Did You Love Hallmark's "The Secret Ingredient?" Get the Book!

Starring:  Erin Cahill and Brendan Penny

Released:  2020

Summary:  A small-town baker receives the surprise of her life when she gets an opportunity to compete on a Valentine's Day baking show in New York City.

Image:  Crown Media, United States LLC

Movie Based On Nancy Naigle's Novel

Nancy Naigle is the newest incarnation of Hallmark, following the trail of blazing love already hewn by Debbie Macomber and Karen Kingsbury.

You might recognize Naigle's name as the author behind the Christmas in Evergreen books, which she novelized based on the original Hallmark movies.

How does this author handle writing things in reverse?  It seems a little backwards for the movie to come first and then the book.  In an interview with Hallmark's Home & Family, Naigle shares that it takes her just as long to write the book based on the movie than it does starting her own novel from scratch!

Watch her interview on penning Christmas in Evergreen:


In addition to The Secret Ingredienttwo of Naigle's other novels were adapted into Hallmark movies in 2018:

Naigle's book, Sand Dollar Cove, has also been selected for a future Hallmark movie, which is great news for those of us who love and appreciate her work!

If the Valentine movie made you hungry for Honey Almond Cake with Berries and Mascarpone Creme Fraiche, Naigle's novel includes the recipe, or you can find it on Hallmark's website.

Reality Show Competition

Could you handle the stress of a timed competition on national television?  Hallmark tapped into popular reality TV elimination programs like:

  • Hell's Kitchen
  • American Idol
  • Survivor
  • The Bachelor
  • The Masked Singer

Even though I knew Kelly and Andrew would be the finalists, I was still on the edge of my seat watching this!

Do you know anyone who has had the chance to show off their talents on a TV face-off?

The former pastor who married my husband and I, is also a master bladesmith who was selected to compete on the show, Forged in Fire.  He didn't win, but it is an intense and exhausting experience.  The exposure the challenge brings to your business or brand is definitely worth it though.

Image:  Crown Media, United States LLC

Movie Fast-Forwards One Year

On one hand I love it when Hallmark ends the movie by giving us a glimpse of our couple down-the-road; on the other hand, it's always such a brief snippet that it usually feels tacked on as an afterthought.

Since Kelly and Andrew have already been engaged once, it's a little surprising an entire year passes before he pops the question.....again.  

Maybe we're supposed to assume Andrew is overwhelmed running the Main Street Cafe he bought from Kelly's parents.  After her appearance on the Four Square Cooking show, it would also be safe to speculate Kelly is drowning in bakery orders.

Still, our couple has already lost five years from Andrew perfecting his craft in Paris, so the clicking of Kelly's biological clock should be pretty deafening at this point.  A proposal after three months rather than a year would have been a little better.

We Celebrate Hallmark On Facebook!

In our Hallmark Facebook group, we share thoughts on movies featured during Winterfest, Love Ever After, Spring Fever, June Weddings, Summer Nights, and Fall Harvest.  

If you aren't already a member of our Facebook group, please join us!  You can find us here:

Hallmark Seasons of Love ❄❤🌷🌞🍁

Image:  Crown Media, United States LLC

#TheSecretIngredient #NancyNaigle

Hallmark's Matching Hearts Review

Starring:  Taylor Cole and Ryan Paevey

Released:  2019

Summary:  As Valentine's Day gets closer, a matchmaker receives a task from her mentor to match an entrepreneur who believes that staying single is the key to success.

Image:  Crown Media, United States LLC

Would You Use A Matchmaker?

Wouldn't it be interesting for you and your spouse to fill out a questionnaire, feed your responses into a computer, and then discover what percentage an algorithm spits out on your compatibility?

Maybe it's best not to know.  

If you are single, would you consider using a matchmaker, or would that feel too forced and unnatural?  

Tons of websites exist to help you meet someone without leaving it up to chance or waiting for prayers to be answered.  Research shows, however, that people who meet online are more likely to break up within their first year, plus they are more likely to get divorced, compared to those who meet face-to-face.

Your demographic and the size of your social circle might make it challenging to find a match, but don't give up if you're single!  My grandma always insisted, "There's a Jack for every Jill."  

Favorite Movie Quote

Every Hallmark movie has at least one wise zinger, and I eagerly wait for one (or more) to drop.  Some are better than others, but they all provide food for reflection.

This movie doesn't deliver an Earth-shaking maxim, but here is the sensible line Julia tells her friends, and it boomerangs back to her via her BFF, Madison:
Don't put off being happy. 
Are you guilty of doing that?

Sometimes, we set goals for ourselves that prevent us from making choices we really want until some undetermined future time.
  • I need to get established in my career.
  • I need to raise my kids.
  • I need to become more financially secure.
Other times, our obligations create limitations.
  • I have to take care of my elderly parents.
  • Our jobs are here, so we can't move until retirement.
  • My kids need my help with the grand kids.
Many times, fear of the unknown provides us with excuses for inaction.
  • I'm afraid to change jobs because I could fail.
  • I'm afraid to love because my heart could get broken.
  • I'm afraid if I reach out to new friends, I'll be rejected.
Life is full of seasons.  They aren't always happy!  "Don't put off being happy" means to stop holding back and take some risks because you'll never know "what might have been" any other way.

Image:  Crown Media, United States LLC

Julia Wasn't Fired?

Elizabeth, owner of Ideally Suited, takes a short vacation in Paris, where her husband just accepted a new position.

Before Elizabeth leaves, she gives Julia strict instructions to plan the Valentine's party exactly like previous years--same venue, same food, same long-stemmed roses.

Even though Julia pitches new party ideas to her boss, Elizabeth won't budge and insists on not fixing what isn't broken.

The second Elizabeth leaves, Julia overhauls the entire party.  She doesn't make a few changes--she turns the whole thing upside down!  We can appreciate her enthusiasm and creativity, but it's a pretty big knife to stick into her mentor's back.

She uses the excuse that RSVP's are down because everyone is tired of the same old thing.  Regardless, she is out of line to ignore a direct order.  Most people would be fired for such a mutinous stunt, not commended, especially considering Julia also breaks protocol by falling for a client.

It's Hallmark though, so Julia gets the reins of the entire company as her boss prepares to move to France.

Just don't try that trick at YOUR job because it might have a different ending!

Image:  Crown Media, United States LLC

Hallmark Has Compromised

Did you catch the two gay Asian men in the parting scene of Matching Hearts?

If you blinked, you might have missed it, but it was there.

Remember Timothy?  The new-hire at the matchmaking company?  He ends up working at the flower shop owned by Julia's parents.  After Julia's and Daniel's kiss at the Valentine party, the camera centers in on other couples who are happily dancing or talking together:  Julia's parents, Julia's boss and her husband, a couple that has been matched by the company, and Timothy smiling and giggling with another Asian man.  They both are wearing black dress jackets, but one wears a pink dress shirt and the other wears a blue one.

One of the reasons Hallmark has enjoyed such overwhelming success is because it attracts a massive viewership of people who crave clean, family-friendly entertainment.  Sexual content, especially the type that flies in the face of conservative values of Hallmark's primary audience, is unwholesome and unacceptable.

Most networks have caved to increasing pressure to accommodate the demands of gay activist groups.  Few media outlets have maintained scruples in their attempt to appeal to larger audiences and boost their bottom lines.  Looks like Hallmark is also forgetting why masses initially flocked to their network.

Maybe you find the inclusion of a gay couple in a Hallmark movie a victory.  If so, you are entitled to your opinion.

If you find it appalling, speak up now.  It always starts as a toe hold and then blows up into a network takeover.

You can e-mail, snail mail, or tweet Hallmark directly, or you can sign the petition on the website of One Million Moms to encourage Hallmark to reverse their programming decisions on this topic.

#MatchingHearts #RyanPaevey

Hallmark Movie: "A Valentine's Match" Review

Image:  Crown Media, United States LLC
Starring:  Bethany Joy Lenz and Luke MacFarlane

Released:  2020

Summary:  A woman gets fired from her job as a reality TV host and heads back home for Valentine's Day, but she finds herself in charge of the town festival's auction.

Have You Ever Been Fired?

If you've ever been fired from your job, this movie may open an old wound. 

The ratings are down for Natalie Simmons' (Lenz) reality show, so she is axed minutes into the movie.  The reason?  She has lost her "authenticity" and her "oomph."

She loves her job, so what's the problem?  She jumps into her career with fresh ideas and gusto, but under the pressure and demand for ratings and pleasing the audience, she loses her originality and finds herself going through the motions.

Is your heart in your job?  If it is, you undoubtedly head to work with a spring in your step, determined to do your best every day to make a difference in your field.  

Maybe you dread your work.  You're doing what you have to in order to keep the bills paid and a roof over your head, but your career path isn't measuring up to your dreams.

You might be thinking how much you used to love your job--until the new boss started stealing your thunder, until all your hard work kept going unnoticed, until that jerk of a co-worker was hired. 

No matter whether you work in education, retail, food service, government, or business, you want to give your best in your field.  It doesn't matter whether you're high on the totem pole or low on the food chain, you will be noticed if you work hard, have a great attitude, and get along well with others.  

How do you maintain your authenticity and oomph in a job that isn't idyllic?  

The answer to that can actually be found in the Bible in Colossians 3:23-24:  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.   

In other words, do your job with excellence, as if you are working for God, because He will reward you for your efforts, even if your boss doesn't.  Knowing that will help you keep the right perspective.

Moms Matchmaking

A Valentine's Match just goes to show you that even when you're an adult, mom still knows best!

Natalie's mom quietly disapproves of her boyfriend, Brooks.  They might both work in the same industry, but Brooks is never in tune with her.  Their relationship is one of convenience.  Zach's mom knows he has never stopped loving Natalie.  Together, both moms hatch plans to orchestrate circumstances that bring the two back together.

Both Lenz and MacFarlane doing a fabulous job making the viewer feel the "awkwardness" of their situation.

Has your mother ever played matchmaker, or have you tried setting one of your kids up on a date?

A woman who is like my "second mother" set me up on a blind date with my husband when I was 17.  Even when we broke up for more than a decade and I dated other people, my parents used to say what a great husband he would have made for me.  Turns out, they were right!

Have You Heard of Antique Picking?

I love country primitives, like items from The Olde Farmstead, because the merchandise is new but looks old.  I'm not a fan of antiques.  Antiques are old and have a signature old smell.  However, die-hard antique lovers make it a hobby, sometimes a profession, to travel the country finding treasures.

Some resell their treasures online or in their own store, and others tastefully decorate their home with nostalgia.  Those with less talent and creativity acquire a hodgepodge of junk.

In A Valentine's Match, Zach reveals that his love of "antique picking" was born when he found forgotten blacksmith items above his hardware store.  Since then, he developed a love for barn raids, searching for old items with value--that's antique picking.

Together, Zach and Natalie visit a barn where they have fun scouring through old items, in search of "finds" for the Valentine's auction.

Do you love or hate antiques?

Speaking of auction items, was anyone surprised by Addy's quilt only selling for a $100?  Quilts like that are usually worth at least $500, so I would have been fuming if I were Addy!

Favorite Movie Quote

Hallmark often incorporates at least one wise zinger in their movies, and A Valentine's Match is no exception.  

As Natalie takes a run to clear her mind, her dad joins her and reminds her of  this nugget:

Confusion comes when you're trying to convince your head of something your heart knows is a lie.

Isn't that the truth?  We all do that, at least sometimes.

Recycled Themes

Even though this movies centers on Valentine's Day, it has many of the same elements of a Hallmark Christmas movie:
  • Girl comes home from the big city and connects with her ex
  • Two old flames are put in charge of a town event
  • The current "significant other" gets kicked to the curb
  • There had been a misunderstanding--the man let the woman go when they were younger so he wouldn't "hold her back" from her dreams
Instead of some Christmas jingle though, at least we get to hear a great Pat Benatar flashback from the 80's--"We Belong."

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#AValentinesMatch #HallmarkChannel #LoveEverAfter #LukeMacFarlane #Hallmarkies