Author: smilingldsgirl

I am 37, single, living in Draper, Utah. I got my dream job working in digital marketing last year and love all things social media. I have been blogging for 7 years and love writing, reading, movies, swimming and subscription boxes. My faith is my whole life but I love interacting with people of all faiths and cultures.

Rachel’s Holiday Update 1

 

It’s 3:20am and I should be sleeping but alas I am just not tired so I figured I might as well update my blog. I should have updated it sooner but I have been in over my head with podcasting. Today I literally watched my 50th Christmas movie, both Hallmark and other networks and amazingly enough I am still on board for more holiday films! The Hallmarkies Podcast has been doing great this year with us making the top 120 TV and Film Podcasts on Itunes and getting over 16k listens in the month of November! Wow! I am still blown away by all of that. It has been an insane amount of work but I am so proud of what we have built.

We have a new merch store for the first time which is so much fun! You can get all kinds of holiday and Hallmark inspired gear:

https://www.teepublic.com/user/hallmarkies

I’ve managed to have a little bit of fun doing other things for the holidays including setting up my traditional holiday decor. Each year I have a memory tree that is full of ornaments that symbolize different parts of my life:

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My memory ornament to symbolize this year is all about podcasting and I found this adorable headphones ornament! I was so excited!

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I also fulfilled my dream of getting a white tree (4 ft) for my office. I love it!

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I also have already kind of celebrated Christmas. My brother and 2 nieces came into town for a weekend and so they came to my house and we had a baked potato bar, exchanged gifts and had a great time!

It was a really great time to be together and celebrate Christmas. My parents are going to be gone for most of this month so I’m planning on just working on my podcasts as much as I can and do a few fun things (Thursday I am going to see Christmas Carol at Hale Theater).

The one crazy thing about the podcast is there is always more work to do. There are people to contact for interviews, movies to watch, notes to prepare, the list goes on and on. Never a dull moment! I want to be ready to reach out to sponsorships in the new year and maybe develop a patreon account but I want it to be done right and not just thrown together. I’m very excited to see what the New Year has in store for our podcast and to have survived Countdown to Christmas 2018.

Also we have 2 hour church coming in January which I am over the moon excited about! Yay!

How have you guys been? I hope the beginning of your holiday season has been going great!

 

Fun Recent Activities in Utah

It’s no secret that I spend a lot of my life cooped up in doors. Sometimes people will say the weather has been bad but I don’t really know because I’ve been inside all day! So lately for my sanity I’ve been trying to get out and go to more activities- particularly plays and concerts and I thought I would give you a round up of what I’ve seen. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these and what you thought.

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First cool experience is I got to go to the Utah Symphony to hear a concert called An American in Paris which was half Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and half Schubert’s Symphony No 7 in C Major. I preferred the Gershwin but as Utah has one of the best symphonies in the country it was a great experience.

Next, if you’ve been following my blog you probably know my favorite book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Well, after 13 years he has a new book called Bridge of Clay which I am dying to read. He came to Salt Lake for a lecture and book signing and it was really neat. He autographed my book and I was able to tell him how much his writing meant to me. So cool!

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Then I tried out a new theater in Provo called The Hive.  They were putting on a new original play called The Bookbinders Tale, which I had heard great things about. Unfortunately I found it to be a bit hipstery for me. I think it felt it was being more groundbreaking in its themes and messages than it really was. Still, I like what they are trying to do with the theater and would definitely give them another chance.

Anyone who has been following my blog knows how much I adore Josh Groban. One of the coolest experiences of my life was in 2007 when my friend Camille got bumped from the nosebleeds to down right by the stage! I also love Idina Menzel and have seen her in concert. So I was thrilled to see they were touring together and snatched up a seat (a terrible seat but I was sitting by nice people so it was fun). They did an amazing job and sung all the songs I wanted them to. My only qualm was that the big screen was broken so we could barely see them (the photo of them is from the Deseret News). But other than that a fantastic concert!

I also had the chance to make a new friend named Ashley who is a member of a theater group I follow on facebook. Always good to go out of your comfort zone and meet someone new. 🙂

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As I was driving around in my hometown of Draper I noticed a sign for ‘A Night of Broadway’ by the Draper Philharmonic and Choral Society and decided to give it a try. To my delight it was such a great experience! Everything was so well done with so many different shows covered by talented singers and dancers. There were a few minor hiccups with microphones but other than that it was amazing and I hope to go to many more of their concerts

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I was very excited to see Hale Center Theaters latest version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I had seen it there once before years ago (at the old Hale of course) and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately this time I left with mixed feelings. It was fun and I enjoyed seeing it with my family I thought some of the casting was a little off (not great chemistry) and the show isn’t very memorable. I couldn’t tell you a single song. Also it doesn’t use the Sink Me and iconic poem very well. The production of the play was very good and great costumes.

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Next I was able to see 3 shows at Hale Center Theater Orem. 2 of them were at a double header of sorts. First I saw The Velveteen Rabbit, which is a play for children written by my former teacher Dave Smith. It was a very sweet little play for kids. Next I saw Anything Goes which is a bright and bubbly play full of Cole Porter songs. Naturally I loved it!

But the greatest surprise was seeing Daddy Long Legs which is a 2 person show based on the classic book (which I’m not high on and I like the movie even less). I went into it with low expectations but I wanted to support Dave and I ended up being delighted. The songs are great! It’s very romantic and I was amazed how they could learn so many lines! Very impressive!

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Finally I went to another ‘Night of Broadway’ this time at the Scera theater in Orem. It was full of talent and they mixed in the standards with some more obscure picks. It was great. My only complaint is the seats in that theater are so small I could barely sit through it and you can’t move the seat arm rest up making it quite uncomfortable. Oh well

So there you have it! It’s been a pretty fun Fall for checking out the arts. There are so many great things to see and do that it can be quite overwhelming. I’m grateful to live in such a artistic and talented place.

What have you been doing lately? Been to any plays or concerts? Any recommendations? Let me know! Thanks!

2018 Holiday Movie Survival Guide

“Wait a minute…” I can hear you saying upon reading the title of this blog “Halloween hasn’t even arrived and Rachel is already talking about Christmas movies?” Well my friends, in my world Christmas has officially arrived with the start of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas season. It all begins this Saturday, October 27th, with the premiere of Christmas at Pemberley Manor.

Christmas at Pemberley Manor Final Photo Assets

 

Last year I gave you a ‘Hallmark Christmas Survival Guide‘ and all of those guidelines hold true for this year, but I thought I would add to it for 2018 and broaden the scope to more than just Hallmark Channel. So, here goes your 2018 Holiday Movie Survival Guide:

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  1. Get Ready to Sing– Naturally singing usually goes along with Christmas but this year in particular we are seeing it showcased all over the place. Hallmark has 2 country music star vehicles with Christmas at Graceland (Kellie Pickler) and It’s Christmas, Eve (Leann Rimes). They also have films with singing in it such as the before mentioned Pemberley Manor, and likely in Christmas at Honeysuckle Lane, Christmas Wonderland, Midnight Kiss and more. There is also Time to Come Home for Christmas which is based on a Blake Shelton song and a book written by his mother, so I expect some original songs there.Other channels are getting in the game with Lifetime’s Christmas Harmony, Hometown Christmas and Jingle Belle, Up Network’s Hometown Holiday and Netflix’s  The Princess Switch.
    In the world of feature films get ready for the Christmas zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse!

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  2. Vermont is Holiday Magic Land- Hallmark has long had a love of the little state (movies such as Falling for Vermont and Moonlight in Vermont) but this year it is particularly the place of all Christmas magic.
    We have Last Vermont Christmas, Road to Christmas, Entertaining Christmas, and many others that appear to be set in Vermont but we don’t know yet from the preview
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  3. Royal is Romantic- With 2018 having 2 British royal weddings it shouldn’t be a surprise that many royal movies have crept their way into this season. Netflix alone is giving us 2 with The Princess Switch and A Christmas Prince: the Royal Wedding (a sequel to last year’s surprise hit A Christmas Prince). Up Network has Christmas with a Prince. Hallmark Channel has their 6th royal movie this year with Christmas at the Palace.pandp mistletoe
  4. Bring on the Classic Literature- this year we have a number of films based on classic literature. Naturally we have takes on A Christmas Carol with Every Day is Christmas from Lifetime and mildly A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (also based on the novel). In addition, we have 2 movies based on Pride and Prejudice with the before mentioned Pemberley Manor and Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe starring Lacey Chabert and Brendan Penny.
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  5. TV Reunions- another trend this year is bringing back cast-members from popular shows for Christmas movies. One Tree Hill alums Hilarie Burton and Robert Buckley are in The Christmas Contract on Lifetime. (Also from OTH is Bethany Joy Lenz in Poinsettias for Christmas on Lifetime). Also on Lifetime we have a Cosby Show reunion with Tempsett Bledsoe  and Keisha Knight Pulliam in Jingle Belle. (Also from Cosby Show is Dondre Whitfield in Christmas Everlasting on Hallmark who played a memorable role as Vanessa’s smug boyfriend Robert for multiple episodes).
    Finally, you won’t want to miss a Wonder Years reunion with Danica McKellar and Dan Lauria reteaming for Christmas at Grand Valley.christmas everlasting
  6. Diversity- What’s this? Non-white people celebrate Christmas? This is very exciting. We have POC leads on 6 Hallmark movies with Christmas Everlasting (the Hall of Fame film), A Majestic Christmas, Memories of Christmas, A Gingerbread Romance, Christmas Made to Order and Midnight Kiss.
    On Lifetime we have My Christmas Inn, The Christmas Pact, Jingle Belle, Every Day is Christmas, A Twist of Christmas and Christmas Lost and Found. Also on Netflix is the adorable looking The Holiday Calendar starring Kat Graham.
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  7. Christmas Magic Everywhere but Hallmark- with 37 new premieres you’d think we would be seeing lot of St Nick and his elves on Hallmark but alas it is not to be. The only potential Christmas Magic (outside of God magic with A Godwinks Christmas) is possibly Northern Lights of Christmas which is about a woman who inherits a reindeer farm and Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa (although it may be just letters no actual Santa sighting). There is a magical guardian angel in Shoe Addicts Christmas but no Santa.
    Fortunately the other channels are coming through in droves. On Lifetime we have Santa’s Boots, Christmas Perfection, and the epic A Very Nutty Christmas about a nutcracker that comes to life! Also A Christmas in Tennessee teases a visitor with a ” well-known sweet tooth for cookies and milk”
    On Netflix we have The Holiday Calendar and The Christmas Chronicles with Kurt Russell playing Santa.
    You won’t want to miss The Truth About Christmas on Freeform about a woman who is cursed to not be able to lie after sitting on Santa’s lap. And on Up Network we have A Christmas Switch about 2 Moms that switch places magically for Christmas.
    And we may actually get a good feature film of The Nutcracker with Disney’s Nutcracker and the 4 Realms.
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  8. Technology is the Thief of Love- this isn’t necessarily a new theme but I noticed in a lot of the descriptions mentions of apps or websites mucking things up for our heroines. The biggest example is Mingle All the Way about an app designer who tries to match businessmen and women together with her app but ends up matching much more. Return to Christmas Creek and It’s Christmas Eve also feature app/website designers.  And on Lifetime we have Christmas Pen Pals about an app that connects lovelorn with pen pals.

So there you have it! Christmas season is upon us, and I can’t wait! Make sure you are following The Hallmarkies Podcast as we cover all these films in one way or another. We have interviews and guests lined up and it is going to be amazing!

Recent Festive Hallmark Reading

Good morning friends! It may be only October but my life is already in full holiday mode with Countdown to Christmas starting this Saturday! The Hallmarkies podcast is planning on covering every film (and some from other networks) and that is no easy task with 37 films from Hallmark alone!

Part of getting ready for the season includes reading the many books that the Hallmark films are based on. I still have a few left to finish (most I am listening to as I work) but I thought I would update you on my thoughts on the various festive novels

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The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts

This is the novel that a classic Hallmark film of the same name is based on and honestly I prefer the movie. The lead in the novel is a little too dumb for my liking (Kimberley Sustad is so fun in the movie). This is harmless and a little steamier than movie but nothing too crazy

2.5 crowns

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The Godwink Effect by Squire Rushnell and Louis DuArt

If you enjoy inspirational stories like the Chicken Soup for the Soul books then you will enjoy this book. It’s about little coincidences which to the authors are proof of God’s investment in our lives. In Mormon world we might call them tender mercies of the spirit. They are making a movie off of one story from the book featuring Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell who we love (and are going to appear in a combined interview later on our podcast).

3 crowns

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The Christmas Company by Alys Murray

This book actually comes from Hallmark Publishing and we had the chance to interview Alys (who was a delight). For a Christmas Carol nut like myself this was a lot of fun. It’s about a town that recreates Christmas Carol each year when the company man wants to stop it. The girl who is obsessed with the tradition and big business conflict and opposites might just attract. It’s really cute

4 crowns

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Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle

Normally I’m a sucker for books about readers but this didn’t do much for me. It’s about a woman with single Mom and her daughter who become friends with a local bookstore owner and a local teacher. Ryan Paevey will need to bring tons of charm to this one as our hunky teacher because it was just flat

2.25 crowns (Nancy has another book Christmas Joy on this season but I haven’t read it yet because not available on audiobook)

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The Trouble with Christmas by Debbie Mason

This book actually started out really strong. I liked the snarkiness of the lead character and it was kind of novel to have her be the bad guy for refusing to bring the usually evil business to the small town of Christmas. However, the more in love she got the more bland it got (and steamy to be warned!). It ended up just being a fine romance novel if you like that kind of thing. Eric Mabius should be fun playing the sheriff in the Hallmark version.

2.8 crowns

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Time for Me to Come Home by Dorothy Shackleford

Please ignore the snore-worthy title this actually wasn’t half bad. It is based on a song by Blake Shelton and written by his Mother. It is basically a road trip book with a cynical country music star and a sarcastic young lady burned out on love find they have more in common than they thought. LOL. This one is pretty clean and short so not a bad little read. Megan Park is an appealing actress so hopefully it will be a fun little movie

3.25 crowns

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz

This honestly was disappointing as I am huge Jane Austen fan and enjoyed Unleashing Mr Darcy which aired on Hallmark Channel. I am confident the movie will be good with Lacey Chabert and Brendan Penny but the book didn’t work. I don’ think making the lead female Darcy instead of Lizzie really works. Aside from the proposal and helping Lydia Darcy doesn’t take as many risks in the story so he works better as the secondary lead not the main lead. It ended up being a fairly flat romance novel about a stuck up city girl who kisses an old flame under the mistletoe and then determines she is actually in love with him. Not really Jane Austen worthy drama LOL

1.75 crowns (sorry but I have high expectations when you involve Austen. Not as terrible as Austenland at least)

So there you have it. What are some of your favorite Christmas reads? Any good Christmas romance you enjoy? I would love to hear your suggestions.

(I am also currently reading The Second Sister by Marie Bostwick and enjoying it. It will be the Hallmark Hall of Fame film for this year called Christmas Everlasting)

FANX18 Report

The last few years I have been able to attend Salt Lake City Comicon and have had a blast. This year because of a moronic legal decision it is called FANX18 and like most years I also had a blast. Unfortunately this report is late because I also got a classic case of Comicon cold where I was sick for a week after but it was still a ton of fun.

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One thing I have learned from going to a number of these conventions is I like panels. I don’t like photo ops or getting autographs (they are so expensive, poorly organized and just overall unpleasant). I also don’t love being on the vendor floor. I venture out a few times during a con but the crowds and lines are overwhelming.

Nope I like going to panels! I like hearing what the actors or panelists have to say about the property or their career. Even if they are somebody I don’t know much about or don’t follow their work I think it is interesting to hear about their experience. I am sure that some of it is showmanship for a very zealous crowd but even that can be fun.

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With that in mind this year I went to 21 panels over 3 days and they were amazing! The particular standout was in Friday where I got a perfect seat in the Grand Ballroom and stayed there all day through 10 panels! The highlight was a Smallville panel with Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum who were hilarious. I want a Welling/Rosenbaum road trip comedy movie!

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It was also really neat on Thursday I got to hear from Paige O’hara and Robby Benson who of course voice Belle and the Beast in the animated Beauty and the Beast. I loved hearing about their story and experiences working on one of my favorite movies. It was cool because Paige said she had aged out of voicing Belle (which shocked me!) but she was brought back for Wreck-it Ralph 2. This made me more excited for the princess scene in Wreck-it Ralph 2 because it meant so much to her. Also it was kind of funny because you could tell they weren’t too high on the 2017 remake. LOL

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The other panels I attended were Luna Lovegood panel, Star Wars fan film, Jurassic Park 25th Anniversary panel. Superman 78 tribute, Lucy Lawless/Renee O’Connor, Evangeline Lily, Rainn Wilson, David Tennant, Jeff Goldblum, Manut Bennet (who I was unfamiliar with but was very sweet with a very compelling and sad story), Karl Urban, Gaten Matarazzo, Chuck Norris, Jennifer Morrison, Star Wars Rebels panel including James Arnold Taylor and Freddie Prinze Jr, Ian McDiarmid (yes the emperor and he was great!), Brandon Routh, Brent Spiner and the Twisted Toonz which are always a highlight of the con.

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I also got to meet up with my friend AJ which was a ton of fun. I didn’t do cosplay this year and I regret that a little bit but it was great to see all of the other cosplay participants. It’s amazing how creative and original people are with their costumes.

I know some people who did photo ops were very frustrated with FANX18, but I had a great time! It was informative, fascinating and just a ton of fun. I also won a free multipass to next years event so that’s just awesome!

Have any of you been to comicons? I know there is the big one in San Diego but it’s hard to imagine it is much better as far as guests than SLC and the lines are certainly more manageable. But let me know your experience at cons.

Take care and happy nerding out!

I did updates on my youtube channel after each day. Here is the recap of day 2:

Should I Change My Blog Name?

This year marked my 10 year anniversary with this blog Smilingldsgirl. If you are new to the blog you might not understand this name but it is Smiling and girl combined with an acronym LDS which stands for Latter-day Saints or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of which I am a member. This name came about when I set up an email after my mission- a happy and religious time of my life and I felt fortunate it was available.

Recently the prophet of our church Russel M Nelson put out a statement regarding the name of the church and abbreviations like LDS and the nickname Mormon. He said:

“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months”

It will be interesting to see how far they go with this new direction (and slightly ironic as it was released on http://www.mormonnewsroom.org). If they change the name of the choir that will be very shocking but other than that it isn’t entirely new. The church has been encouraging clergy and reporters to use the correct name for years. All the while using the shortened varieties in missionary efforts and more casual outreach. It now seems like there is going to be a push to be accurate in even those areas and it will be interesting to see how far they take it.

So some have asked me whether I am going to change the name of my blog/twitter handle? I’ve given the matter some thought and for the moment I am not going to. However, I am going to try to use Latter-day Saints or the full title The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in my prose and whenever I speak of the Church in videos. I feel this is living the spirit of the law rather than making my name an unwieldy length.

If the Church gets rid of similar handles like Mormon.org, Mormonnewsroom.org, the Mormon youtube channel, LDS Philanthropies ect and especially if they change the name of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir than I may reassess this decision. But for now I feel this is the right decision for my blog.

Let me know what you think of this emphasis on the full name by the Church and what you would do if faced with a similar situation?

Thanks!

Meet-the-Mormons