best hallmark christmas movies

So, it seems we all share a guilty penchant for Hallmark Christmas Movies.

At least, when I asked if you’d be interested in reading a Hallmark Christmas Movie guide on Instagram Stories, a whopping 100% of you voted ‘OMG YES’, so here we are.

Let me start by acknowledging that, yes, there are some absolutely awful Hallmark Movies out there. Some not-so-bad, but not-so-great; the type that show conventionally-attractive cutie pies falling in straight love, surrounded by snow, and usually with some wannabe high-powered business woman, or manic pixie media type, re-evaluating her life’s choices.

Most of whom have, inexplicably, been played by Full House’s Candace Cameron Bure.

Then there are the truly confusing releases — like Catch a Christmas Star (2013), in which Shannon Elizabeth plays a pop star (?!) and none of the cast has chemistry, and Crown for Christmas (2015), in which a New York City maid becomes a governess to a princess, then gets swept off her feet by the king (of course) — which I feel implored to save you from.

So here they are, the seven best Hallmark Christmas movies, featuring extra-special selections for fans of Battlestar Galactica and One Tree Hill. Mince pies and Baileys at the ready, y’all:

7. The Mistletoe Promise (2016)
This little gem is based on a best-selling book by Richard Paul Evans, which means it has a bit more of a story to it than the average Hallmark film. Jaime King and Luke MacFarlane make a properly cute pair (even if they’re only ‘dating’ as revenge on her character’s ex), and there’s plenty of anti-holidays rhetoric to delight cagey Christmas types.

6. Finding Christmas (2013)
Finding Christmas offers a nice little twist on the city-to-country self-discovery tropes, in a tale of two bachelors who trade apartments for the holidays. Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer is the key love interest here, which marks one of many big former Battlestar Galactica cast member appearances.

5. The Christmas Train (2017)
When journalist Tom Langdon (Dermott Mulroney), his former girlfriend and coworker Eleanor (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), Joan Cusack and Danny Glover all end up on a cross-country American train journey together, ye olde rom-com at Christmas formula becomes an unexpected delight. The ‘special effects’ are also hilarious. A must watch.

4. Christmas at Graceland (2018)
As something of a superfan, seeing Elvis Presley’s beloved Graceland estate decked out in holiday decorations was more than enough to get me to the end of this ever-so-slightly-saccharine holiday romance. Laurel (played by country singer Kellie Pickler) has a few lovely performances, too.

There’s also a sort-of sequel, called Christmas at Graceland: Home For The Holidays, which stars Entourage’s Adrian Grenier. Which I plan to hate-watch this week.

3. The Christmas Secret (2014)
If the idea of seeing Michael Hogan (Battlestar Galactica’s Saul Tigh) waltzing around a small town in grandad jumpers is up your street, The Christmas Secret has you covered. The story hinges on single mom Christine (One Tree Hill’s Bethany Joy Lenz), whose life is falling apart, and the ripple effects of everyday kindness. With some heart-warming twists and turns, to boot.

2. One Winter Weekend (2018)
In this predictable-but-fun snowscape, we get to enjoy the trials and tribulations of a recently dumped relationship writer and her best friend, who happened to be double booked in a ski lodge with two eligible men, including Dewshane Williams (The Expanse, The Umbrella Academy). It’s a bit girl power-y, a bit snowboard porn-y, and a bit great.

1. Road to Christmas (2018)
When a high-flying TV producer learns she has to produce a Christmas Special with the host’s son, she’s rightly peeved, but the Christmas season (and incredibly festive road trip) soon brings everyone together. One Tree Hill’s Chad Michael Murray leads the formulaic courting, basically reprising his role as Lucas Scott (before he became absolute intolerable).

Well ‘ello again, online family. Your resident whiskey/whisky expert is back with something new and rather exciting; namely, a weekly video series where I dip into the spirit world’s boozy waters for you and share my favourite findings.

This week, for Whisky Wednesday‘s inaugural episode, I’m introducing you to Waterford, the Irish distillery en vogue, and giving away a bottle of its brilliant Ballymorgan 1.1 malt whiskey (e for the Irish, of course).

You can check out all the terms and conditions in the description box of the video above (just double click the title to open it in a new window), so please enjoy and best of luck — ’til next week!

xoxo,
Lela

lockdown mental health

Well Covid has been a real treat, hasn’t it? Lots of uncertainty, anxiety and stress for everyone, with the added bonus of a killer virus! Which won’t go away! Hooray!

Quite understandably, I’m losing it, and — even with a few months of reduced restrictions under Britain’s belt — everyone else I’ve spoken to is, too.

Still, we’re all trying our best, and with lockdown two on the horizon, I think this might be a better time than ever to share a little lived-and-learned survival guide for the next few weeks (dare I say months?) of uncertainty.

Don’t worry; I’m not here to tell you to start exercising and eating healthy food. You don’t need any more of that. This Lockdown 2 Survival Guide won’t be as bad as the others.

  1. Validate your feelings

    Before doing anything else, take a deep breath and tell yourself it’s okay to feel the way you do. Because it is. Feeling anxious or worried is inevitable in moments filled with anxiety and worry. Give yourself a break.

  2. Don’t listen to the fashion advice

    Most people got their first taste of working from home in Lockdown One and, in turn, were told it was essential to protect their mental health by getting dressed for work every day. It isn’t. But you know what is? Wearing the things that bring you joy. It could be cosy PJs one day, a leather dress the next, and a sweatshirt and leggings the next. You can hide a lot on Zoom with the right angle, so follow your impulses.

  3. Keep a record of the good things

    Write down every single thing that makes you happy each day — and I mean everything. A song? A voice note from a friend? A good workout? An oatmeal and raisin cookie? Put it all down. When it all gets a bit too much later on, these lists will not only put a smile on your face but make this period feel a little less bleak.

  4. Watch absolutely terrible TV

    I know we’re all supposed to be watching documentaries and reading important novels, but honestly? They can wait. If you want to watch (or, dear God, rewatch) something like Emily In Paris, do you. There’s plenty of time to do it all.

  5. Buy yourself something practical

    While becoming a runner helped me stay active and get some fresh air, I only run every other day, so I’ve spent more than few ‘rest days’ walking in rough weather — and ruining my Chelsea boots in the process. Swapping the ruined pair out for a an upgrade (the faux fur-lined Dr Martens’ Leonore boots, seen above) was, in my opinion, a long-term investment in good vibes.

  6. Buy yourself something impractical

    In April, I bought myself a ridiculously sparkly party dress that there was quite literally no reason or space for — but I love it. Every time I look at it, I look forward to the world beyond all this madness. Impractical things have that effect.

  7. Look after your black friends, neighbours and colleagues

    Allyship is more than black squares and hashtagged History Months. Go ask your black peers what you can do to support them, then do it. There is no better time than right now to start.

  8. Download an app blocker

    Though we’re all aware of the negative effects of social media, it’s easy to lose hours on apps when there’s little else to distract us. A good app blocker, many of which are available for free on iOS and Android, will limit the time you can spend on apps like Instagram and Facebook (and save your sanity in the process).

  9. Pimp up your environment

    Upgrading your living space doesn’t require you to paint walls or buy new furniture. Move your bed around. Have a clear out. Light those expensive candles you’ve been saving ‘for the right moment’. When spending a lot of time in one or two rooms, the environment in those rooms can make us feel positive or negative. Choose positive.

  10. Follow the bloody rules

    I know they’re no fun and I know government flip-flopping is making them even harder to follow; just remember, doing so is a pretty small sacrifice to save lives. They’ll be a distant memory soon enough and, when they are, the things we’re missing out on will feel more enjoyable than ever before.

This has been an exceptionally weird Pride month.

With all that has been going on, Pride has felt as notable as it has non-existent. More invisible — and important — than ever.

It’s been a rainbow-coloured rollercoaster. One day, the Supreme Court would finally agree to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. The next, JK Rowling would try to EVANESCO trans women altogether (yes, that is the incantation from Potter’s vanishing spell and I’m #notsorry).

But she didn’t stop there. As the so-called ‘trans row’ gained steam, Rowling decided to explain transphobic comments with a transphobic blog. Then, today, delete personal praise for Stephen King after he tweeted ‘Trans women are women’. All in the name of feminism.

(Because, as impenetrable as her arguments are, trans women are apparently threatening to the ‘sex rights’ of cisgendered, heterosexual, white women?)

Honestly, enough is enough.

While I don’t intend on singling Rowling out as the beacon of all that is transphobic, it has to be reiterated — the baseline of all feminism is equality.

Equality which, in the most basic of definitions, would ensure that a specific aspect of a person’s identity (like gender, sexuality, or skin colour) would have no effect on their treatment or opportunities.

That we’re all seen as people.

To believe in equality yet question the sanity, intentions, or existence of a person for not hiding such an aspect is clearly wrong — and in this case, transphobic.

Women, as a collective, do not share a singular experience. Nor do ‘straight people’, ‘tall people’, ‘English people’, ‘trans people’ (etcetera, etcetera). These are labels society has presented us with. Labels we’re either happy or complicit to adopt.

At best, people who share a label may also share a handful of similarities. The rest, whether it’s good or bad, is individual.

The fact is, calling trans women what they are — women — has zero impact on me (a cisgender bisexual woman), Rowling (who continues to restrict the construct of womanhood to “people with vaginas”), or anyone else on the outskirts of trans-ness, but it has an enormous impact on those women.

Just as the slow-but-sure acceptance and advancement of cis women, black women, gay women and more has done for the rest of us.

We are born and bred to be an alliance.

As marginalized groups go, trans people have been dealt an impossible hand; they face daily discrimination and harassment, societal demands that they “pass” for their gender, ridicule around their “transition” (or lack thereof), and HIGH-PROFILE REMINDERS THAT THEY ARE NOT WOMEN BECAUSE WOMEN HAVE ALWAYS FACED DAILY DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT.

I’m going to let that one sink in for a second.

The TERFs can’t rationalize this — weaponizing cis trauma to justify trans trauma. They are so clearly connected, so clearly a manifestation of the misogyny and gender roles that wreak havoc on us all (and the same, in reverse, for all men).

There is no room for people to rest on their laurels (or ignorance, or paranoia) here. The rhetoric has to change.

Do your homework (TransEDU is a goldmine), do your documentary diving (Netflix’s Disclosure is a fantastic place to start), and approach these conversations with the attitude you’d want from someone judging you.

Nobody is equal until everyone is equal.

** Artwork from the cover of An Illustrated Oral History of Queer and Trans Resistance **

how to run couch to 10k
Art by Chris Marrinan

You could not have paid me to go for a run at any point in the last twenty years.

I was more likely to hike up and down mountains all day than run a single bloody mile. And often would.

It was asked of me at times – when training for soccer, dance and the like – but never received well. With a larger-than-average chest, little legs, type 1 diabetes and a mind that never stops, I simply couldn’t think of anything worse.

Unfortunately, I’m also a do-what-you-say kinda woman, so when a loved one tagged me in the Run For Heroes challenge (to run 5k/3.1 miles, donate £5 to the NHS, and nominate five more people to do the same) at the start of lockdown, I dusted off my trainers and set out to get it over and done with.

Only, something changed. Though I had to take a few walk breaks along the way, I finished the 5k not just feeling good but feeling that oft-promised but never-realized ‘runner’s high’. I wanted to do it again and I wanted to do it better.

But when I did – reducing my time from 45 minutes to 35 minutes in just five days – I wanted even more.

So, when I was eventually scheduled to run my twenty-fifth 5k in nine weeks, I ran 10k instead.

Pause for effect.

I WENT FROM HATING RUNNING TO RUNNING A 10K IN LESS TIME THAN PEOPLE ARE MEANT TO GO FROM ‘COUCH TO 5K’.

It turns out our bodies can do some truly bloody amazing things. And I’m here to help yours do them, too.

To be 110% clear, I am nowhere near qualified to become any kind of running coach or set custom 10k plans, but I do have some helpful tips and tricks to get you to 10k without wanting to chop your legs off.

So! Here we go. Your friendly neighbourhood couch to 10k plan:

  1. Run those 5ks. From day one, every run I did was at least 3.1 miles. Some, like the first, clearly took an age to complete, and some felt like nothing. Getting into the habit and pushing through those hard days matters most. Once you know you can, you always will.
  2. Take breaks. I started running on Saturdays and Wednesdays so my legs could get used to the impact. On week three, I felt comfortable enough to add Monday runs.
    Three runs a week will be more than enough to get you to 10k fast, but those breaks are essential to help your muscles recover. Don’t. Run. Every. Day.
  3. Include strength training. On non-run days, I find time to do some core HIIT, at-home lifting or virtual dance classes. Every little helps. (Just don’t go hard on your legs as you need them for your runs.)
  4. Protein. God, I hate myself for even mentioning the stuff, but protein is a game-changer. I drink fresh, vegan protein shake after every run (again, kill me), but do whatever works for you. Boosting your protein not only accelerates muscle growth but rebuilds the muscle fibres you ravage when you run.
  5. Do one fast run and one long run every week. I do a ‘who cares’ 5k on Mondays, a 5k with one super-fast mile on Wednesdays (when I typically beat my personal records), and a 5k-or-more on Saturdays (when I have a little more time to burn). By week six, I had pushed myself up to an 8k and could run for an hour without stopping. At that point, a 10k just doesn’t seem that intimidating.
  6. Train with a friend. Find someone to run with once a week, if you can. My fiancée is an experienced half-marathon runner and, while he can literally speed past me in seconds, those shared-run endorphins are often incentive enough. Partnered running is also one of the easiest ways to socialize while social distancing in lockdown.
  7. Tell yourself you can. The biggest obstacles in life are mental, and running is no exception. I could barely lift my legs off the ground towards the end of Saturday’s 10k, but I pulled through. Because I told myself I could and would. Nothing more.
  8. Bonus tips for type 1 diabetics. Track your blood sugar closely before and after each run. Everyone will be different, but I’ve found it’s imperative to make sure I’m no lower than 6.0 before I go out (or I’m basically asking for a low).
    Additionally, anything longer than an 8k demands a little on-the-go carb-up. I’ve found Huma’s all-natural energy gels (around 20g) the easiest to swallow on the move so far, but you might prefer something with more carbohydrates if you experience especially bad lows.

With all of that said, if you need some encouragement or non-pro advice, I’ve been tracking my progress and experiences on Instagram Stories. DMs always open as long as you’re not sending me your genitals.

Now, off you go – Day One starts today!

xoxo, Lela