Gina Ruiz

Cloud Covered

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 8.47.06 PMA few years back my hard drive crashed. There was no warning, no blinking red light, nada. Just a dead Macbook. I was able to buy another hard drive and got more mileage for my Macbook, but my data? Everything was gone…except for what I had stored on the cloud in various applications – Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud. I learned my lesson on that dark and scary day. Back up everything, back up often, back up in different places just in case someone goes out of business, has a huge fire or just crashes. Yeah, I’m not at all trusting when it comes to my data.

I’m a writer. Words are my life and the muse is fickle…sometimes I have the words – sometimes I don’t. I capture the really elusive ones and save them for later. Maybe a particularly good sentence or phrase will come in handy in a story for later; maybe not. Maybe those three words that popped into my head while riding the bus, or the way a woman held herself and smiled can be added to a character. Sometimes these words go nowhere. Sometimes they just don’t fit. I save them anyway. I’ve been known to resurrect a sentence from ten years ago out of an old notebook and pop it right into a new story and like magic, it fits. It was just waiting.

Imagine if I couldn’t save them. It scares me. Some are so delicate and elusive they are will o’ the wisps in the back of my brain, just floating, tickling, hovering before they finally emerge for a quick second and I frantically write – because I know those wispy ones never quite fully materialize for longer than a moment.

Lately, all my saving has been to Verizon’s cloud and I, that most distrustful of skeptics, am starting starting to feel trust. Like all Verizon’s services, the cloud is built on a reliable and fast network. Not only my words get stored there. I trust hundreds of photos to that cloud.  I  take a ton of food shots, things around L.A., those all important ones of family and also quick snapshots around the city that help me remember a phrase or a story. Without the cloud, I’d have to pay for extra Dropbox storage, more Google, more Box and on and on. With Verizon’s service, I don’t even have to think about it. Every photo I take on my phone, every word I write on it gets synced and stored automatically. I’ve recently started taking video of a chef giving lessons in Italian cooking and those get stored automatically as well. It’s a simple matter for me to come home, hop on my big desktop Mac, or even my  shiny new Macbook Pro, go to the web app and grab my content. I can easily copy over my stories, my photos and videos.

Beyond all that, I know my data is secure. No one is going to steal my words or embryonic stories. Those future babies have time to gestate, become grand paragraphs or maybe even…a novel.

This is my life – one of words and images; all safe, sound and easy to access on the Verizon cloud. I’m covered.

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This neat photo of a woman who just became a citizen was automatically saved to the cloud.

 


Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Wireless Lifestyle Program which gives me free access to mobile technology and other benefits.  The opinions expressed here are my own, as is the Spanglish. I am, as always myself.   #VZWBuzz

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How to #Icon Your Neighbors Into Silence

I live on the East Side of Los Angeles in a neighborhood that is both residential/industrial and primarily Latino though gentifrication with all its good and bad is slowly seeping in.  I love it here for the most part.  I have a HUGE (about 2500 sq. loot) loft-like apartment in a converted barn (built in 1903) for a ridiculously low amount of rent.  It has all new laminate floors, a balcony, 1950’s tile in the kitchen and two glorious, brand spanking new bathrooms.  There’s room for ALL my books and then some an extra (huge) bedroom for my grandkids and a whole room for my kitchen gadgets, pots and pans.  I should be happy right?

Um no.

There are two other apartments here and and one of them loves three things – banda music, their extra loud surround sound systems and BASE.  My walls tremble, the floor throbs and the hallway where my books reside fairly thumps with an intense beat.  Seriously, books have fallen right off the shelves.  It’s positively annoying.  Imagine if you will, soaking in a nice bubble bath after a long day at work when all of a sudden your whole bathroom starts to bump, throb and drill circus-like base into your head.  The porcelain of my huge tub intensifies the beat and drills it right into my head.  Relaxation over – pure frustration sets in instantly.

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A Day with #Chef Gianfranco Minuz

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It’s a breezy and sunny Saturday morning in Santa Monica and the Farmer’s Market is busy.  The smell of herbs, fruit and vegetables blend in with the smell of the sea just a short walk away.  Brisk business is being done, there’s a general feeling of happiness and goodwill throughout the market as customers – locals and tourists taste, smell and buy.  In the midst of this is a smiling, good-natured man in a white coat pushing a heavily laden cart.  His name is Gianfranco Minuz and he is in his element here.  The growers seem to know him well, trading jokes and showing him their best items.

For me, the writer following around the Michelin-starred chef, it is a revelation. 

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The Concrete River

I grew up not far from the Los Angeles River. My grandparent’s block butted up against it and back then, I could easily ride my bike down, get off it and squeeze it through a hole in the fence to get to the concrete embankments. Many a summer day I spent sitting on the concrete, writing in my composition notebooks full of stories or reading my Complete Works of Shakespeare that always traveled in my bike’s basket.

In the 1970’s there were tons of frogs in that river. Green frogs, tadpoles, bullfrogs…I’d hear their croaking combined with the ever-present sounds of ducks, geese and snowy egrets. If I lingered just after sunset I might see an owl or two. The hillsides of nearby Griffith Park sometimes showed me the faces of shy deer gazing down. I don’t see frogs anymore, nor do I see the deer. There is however, an abundance of geese and ducks, the rowdy crows and ravens, red-tailed hawks gliding in the sky above and the always elegant and graceful snowy egrets. There are also homeless people living in tents hidden by bent and trash-covered trees.

Last night was lovely. A friend picked me up from work and we decided to take a walk along the river. My friend is from Italy and he was amazed that there was such a thing as the river here in the heart of Los Angeles. We walked and talked almost to Burbank, stopping here and there to identify plants, watch horses and their riders and startle the ducks and geese. Palmed in my hand was my little Droid Mini and I spent most of the two-hour walk snapping away as we walked. My friend was fascinated with how the water was cracking open the concrete and seeping out aggressively in some spots, so I video’ed some of the things that made him laugh out loud.

I miss the frogs. Their rhythmic croaking used to be my company on lonely summer afternoons when all I had was my pen, a notebook and my thoughts. They were the music and muse of my writing back then and I wonder where they’ve gone. Still, the memory of the frogs is there in the river and the color of their skin is now the color of the algae-covered rocks. It is as if the river remembers them too.

L.A. can be a harsh and aggressive place, but it has it’s peaceful places too. Our walk along the river was zen-like in its quiescence and soothing to a troubled soul. I left work as tight as a drum, stressed out and worried. By the end of our walk I was light as a feather, feeling young again and fully energized. My Droid made it possible for me to capture the river’s peace for those days I don’t walk alongside it, and also possible to share the same with my friend. He’ll have a bevy of photos and video of his first time seeing our concrete river and I hope both he and the frogs come back to visit.

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Pozole & Rain

Yum!

Yum!

It is raining in Los Angeles. Our parched and drought-ridden earth rejoices and starts to feel alive again. Somehow that shift, that change in ozone, the sounds and smells of the city I love speak to me in memory – a memory of food, family and love. I take a walk outside to feel it on my skin and the wind whips my hair into a tangled mess while it caresses my neck and whispers one word – pozole.

My Grandma Lupe made pozole all through my growing up. Rainy days like this one meant every door and window were  flung open to let in that good clean smell; the wet, flowery-herbal breeze from her gardens. We bundled up, but the doors and windows remained open to let in all that goodness. Buckets outside were placed to catch the rain water, while in the kitchen good things were happening.

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Living La Vida Droid

La tormenta

La tormenta

Mi vida es una locura, una tormenta…

My life is crazy, a storm.

This has always been true. I don’t know why. I’m a mostly peaceful and peaceable type person but the life that surrounds me has always been one of intense whirlwinds. Maybe it is me – what I draw to myself. I think fast, talk fast, walk fast and type fast. I trip over words, they spill all over. I work, I commute, I have six blogs, I test mobile devices, I cook, I bake, I spend weekends with grandchildren and everything is one mad rush. Una tormenta. Una locura.

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Luna, Lunera…Lunar New Year


I was born straddling two cultures, so it’s no wonder that I’m pretty comfortable absorbing all the culture around me in my city.  My mother, a Mexican Catholic married a WASP whose family ties harkened back to Ireland and Holland.  By age three, my parents had divorced and I was mostly raised by very loving, affectionate Mexican grandparents that were proud to be in America (my grandmother was actually born here) and also very proud of their culture.  It was they who gave me my center, they who instilled in me my work ethic, a love for language, cooking and baking, herbal lore and yes, that very Mexican love affair with the moon.

Nanahuatzin

Nanahuatzin

Growing up was rough, because back at the end of the ’60’s early 1970’s I didn’t fit in anywhere really.  The Chicano kids thought I was too white and I had that weird last name Gleason.  The white kids thought I was too dark, and I ate that weird stuff: tacos and chiles in my lunch.  I retreated to the libraries and in those stacks of books, I found my home.  Books helped me build a life as a teller of tales, a writer – they helped me find my path, but when things got really difficult, it was the culture of my grandparents that sustained me and gave me the strong legs of a rich history to stand on.  The world didn’t seem so hard to me when the moon had so many stories and songs.

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DROID….for Writers?

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I’m a busy, busy woman. I have a full-time job, I sometimes build blogs for WordPress-challenged authors as a freelance gig, I write articles freelance, babysit grandkids almost every weekend and I am working on a novel set in the Mexican Revolution so I do tons of research and reading. Oh yes, I also am the YA Nonfiction Chair for the Cybils and am also a judge on the Middle Grade Speculative Fiction panel. I’m always trying to find ways to save time or cram more into my already busy days.
When I got a new Motorola Droid Mini to test, my first thought was ‘oh, it’s small’ and then I put on my eyeglasses and started to get to know it. It’s a pretty neat little phone overall and robust, with about 30 rooted apps that makes for a lot of efficiency, but how was it going to fit into my lifestyle? I got my answer last night as I was grocery shopping for dinner.
As I said before, I am a writer with limited time to write. Usually, I have notebooks/Moleskins with me to jot down ideas and notes as they come to me, but that’s not always optimal. I have a dictation recorder, but when I’m holding phone, a handbag and all the other stuff I lug around each day on public transit, to be honest, most of the time it sits at the bottom of my bag collecting lint.
I do my best, most creative thinking either late at night or while walking. Something about walking (and I’m doing a lot of that) gets me thinking about ideas, stories, dialogue and more. Last night, while I was walking home from work and making a pitstop at the market, I used my Droid Mini to dictate a story. I started out using the Touchless Control but while it’s pretty neat, it wasn’t what I was looking for so I quickly downloaded a free dictation app (Phillips) and dictated my story. By the time I got home, I had dinner in hand as well as half a story. The other half I dictated while making bistek picado, using the same phone to take snapshots of my dinner and share it on Instagram. Pretty neat right? Even better, because of the Droid Mini’s awesome voice recognition, my played back recordings were clear as a bell and the Send to Email Option on the app, didn’t send me a bunch of garbled up text. It was pretty clear voice to text translation that I was able to easily edit. Since I’m with Verizon Wireless, it’s also super fast and I’m connected everywhere I go.

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Takes great, clear shots while I’m cooking up a storm.

There are tons of other features on this compact, fit in the palm of your hand little phone and I’ll be writing more about them at another time, but for now the Droid Mini is my dictation machine with the added bonus of being able to take a snapshot of something that inspires me so that I remember it later when I’m polishing my story. Droid Mini for writers, yes please!

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Ready to work!

Suggested hashtags: #Verizon, #DroidMini #VZWBuzz, #writing #droidforwriters, #dictation

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Wireless Lifestyle Program which gives me free access to mobile technology and other benefits.  The opinions expressed here are my own. #VZWBuzz

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Sweet, Spicy Goodness & A Giveaway *UPDATED Giveaway Closed

ButternutSquashChipotleBisque

Here in California, the weather is summery and dry, though my friends back East are shivering and shoveling snow. We’re in a drought in fact, and saving water. I am kind of longing for a little bit of a chill if only because it’s supposed to be soup weather and I adore soup, especially rich and creamy ones with a hint of spice.

My friends at Vive Mejor sent me a lovely recipe for butternut squash chipotle bisque (doesn’t that sound amazing?) and my Farm Fresh to You box had a lovely organic butternut squash in it so heatwave or no, I had to make soup using some of the fabulous products that Vive Mejor has for two of you lucky readers in a giveaway I’m hosting.  I have two (2) baskets full of goodies to give away and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me what you think of this recipe.  That’s it!  Super simple, no Rafflecopter, no follow me on Facebook, nada…just comment because I truly want to hear what you think.  The baskets will include Knorr, Ragu, Bertolli, Hellmann’s and Lipton products and you can find more recipes like this one on Vive Mejor.  Oh yes, the giveaway will run till Friday, January 24, 2014.  Good luck and happy cooking!

 *Announcing the winners!  Mireya and Christina I will be sending you

an email shortly to get your shipping addresses.  Congratulations!!!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH CHIPOTLE BISQUE

INGREDIENTS

·         3 Tbsp. olive oil

·         1 medium butternut squash

·         1 1/2 cups chopped onion

·         1/2 cup chopped celery

·         1/2 cup chopped carrot

·         2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

·         2 Tbsp. Knorr® Chicken flavor Bouillon

·         6 cups water

·         3 tsp. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

·         1/2 cup Mexican crema [or sour cream]

·         1 Tbsp. Hellmann’s® or Best Foods® Light Mayonnaise

 

DIRECTIONS

1.     Preheat oven to 400°. Grease 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil; set aside.

2.     Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds, discarding as much stringy pulp as possible. Rinse seeds with cold water in sieve; reserve.

3.     Arrange squash in prepared dish, cut side down, then pierce with fork. Roast 45 minutes or until squash is very tender; cool.

4.     Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in 4-quart saucepot over medium-high heat and cook onion, celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in garlic and Knorr® Chicken flavor Bouillon and cook 2 minutes. Scoop flesh from squash into saucepot. Stir in water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered 30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.

5.     Meanwhile, heat 8-inch skillet over medium heat and toast reserved squash seeds, stirring frequently, 15 minutes or until crunchy. Season, if desired, with salt; set aside.

6.     Cool soup slightly, then process, in batches, in blender or food processor until very smooth. Return soup to saucepot; keep warm. Stir in 2 teaspoons chipotle peppers.

7.     Combine crema, Hellmann’s® or Best Foods® Light Mayonnaise and remaining 1 teaspoon chipotle peppers in small bowl. Season, if desired, with salt and pepper. Garnish soup with dollop of chipotle cream and toasted squash seeds.

 

 

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Game Day!

EllieCat and Gina (taken  by Ellie)

“Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.”  ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Game day dawned bright and sunny. Unseasonably warm for Northern California in November, it was perfection for Ellie and I.  I woke first and stumbled over to the in-room coffee maker before starting to get ready.  Two women who love makeup, clothes and like to fuss meant blowdryers, straightening irons, bags of makeup and gewgaws everywhere.  We managed to make ourselves not only beautiful, but Raider-appropriate, completely dressed in the Silver and Black of our team.  We’d arranged to meet our midnight friend for breakfast in our hotel lobby before the game and we were excited to see him.

Our elevator opened and there, in the lobby were Raiderettes Janae and Brittany busily signing calendars.  I made sure to get a calendar for my Uncle Kiki and chatted with them for a while about my uncle, the game, and my silver and black fingernails.  That was a hit!  While we were chatting, a couple came in straight from the hotel shuttle from the airport.  They were insanely excited to see the Raiderettes and told me they’d flown all the way in from Newfoundland to attend the Raider Game.  Fully clothed in silver and black, they were one of the most excellent representations of Raider fans I’d seen.  Imagine flying for eighteen hours just to see a game!  They did that and that is some serious fan dedication.

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