What is it: Snack Food
Twitter: https://twitter.com/elyproducts / https://twitter.com/NaturalSins
Disclaimer: Products reviewed below were provided complimentary by Ely Products. All opinions expressed below are wholly mine and not indicative of the opinions or positions held by Ely Products.
Imported from Latin America, Natural Sins is a baked, dried fruit snack that is 100% natural with no preservatives or dyes. The fruit is sliced very thin and each re-sealable package contains 1oz of the snack. There are 6 fruits available; mango, coconut, apple, orange, beetroot and pineapple. Each package of Natural Sins is 100 calories or less, with the exception of coconut at 168 calories.
When I’m bored at home or work, I look for a snack. While I love to eat fruit naturally, I will also gravitate towards fruits that are easily accessible. It’s why I have to pre-peel my oranges, and pre-slice my apples in the mornings. Otherwise they’ll sit untouched on my desk for days. With Natural Sins, it was super easy to throw a package into my purse or leave them at my desk and have a healthy snack ready with no preparation required. Natural Sins can be purchased online through Ely Product’s website or at a wide variety of stores in the GTA, including Rabba’s fine foods and Starsky.
What I liked:
- I liked 4/6 of the flavours. Coconut, mango and beetroot were amazing.
- I assumed I would like mango but I was surprised at how sweet beetroot was.
- I’ve never been a fan of coconut and again was surprised at how good the Natural Sins version was. Each package of coconut also provides 8g of natural fiber, which is amazing.
- The ease of having a healthy snack that’s ready to eat, tasty and needs no clean up.
- The idea of the re-sealable package was great. The execution needed some work.
- Beetroot, seriously I wouldn’t have thought of it as a fruit but it was one of my favourites.
- The texture of each fruit slice was super crispy. The mango slices were reminiscent of chips.
What could use work:
- The apple thins were only ok, I found the slices weren’t as crispy as the other fruit.
- I really didn’t like the orange thins. The entire fruit was used in each slice, including the peel and albedo (the white stuff) making each crisp quite bitter. I’m sure it’s healthier but not so tasty.
- As mentioned above, each bag has a re-sealable zip stripe. However, some of the packages were sealed very close to the zip stripe. Therefore using the tear away indent didn’t actually open the bag.
- At over $3/bag, it is more expensive than buying fruit.
TL;DR: Conveniently packaged, Natural Sins fruit thins offers a quick, delicious, accessible, healthy snack choice at a gourmet price point.
When it comes to planning a trip, I warp into type my A mode. While planning any vacation, I spend hours researching Tripadvisor, Yelp, Urbanspoon, Travel Blogs and travel guides (ie. Lonely Planet and Frommers). I make a list of must do activities, restaurants and attractions, put it all into a Google Map, colour coded of course, and then plan my itinerary based on geography.
My Favourite Research Resources:
- Trip Advisor – My favourite site to start listing attractions, finding hotels reviews and figuring out the best time to visit a city. The real photographs of hotel rooms and views are super helpful. My first step is to always read the most negative reviews first and then the most recent. This is useful before booking a trip and during the planning phase.
- Travel Wiki – I like Travel Wiki for popular cities. It’s a good starting point to get a general idea of the culture, shopping, attractions and geography. My favourite part of the site is how it outlines day trips and transportation. How to get there from the airport and transportation within the city. I use this site to research places I’d like to visit and before I get into detailed planning.
- The Library for Travel Guides – Lonely Planet is my prefered travel guide series, but I do like Frommers as well. Travel Guides are updated annually and you’d have to visit one location a few times to make purchasing a guide worthwhile. Once I’ve picked a vacation spot, I head to the library’s travel section. It’s even easier today with the Toronto library offering digital copies of most Travel Books for your computer or tablet, all free.
- Yelp and Urbanspoon – This is starting to get serious. Eating on a trip is serious business for me. There’s only so many meals you have in a city. I start with making a list of the best reviewed restaurants and grouping them into price range and cuisine. Then I start trying to eliminate anything that seems too touristy. I start to read local food blogs and narrow down my choices.
- Google – More recently, I’ve started to Google for travel blogs. My search string is usually “City I’m visiting Vacation Blog”. The results are great vacation recaps from bloggers with real experiences, pictures and advice.
The Google Map from my Weekend Trip to Boston last year
Once I have a list of colour coded locations (restuarants, things to go, and shopping) all mapped out, I start to slot them into an itinerary. This is what works for me, and why my friends love to travel with me. I try my best to be a good boy scout (always prepared) without being a schedule nazi. I like losing track of time at the farmer’s market as much as being early for dinner reservation.
Two possible trip itineraries
Tips for Planning an Itinerary that doesn’t feel Restrictive:
- Plan the fancy meals first, don’t forget to include time to get ready and travel time.
- What are your must do’s? Plan those first and space them out. Don’t try to do too much.
- Always have a back up. That super cool new burger joint you read about, closed due to a water leak, good thing you looked up 3 other restaurants in the area.
- Keep some time free. Don’t plan every single hour. What if you hear about a new bar that just opened, or want to go back to re-visit a beach. It’s nice to have a plan, but it’s also nice to have a bit of (planned) spontaneity.
- Stay flexible. It’s Day 2, 4pm and the only thing you want to do is take a nap, not walk a museum. So take the nap, you’re supposed to be enjoying your vacation, and a good plan would have a back up slot, point #4, if the museum was a “must do” from point #2.
Hanging out with some fish at the Boston Aquarium. When we went to buy tickets, the box office line was ridiculously long. We joined a shorter line for pick up tickets and bought tickets online while waiting.
What is it: Mobile App
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Chekplate. All opinions expressed below are wholly mine and not indicative of the opinions or positions held by Chekplate.
Chekplate is a mobile app, currently available only for iPhones, launched in September 2013 that aims to provide users with restaurant reviews from their social network. Users can add friends, write quick reviews and search for restaurants nearby and read existing reviews.
Signing up was pretty standard. A phone number is required to deter fake users. Once I was in the app, the navigation icons were easy to follow to “Add New” review, or “Search” for restaurants. If you’re at the restaurant it takes less than 30 seconds to add a review.
What I liked:
- The app is responsive and quick to load with a clean user interface and easy to read icons, it’s not crowded
- Searching for “Nearby” restaurants provides a list of results within seconds
- There’s a section on each restaurant page for “Deals”, this has great potential
- Simple rating system out of 5 for Food, Service and Price
- As wordy as I can be, I’m a big fan of concise information. I like that the rating is broken out into three factors with a straight forward approach.
- Being able to flip back and forth between list and map view in the restaurant search results
What could use work:
- There are still bugs, right now there’s no way to delete a review so if you accidently click submit twice (which I did), both reviews show up. The developers are working on a way to prevent duplicate reviews.
- This feature is to prevent restaurants from enticing users to remove poor reviews, a great move to maintain the integrity of the app
- Better integration with Facebook and Twitter
- The framework to integrate is built into the “Settings” section of the app, but toggling the “On/Off” didn’t do anything
- More data, like any new app that relies on user input, Chekplate’s restaurant database is just starting to be built up. Right now, there’s a great baseline of restaurants but there’s a lot missing. As a user, It is easy to add a new restaurant if you’re at the location. If you’re not though, you need the exact address, which can be a bit more effort than users are willing to put in for a mobile only app.
TL;DR: With an increase in usership, Chekplate has the potential to provide users with restaurant recommendations on the fly by being a well-thought out and responsive app.