Tag Archives: Christmas

Audiobook Review: Resting Scrooge Face by Megan Quinn

Resting Scrooge Face

Nola and Caleb were quite the item in their small town years ago but broke up when Nola wanted to pursue her dreams in New York City and Caleb wanted to stay in town.

As the Christmas season approaches, Nola is back in town following a break-up and trying to avoid Caleb, the boy who broke her heart. In a town full of the Christmas spirit, neither is really feeling it and starts putting down those feelings on paper in the form of anonymous letters that get passed back and forth by the town mailman.

Meghan Quinn’s Resting Scrooge Face (the name Caleb assumes for his letters to Ho Ho No) is a perfect holiday confection — sweet and a bit sugary. Quinn allows us just enough time to invest in the characters (I understand Nola features as a supporting character in other stories) but wisely doesn’t make us spend too much time doing the “will they or won’t they” rom-com dance. A diverting audiobook.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Pop-Culture Christmas

No prompt this week for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the That Artsy Reader Girl). With Christmas coming up, I thought I’d share my top ten pop-culture celebrations of this special time of year.

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — The older I get, the more I understand what motivated Clark Griswold. He wants to give his family the “perfect” Christmas, only to see it all go completely sideways. The line “You have expectations no holiday could live up to” sums it all up perfectly. That’s why it hits me in the funny bone and the sentimental side.
  2. Happy Days, “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas — Produced at the time the show was transitioning from a focus on the dynamic of Richie with his family and friends to Fonzie, this Christmas episode always makes my small heart grow three sizes. Fonzie has nowhere to go for Christmas, but is too proud to tell anyone. When Richie susses it all out, he’s invited to the Cunningham’s Christmas Eve celebration (though Howard isn’t as enthusiastic as everyone else). In the end, Fonzie even leads the family blessing by saying, “Hey God, thanks.” Gets me every single time.
  3. A Christmas Carol Book with the Disney Players LP. My dad gave me this when we started learning about tenses in elementary school. I still have it. Produced before the animated, it hits most of the same beats but it’s got better songs. You can hear it here if you’re interested. The lyric, “We don’t have everything we want, but we have all we need” really hits home.
  4. Doctor Who, A Christmas Carol. If Russell T. Davies established the Christmas special for my favorite show, Steven Moffatt took it to the next level with his first one. The Doctor plays the Ghost of Christmas past, present, and future via time travel in an episode that combines time travel with the Christmas spirit.
  5. Christmas lights timed to music. I know where multiple homes exist in my area and drive by them each year. I can lose hours on YouTube seeing them all across the world. Not ready for this at my house yet, but soon…
  6. How The Grinch Stole Christmas — Both the original animated special and book, please. The movie versions extend the story too much for this guy. But that half-hour special is just the right length.
  7. A Christmas Story — Christmas told through the eyes of a kid, with all the wonder it brings. The Mom is the real hero of this movie.
  8. Seinfeld, “The Strike.” A festivus for the rest of us! I may or may not quote this one liberally all December. May be Frank Costanza’s finest episode.
  9. Old Time Radio comedy Christmas episodes. Thank goodness these are all public domain and easily searchable these days. I love so many of the routines used ala Jack Benny or Burns and Allen. I find the comedies hit home a bit more than the dramatic shows.
  10. It’s A Wonderful Life — When George runs down the street, shouting hello to everything and everyone, I get a lump in my throat every darn time. A great movie.

Of course, I’m always looking for something new to add to my list. Any suggestions? Or do you have a cool YouTube video of Christmas lights to music? Let me know!


Filed under meme, Top Ten Tuesday

Movie Thoughts: A Christmas Story Christmas

christmas-story-christmas-csc-01969626Your enjoyment of A Christmas Story Christmas is going to depend on your fondness for the original. If it’s part of your holiday movie-watching rotation each year, the opportunity to check in on some old friends alone will probably carry the movie for you. If you’re not a fan of the original, odds are you’re not going to suddenly become one after watching this movie.

And if you’re someone who still has managed to avoid the original all these years – get thee to TBS and enjoy! It’s bound to start any time now.

Set thirty-three years after the original, A Christmas Story Christmas finds Ralph Parker returning to his hometown following the passing of his father. Ralph has spent the last year trying to write the great American novel and is down to the last two publishers for his two-thousand-page plus sci-fi epic (he’s got a sequel in the works as well). Returning home with his wife, son, and daughter, Ralph is tasked with stepping into his dad’s shoes to create the perfect Christmas for their family.

maxresdefaultOver the course of just over ninety minutes, A Christmas Story Christmas revisits most of the beats of the original. Flick owns the local bar, where Schwartz is a regular with an unpaid bar tab, the Bumpus family lives next door and still has hounds and there are still bullies out there, only now they’re equipped with a snowmobile. There are callbacks to the original, including a one-upping of the “triple-dog dare” you scene, though not all of them are nearly as memorable on first viewing as the original.

The throughline of this one is Ralph’s desire to become a published writer – there’s even a fantasy sequence in which he wins a Nobel prize over other esteemed genre writers, that works pretty well. Just as the Red Rider BB Gun was Ralph’s driving force in the original, his belief in his sci-fi novel drives this one – even if said novel distracts him from working on the obituary of his dad.

Along the way, there are a few narrative threads I wish the movie had done more with, including a bit more texture to Ralph’s mom (who is the hero of the first movie in many ways). She gets to enjoy a few cocktails and offers wisdom to Ralph, but I kept expecting something more, especially given that her husband of so many years has just passed away.

In many ways, I’ve always considered Ralph a younger version of Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation – both have that kind of absolute belief in the power of Christmas and family during the season and neither shies away from making sure that power isn’t diminished no matter what the world throws at them. A Christmas Story Christmas underlines this feeling in all the right ways, even if it borrows a beat or two from Christmas Vacation, especially when it comes to a few jokes about the size of the tree.

As I said to start things off, your affection for this one will vary depending on how much you like the original. I happen to love the original and have watched it more times than I can count, so I was right in the wheelhouse for this one. It’s not likely to replace my yearly visit to Ralph and his family in the original, but it’s a sweet coda to the story and a nice way to see what happened to Ralph when he grew up.


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Audiobook Review: Along Came Holly by Codi Hall

Along Came HollyAt the end of There’s Something About Merry last year, I noted the potential for a novel centering on Holly Winters and Decklan Gallagher. For this holiday season’s visit to Mistletoe, Codi Hall grants that particular wish.

For two years, Holly and Decklan had feuded over their shared store wall and the decibel level of her holiday music. Holly embraces everything about the holiday season, while Decklan seems a bit like the Grinch.

As with her previous novels, Hall alternates perspectives between Holly and Decklan, allowing us to see each party’s reasons for embracing or not embracing the holiday season. Decklan has good reasons for not loving the holidays, centering on his mother leaving town as soon as he graduated high school and him making assumptions about the demise of his parent’s relationship.

Like the first two entries in this series, the attraction between the two leads is apparent early and often, though circumstances keep putting up natural barriers from pursuing something more too soon. However, as each side admits there is more to their rivalry and the series of pranks they begin to pull on each other, Hall tugs gently on the heartstrings and makes you root for these two crazy kids to get together.

And while you can see where Holly and Decklan are headed, Hall still puts a few natural speed bumps along the way. As with previous installments in this series, the speed bumps are effective without being overly cliched and (thankfully) don’t entirely derail the growing romance between the two.

Brimming with characters from the past two novels, the story is a warm one that provides just the right blend of holiday cheer. It never gets overly smarmy and I looked forward to each time I could come back and listen to the audiobook during my workouts. At this point, I am willing to spend as many holidays in Mistletoe as Hall is willing to bestow upon us. And while all three Winters’ siblings have found their happy ending, there are still some other characters who might enjoy a happy ending as well.

The audio version of this was well done, though I will admit it took me a chapter to really connect with Skyler Hutchinson’s performance as Decklan.

I listened to this one as part of the Audible Plus Catalog.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Under the Tree


With only a few days left until Shortcake’s first Christmas, it’s time for the Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish).  This week’s topic asks us what book-ish items we’d like to find under the tree.  I’m breaking this down into a couple of books I’d like and some items I’d like to read and share with Shortcake.

  1.  The Fifty Year Mission, Volumes 1 and 2.  The oral history of Star Trek from the original series to the Kelvin films covers over 1,o00 pages and I’d love to have hardback copies on my shelf.
  2. These Are the Voyages, Volumes 1, 2 and 3.  The Fifty Year Mission gives a great overview of the original series.  These books take a look at the series episode by episode.
  3.  Illustrated Harry Potter books.  When it’s the appropriate time, I hope that Shortcake will like Harry Potter.  I think these would be fun to read to her.
  4. Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss.  I love reading to Shortcake but some of the good Seuss’s books are a bit of a challenge.  This two-disc CD has some of the more tongue-twisting stories on it read by professional thespians.  We checked this one out from the library and listened while riding in the car.  She seemed to enjoy it.
  5. The Golden Book versions of the Star Wars saga.  These look like a lot of fun to read with Shortcake.
  6. The Little Blue Truck.  I love reading this board book to Shortcake.  Part of it could be that it encourages the reader to make silly sounds while reading it.
  7. Corduroy.  We checked this out of the library and enjoyed it.  I’d love for Shortcake to have her own copy.
  8. DC Super Heroes Board Books.  There are several books in this series that look like a lot of fun to read with Shortcake.


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The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came (On Handbells and With Lights)

This video combines two things I love — the piece our handbell choir played this year for Christmas and houses with lights synchronized to music.

This year’s piece was The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came.  And while the musical accompaniment to this light show isn’t ours ,it gives you an idea of what the piece sounds like.

I will also note it’s been stuck in my head for the past couple of days while I’ve been swimming laps in the pool.


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A Few of My Favorite Christmas Things: Lessons & Carols


This morning, I participated in one of my favorite Christmas traditions –the annual service of Lessons and Carols at my church.

The service is a proclaiming of the true meaning of Christmas in word and song.   I’ve been blessed to be part of the handbell choir for close to a decade now, playing the lower octave bells.

It’s always a wonderful service, always reminding me why and what we are celebrating during the Christmas season.   In many ways, it doesn’t feel like it’s Christmas until I’ve been to Lessons and Carols.

And as our family grows in the next year, I’m looking forward to sharing the experience with our daughter.

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A Few of My Favorite Christmas Things: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


I think I first encountered Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever when a teacher read it to our class. I’m not sure exactly which grade I was in when this happened, but I do remember I found the story of the Herdman clan invading the annual Christmas pageant a lot of fun.

I think I checked this book out of the library at least a hundred times growing up.   Of course, it got very popular during the Christmas season, so I’d get in my seasonal reading of the book in early to late November each year.

The Herdman family comes from the wrong side of the town.  They’re dirty, rude and have a terrible reputation.  Somehow the Herdman family catches wind of the annual Christmas pageant and shows up for tryouts, bullying their way into some of the prime roles in the play.  As rehearsals unfold, the Herdman family proves to be disruptive, leading up to a funny performance. Continue reading

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A Few of My Favorite Christmas Things: Mickey’s Christmas Carol


Each evening at the dinner table, my parents would ask my sister and I what we’d done that day at school.   Most of the times, I tended to not really address the central question in any great detail.  But for some reason when I learned about verb tenses, I shared this information with my family with some enthusiasm.

A couple of days later, my dad told me about this great story that could help keep the concepts of the past, the present and the future straight for me.  He said it was called A Christmas Carol and that a recorded version had come out.  He said it starred Disney characters and it featured Scrooge McDuck as Ebeneezer Scrooge.

He related some of the story, whetting my appetite to hear the entire story.  And so it was that I was given the LP version of Mickey’s Christmas Carol.   I believe the record was issued released before the animated version hit theaters and then home video.

The record features the story of A Christmas Carol along with a few songs along the way.  I have to admit these songs were kind of catchy and I could hum them for days after I’d listened to the record. Continue reading

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A Few of My Favorite Christmas Things: A Charlie Brown Christmas


A Charlie Brown Christmas aired as part of the Christmas season for the fiftieth time last night.

It seems like a lot of the things I enjoy are celebrating milestone anniversaries these days.   But there aren’t many that I’ve watched longer than A Charlie Brown Christmas.*

*I suspect I’m not alone in this.

Growing up, it seemed like the special aired a bit closer to Christmas than it does now.  This created a bit of an issue when my family was stationed in Hawaii for four years.  This was in the days before satellite television and so television programs were generally shown in our fiftieth state a week behind their transmission date in the continental United States. ** This sometimes meant that certain Christmas specials would air the week after Christmas.  This was also the days when VCRs were a bit luxury item and we’d often say that if we had one, it would be worth it to record all the Christmas specials one year and then watch then the next year leading up Christmas instead of after it

** Of course, we could also go to the beach on Christmas day.  It’s all a trade-off! Continue reading

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