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‘Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery’.

Ugh, couldn’t help it.

See? I told you I miiiight have a lot of TV posts this week – promise this will be the last one (until next week’s recap of “Southern Charm”). But, when I saw the previews for Investigation Discovery’s “Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery”, I could not look away.

I don’t like admitting that I LOVE true crime, because really I’m scared of basically everything. But, I get hooked on these sagas, and I know it sounds crazy because there are real people involved.

However, when this case hit the news, I know I wasn’t the only one that just couldn’t look away. I guiltily admit that I watched every minute of “Nancy Grace”, every chance I could get. Bad, I know.

What what it about the Anthony case that had Americans hooked? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, of course it was the little girl, Caylee. She was so cute, and who would want her killed?

Secondly, it was the obvious (I mean BLATANT) evidence built up against Casey… there was no way she’d be a free woman. Or would she?

So yes, for the past three nights, I’ve sat a little too close to my TV and watched this creepy case unfold before my eyes yet again, and again, I’m shocked. Here’s a blow by blow of the 3-part documentary.

“Lies, Betrayal, and Murder”

Episode one kicks off with a 911 call Cindy Anthony (Casey’s mom) makes to Florida police, saying her daughter has stolen their car, and should be arrested. When police arrive, they quickly find out that Casey’s daughter, Caylee, has been missing for 31 days.

That’s right, 31 days, and Casey hasn’t told anyone because she was afraid. She simply tells police she dropped Caylee off with her nanny, Zanny, and hasn’t seen her since.

Casey takes police to Zanny’s apartment, where police discover she has been lying. Not only is Zanny’s apartment empty, but according to the leasing office, no one has lived in that apartment for 6 months, and no one in the complex goes by that name.

Casey tells police she works at Universal Studios, which also turns out to be false – she even pretends to go to work every day… but she has no job.

Meanwhile, police uncover yet another 911 tape from Cindy Anthony, where she is frantically saying that her daughter’s car smells like a “dead body”. Police recover the vehicle, and find a stained trunk with the stench of body decomposition. They send a piece of the trunk liner, along with two hairs, to the lab for testing.

The results are enough to arrest Casey for murder… and then, thanks to Florida law, we were blessed with those jailhouse tapes. Remember those? Of George and Cindy Anthony visiting their daughter, where she shows no signs of being worried about WHERE Caylee could be? Hmm…

“A Shallow Grave”

Without a body, it would be impossible to prove Casey murdered Caylee. So, it was considered a huge break in the case when an electrical worker came across a small human skull in the woods near the Anthony’s home.

It was Caylee’s, and there was a plastic garbage bag, a laundry bag, and duct tape, also recovered at the scene.

While there was no remaining tissue on the skull or bones, the laundry bag was matched to a bag at the Anthony home, and the duct tape contacted DNA evidence, and would serve as proof that the child was murdered, and did not die from an accidental drowning, as was suggested.

And then… the TRIAL. America was shocked when Casey’s attorney, Jose Baez, opened his defense stating that Caylee drowned in the Anthony pool, that George Anthony actually buried her, and that he had sexually abused his daughter.

“Ten Hours, Forty Minutes”

There was a ton of scientific evidence presented to the jury – including chemical proof that chloroform was used – and it was time for Jose Baez to present his side.

From his perspective, there was no body in the trunk. Instead, it was just old pizza boxes sitting in the sun’s heat. Basically, Baez takes all of the facts from the prosecution, and turns them into alternative facts before that was even a thing.

You probably already know this, but the jury finds Casey Anthony not guilty on all murder charges. She is charged on 4 counts of neglect, but since she had already been in jail for more than three years, she serves 10 more days, and is then a free woman.

The remainder of the documentary talks about what happened after – how she had to file bankruptcy after being sued from so many people, and that she was caught running naked from Jose Baez’s office, and later admitted to paying him with blow jobs instead of cash.

Yikes.

There was a little bit of new information offered, including an interview with George Anthony, where he says what he thinks happened – basically that Casey did kill Caylee, and that he is no longer on speaking terms with his daughter. He is still married to Cindy, who still claims that Caylee drowned in the family pool.

There are only two people who know the truth… and we may never really know.

Happy Election Day!

Happy Election Day! Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about the candidates or who you should vote for today. I know all of us have heard enough of that already, and many of us are just ready for it to be over. But no matter how annoying the campaign trail can be, nothing beats election day and the news coverage that follows it.

I know I love watching TV at pretty much any given moment, but I REALLY cannot wait to get home tonight and plop myself in front of the tube with a cocktail. I love seeing the prediction maps and calculating the “what if” electoral votes.

So, I’ve got a few things on my agenda for this 2016 Election Day. Of course, the top priority is to VOTE. I cannot say it enough: please do not let today pass without making your voice heard. Sure, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but it’s our priviledge to be able to vote – take it!

I voted early this year, for the first time ever! This was also my first time voting in Texas. I’ve voted previously in Louisiana, and have always voted on Election Day – I love the excitement of it. But it was still exciting this year, and I didn’t have to wait in line.

So, onto the other fun stuff! I’ve been catching up on “House of Cards” this past week, and finally watched seasons three and four. Below are my recaps.

‘House of Cards’ Seasons 3 Recap, Review

I got “House of Cards” season three for Christmas last year and started watching it right away. I got about halfway through it and realized, I was bored. It just wasn’t as riveting as the previous seasons.  So, I stopped watching it. But, a few months ago, I discovered the library had season four, so I put my name on the list to reserve it, and got to watching season three again (I started from the beginning, just in case).

FU 2016!

FU 2016!

Luckily, season three was a little better once I restarted it – I don’t think I was fully invested when I started it the last time, and if you’ve watched this show, you know you’ve got to pay attention to every little detail. Here’s the scoop from the DVD case:

In Season 3 of “House of Cards”, President Underwood fights to secure his legacy. Claire wants more than being the first lady. The biggest threat they face is contending with each other. This Emmy®-winning original thriller series stars Golden Globe® winner Kevin Spacey as ruthless and cunning Francis Underwood, who will stop at nothing to conquer the halls of power in Washington D.C. His secret weapon: his gorgeous, ambitious and equally conniving wife Claire (Golden Globe® winner Robin Wright).

Fair warning, there are spoliers ahead. I won’t be offended if you skip along – but you should watch this show!

At the start of the season Frank Underwood has secured his spot as President of the United States, and he’s already doing what he can to keep up appearances.

Poor Doug is in recovery, and Remy (hottness) is filling in as Chief of Staff in Doug’s absence. Claire has set her goal to be the Ambassador to the UN. Meanwhile, Doug enlists help to find Rachel’s whereabouts, and also breaks his sobriety.

Frank is set on his “America Works” program, which takes a huge amount of funding from FEMA and puts it into the job market, to create opportunities to employ more people. Naturally, this does not go over well at first, and takes several tactics to get it to pass.

While Claire does not get the nomination for Ambassador, she plans to override it. When U.S. gay activist is captured in Moscow. Claire and Frank fly to negotiate and see if they can help him get released. They agree on a statement the activist can say, which includes an apology, and he will be released. He refuses to say it, and Claire stays with him in his cell overnight, and he hangs himself while she sleeps.

This is probably one of the more important moments in the season, because Claire starts to detatch herself from Frank and his campaign. When she returns to the US, she speaks openly about her frustration with the Russian government, and blames them for the activist’s death.

Meanwhile, Doug has recovered and feels a bit left out from Frank and the team. He does some dirty work and provides Frank’s opposing candidate some dirt to throw on the Underwoods. When it works, he goes back to the White House and takes his job back. He also succeeds in finding Rachel, and sadly, he kills her.

As the campaign for Frank’s reelection contines, Claire joins Frank on the campaign trail… until she doesn’t. It’s clear she’s unhappy in their marriage, and a writer for Frank brings the point home when he writes that the only reason these two ended up together is because they wanted to succeed politically.

At the end of the season, Claire tells Frank she wants to separate.

On to season four! Here’s the scoop from the DVD case: They’ve always been a great team. But now in Season Four of “House of Cards”, Frank (Golden Globe TM Kevin Spacey) and Claire (Golden Globe TM winner Robin Wright) become even greater adversaries as their marriage stumbles and their ambitions are at odds.

I was on a list at the library for at least a month before I was able to check out season four, which was just last week. At this point, I’m halfway through and plan on finishing it this weekend. So far, it’s taken some veeerryy interesting twists and I’m certain it will end on a cliffhanger.

Nate Silver & FiveThirtyEight Election Forecast

Working as an SEO Analyst for the last year and change, my job is pretty much data, numbers, and statistics. So, yes, I know about Nate Silver – a statistician and a writer who currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of ESPN’s “FiveThirtyEight”.

Silver is known for his ability to predict the performance and careers of Major League Baseball Players, can foresee the outcomes of many a sport competition, and has predicted several of the last presidential elections based on state-by-state analysis.

Cool, huh? Silver has authored several books, his most well-known being “The Signal and the Noise“. He is also a part of three podcasts, “What’s the Point” covering the data age, “Hot Takedown” on sports numbers, and “Elections” covering the 2016 election.

In the 2012 presidential election, Silver predicted the winner of all 50 states. So, let’s see what he’s thinking will happen today (as of 10:26 am CST on Monday) – you can get live updates here. At the time of this writing, Silver is predicting that while the popular vote is quite even, Clinton will gain the electoral vote, giving her the presidency.

Nate Silver's predicted election map.

Nate Silver’s predicted election map.

All of the states I’ve lived in – Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana – are clearly Trump states, whereas Silver has predicted Clinton will win states on the west coast and in the northeast. Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina are a toss-up (however, Silver is predicting Trump takes Florida).

On Monday morning, Silver told “Good Morning America” that Clinton is favored 2-1 to win the presidency, despite Trump being the likely winner of Florida and North Carolina. We will just have to see, won’t we?

Festive Cocktails & Snacks

Yum!

Yum!

If you’re anything like me, you’re going to need a satisying snack to make it through hours of election coverage tonight.

I will never be the person who waits to get the result on Wednesday morning – I need to know ASAP, and I need to see the road to getting there, state by state.

So, I saw this recipe from Tablespoon for a festive red, white, and blue snack mix, and think it’s the perfect balance of sweet and salty – kind of like this entire election!

For this recipe, you will need 3 tablespoons of butter or margarine, 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce, 3/4 a teaspoon of seasoned salt, 1/4 a teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/4 a teaspoon of onion powder, 4 1/2 cups of Corn Chex™ cereal, 2 cups of pretzels, 2 cups of mini marshmallows, 1 cup of red and blue chocolate candies, 1 pound of white almond bark, and red and blue gel food coloring.

In large microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal and pretzels until coated. Microwave uncovered on High 4 to 5 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Stir in mini marshmallows and chocolate candies, and toss to combine.

USA Sangria!

USA Sangria!

Divide the prepared Chex Mix™ into three even portions, and spread each portion in an even layer on a foil-lined plate or baking tray. Heat the almond bark in the microwave or in a double boiler until melted. Divide the almond bark into three equal servings. Color one serving with red gel food coloring. Color the second serving with blue gel food coloring. Then leave the third serving plain (white).

Drizzle each portion of Chex Mix™ with one color of chocolate. Then let cool for at least 15 minutes, or until the chocolate returns to room temperature. When it’s ready, toss together the three colors of Chex Mix™ until combined, and serve. Pretty easy! 

For my patriotic cocktail, I’m giving you my own recipe for white sangria! Simply mix a bottle of your favorite white wine with a cup of sugar, along with a can of lime seltzer water.

Pile in the fresh cut fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries will give this a red and blue twist. Feel free to add in your favorite berry vodka – I’m not a fan, so I prefer to skip that step. Serve chilled or over ice. Cheers!

Dealing with the Outcome

I know it might sounds silly, but it can be really upsetting when your candidate loses. I’ve had my candidate win, and I’ve had one lose. It’s emotional, as we are essentially pulling for the things we are passionate about, and we spend time choosing the one that’s going to make the country the one we want to live in.

Yesterday, USA Today released a 12-step plan to overcoming this type of loss. Step 1 is, of course, to scream. By step 2 though, it’s time to accept the outcome (not necessarily to like it). Step 3 is probably my favorite: take action. Just because your candidate lost, doesn’t mean you can’t help make a difference that you want to – look for opportunities to spread the word or to volunteer for the passion you’ve got.

Steps 4, 5, and 6, involve seeing the signs to know when you’re getting worked up over a specific conversation, creating an exit plan to get yourself out of the conversation, and to limit your exposure to possible conflicts in this arena, such as Facebook.

Step 7 – try to broaden your horizons and see the other side. Step 8 – build a support system of people who let you vent but refill you with positivity. Step 9: meditate. Step 10 – be thankful, even if it’s just for nice weather.

By step 11 you should get some perspective. Watch a movie or a TV show that lifts your spirits and helps you to understand that life will go on, and thins will be okay. And step 12: be a model of good behavior. No one wants to be the sore loser, right? Show others how to handle loss in a manner of grace.

…So, there you have it! I’m sure I’ll be Tweeting up a storm tonight, so feel free to join me @OrangeJulius7! Happy Election Day, everyone!

‘Hamilton’ & the magic of inspiration.

Siiingin' in the raaain.

Siiingin’ in the raaain.

No, I did not see “Hamilton”, and no, I do not have tickets. But what I DO have is loads of inspiration after watching “Hamilton’s America” on PBS (which you can stream thru 11/18) last weekend.

I’ll preface the rest of this by saying that I was not immediately sold on “Hamilton”. I thought it was hype, and I didn’t get it. Buuut, then I started seeing lots of people I knew who saw it and they said how great it was, and then he hosted SNL:

…And I was all… ok Lin-Manuel, I SEE you! So when I heard PBS was showing a documentary about the most-successful Broadway musical, I was in. I recorded it, and watched it immediately, as I shoveled takeout noodles into my dropped jaw.

Why? Because what I’d heard previously was true: Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up Ron Chernow’s book, “Alexander Hamilton” in an airport on his way to the beach for vacation, and was inspired to write a hit musical.

Uhmazing.

 The documentary explores the creation of “Hamilton” before most of it was even written – and it took several years to write, given there are 55 songs squeezed into a show that’s less than three hours.

What did I find so cool about this story about a man who wrote a musical on one of our founding fathers? Well, lots of things.

For starters, the fact that Miranda was so inspired by history in this small instant – his vacation – and also that he put a huge twist on it (hip-hop). And then there’s the fact that most people don’t make money on  Broadway. Creating a musical based on history was completely a passion project that turned out to be H-U-G-E.

I’m also dazed by the amount of work and research that went into the musical, as Miranda really wanted it to be historically accurate. No wonder it took nearly seven years to make.

I stumbled across an article in Fortune magazine which featured an interview with Miranda and he talks about what he learned from creating “Hamilton”:

You can have good ideas when you take a break from what you’re normally doing and don’t just go 100 miles an hour. Two: Really trusting my gut. I won a Tony with In the Heights. I got offered movie adaptations of musicals. I got offered a lot of Latin-theme stuff. But I had faith that the idea I was chasing with Hamilton would be worthwhile.

It takes years to make a musical. So I’ve got to choose projects knowing that even if they open and close in a day, I will not regret the time I spent on them. And so you can’t choose on what you think is going to be a financial success. You’ve got to pick the idea that excites you and inspires you to write.

I don’t want to give too much away, because you really should just watch the PBS documentary. Here’s the teaser:

So, now I’ve got Ron Chernow’s book on reserve at the library (I think I’m #10 in line), because I want to read the same thing Miranda read and see what’s on the pages. Will I see what he saw? Highly doubtful, because I know basically nothing about Broadway, and not much about musicals other than I wish I lived inside one.

In general, I live for these bits of inspiration. There are things that are likely to inspire us all – stories of rags to riches, those who’ve made something out of nothing. But perhaps there are things that oddly inspire you, which may not inspire the person beside you. Why?

Of course, we are all driven by different things. As a writer, great writing inspires me whether it’s in the form of a great song, an awesome TV show, a good movie, or the perfect book. Sometimes, just the thought of the light at the end of the tunnel inspires me: picturing a lazy Sunday morning when I’m knee-deep in work on a Tuesday helps me realize that the end is coming and I’m working toward those quiet moments.

Sometimes, I’m simply inspired by nature: the changing leaves of fall, every single sunset, a rare sunrise when I’ve dragged myself from the covers in time, flowers, mountains, or even green fields.

I’d love to know what inspires you – and what you do to keep that inspirational juice flowing in order to get things done. I know I’m always looking for more inspiration, and I’d love to know where we can all find it. And with that, I’m just going to leave you with this…