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BBC: ‘Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win’.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book and it feels so good to be back! I’ve had such a busy few weeks, and I hate when people use that as their excuse for not reading, but this time, it’s true – I promise.

I also said I was going to read a different book next, but when the library says “Not Renewable” – your reading order shapes up pretty quick (I’m currently staring at a stack of three books due back this coming Saturday – whoops!).

So, here we are. And from the looks of things, I’ll have a little more time to read in my near future, so consider Blanche’s Book Club BACK.

Our read this week was “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win” by Jo Piazza, which was a pick on my Summer Reading Guide. Here is the book description from Amazon:

From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle.

I read this book in 24 hours – it was relatable in some ways, but also just a fun world to jump right into. I was curious how I’d feel reading this book post-2016 election, but it was still a unique story, with a very unexpected ending.

I found it entirely refreshing, and since this was my first Jo Piazza book, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from her.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Puddin‘” by Julie Murphy. Follow me on Instagram @Orangejulius7 and see my thoughts on the book in real time. Have a great Monday!

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The time is now.

The choice is ours.

The choice is ours.

On Tuesday, I posted a 12-Step Guide on how to cope if your presidential candidate lost that night. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to actually be the one needing it.

But when I attempted to fall asleep Tuesday night, around midnight, I couldn’t help but think about all the things in my life that may change: would my 401K be affected? The amount of annual taxes I owe? Would I have access to my choice of birth control or should I get an implant before January? Would my insurance rates change? My deductibles? Will there really be a wall at the edge of my state? Will my risk of being shot and killed in public increase? Will it still be safe to fly and/or travel overseas? Will there still be free press?

Frankly, I don’t know the answers to many of these things, and I suppose we will all be finding out soon enough. I’ve had my candidate lose before, and it sucks, big time.

But this election was emotional. There was so much hate and drama and sometimes, it seemed like it would never end. But when I voted, I wasn’t necessarily voting for a person. I was voting for the things I believe in – to my core. I was voting for equality – for myself, for my gay friends, for my non-white friends, for immigrants.

I was voting for my right to choose what happens to my body. I do not want any man grabbing my genitals without my consent (and my consent is never happening). I am not okay with rape. And I am not okay with a man, especially a man who does not know me, making decisions about my reproductive health.

So, when the results were tallied, I wasn’t upset about the person. I was scared for myself; scared for minorities, scared for women; scared for our country. The results put clearly – in red and blue – what we already knew: that making America “Great Again” really means moving backward, and taking away the rights of progressives. And now, we know that a lot of Americans cannot wait for our rights to be stripped; our bodies taken advantage of; and literal walls to be built between us. We’re one step away from a field of ovens.

And it’s terrifying.

But, I’ve spent a lot of my life being scared. And I’ve found that being scared makes me do things I probably wouldn’t normally do. And when you’re put out of your comfort zone, growth happens.

We cannot live these four years in fear. Now is not the time to be silenced. So, where do we go from here? I say, we keep working for the rights we so desperately want. Whether it be on a local, state, or national level – we can still get to work.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

With that said, I’m on the hunt for causes I can be a part of. Here are some things I’m thinking:

  • Volunteering at Planned Parenthood – info here
  • Volunteering to help victims of domestic violence
  • Getting involved in local politics
  • Becoming a Reading Partner – info here
  • Volunteering and/or donating to a Boys & Girls Club – info here

If you have any additional participation, volunteering, or donating ideas, I would love to hear them!

Having said that, though, don’t think that making a difference has to come in giant projects or overtaking commitments. Frankly, talking helps. Finding people you can share your beliefs and passions with spurs positive action.

Other things I’m doing to cope? Watching less news. I will never blame the media for this and will always stand up for the rights of the press and the jobs that journalists do. However, I’m limiting myself to just a few minutes of news in the morning, and that’s it. I don’t want to watch long,  repetitive news programs that will probably stress me out.

I will also be limiting my time on social media, particularly Facebook. I have already deleted my Facebook app, which cuts down on mindless scrolling that leads to unnecessary stress.

What will I do with all my extra time? Well, aside from volunteering, I can spend more time reading, and of course, watching “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party” on VH1. No, seriously.

And I’m not trying to make light of the situation, but I do know that we’ll get through this, and we can do it cooly and in a way that helps others, while helping ourselves.

#ImStillWithHer

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!

If Trump Wins: How to move to London.

Okay, GOP, I'M OUT.

Okay, GOP, I’M OUT.

I’m not really sure what the Republicans are thinking, but then again, when do I EVER know, or understand, or really care what’s going on there? Meh.

But in general, y’all have lost it. We put up with Bush. But Trump? No ma’am. That shit is no joke. Like I am moving overseas if this happens. So, if you’re on the same page as me, I’ve done the dirty work and figured out how to actually move to London, should the crazies take over.

Get a Visa

Not the credit card kind. If you’re a student, lucky you – visas are easier to get if that’s the case. You can also try and get one through your current employer, which is also fairly easy. For most of us though, we’ll have to prove we’ve got enough work experience and education to make the move without a job (unless, of course) you can land a job overseas first, and get a visa that way.

Visit here for more information about how to get a visa and exactly what kind you need.

Get a Flat

How chic does that sound? Start looking for a place; and yes, it’s going to be expensive. This means two things: 1. Don’t fall for any places that sound cheap, because they probably don’t exist, and 2. Don’t wire money over. You’ll get scammed. It’s also probably important to note here that places in London are going to be smaller, and will also have about zero storage. So, time to get rid of everything you own. Bad news for Blanche, London landlords are not keen on cats and dogs. Looks like Blanche will have to fend for herself when it comes to Trump.

Just kidding; we’ll find a place to house my arugula-eating kitty (though she may have to be quarantined for six months).

One important part of figuring out a place to live is exactly WHERE; there’s lots of boroughs in London and you’ve got to find the right one for you – here’s a map of them.

Transportation

You can have your car shipped overseas, or you can get a new one once you arrive. But, keep in mind, that if you have a car either way, you’re going to have to find a place to park it. I saw screw the car, London has a great public transportation system.

And while all of this sounds fine and dandy, my research proved to me one thing: moving out of the country is not easy – and why would it be? Moving ANYWHERE is a pain in the ass and there’s all sorts of things that need to change. That whole visa thing – it’s expensive, difficult, and takes a very long time and a lot of hard work. So, step one may very well never get accomplished.

But I will admit, the idea of moving to a completely, completely new place does sound appealing. This does not mean I hope Trump wins. No, no.

In the meantime, I found some blogs from people who moved from the United States to England:

Maybe I’ll make this “If Trump Wins…” a regular thing; you know, we can relearn how to survive; how to make rope-ladders and wash clothes near the rivers. The media surely won’t be around so I’ll sneak underground and report the news from a blocked IP address.

OK, I’ll stop.

Register to vote, y’all. Right here.

Meanwhile, Beyonce stole my brand:

Have a fantastic weekend! I am hoping to get some gardening in tomorrow, and I’ve got tickets for the Calder Cup playoff game with the Texas Stars…and I’m also going to the Drafthouse to the “Bridesmaids” quote-along! Gonna be a fun one, and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!