Monday, May 30, 2016

TV on DVD Review: Suits - Season 5

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Compelling storytelling at its best
Cons: None at all
The Bottom Line:
Drama at law firm
TV you can’t stop watching
Binge this set today

“It Was a Piece of Cake.”  “You Went to Donna, Didn’t You?”  “That’s Why It Was a Piece of Cake.”

I always forget how much I love Suits until the new season starts.  At that point, I am once again captured by the high drama high stakes soap opera the show has become.  Oh, let’s not pretend any differently, that’s what it is.  We may not have bed hopping, but the power struggle inside the law firm of Pearson, Spector, Litt plays out much the same way, and I can’t look away.

This season picks up with a monumental change.  Harvey Spector (Gabriel Macht) has lost his long time secretary Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) to his frenemy Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman).  Harvey doesn’t take his defeat well.  In fact, the resulting panic attacks send him to therapy where he must face some of who he is.

Meanwhile, the firm’s old partner Daniel Hardman (guest star David Costabile) is making a play for the firm again, and his new plan to take the firm from her takes up Jessica Pearson’s (Gina Torres) attention.  Caught in the crosshairs is Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), Harvey’s protégée, and Mike’s fiancée Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle), a paralegal in the firm who is finally following her dream of going to law school to become a full-fledged lawyer.

However, before the season is over, the thing that our characters have been dreading for years comes upon them.  Will anyone be left standing when the dust clears?

You’ll notice the one thing I haven’t mentioned – court cases.  While the main characters are lawyers, the court cases are often irrelevant.  Yes, in the past, we’ve usually had one big case that the majority of the characters are working on as they fight each other for power, but this season it’s all internal struggle with any court cases just something for them to fight over.  Well, that changes in the second half, but that’s just an outgrowth of everything else happening.  Since we know the characters, it’s easy to get caught up in the story.  I do sometimes wonder about their billable hours as I watch the show, but that’s a minor issue; I’m just having too much fun.

Then comes the winter episodes.  The first 10 episodes aired during the summer of 2015, and they left us with quite the cliffhanger.  The episodes that picked up in the winter of 2016 were ten times as compelling as normal for this show.  Normally, I can’t take my eyes off the screen when this show is on, but I felt like I couldn’t move when these episodes were airing.

Obviously, the writing is still sharp.  They keep giving these characters twists and turns that would leave me wondering how the characters would get out of their latest predicament.  I do wish the characters were given fewer expletives to say, but it’s something that’s been going on the entire run of the show, so I can’t complain too loudly about it.

And the acting is just as sharp as ever.  The actors take the words they are given and bring them to life with passion.    Their performances are another reason I can’t turn away from the screen.

As I hinted earlier, season 5 consisted of sixteen episodes.  They are preserved here on four discs with their native widescreen and full surround.  In the way of extras, we get deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a couple of behind the scenes featurettes. 

I’m not sure that season 5 would make the best place to jump into Suits.  Part of the drama comes because we already know and love these characters.  But go back to the beginning.  You’ll be bing watching and caught up on this show before you know it.

Season 5 Episodes:
1. Denial
2. Compensation
3. No Refills
4. No Puedo Hacerio
5. Toe to Toe
6. Privilege
7. Hitting Home
8. Mea Culpa
9. Uninvited Guests
10. Faith
11. Blowback
12. Live to Fight
13. God’s Green Earth
14. Self Defense
15. Tick Tock
16. 25th Hour

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book Review: The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #35)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Mostly good characters, return of a character from an earlier book
Cons: Fairly obvious mystery, characters not as strong as earlier books
The Bottom Line:
Sleepyside arson
As final five books begin
Not the best; still fun

Ka-boom! During the Parade

We’ve reached the controversial final five books in the Trixie Belden series.  These books were in print only a couple of years before the series got canceled in the mid-80’s, so they are rarer and therefore harder to find.  Some fans hate them.  Personally, I still enjoy them while acknowledging that they aren’t the best in the series.  The first of these final five is The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire.

If you’ve missed meeting her, Trixie Belden is a fourteen-year-old detective.  Think the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.  She and her family and friends live in the town of Sleepyside on the Hudson, New York, which seems to be a hotbed of crime since this is the thirty-fifth book in the series.

As the book opens, Trixie and her friends, the Bob-Whites of the Glen, are lined up on Main Street for the annual Memorial Day parade.  However, the excitement is soon dimmed when an explosion a few blocks away halts the parade.  When the smoke has cleared, a store and warehouse have been burned.

The store belongs to the father of one of Trixie’s friends.  When Nick Roberts’s father is questioned for starting the fire on purpose, Trixie knows that that Mr. Roberts would never do anything like that.  But can Trixie uncover the real arsonist?

Those who don’t like the later books in the series have valid points.  One thing that draws Trixie’s fans to the series are the characters.  We love them because they are richer than many of the other series characters for kids.  But as the series went along and more and more ghost writers tackled the characters under the pen name Kathryn Kenny, they lost some of their spark and depth.  This is especially obvious if you read the series in order.  And I can’t argue with that observation.  While the characters are still more realistic than the perfect Hardy Boys or Nancy, they have become defined by one or two big traits here.

Likewise, the mystery is fairly obvious.  I even had it pretty much figured out the first time I read it back in high school.  Still, it does unfold in a logical way.  My biggest gripe is actually that someone else had to point out the solution to Trixie.

And yet….

I can’t help it, I like this book.  It probably helps that I read these books in any more I could find them in originally, so this was one of the first 10 I read.  While the flaws are very obvious as an adult, they were less so as a kid, and I didn’t have years of loving the characters to build up expectations here.

One aspect I like is that this book brought back a character from a previous book.  Nick Roberts first appeared in book 20, The Mystery off Old Telegraph Road.   I hadn’t read that book when I read this one the first time, and the author does a good job of telling us what we need to know without spoiling the earlier book.  Heck, we don’t even get a hint of what the mystery in that book was about.  It’s rare that non-series regular characters popped up again, so I love it when it happens.

Plus all the Bob-Whites appear in the book.  No, they aren’t all in every scene, but all of them at least make fairly regular appearances.

These last five books include pen and ink illustrations at the start of each chapter.  As a kid, I had never seen the earlier, hardcover editions, so this is the first time I’d seen illustrations inside the books.  I find it fun, although some of them border on spoilers.

So don’t pick up this book expecting the earlier books in the series.  But if you sit down for The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire remembering that this is one of the later books in the series, you’ll still enjoy your visit with these old friends.

Looking for Trixie's earlier books?  Here are the Trixie Belden Mysteries in order.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ornament Review: A World Within #1 - Snowy Scene - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good scene inside a very small ornament
Cons: Size and subsequent lack of detail
The Bottom Line:
Snowy winter scene
Captured inside ornament
Shrunk to mini size

Hallmark Introduces a New Miniature Series of Miniature Panoramas

I tend to avoid Hallmark’s miniature ornaments.  They are so small that they don’t have the detail I normally love.  That’s why I was originally planning to pass on A World Within, the miniature series that Hallmark premiered in 2015, but eventually I caved.

This is one of several series Hallmark has going right now that feature a scene inside something else, and I seem to be hooked on these series.  This time, we are going to get a scene inside each miniature ornament.  The first ornament is a small round red ball.  And the scene inside the ornament?  There’s a snowman in the foreground with a house and a couple trees in the background.

I spent some time looking at this ornament in the store and debating about buying it before I finally caved in and got it.  There are two reasons why I was debating, and the first is the scene itself.  It’s good, but, as I mentioned earlier, it just doesn’t have the detail I normally like.  Oh, you can tell what everything is, but it doesn’t look at sharp as it does in the pictures Hallmark has created for publicity.  That’s always a disappointment when I first look at it, but the more I looked at it over the months, the more I grew to like it despite that.

The second reason is the size.  This is a small ornament.  It is just over an inch and a half from top to bottom and that’s the longest distance.  I think many of the pictures I’ve seen of the ornament are actually larger than the ornament itself.  The miniature ornaments are very easy to lose in your tree.  I’m actually excited about a mini tree that Hallmark is planning to sell this year for that very reason, it will give me a place to display the few mini ornaments I have.

Because this ornament comes to a point at the bottom, it won’t sit out anywhere.  You have to find some place to hang it.  But when you do hang it, you’ll find that it hangs straight, which isn’t too much of a surprise given the shape of the ornament.

Since this is the start of a new series, you’ll find a 1 in a Christmas tree on the back of the ornament.  It’s actually surprisingly big for the size of the ornament and not that hard to spot at all.  There’s also a snowflake painted on the back side of the ornament.

While I don’t think the miniature ornaments will ever be a favorite, I am glad I broke down and started the A World Within series.

Original Price: $7.95

May 28th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I knew this was going to be a light TV week, but it turned out to be even lighter than I was expecting.  CBS has pulled Rush Hour from their schedule.  I knew it had been canceled, but I thought they'd play the rest of the episodes.  I guess not.  I wonder if they will ever see the light of day or not.

Meanwhile, here are the few final season finales on my plate for this May, and one show just building to its series finale.

The Odd Couple – Saw the first episode coming pretty much from the get go.  Doesn’t make it any less fun, however.  The second one?  I’m hoping that Charlotte sticks around since I really do like her.  And it will be interesting to see how things have changed when Emily comes back.

Dancing with the Stars – Nyle won!!!  He certainly deserved it, too.  I can’t imagine dancing as well as he does, and I can hear the music.  Wow, what he did just blows my mind.  And, while there might have been some sympathy vote on America’s part, there wasn’t on the judge’s.  He earned those scores from them.  And, honestly, he deserved to win.  What he did out there each week was amazing for anyone on the show, much less someone who is deaf.

The Flash – Right actor, wrong part.  I had told a friend I was hoping that Henry was in the mask somehow.  It’s not Henry, but it is the same actor, and now it’s even more fun since that actor played The Flash (but Barry Allen version) in the 1990 TV show.  Still, I will miss Henry since he provided such a nice heart to the show, a heart that was missing much of this season.  I like how they defeated Zoom, too.  Barry didn’t have to give in to his anger.  But those final moments?  What is that going to mean for next season?  That’s what I’m wondering about.

Arrow – At least they addressed the fact that everything turned dark this season despite their promise to be lighter.  Still got the 24 vibe off this episode – maybe since we were dealing with nukes.  With almost everyone gone, I’ll be interested to see how they bring them all back in the fall.  At least I assume everyone is coming back.  Haven’t heard anything about anyone else leaving the show, so hopefully they will all be back next year.

Royal Pains – Jeremiah’s story arc was pretty predictable, yet it was so sweet.  It was great to see him get some development like that.  And I’m glad that Hank and Evan were only fighting this episode.  Certainly understandable, but I like it better when they are on the same team.  But who was after Boris this time around?  I’m definitely intrigued.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Movie Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Acting, effects, decent story
Cons: No connection to the book, ending a bit rushed and forced
The Bottom Line:
Second adventure
No connection to the book
As Alice helps friends

“It’s Impossible!”  “You Know How I Feel About That World.”

I don’t follow upcoming movies nearly as much as I used to, so I hadn’t heard Disney was making Alice Through the Looking Glass until this year.  I honestly wasn’t sure whether to be excited, warry, or both.  I enjoyed Tim Burton’s 2010 variation on the classic to a certain extent, and since this was going to be a sequel without him involved, it could be good or horrible.  And they weren’t even thinking about following the book with the same name but doing something with time.  I’ll admit, I didn’t really go into the movie with an open mind, but I wound up enjoying it.

It’s been three years since we last visited Alice (Mia Wasikowska).  During that time, she’s been traveling the world as the captain of her father’s old ship, buying and selling things to bring back to England.  Only when she returns, she learns that her father’s partner’s son is now in charge.  That man just happens to be Hamish (Leo Bill), the man she embarrassed by publicly turning down when he proposed marriage.

Hamish has not forgiven Alice, and he has concocted a way to get even with her.  While she is still reeling from his plan, she spots Absolem (voiced by Alan Rickman), the caterpillar turned butterfly.  He leads her through a mirror and back to Wonderland.

And she’s arrived just in time, too.  It turns out the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has just seen something that reminds him of his family.  He didn’t leave on good terms with them, and then they died before he could make amends.  The reminder is slowly killing him.  The only chance to save him is for Alice to go back in time and save his family.  To do that, she needs the chronosphere, which is carefully guarded by Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen).  Can Alice go back in time and fix things?  Or will she run out of time?

Those who know the book are already shaking their heads.  This has nothing at all to do with the book of the same name.  Having said that, there is a fun scene near the beginning that winks at a couple of things from book before the adventure really begins.  Of course, almost every movie version of the books combines elements from both to begin with.  For example, Tweedledee and Tweedeldum (Matt Lucas) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) are both from Through the Looking Glass and not Alice in Wonderland at all.  So really, you have to take this film on its own merits.

And those merits turn out to be pretty good.  I’ve got to say, I actually was surprised by a twist or two along the way.  Not to say the ending is completely original, but it is fun.  The way the moral is layered in is good as well, and it never gets in the way of the story.  In fact, it helps Alice out of a jam or two before everything is said and done.  The ending did feel rushed and that hurt the film, but that’s a minor point overall.

And, yes, Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen is back again as well.  She’s not quite as over the top this time around, and I actually liked her character better here as a result.  In fact, the original actors or voice actors are all back, and they do a fantastic job again.  Meanwhile, the new cast members fit perfectly into this wacky world.

Special effects are king here as they were the first time around, and you can tell how much better they’ve gotten in the past 6 years.  I had a hard time with some effects early on in the movie, but as it went along, I had an easier time believing what I was seeing.  Or maybe it was because I got caught up in the story.

So forget everything you think you know about the book when you go to see this film.  Yes, it’s a sequel, but it turns out that Alice Through the Looking Glass is a sequel worth watching.

Book Review: The Skeleton Takes a Bow by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton Mysteries #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, unique plot
Cons: No bones about it, I couldn’t find a con
The Bottom Line:
Skeleton backstage
Hears murder in this unique
And clever cozy

Sid Becomes an Ear Witness

As much as I enjoy the cozies I read (or I wouldn’t keep reading them), it’s fun every so often to find a twist on the genre.  That’s definitely the case with the Family Skeleton mysteries.  The Skeleton Takes a Bow is the second in the series, and it’s a lot of fun.

You see, this series features Sid, a walking, talking skeleton.  He’s best friends with our main character, Georgia Thackery.  Sid walked into her life when she was kid, and he’s still there.  Georgia is an adjust professor and single mother, currently living at her parent’s house while she teaches at a local college.  Want more background on Sid?  That was the subject of the first book in the series.  This book does a good job of not spoiling that book, so you can read them in either order.

It’s Georgia’s daughter, Madison, and Sid who conspire to get the trio into the latest mystery.  See, Madison is in the drama department at her high school, and the spring play is Hamlet.  She figures that Sid would be perfect as Yorick, and Sid is always looking for a way to get out of the house, something he can’t normally do without frightening people.  Georgia is more hesitant, but she eventually goes along.

However, one night early into rehearsal, Madison gets distracted leaving school and accidentally leaves Sid’s skull backstage.  That night, Sid hears two mean fighting, then one gets hit over the head and dies.  Sid doesn’t know who they are, and the body has been moved before school starts the next day.

Fearing that Madison might not be safe at school, Georgia and Sid start to investigate.  Without a body, the police won’t take anything they say seriously.  But who was the victim?  Where is his body?  Can they find the killer?

As I said, there is a nice twist on the cozy formula here since Sid and Georgia have to work out the victim before they can identify the killer.  The plot seems a little slow at the beginning, but as the book goes along, you see that the author was setting things up for later in the book.  The plot gains speed as it goes along until it reaches the logical climax.

One thing I love about these books is that, while we have a living skeleton, Sid has to keep his existence a secret.  He rarely gets to leave the house, and if anyone does happen to spot him, they freak.  This adds a level of believability to the story that I truly appreciate.  It does make it a little harder to keep him part of the action, but the author does a great job of believably making him an important part of the story.

Yet Sid isn’t a skin and bones character.  He is fully fleshed out in a way that makes him so real.  The same goes for the rest of the cast, all of whom are wonderful.

I don’t normally stick my toe in the paranormal end of the cozy spectrum, but this premise intrigued me enough I had to give it a shot.  Outside of Sid, there is nothing paranormal about the book, so that element is very light and shouldn’t bother most cozy fans like me who avoid that kind of thing.

So pick up The Skeleton Takes a Bow today.  Its unique take on the cozy formula will leave you happily turning pages.

May 27th's Book Beginning and Friday 56

Welcome to the Memorial Day Weekend edition of Book Beginning and Friday 56.  Anyone else ready for the long weekend?  (At least here in the states.  I know this is only an American holiday.)

This week, I'm back to just one book, A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson.

I'm about a third of the way through the book and really enjoying it.  It's part of what is turning into a theme week for me - farm week.  Come back next week for two books and an ornament related to that theme.

But that's next week.  For today, what do you say we get to some quotes.  Here's how this book begins.

Early mornings at Washington Acres were dead quiet.  It was usually Megan Sawyer's favorite part of the day, a time when the farm's inhabitants went about their daily routines silently, ghosts in a tranquil pre-dawn landscape.  Today there was a disturbance in the air, an almost palpable sense of something amiss.

I'm going to cheat a little with the 56 this week.  Page 56 doesn't have any grabber quotes.  But on page 54, we find this one:

"My grandmother is in her eighties.  It's absolutely ridiculous to think she'd have anything to do with Simon's murder."
"I know, Megan.  I know."  Clover looked up.  "But then why is she being so secretive?"

That's it for this week.  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.  On my agenda?  Finishing this book, of course.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Movie Review: Flower Shop Mystery - Snipped in the Bud

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun characters decent plot
Cons: Major changes from books; Hallmark cheese
The Bottom Line:
Murdered professor
With florist as the suspect
Big changes from book

Black Roses and Murder

Since I’ve only read the first three books in the Flower Shop series, I don’t have the huge attachment to the characters and setting that many long term fans have.  As a result, I haven’t been that bugged by the changes that Hallmark has made for their Flower Shop Mysteries series loosely based on the books.  (And I do mean loosely.)  However, having watched the second movie, Snipped in the Bud, I am very curious about just how different it was from the book.

As the movie opens, Abby Knight (Brooke Shields), owner of Bloomers, has just gotten an order for black roses to be delivered to Bruce Barnes (Daniel Kash) one of the pre-law professors at the nearby college.  Since Abby’s daughter (Celeste Desjardins) is struggling with the professor this semester, Abby decides to deliver the flowers personally and try to put in a good word with the professor.

However, almost as soon as Abby steps on campus, she runs into Carson Howell (Jeff Teravainen), a lawyer turned professor that Abby has dealt with in the past.  In fact, they went head to head just over a year ago right before Abby left law to open her flower shop.  They get into an argument while walking inside.  Before Abby can leave campus, Carson is murdered, and the police think that Abby might be the killer.  Can she find the real killer before the police arrest her?

This is the fourth book in the series, and the one that I’ve had on my TBR pile for a long time since I’ve read the first three.  (Seriously, it’s right there if I ever make the time to read it.)  As a result, I can’t comment specifically on how they might have changed the plot, but I am very curious.  See, in the books, Abby is younger and never married with no kids at all.  And she never practiced law.  You can see from those two facts and my brief plot teaser that we’ve got major changes to the story already.  But it makes me curious how these elements are worked out in the book because the plot works very well with the changes made for the movie.  (I’m sure it does in the book as well, but I can’t comment on how.)

And the mystery definitely works here.  I guessed the killer early on in the movie, but I didn’t have the motive figured out at all.  That’s not to say that the other suspects weren’t viable.  I certainly could have seen any of them as the killer.

I must be getting used to the Hallmark movie effect, or the acting was better than some of the others.  Yes, there is a hint of cheese to the acting and directing, but I didn’t find it as bad as I have in some of the others I’ve watched.  I have a feeling I’m just getting used to the style of these films.

The actors do a decent job of bringing their characters to life.  This is especially true of the main cast, who also includes Beau Bridges as Abby’s father and Brennan Elliott as Marco, the potential love interest for the widowed Abby.  I must say that Abby’s flirting with Marco continues to be one of my favorite aspects of these films.

If you can forget the books, you’ll find Snipped in the Bud to be a diverting mystery movie.  If, however, you love the books too much, you’ll probably want to skip this film.  (I can’t say anything if you fall into the second category.  I’ve felt the same way about movie versions of other books in the past myself.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann (Sommelier Mysteries #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun, fast moving story; Katie
Cons: Ending a bit too quick, Tessa at times
The Bottom Line:
A deadly party
Set up for charming debut
You’ll want to savor

Full Bodied Debut with Hints of More to Come

When I went to Malice Domestic last month, I had a list of books I planned to buy while I was there, but I’m sure it’s a surprise to no one that I also make multiple spur of the moment purchases.  One of those was Decanting a Murder, the debut from Nadine Nettmann.  I was so excited about it, I dove into it as soon as I had a break in my reading schedule.

Katie Stillwell’s life revolves around wine.  She’s been practicing for her Sommelier Certification while working as a wine expert at a San Francisco restaurant.  And this weekend, she is getting the experience of a lifetime – she’s been invited to an exclusive party at Frontier Winery.  The winery is normally closed to the public, but it is open this weekend to celebrate its 100th anniversary.  Katie’s best friend Tessa works there, and managed to get Katie an invitation to the exclusive event.

The party seems to be going well until Katie hears a scream.  When she goes to investigate, she finds the winery’s owner, Mark Plueger, floating in a vat of wine.  Suddenly, the party is over, and Tessa is nowhere to be found.  Where did she go?  Did she have something to do with the murder?  Can Katie figure out what is happening?

The book starts out well and never lags in pace.  There is always something interesting happening to keep us turning pages, and I had a hard time putting the book down.  The ending caught me by surprise, although I wish it had been given a bit more time to breath.  While everything is explained, it felt very rushed.

Katie is a strong main character, and I really did like spending time with her.  Tessa could be a bit much, seemingly all over the place at times, but most of the time I liked her as well.  A couple of the other characters could have been more fully developed, but overall, the rest of the characters are good and provide us with viable suspects.  I’ve just finished this book, but I’m already interesting in visiting Katie to find out what happens next to her.

I was bothered by how the detective investigating the case, Detective Dean, seemed to include Katie in his investigation at times.  I know enough to know that was a highly unrealistic aspect of the book.  However, I was having too much fun to truly be bothered by it.

Instead of wine tips at the back of the book, each chapter is paired with a different wine.  The pairings are actually quite clever and give a hint of the action to come.  Since there are 31 chapters, there are plenty of suggestions if you want to broaden your pallet after you’ve finished the book.

Decanting a Murder is an enjoyable debut that promises more great mysteries to come.  The elements are there to allow this series to age like a fine wine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ornament Review: Steeped in Spirit - 2015 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute Christmas themed teapot and cup
Cons: None worth mentioning
The Bottom Line:
Cute Christmas tea set
Shrunk to fit on Christmas tree
Great series prequel

Two Ornament Set that is Steeped in Spirit for a Tea Lover

When I look over the selections from Hallmark each year, there are the ornaments I know I will buy right away and the ones I know I’m not interested in purchasing.  Then there are the ones that are cute, but I really want to resist buying.  In 2015, I did remarkably well at resisting Steeped in Spirit.  In 2016?  Yep, I broke down and bought it off the secondary market.

This is actually a set of two ornaments – a tea pot and a tea cup.  But these aren’t just your normal tea pot and cup, they are a Christmas themed set.  The tea pot is a snowman.  He’s got a scarf around his neck, and his arms form the handle and spout (just like in that “I’m a little teapot” song we used to sing as kids).  He’s wearing a black top hat and red earmuffs and mittens.  Likewise, the cup is also a snowman, or at least a snowman head.  It just has the face, but it is wearing earmuffs, green this time.

My only issue with this set is that clearly the drink in the cup portion of the ornament is hot chocolate.  The color is a rich brown, and there are three marshmallows floating in the top.  So maybe there’s hot water in the tea pot instead of brewed tea?

But trust me, that’s a minor issue.  This set is very cute.  The snowmen are smiling and clearly go together.  I can picture this as part of a great Christmas tea set in some of the mysteries I read.

This was originally offered exclusively to members of Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament Club.  But what made me give in and buy it is the fact that it is the prequel to a new five part official series of Christmas themed tea pots and cups that is starting this year in Hallmark’s regular line.  Yep, they got me with the series yet again.  (Must learn to resist series.  Must learn to resist series.)  Plus, with my display ideas for my food themed ornaments, I don’t need to make room for them on my tree, right?

Being a tea pot and cup, it’s not surprise that these ornaments have flat bottoms, so you can display them on any flat surface.  If you go to hang them on your tree, you’ll find that the teapot tips at an angle to look like he’s actually pouring water.  That’s a fun touch.  The cup hangs straight.  We don’t want to spill that hot chocolate, do we?

A quick word of warning, these ornaments are porcelain, so they are more fragile than the normal Hallmark ornament.  Treat them a little more carefully, and you’ll be fine.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the official series goes.  But for now, I’m enjoying having Steeped in Spirit in my collection.

Original Price: $19.95