Tortillas & Salt – #MyHeroIs

My Grandparents in the 1940s

My Grandparents in the 1940s

Disclosure: I am a member of the OM Media Network I receive products and occasionally promotional fees. I do not promise positive reviews and all opinions are my own.

There are heroes everywhere if you just look around you.


Sometimes it can be simple. Everyday heroism takes place in kitchens across America as parents sacrifice in order to put food on the table for their kids.


My mother once told me that she remembered how little food they had to eat growing up and how my Grandma Lupe would feed my grandfather and the kids the actual food and sneak off to a corner in the kitchen to eat just a rolled up tortilla with salt. She did without so that her hard-working husband could continue to work and so her small children would grow strong and healthy.


My memories of her were different. She was the warm and giving abuela who always had a houseful of food. Back then, I didn’t register that those full pantries and freezers might have been a reaction to those times when there wasn’t any food to be had. I’ve always associated her with love and plenty. My mother saw her differently. She remembered those tortillas with nothing in them but salt.


When I think of that, it hurts, deep in my throat, makes me tear up to think of how many times she hid in a corner thinking no one would see her doing without. I’m here because she did that. My mother wouldn’t have grown up, married, had me if not for the loving care of my grandmother and the sacrifices she made. To me, that is everyday heroism.

NBCUniversal and WWE unveiled a new campaign, “For The Hero In All of Us,” that will air across NBCUniversal’s expansive network of two broadcast networks, 17 cable channels and more than 50 digital properties in addition to all of WWE’s platforms. In conjunction, NBCUniversal and WWE will engage consumers through #MyHeroIs inviting fans to name their favorite WWE Superstars and share personal and inspirational stories of heroism. I love this because it gives people a chance to tell their stories of everyday heroism, stories like that of my Grandma Lupe. Real heroes are all around us if we only just look

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So You Wanna Be a Chingona?

Disclosure: I am a member of the #WWEMoms.  The opinions expressed here are my own, as is the cursing and the Spanglish. I am, as always myself.#WWEMoms

If you grew up Chicana in L.A., you wanted to grow up to be a full-on chingona. Chingona means a bad ass but it’s a little stronger than that. Actually, it’s not a very nice word and “nice girls” don’t say it. This one does…all the time. For me, it’s been my mantra. I am a chingona. Yo soy chingona.

Why? Because I’ve had to be. I am a stone-cold pocha. A pocha or pocho is a Mexican-American (for giggles, I’ve attached the Wiki description on the word which may or may not be accurate, but you all believe wiki, que no?). For me, it went even deeper. I am super-pocha because my father wasn’t Mexican. Hell, my maiden name is Gleason. Like American to the core with ancestors that landed in Massachusetts sometime in 1638 pinche gringo. Try growing up in a Mexican barrio in East L.A. in the 1960s with a name like Gleason, light skin, hair that turns red in the sun and freckles. You just gotta be a chingona right out of the gate.

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Sugar Cookie Ornaments & the Scents of Christmas Past

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

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Easy to find these great scents

It’s the holiday season and we’re excited in my home. Southern California won’t have a white Christmas, but the spirit of the holidays is here. To get in the mood, we light Glade® Winter Collection scented candles. I was lucky enough to find the Glade® Winter Collection at our local Ralph’s Grocery in Glendale. The display was set up just as we walked in, making it hard to miss amidst the madness of holiday shopping. You can save on Glade®  products with coupons. Find coupons for Glade®  on 12/7/14 in most Sunday newspapers in the coupon section, you can also find digital coupons for Glade® on

Frosted Cookie Party™ is one candle we light when we’re prepping our decorations for our annual tree-decorating party. We make tons of sugar cookies, dust off the boxes of ornaments and invite friends over to help decorate the tree. Before they are done, the candle gets us in the mood and already smelling those delicious cookies. We even turn some cookies into ornaments (I’ll show you how below).

Nothing says holidays to me like the scents of sugar cookies, pine and apple empanadas. My Grandma Lupe would always make apple empanadas at this time of year. On cold mornings waiting for the school bus, I always had a warm empanada. I’d savor each tiny bite of warmth and spice and by the time the bus came, there were only crumbs and a memory of cinnamon. My grandmother baked with so much love that it kept me warm all the way to school. The Apple Cinnamon Cheer™ scent makes me thinking longingly of those empanadas and brings back memories of my youth.

When I was off school, I’d wake up early and pad across creaky, cold floors of the old house to the warmth of the kitchen. There I would find her at her stove, apron tied firmly around her waist. Breakfast would magically appear on a plate before me and after I’d eaten, we’d clean up and start peeling apples. She was a wonder to watch. Bowls would appear, butter, eggs, sugar…magically things would start to take shape. As soon as the spicy scent started to drift through the house my grandfather would appear…he loved apple empanadas so much. I loved serving him those first ones right out of the oven that were bubbling hot. He’d take a bite and sigh happily.  To me, apple empanadas meant Thanksgiving, Christmas and time well spent with my grandparents.

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Pasta, Animated via Droid

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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 cursing and the Spanglish. I am, as always myself. #VZWBuzz

I am amazed at the functionality of phones now. Seriously.

Tomorrow I turn 53 years old (holy crap!) and I grew up with rotary phones, graduated to push buttons, walked around with a BIG ASS mobile phone looking like a complete dork, stumbled into those original heavy-duty Blackberry’s and Palm Pilots. The changes, strides and advances in our now so necessary devices boggle my mind.


Currently, I’m using the Motorola Droid Turbo and it’s AMAZING. The voice functions kick some serious butt and I have a lot of fun with that. It’s especially nice to give it voice commands to search for something I am researching while still madly typing on the laptop to look something up. Fabulous, right?

Google while I’m writing/working on my novel. I can immediately call up information rather than stopping myScreen Shot 2014-11-30 at 7.30.23 PM

The coolest feature of all though to me is the Droid’s completely seamless integration with Google. This Thanksgiving I took so many pictures of the grandkids cooking and Gianfranco Minuz making pasta. Thanks to the Droid’s incredible resolution and it’s integration with Google, not only can I immediately post my photos (Google auto-enhances them!), but darned if it didn’t animate them all well. If you take a bunch of pictures in sequence Google does that. Taking pictures in sequence with the Droid is a snap (no pun intended). You just hold your finger in place while using the camera and it will rapid-fire shoot one shot after another till you move your finger. SWEET!

Google Auto-Awesome and the rapid sequence shots of the Droid Turbo are a match made in heave.

Google Auto-Awesome and the rapid sequence shots of the Droid Turbo are a match made in heaven.

I was just going through my photos on Google and again, thanks to that very cool integration, I can immediately share with my social networks and Google +.  I found, some very cool animations that Google did automatically from the photos my Droid took, of Gianfranco Minuz making pasta for his wondrous Pumpkin Stuffed Capelletti. Here I was just thinking I was only taking pictures, but instead got an almost video-like animation of his process. How friggin cool is that? I’m in love. For a woman that used to be the General Manager of an animation and visual effects magazine, this function is beyond the coolest.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 7.22.54 PM

My Google Notifications of things that were done automatically


I also took real video (this one is unprocessed and unedited) with the Droid.

Tomorrow, my birthday, I’ll be heading out to see Carlos Santana and Cheech Marin at The Orpheum. I’ll be taking my trusty Droid Turbo, holding my finger down on that camera and not having to worry about missing something because I’m too busy fiddling with my phone and camera.

It’s going to be amazing…I can’t wait to find out what the next 53 years of technology brings.

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Drought in California


Disclosure: The California Farm Water Coalition invited me on the tour at their expense with the exception of our rental car (our choice). That tour inspired but did not influence me in this series of posts. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ve lived in California most of my life. I was born here and no matter how far I roam, I always come back home to Cali. It is the place my soul is replenished.

In the 1970s we had a really bad drought. I remember saving every bit of water we had in the house. If we took a shower, we had buckets in the shower with us to catch the water. We used that water to flush toilets and water plants. Sinks were plugged, toilets were not flushed unless there was #2 in yet (yes, I am talking about toilets and bodily functions on a food blog). The catch phrase in the house at that time was “if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down” along with other mottos and rules. In a house with three teenaged girls, the drought was particularly painful. No long showers, no washing of our hair very often. Seriously, there was a timer on the sink! I survived that drought as we all did, but it taught me something…water is precious.

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Crea Futuro

One of the things I love about Latinos is that entrepreneurial spirit. Whether it be selling oranges or flowers on the roadside, opening up a restaurant, designing an app or working out of their backyard restoring old cars someone is always doing something to build a life for themselves without limits.

I’m kinda sorta one of those entrepreneurs and I started early. My sisters and I would sell tortas we made at home. We’d make a ton, wrap them in foil and take them over to the park where the guys were playing soccer. We sold everything we made. We were only in our teens. That time in my life showed me that I could always find a way to survive whether I had a full daytime job or not.

I’ve had a career and lost it when illness and the economy decided to kick my butt around for a few years. During that time, I found other ways to make money, becoming an entrepreneur on a semi part-time basis (all my health would allow) and now while I’m healthy again, I’m still doing work from home, building a small consulting business while holding down a full-time job. No one ever said starting your own business was a cakewalk right?

I found about this completely amazing hashtag over at Verizon called #CreaFuturo . Some of the stories (watch the videos!) are incredible. The spirt and drive these Latinos have is amazing. I’m particularly inspired by the Hello Navi app a group of kids in a middle school came up with to help blind students. Using Verizon technology and tools, they’ve created a better future.

Verizon, for Hispanic Heritage Month, is giving consumers the opportunity to win Verizon products that they put on their wish list which would help them to build the heritage of tomorrow. You can snap a pic of at least one item on their wish list and submit the photo on Twitter or Instagram, tagging it #CreaTuLista and #CreaFuturo. If you don’t have a social media account, head on over to and submit it there.

If I had my choice, I’d photograph an iPad Air, and put that on my #CreaFuturoLista.  It would come in handy on trips, like the one I had this weekend where I can quickly write and take notes in the car or on the plane. It would help me in a lot of ways in what I do.

So what wonderful technological item from Verizon would help you in your business? A smartphone, a tablet, what? I’d have loved to have some techy goodness back when I was selling tortas at age 14.

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Girl Power!

It's okay to be a #chingona Photo courtesy of the #WWE

Growing up, I was definitely NOT empowered. I was shy and retiring (don’t laugh, it’s true!).  I was afraid to meet people or talk, so much so that my kindergarten teacher in the early ’60s told my mother she thought I was “retarded.” I overheard and was mortified and began talking in class so no one would think that again. I remain garrulous to this day. STOP laughing.

I am half Mexican-American and half Gringa (Anglo-Saxon descent with some Irish thrown in as well as Scandinavian, according to my family tree and DNA). My Mexican grandparents instilled a great pride in me for all things Latino while my very WASPy grandparents on my father’s side did their best to wash that out, by citing genealogy, references to relations in England and American Revolutionary patriots as well as Civil War captains (for the Union) and looking down on my Mexican/Catholic heritage and my mother. They came from a time and place where this was ok, where Latinos and/or Mexicans were seen as lesser beings. I always knew it wasn’t ok, but I loved and admired them too,  so it was confusing; contributing much to my shyness and low self-worth.

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The Storyteller

My grandfather after losing my grandmother.

My grandfather, Papa Chava, had an amazing life.  It was a difficult one sure, but he lived through incredible times and had many stories to tell.  Maybe it was from him that I learned my storytelling/writing skills.  Maybe not, but I remember sitting on his lap as a child listening wide-eyed to the stories he had to tell me. Salvador Medina Camarillo was born in Mexico on June 1, 1900.  He always liked to say he came from the place of “los mumias de Guanajuato” (the mummies of Guanajuato).

It ’s hard to research because the church that had his birth and baptism documents was burned in the Mexican Revolution, taking with it all records of my grandfather’s birth.  I’m not sure what village or town he was born in, but he grew up in Irapuato, Guanajuato.  Irapuato is located at the foot of the Arandas Mountains (cerro de Arandas) in the south central region of Guanajuato.  In pre-Conquest times, the land belonged first to the Chichimeca, then the Tarasco or Purepecha, then back to the Chichimeca.  

It was a hard life, being indigenous and poor.  He always told me I was so lucky to be an American and to have been born here.  He told me stories about going out to work in the fields with his father when he was just three years old.  It was firmly etched into his memories because that day, his first day of a lifetime of hard labor, he made money.  Just a few centavos.  Enough, he said, to buy his mother a pot and to press the centavo that was left into her work worn hand.  That day set a tone for his life.  To the day he couldn’t get out of his bed due to illness, he worked hard and took care of the family he loved and was proud of.   Irapuato is still known for growing strawberries and in the little garden at the back of the house on Goodwin Avenue, he grew the best strawberries I ever tasted.  Maybe they reminded him of home.  This photo I found on the Library of Congress circa 1900 of strawberry pickers in Guanajuato gives me a little glimpse into a life that might have been his.

Screenshot 2014-05-31 08.35.27

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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.



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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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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