) yesterday afternoon/evening (it’s a quick and fun read), which centers on the love story of oldest brother Anthony. Yes, I will be reading more because I want to know what becomes of all these Bridgerton siblings and Penelope (from a neighbouring family). I hope Netflix will renew Bridgerton for a second series. For all it’s love story clichés, it’s very well done, it has a light touch, good characters, some nice thoughts on how society became so diverse (which is a series thing and not in the books, by the way) and also dives into the roles of women, their status, conforming where they don’t necessarily want to conform and showing how keeping genteel women in the dark about sex really disenfranchises them. It really is a fun and sometimes even thought provoking world to get lost in for a while. I’m already waiting for more.

That’s it, my recent enjoyments (off the top of my head). This afternoon my new Kobo e-reader that I ordered yesterday should be arriving (the old Sony one I had had its issues and with the Christmas bonus I got from work I figured it was time for a new one). I think I may be ensconced in the Bridgerton books for a while on my new e-reader before I delve into Barack Obama’s biography, so there’s a chance there may be less blogging going on for a while. Two more days till the New Year and I intend to spend it reading a lot. 🙂

Paul Campbell rocks!

I think most of my readers won’t know who Paul Campbell is. He is (to me) one of the best actors in those Hallmark movies I like to watch on occasion. He is relaxed, real, not overly soppy and funny too in the movies I have seen him in. He has made two or three Hallmark movies I really like and when he makes a new one, I’m always ready to tune in.

So, I follow him on Twitter and thus know that in a week he has a new Hallmark movie coming up called Wedding Every Weekend. It co-stars Kimberley Sustad, another no nonsense Hallmark actor I like. They had great chemistry in a Hallmark movie they did together that I really liked a while ago (A Godwink Christmas, picture above on the right), so I already thought this might be fun.

Now it turns out that one of the weddings these two will be attending within this new movie is a gay wedding, which is really out there for a Hallmark movie and already I am liking the sound of this even more!

Over on Twitter, Paul Campbell has been getting encouragement for starring in a movie which features a gay marriage but he has also been getting flak from conservative Christians. His stance has been one of patient opposition to homophobic views and I’m loving it. Read for yourself (clicking on the screencapped images will take you to the Twitter messages themselves), he started with tweeting this…

And this is what unfolded…

And this…

And this…

And this…

And then this…

And finally this…

That ‘wonderful lifestyle’ tweet has now been deleted, I see. Anyway, I love how calmly Paul is replying to these homophobic comments. He’s friendly, tries to inject some humour, but is very clear in his view that love is love 🏳️‍🌈. Kudos to him for doing this with class and respect! And great that Hallmark is slowly trying to take some steps towards more diversity.

Back into the swing of things again?

Looking at my inbox I realize I have not been around much on blog and on other blogs for the past month or so! It’s pointless to try and catch up on all the old posts of my fave bloggers that I have missed, it would just take up too much time. So, I’m jumping in on posts from a week or so ago and I’ll take it from there…

Where have I been you ask? Well, right here, but very busy. I am now 2 months into my new job, I am enjoying it very much but it’s also extremely busy! So busy, in fact, that I have been in talks about needing another person there with me to share the load. Luckily my direct managers also see that, so we will be working towards a solution. I’m still so glad I made the choice to leave a toxic situation at my old job and find this new one. So far, no regrets there! I’ve also been busy with family stuff, so by the time I get to down time, all I want is to put my mind to rest and not think too much.

During that down time I have been ‘Hallmarking’ again (i.e. watching Hallmark movies), because those are easy movies to watch that don’t make you think too much. They tend to use certain actors over and over and I am becoming quite knowledgeable, in any case about the actors I tend to like in these movies. I feel a ‘fave Hallmark actors’ post coming, we’ll see if I can find patience to actutally write about it. The ones that have preoccupied me most lately are Paul Greene…

Heart of a Fighter

… and Paul Campbell…

Paul-Campbell

They both have these gentle, warm, friendly ways about them with humour (Campbell’s humor seems a little more dry than Greene’s) and they’re easy on the eyes without being too flashy.

Anyway, that was a little side-track from the sorry-I-was-absent message. I know I always said I would not put any rules or restraints on my blogging. I blog when I can and when I want to and if that means not blogging for a while then that’s fine! Having said that, since starting this blogging thing close to 5 years ago I have rarely been this quiet and inactive and it does feel a bit weird and like I should apologize for being so silent. Let me just tell you: it’s not you, it’s me! And I hope I’ll get back into the swing of things again more, although I hate to promise anything.

Back to daily life: my foot is still really sore (just now hobbled out to the garden to take these pictures)…

… so I’m working from home today. Cancelling two appointments has freed up a little time to write this post. 🙂  For now I think I’m back and I hope to see you around, also on the other blogs I read.

A Hallmark nightmare

I tend to dream… a lot. I don’t always remember my dreams but I remember them often enough. A few years ago I even blogged about a vivid one I had involving my dad and Richard Armitage. Mr Esther is often surprised at how much I seem to remember from my dreams. When a month ago the newest ‘Mach was’ theme was announced as ‘Do something with dreams’, I figured that by the time the deadline came around I’d probably have some silly dream or dreams to blog about. I was right. Herba sent a reminder for the ‘Mach was’ theme and I read that reminder right after a very eventful dream night. Thus the idea for this post was born.

In times of troubles, I tend to escape to easy fare now and again and find myself watching Hallmark movies. I have blogged about them before and while I don’t binge them like I did two years ago when I posted about them, I do see a fair share of them. Now that Christmas is edging closer, the Hallmark Channel is screening Christmas movies (oh my goodness, Hallmark completely adores Christmas!) and after watching one of those last weekend, I had that dream. In the dream I was stuck in one such Hallmark movie and it went something like this (I will be embellishing somewhat, not all of this actually happened in my dream, but I was inspired)…


It is the end of the afternoon, the sun is just setting, and Esther is driving alone in her car somewhere in rural middle of America. The landscape is covered with beautiful snow. She passes through a lovely town called Mistletoe and everywhere she looks there are homes covered in Christmas lights, with santas and sleighs and deer gracing the front lawns and many houses also sporting American flags or symbols…

“Trump country,” Esther finds herself thinking and, “wow, this is a Christmas-lights-rush, not unlike a sugar rush! A bit over the top but fascinating nonetheless.”

She drives through this overly-decorated world and turns into a quiet road just as she is leaving the town again. Suddenly the car skids, she tries to control it by wildly turning her steering wheel and braking but it doesn’t help. The car slides off the road and as she lands full stop in a ditch on the side of the road, the airbag opens, she feels her head snap forward and backward and she hears something crack underneath her. That doesn’t sound good. She is stranded and her neck hurts. She takes a few moments to control her shaking and her ragged breathing.

After the first shock, she figures she needs to get out of there and find help but luckily help isn’t far away. Just as she gets out of the car, she finds that a pick up truck has stopped behind her and a tall man is getting out. He’s not only tall, also dark and handsome. Instead of immediately thinking that he’s completely her type, she’s thinking, “Is this why there are so many trucks in America? So they can rescue stranded women in the snow? We don’t have many of those where I live in my Dutch city. Then again, we barely have snow.”

Things happen quickly. The handsome man, let’s call him Joe (as in Joseph and Mary – befitting a Christmas story), is concerned about Esther who insists she is fine. She doesn’t wait for introductions (rude big city girl that she is) and asks him take her to the nearest garage so she can arrange for her car to be towed and repaired.

“I’m afraid the garage is closed for the day,” Joe says, “but you can call them tomorrow. The car will be alright here.”

“Could you point me in the direction of the nearest inn, then?” Esther asks, walking to the back of the car to get her suitcase out of the boot.

“Our inn is closed for refurbishment, the nearest inn is 20 miles away,” Joe says. 

Esther, feeling a little overwhelmed and still shaky from the crash, stumbles a little, rubbing her neck and Joe is quickly at her side to steady her.

“Listen, you may have a concussion or whiplash. I’m Joe, the town doctor, why don’t you let me take a look at you in my practice which is close by.”

If there is one thing Esther hates it’s being poked and prodded. She doesn’t even like beauty spas and wellness centers, even going to the hairdressers is a chore she prefers to not do more often than once every 3 or 4 months. Letting a doctor poke and prod her really isn’t what she wants right now but in the end Joe is persuasive enough and she drives with him to his practice. He looks her over, pronounces her fine enough but also says that he would like her to not sleep alone that night, just in case. He offers her a guest room in his large house, where his recently divorced sister and niece are also staying for the time being. With nowhere else to go, Esther accepts.

Of course, Joe’s sister Mary and her daughter Eve (as in Christmas Eve) are lovely. They all share dinner and get to know each other. Mary and Eve talk about getting their Christmas nails done and won’t Esther like to join them. She smiles sweetly and declines as she doesn’t enjoy beauty treatments either.  “You’re an unusual woman,”  Mary says, trying to make sense of the fact that it is possible that there are women on this earth who would not enjoy having their nails done. Joe is starting to be intrigued by this charming stranger from a city abroad with her odd out-of-town ways.

The next morning is a Saturday morning and as there are no weekend calls, Joe accompanies Esther to the garage. The car is towed to the garage and Esther is told that it will be at least a week before the car is repaired, which means she will be stranded in the small town of Mistletoe over Christmas. Oh no! But Joe doesn’t seem to mind.

“Come, help us bake Christmas cookies!” Joe says cheerfully. Esther smiles half-heartedly. She hates cooking and baking. Why does everyone in a Hallmark movie always love to cook and bake? Maybe, like all the women in Hallmark movies, she will end up loving baking after all? She agrees to join in, and Joe, Mary and Eve spend a few hours baking with Esther while they listen to Christmas songs. 

Final verdict? The company is fun, and of course it’s sweet when Joe removes some flower from her face and if he’d lean in only a little further, they could be kissing. Other than that, baking in itself still sucks.

“Oh, we need to still set up a Christmas tree in my practice!” Joe then says and Esther and Joe go to the Christmas Tree Lot to pick a Christmas tree. It needs to be just the right tree and Joe educates Esther on how to pick the right one. Admittedly, it’s a nice tree but it really is huge. They set it up (it takes a while to get the tree standing straight) and decorate together. Joe takes ages to get all the Christmas lights placed ‘just right’ and the tree is very prickly as they decorate… and decorate… and decorate. A few lingering looks and smiles are exchanged, which is really the highlight of all of this. The tree is so huge it takes ages to decorate. “No wonder they only ever show couples in Hallmark movies hanging up the last few ornaments. This is only marginally more fun than baking,” Esther thinks. “At least the mess of tidying up the boxes is his and not mine to deal with.”

“Shall we all go to the Christmas Line Dance this evening?” Mary later asks when they get back to the house.

“Really?” Esther thinks, “Country music?” but sure, she’s game. It’s always good to try new things, right? Yep, line dancing doesn’t turn out to be her thing. She has fun and a lot of laughs, especially when she lands in bemused Joe’s arms a few times because of missteps, but this will never be her music.

“How would these people like ‘Assassin’ by Muse? Not so much, I bet,” Esther thinks, starting to play that song in her head…

The next morning Esther is up early and when she goes downstairs for breakfast she is cordially invited to come to church with Joe, Mary and Eve. 

“Oh no!” she thinks, “Just because I told them my father was a minister, they think I am religious too! Must set things straight.” So, she tells them, “Sorry, I am an atheist…” 

Their mouths fall open in amazement, Joe doesn’t seem to comprehend that statement. She can almost hear the wheels in his mind churning, saying, “Not Christian… not possible… does not compute…”

But, Esther doesn’t want to be rude to her kind hosts and comes with them. “I bet they think they’ll convert me. They won’t.” And she’s right, nothing in that church service, especially the sermon, has any remote attraction for her. “If anything, I’d rather be Jewish,” she thinks.

Joe and Esther go for a walk in the snow in the afternoon and talk about life. Joe gave up big city life and a high-flying career as a promising surgeon for a small country practice. 

“Doesn’t it get too quiet and isolated? What about going to an arthouse movie or to a rock concert or a museum? Shopping somewhere where there’s actual choice, the joy of people watching while sitting in a café in a busy city? And how do you deal with everyone interfering with everyone’s business? Doesn’t small town gossip get very annoying? There is joy to be had in a little more anonymity.” But all of that doesn’t seem to be an issue with Joe. He can’t imagine ever living anywhere else than in this little Christmassy town of Mistletoe.

“People here have family values,” he says.

“They have family values in the city where I live as well,” Esther counters.

Admittedly, the scenery in and around the town is beautiful.

On Monday Joe is back at work in his practice. Esther accompanies Eve to school and while she’s there she is introduced to the very kind headmaster (the token kind Hallmark African-American). They talk and she finds they are looking to replace an English teacher who just quit and Esther (oh miracle of miracles) happens to be an English teacher. She subs for a few days and of course she does well…

Here the dream starts working overtime… Christmas… Christmas… Christmas all around! Joe works to awaken Esther’s “Christmas spirit” which has remained dormant in protest: they listen to carolers… build snowmen… go ice skating… go Christmas shopping… help with more decorating at the church… more baking… always more baking… everyone is shiny and smiley… the magic of Christmas… Joe’s here… there’s a job here… small town Mistletoe is the only place to be… America is the best place in the world… MAGA… now I start to sweat (or is this menopause coming through in my dream?)… forget the outside world… stay here… wholesomeness forever… live for baking… and a few classes at school… and home making for Joe… and church (but I’m an atheist!)… forget your family and friends in the outside big bad world… oh no, everyone always has dead parents and family in these Hallmark movies… Is my family gone?… Is this the place to be?… With Christmas decorations… and Christmas stories…. and Hallmark Christmas movies…. and cheesy Christmas songs… stay here in this one small place forever… I am being sucked into a small town Christmas vortex…  MAGA… Joe… Christmas… decorations… baking… no more outside world… stuck here…    HELP!


I wake up with a start and sit up straight in bed, heart beating in my throat. Wow, that was beautiful and terrifying at the same time! I look to my right and see Mr Esther breathing deeply, sleeping beside me. Hallmark small town Christmas is pretty and all, but I think I prefer where I am with the husband I have… where I feel I can be myself… where I don’t have to bake or go to church… where Christmas decorating isn’t a constant thing… where I feel I can breathe and be different… I plant a careful, light kiss on Mr Esther’s head so that I won’t wake him and I lie down again, beside him. Hallmark is very pretty, Joe was very pretty and sweet, but that is not my world. This is my world and I am very content here.

I love glasses!

I wear glasses, have worn them ever since I was 11. I always refused to get lenses, that always looked like too much trouble and work, and glasses are easy. You wipe them clean and put them on your nose and you’re done. Yeah, there are down sides, like when you go to a swimming pool, or when you bike in the rain, but mostly I like them… no… I actually love a nice pair of glasses on a woman or a man! For me personally I feel bare and less attractive without glasses than with them. I have always refused to accept that anyone could be deemed less attractive just because they wear glasses. I hate these makeover movies where a girl with glasses gets made over without glasses and suddenly she is beautiful. One of the reasons why I liked one of my fave Hallmark movies Cloudy with a Chance of Love is that the heroine starts out with glasses, gets made over without glasses to look ‘more beautiful’ but in the end returns back to glasses again and that the guy actually prefers her that way!

I have multifocals now and two years ago my husband started wearing glasses as well… we’re in our forties, it happens. He doesn’t need his all the time but wears them often enough and I just love it.

So, with my soft spot for glasses, I was thrilled when earlier this week somewhat blurry pictures appeared of Richard Armitage wearing them too! He too is in his forties and for him too this happens. I’ve loved seeing him wear glasses on The Vicar of Dibley, even though it was only briefly…

… I didn’t really like Into the Storm that much but I admit to watching the beginning of the movie over and over again when he briefly wears glasses as well…

Of course we have seen Richard in sunglasses often enough…

… but to know that he needs them (for reading at least) in real life really thrills me in a way! I find it sexy. Alas the pictures of him wearing them at the Berlin Station read-through aren’t that clear (I cropped the pictures here)…

… so I am hoping that in the future we will get more and better Richard Armitage wearing glasses pictures! Maybe he can re-enact this cool one of Gregory Peck… yeah, these are not ‘real’ glasses but sunglasses, but still I just love this picture!

peck2