Hurricane Preparedness

Hi everyone! Are you #IrmaReady?

As of this posts’s latest update:
– Irma is a category 5, with sustained winds of 185 mph, + gusts reaching over 200mph.
– Irma is definitely going to bring devastating winds and storm surge to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
– It is very likely that Turks and Caicos, the North coast of the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Haiti will also receive similar catastrophic damage from Wednesday night through Friday
– Future-tracking beyond Friday is still difficult to pinpoint, but there are strong indications that the storm will continue on a north-northwest track towards the southern tip of Florida

Photo Credit: My Radar app, available on iOS and Android as a free download- Hurricane tracking and ad-free are paid upgrades.

There are very few scenarios that place Irma outside of causing major damage to Florida. All media outlets and national weather advisories are giving the same recommendation: Be Prepared!

Below you’ll find my own list of tips for making sure you’re #IrmaReady. Feel free to comment or even add your own tips below!

Here’s a few things to consider in the coming days:

1) Fuel
Most people hold off until the very last second to fill up their car gas tanks, and gas containers for generators: don’t be those people. Unfortunately, there were many people in Houston who were waiting for HOURS to get gas. For this week, I’ll be filling my tank every day on the way home from work. I have no desire to be caught in any kind of hectic gas line, and I suggest other’s adopt a similar habit this week too. If you plan on hunkering down, a generator is not a bad idea if you have the resources to get one. They run about $400 and up. Most Home Depot’s and Lowe’s keep only a few on-hand, so the earlier you buy, the better chance you’ll have of acquiring one.
Don’t be like these guys:

Even just today there are lines forming at the pumps. If you tried filling today, and thought waiting for 2 or 3 people to finish pumping before you was bad, you don’t want to imagine trying to fill up on Friday, and waiting behind a line of 20+. This is also caused because stations will run out of gas, and everyone will frantically flock to the remaining stations still in service…. don’t get caught behind!

2) Water
In the Tampa Bay Area, we’re already experiencing supply shortages. Do not lost hope though- we are still early enough that shipments are coming in daily to our main stores. I would recommend going very early tomorrow morning to your local Costco or Sam’s Club, or call your Wal-Mart and find out when they expect their next truck in.
Although it’s illegal, be on the lookout for price inflation, and speak up if you see anything suspicious.

This is a 40 count of 16.9 oz water bottles. It’s the equivalent of about 5 gallons of water, but in bottle form. The pack cost $3 at costco, so we bout 4. Mark and I have the same thought process: In the best-case scenario where we aren’t hit, we’ll still use the bottled water. Worst case scenario- our water is now in easy to use, easy to pack containers. In addition to the 4 cases we bought Sunday, today I managed to make another run to Costco and grab 5 more cases. Costco is rationing their water- limit of 5 cases per customer. And although they may tell you at the front that they are out of water, enter the store any way, and check the back section. I did this, and found that Costco had a whole team of employees helping distribute the cases and ensuring their customers were abiding the 5 case rule.

3) Food
Obviously we don’t need to doomsday prep, but I would recommend making sure you have a few essentials that can carry you for a few days. Canned chicken, tuna, cereal, granola bars- these are all things that will keep you satisfied, pack up pretty easy, are non-perishable, and will not go to waste in the best case scenario where prepping isn’t needed. In the event we don’t need to make emergency meals with the canned chicken and tuna, they make great ingredients for lunches at work, and even casseroles for dinner! If you check on Amazon, they still have ‘emergency food’ available, and Friday is still only two days away- one or two day shipping will get your orders to your door just before we get any bands.

4) Electronics
Let’s face it: Living without a charged phone would make life pretty inconvenient, especially when our phones become a lifeline in emergencies. Keep you phones charged. Keep your tablets charged. Keep your laptops charged. And by all means, if you don’t have a mophie power pack or another external battery, PLEASE MAKE THE INVESTMENT. Because i work for Verizon, I am happy to extend my employee discount to my friends and family. Please contact me and let me know if you’re interested. They truly hold their value, and will make your phone last up to 10 days without access to an outlet. The example below is one of the largest capacities Mophie offers. It has 3 USB ports, an LED level indicator, and when fully charged, provides roughly 7 full smartphone charges. They are a bit bulky to take with you on an every day basis, but for camping trips, vacations, and emergency situations, trust me when I say it’s a small price to pay to keep your electronics charged and ready.

Speaking of electronics….

5) Social Media
Cell phone towers will become over-run with every single phone trying to make calls simultaneously. Only call if needed for 911. (Did you know, in most areas, you can TEXT 911?) If you’re just trying to let people know that you’re okay- use Twitter to send an update online, and ‘check-in’ to the facebook crisis event. No data? Save the Twitter short code number and text your status update. To text TWEETS to your twitter account, the number in the US is 40404. Make sure now that your account is already linked to your cell number!

6) Board Up?
If you own your house, you’ll want to board up- and don’t skimp on the quality of the plywood. You’ll need decent plywood, 2×4’s, plenty of wood-screws, and appropriate anchoring screws to adhere the boardings to the exterior walls of your house. You’ll want to board as many windows as possible, and entire glass doors if you have them

7) Hunker Down
The center-most room/closet/bathroom is where you’ll want to hunker down. Put as many walls between you and outside. Do not pick a room with a window. If this isn’t an option, maybe a closet is better. Still not an option? Go into a bathroom, and bring a mattress. Use the tub or shower and make yourself as small as possible, and ‘seal’ the tub or shower using the mattress on top. This would be the safest place to be in should you experience hurricane force winds while in your own home.

8) Documents/Papers
Passports, Birth Certificates, SSN Cards, Green Cards, Drivers License- these will be the most important documents. The originals should be kept in sturdy ziplocks, or even a water-tight, fire-proof safe. You can pick one up on amazon for about $30. Keep digital copies handy on your phone (available offline, meaning a picture, or a file that doesn’t need to be downloaded from a cloud), do this especially if you have plans to keep your phone charged. Photo copies will do just fine- those should also be kept in ziplocks to keep them safe from weather.
SentrySafe Fire Safe, Waterproof Fire Resistant Chest

These are just a few tips and tricks that I have for now. Check back for updates, and be sure to subscribe to my site, either directly here on WordPress, or through my Facebook page. Stay safe everyone!

Posted in Pockets of Sunlight, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

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…

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!

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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!

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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