Blue Apron: First Thoughts

You've seen the ads- they're everywhere! They tell you about their fresh meals on Facebook, Instagram, Sirius XM, even good ole' fashioned TV ads. So… is it really worth it?
Well Mark and I are putting them to the test, and I thought I'd share our first few thoughts from our first two meals.

Before I get into the food, let me tell you how easy and painless getting set up was-
There are a lot of apps and services out there where the set up is a pain. Even recently, dealing with Citi Bank for a new credit card was an ABSOLUTE HASSLE!
This was not the case while getting Blue Apron's delivery service enrolled. Within a few minutes I had a new profile set up, letting them know food preferences, allergies, frequency, and number of household members. As soon as the basics were entered, we could see a large variety of meal options available to customize our first order.

For our first box, we chose a vegetarian-friendly pasta dish, a salmon dish, and a chicken dish. Once the account and shipping preferences were all confirmed, BA let us know we would be all set for our first delivery the very next week. Sweet!

Delivery:
Okay, so we had a small blunder here, but this was not really BA's fault. The carrier, laser ship, rather than bring the box directly to our apartment door, decided it would be safe to leave the box on the first floor by the mail slots. I would probably have been more okay with it had they not left the box right next to the garbage can…. that's right. Our first delivery was left near the trash.
Everything's all individually sealed on the inside of the box, so whatever. But what if someone assumed a box next to the trash was, well, trash?
It's all good, I'm not dwelling on it, I've moved passed it… let's get to the fun part!
Here it is! Our first box! Let's open it up…

Unpacking:
The box is well laid-out. The entire box is lined with an insulated bag. On top they layer fresh and fragile items like herbs and vegetables. Under this layer is a flat cardboard divider which ensures the items are well-supported and kept separate from the items that need more direct refrigeration. Under the cardboard divider are two ice packs that are fairly large! They say right on them that you can re-freeze and reuse them just like you would a cooler pack. We're thinking they could be handy for beach trips. 🏖 Under the cooler packs were things like the salmon and chicken.
We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of STUFF you get! You literally need nothing else from the store to make these meals. Cookware, some salt/pepper, cooking oil, and utensils- thats all you have to provide!

I liked that every single piece came labeled, and specifically stated if it needed to be refrigerated. That made putting everything away a breeze!

First Meal:
The first meal we tried was the Salmon & Freekeh


Mark said he really enjoyed cooking this meal. The instructions were easy to follow, and everything came out exactly as we expected! We added the croissants of course. The Salmon tasted very fresh, and didn't have a 'fishy' smell, that you often get with overly-preserved seafood.

Second Meal:
Fresh Cavatelli and Spicy Corn


This was of course the vegetarian friendly pasta dish we picked. We added crescent rolls again since we had a few left, and this was a very tasty combination of flavor!
As you can see, our presentation was a bit more separated than the layered look in the recipe card- we simply kept the mushrooms separate. I will say that the pasta came out a little chewier than I expected, but Mark thinks that was on our end for not boiling it long enough. I'm usually one to feel hunger pangs even an hour or two after a meal, but this dinner really hit the spot!

Overall Impression:
Blue Apron is a wonderful service, with quality, fresh ingredients. Their recipe's are simple enough for a kitchen novice, but with enough variety to keep well-practiced home chef's interested. I think the main attraction to this service is the convenience. Finding recipes of foods that will be easy enough to make, where you have all the right ingredients, and enough vs too much of each ingredient, can be overwhelming and stressful. Blue Apron takes all of that hassle out of the equation. The price is just right. It ends up equating to about $10 a plate. Certainly cheaper than ordering a salmon dish at a decent restaurant, but not too much more than the cost to make on your own.

Who's this best for?
My honest opinion is that this service is best for smaller households. I think if you're dating someone or have a significant other, this is PERFECT for a household of two. I also think those that travel a lot, like my parents who are on the road for 6 weeks at a time, this is a great service because you maintain full control over which weekly shipments go out, and you can adjust the menu to your liking up until 2 days before it ships. Mark and I both work full time, so our evenings are our only time to unwind during the week. We've been just as guilty as so many others of just saying we're tired, let's order pizza or chinese. Having fresh ingredients with recipe cards waiting for you when you get home really changes the game!

If you have any questions about our experience with Blue Apron, or have your own experiences you'd like to share, be sure to comment!

Posted in In the Kitchen | 2 Comments

Google Contacts, Gmail, iCloud, iCal, does it matter?

Here's a quick Ricky Pro-tip for managing your personal data:
Pick an ecosystem, and stick to it loyally!

I have an iPhone, but not that long ago, most of my data services were on Google.

Wait, what does that mean? Well, it meant that I was using a Gmail email address, my contacts synced up with Google, and I stored my virtual documents on Google Drive. You'll find today that most of these services have their own apps that work relatively smoothly with iPhone, but I would advise you to spend time learning the Apple equivalents and switch your stuff over.

Why does this matter if it all works?
Consolidating your data to one 'ecosystem' will make life much easier in the end. In addition to the simplification, knowing that your information is kept together and tied to one account (meaning one password!), you'll find that as we move more and more towards a 'in the cloud' digital world, you'll want your data to be on the right company's servers.

Apple is notorious for not 'playing well with others'. They tend to keep their higher levels of integration and fluidity between services and apps to only their proprietary software. It's kind of like using Excel and Word on a Microsoft PC- it just works better that way. When it comes to pulling up documents to be uploaded using your mobile browser (which, you should be using Safari on an iPhone), it's a lot easier for iPhone to find your stuff in iCloud Drive, vs trying to use the 3rd party integration to google drive.

On top of this, Google Drive has a decent amount of free storage, but when that runs out, are you going to pay for more Google storage in addition to whatever you might be paying for Apple Services? I'd recommend against that.

I pay for the highest storage plan available from Apple. This benefits me in several ways- all of my device backups always have plenty of room. My massive digital photo library can stay in sync and out of harm's way in the cloud. My almost-as-large media and music library can also stay in there. Plus all of my iWork documents, app back-ups, contacts, email, and more.

I can access all of those items I mentioned across all of my devices seamlessly and effortlessly. From my Mac, to my iPad, to my iPhone- and all my media on my Apple TVs.

Have you ever noticed that Siri sometimes doesn't know who you are after you upgrade your phone or swap out for a new phone?
That's because Apple doesn't have a way to 'mark' a contact card that you've indicated is 'you' when the contacts are synced from another platform. If you're using iCloud to manage your contacts, you're in luck. After you set up who you are the first time, Apple will keep that synced across your devices, even new ones.

If you're interested in starting this journey, the first step is to consolidate your contacts. You can pay a few bucks for an app called "Contacts Sync", or you can do it for free by exporting your contacts on a standard web browser, then re-uploading them to your apple contacts.

If you're interested in learning more about how to do this, leave a comment and let me know, and I'll work on putting together a step-by-step guide for moving contacts from one system to another

Posted in Simply, Simplify, Technology | Leave a comment

My Invisalign Tips and Tricks

Here are my best tips and tricks for maintaining your Invisalign!

1) Cleaning Wipes

You'll be advised of different rinses and things you can do to keep your trays clean and bacteria-free. I've learned that carrying around a container to do the rinses, waiting the 5 or so minutes for the solution to take effect, then putting them back on takes a lot of time, and it's a lot to carry with you on the go. I recommend these Dental Appliance Cleansing Towelettesthat you can find on amazon- and trust me, you will use them, and you will need all 3 boxes- keep one at work, one on your bathroom counter, and use the 3rd box to refill your on-the-go-kit!

2) Soaking Bath

On occasion, you'll want to give your trays a good cleansing soak, instead of just wiped-clean with those awesome towelettes. Having a good soaking bath container will make all the difference. I found one at my local walgreens for about $5, and they come in a couple colors! I chose yellow, because the soaking solution I found starts off a blue-color, so it's good to see when the blue is gone, as that indicates that the soak is finished (usually about 5 minutes).

3) Soaking Solution

Speaking of soaking solution, here's the stuff i use: Fresh Guard Soaking Crystals. I buy one 24-pack at a time. I find the towelettes much more convenient, and I soak my trays maybe twice a week. The packets are those skinny-tube packets, so you can pack a few with you for on-the-go if you want.

4) Carry Case

As you can tell, you'll be carrying around a few more things than normal. I started using a pencil case from walgreens that cost abut $2, and fits everything i need for my Invisalign

5) Travel toothpaste

This is probably pretty obvious, but you'll be brushing your teeth on the go a lot- find your favorite toothpaste's travel version either in walgreens or on amazon!

6) Sparkling Water

Your orthodontist will tell you about 10 times before you leave with your first set- nothing but water with your trays on! Well guess what, sparkling water is just fine too! Many brands of sparkling water have no sugar, but they make a HUGE difference, especially if you're a soda drinker fighting cravings. My favorites are La Croix and Zephyrhills Sparkling

That's all I have for now, I'll continue to edit this post as I find more hacks and tricks for Invisalign!

Posted in Invisalign | Leave a comment

ENFP

Extroversion

Intuition

Feeling

Perception
I ended up paying for the official Meyer’s-Briggs personality test. I’ve always been a bit curious if there was a “handbook” that could help guide someone along down whatever path they are on in life. I found the results and personality descriptions to be almost creepy as to how accurate it was! 

E: Extroversion: I gain energy when I’m with people, but of the extroverts, I’m minimalist- so I still need time by myself to re-center and focus myself. 

N: Intuition: Rather than “sensing”, I prefer to use my intuition when learning or observing. I’m all about the whole picture, in lieu of getting caught up in smaller, minute details. This parlays into the next letter- 

F: Feeling: I prefer to “feel” than think- meaning my decisions take longer, and include considerations for the future, instead of making concrete decisions for the here and now. I also tend to include emotional considerations of not just myself, but others when I make decisions or changes in my life. This is even true when taking on a new job. I’ve always recognized my bell curve- I take time to take in and process, often including others’ perception of me while learning, but once I have my “aha!” moment, it’s all over, and I move upwards and onwards from there on out…. until I get bored.

P: Perception: The alternative to judgement. Judgemental people tend to be very decisive. They know what they want, when they want it, and how- and I sometimes perceive this to be careless or inconsiderate of others- but this only reinforces my tendency towards perception. I on the other hand keep options open and flexible- always looking to the “What If” scenarios. I try to look ahead and consider all outcomes, stepping out of the specific situation to look at the big picture first. I’ll consider how a decision or action could affect or be perceived by others, and after weighing all the options first, then and only then can I choose to go with the best option available. 
I find this whole personality test to be quite informative and educational, like I can look back at decisions I’ve made and interactions I’ve had, and have a little more insight into my inner workings. 
If you want the OFFICIAL MeyersBriggs personality test, be prepared to cough up $50. However, there’s also a free site that is still very accurate. I took them one after the other, and both sites pointed to the same result for me. For the free version, head over to 16 Personalities. For the official test, head over to MBTI Online.

16 personalities has a pretty cute results page I have to say- they have color-coded characters that represent each personality type, and they have a fairly detailed description of how you interact in different ways- at work, in relationships, friendships, and more. Definitely worth a quick look if you’re not sure a personality test is worth $50. 

Posted in Journal Pages, Resumes | Leave a comment

Capital One

In the last 2 years, I have been maintaining a secured credit card from Capital One. I have to say, the more I’ve used my card, the more pleasantly surprised I’ve been all-around with them as a company. Customer service is always really friendly. If I’m a few days past my grace period, I usually can have my late fees forgiven. And on top of everything else, their app is a DREAM. Talk about some innovative and highly-detailed developers- you get push notifications regarding account activity, and you get “second look” on transactions that have post-dated tips. I tend to be a heavier tipper having worked in hospitality, so it’s not uncommon for me to leave $10 on $30. Capital One will send a “second look” push notification just to make sure there wasn’t any funny business at the restaurant, which I think is a pretty cool feature! 

I actually had the unfortunate experience not too long ago with a pizza guy deciding to pencil in a $10 tip on a $15 order. This was with my debit card, and it took a few days to figure out that that’s what happened. After I started using my capital one card more and those second look notifications would roll in, I now have the preference to use a capital one card for transactions that involve delayed tips posting! 

I also really enjoy the simple fact that if I leave my card somewhere by mistake, I can just open the app, and turn on or off the card, preventing or allowing new activity.

In addition to all this, they’re fully-integrated with Apple Pay, so shopping online and at stores with tap to pay readers, making purchases is really easy. 

They also include their Credit Wise credit score tracking service for free. I used this to clear up a few old debts, and it was recommended I look into refinancing my car. I’m really glad I did! Capital One approved my refinance request, saving me $2500!

I feel really empowered and encouraged to get my financial health back up to par again, especially since Capital One is providing me with the tools I need to monitor my credit, and options on what I can do to get myself to the next level. 

Posted in Money Matters | Leave a comment

Sunny Sundays

If you haven’t realized or heard yet, I made the decision to start Unplugging from FaceBook and Google. Because of this, you won’t see any more posts or pictures from me, unless you are in one of my photo streams, or see them here on my site.

 

That being said, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on recent activities!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mark and I have had the chance to really build a nice friendship with Rick and Josh. They are simply lovely people- Rick’s a pilot, and Josh is actively involved with multiple non-profit groups and companies. They enjoy everything from kava at Grassroots, to RuPauls Drag Race, and easy days hanging out at the pool. We thoroughly enjoy their company, and are happy they seem to enjoy our’s as well 🙂

Today we had a really fun time hanging out at the pool at our apartment. Xavier was able to join us too, and once Mark was off work, we grilled up some burgers, and messed around on the mini golf green. A good time was had by all for sure!

In the pictures above you’ll see us all together for Tampa Pride, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race at Xavier’s house, and an afternoon spent with Cassidy.

Looking forward to taking full advantage of the pools this summer, and having friends over as much as possible!

 

Posted in Journal Pages, Pockets of Sunlight | Leave a comment

Unplugging from FaceBook and Google

Shopping. It’s a pretty simply concept: When you go to a store, you pick a product or service, you hand over money, and then you receive that product or service. But what happens when you don’t have to hand over money for a service or product? Does that mean the company isn’t making money?

The answer is quite simple. You ARE the product, and the company is selling you to other businesses.

That’s the business model companies like Google and FaceBook have adopted. In today’s world, every man, woman, child, and grandparent alike have a Facebook page. It’s convenient, right? You open the app, and immediately you have content that’s relevant to you- posts from people you know, people you kinda know, people you used to know, shared news stories, buzzfeed listicles, friend requests- the list goes on and on. And so you scroll. And scroll. Where do you stop? Actually, Facebook knows.

Facebook knows who you are, where you live, who you know. They know what posts you read vs skim vs skip. They know how quickly and how often you respond to messages, they know what ads you click on, they know what ads make you scroll a little slower.

With the advent of services like Facebook Messenger, they also know your physical location, where you shop, where you work, where you get gas- all of it.

When you hit that button that said ‘allow’ for location services, or permission for the app to run in the background, you said yes for Facebook to keep tabs on you at all times. They have data warehouses dedicated to storing and processing this information. They crunch numbers and provide stats and analytics to advertisers to help them better target… You. Where should Abercrombie open their next store? When is the best time of day to send you a spam email? What colors attract you most? What they can do with that data is both scary and impressive. It’s impressively scary. Scarily impressive.

I wanted out. I don’t like feeling like these companies have this big hold on me. I love my internet. I do, but I don’t want to be logged like that.

 

Let me tell you a bit about what it’s been like since I left social media.

  • I find my attention span is getting longer. There are plenty of studies that show the harmful effects of social media, and the constant need to be in front of a screen. I’ve found my stress and anxiety levels have gone down, and my attention span is going up the longer I’ve gone without social media
  • I’m more productive at work. With less stress and anxiety, and a higher attention span, I can concentrate more fully while at work. My boss is very pleased with what I’ve accomplished lately.
  • I’m more attentive to texts: With social media, alerts happen throughout the day, often for something unimportant, like someone asking for lives on Candy Crush. Without social media, my phone notifications are usually for something important now- a text, an email, or a photo stream alert. Texts go answered because I’m no longer bombarded with notifications that make me ‘tired’ of tapping away on my phone.
  • My inbox is manageable- I have time to read through what I’m being sent everyday- unsubscribe from junk, and actually review content I want
  • I read more news. I love the Apple News app- it keeps a bunch of news sources all together in a fairly user-friendly format. Instead of getting news secondhand from an opinionated connection on Facebook, I’m reading the articles myself.
  • I’m more ‘present’ when I’m with friends and family. So often social gatherings are watered down when people that are physically present are too busy being focused on what their other circles of friends are doing online. Without social networks to be worried about, I can get back to enjoying the moments more fully.

 

That last point is probably the best of them all. Now, i still share things, just not with social media. I have this site still of course. And there’s email and text. But my new favorite way to stay in touch, is Photo Streams. What a lovely feature Apple cranked out all those years ago! I can create shared, collaborative photo albums with people I choose to share with. If they have iPhones or other apple devices, they can view the pictures, videos, live photos, and slideshows, and comment on them, or even add their own photos from the memory. If people choose to turn around and upload those photos to their own networks, so be it, but the important thing is that I can share the snapshots I took with the people that are really relevant to it. I don’t have to worry about someone I shared photos with on a photo stream has some creepy cousin who’s going to see it and comment or start a political rant, because only the people actually invited to the photo stream can participate.

This decision to go social media-less mostly started when I learned about all the data harvesting Google does. Facebook knows a lot about all of their users, but Google wrote the rules of data harvesting, and they’ve been doing it for decades now. i went online to my google account, and was shocked by what I found- they have a timeline’d map that shows your exact location at all times. They know where you go, how you get there, where you park, where you walk to and from, down to the second, each and every day. This is in addition to them knowing what websites you visit, where you shop, who you are, and what’s in your emails.

All very scary.

 

So, for now, I’ve cut all ties with Google, Facebook, and other data-harvesters. What would be your biggest fears or concerns of leaving social media like Facebook? Shoot me a message or comment below what your thoughts are on this! I told a good buddy of mine about what I was doing and why, and has since cut off Facebook as well, so I’m curious to see different points of view on this.

 

 

 

Posted in Technology | Leave a comment