Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Product Review - Thule Versant Men's Backpacking Pack Fjord 60 L

Versant Men's Backpacking Pack
Fjord 60 L

I have been using camping backpacks since the late 70’s back when I was involved with Scouts Canada. Over that last 4 years I have had 8 hiking packs. My all-time favorite is the Asolo Navigator 80, but this bag comes in a close second.

Like all Thule products that I have encountered this Backpack is made with exceptional craftsmanship. It is a very well-crafted bag even if some of the design features are not what I would expect. First the day pack that comes off from the main pack is the hood for the main pack. It comes off and becomes a sling pack for day hikes, or summit climbs. I am not a fan of sling bags so would be unlikely to use it. But it is there for those who wish. The other surprise was that the rain cover is stored in a pocket on the bottom front of the bag. It is clipped into the bag, and can be installed and stay clipped it. But it can also be removed completely for a little extra storage if desired. The ran hood uses an elastic edge to wrap around the top and sides, but two toggle style buttons to affix to the bottom front of the bag. The feature I would have really liked to see on this bag is a cover for the straps. My current main bag had a flap that hides in a pocket on the bottom that comes out and zips around all the straps sealing them in. This is a much better option for air travel than putting the backpack in a plastic bag at the airport. So if air travel is not a consideration this is a great pack, but if it is, be careful. I have seen more than a few destroyed packs on airport carousel where the straps got caught either in loading, flight or unloading.

Top comes off and becomes a sling pack for day hikes.
Waterproof roll top pocket on hip belt keeps electronics protected
Customizable hip belt with 3 interchangeable versa click pockets (3 different configurations)
3/4 rain cover combined with waterproof liner creates a fully waterproof bag
Hip belt and torso adjustability for perfect fit

I have loaded and unloaded the pack a few times now. I find it a little small for what I would use for a longer excursion; but too big for a weekend trip. At 60L it is a strange middle size in my opinion. I really like my 80L and 50L bags. I also had a friend test the bag, at over 6 feet in height he could not get the bag adjusted so it would sit well on him. So the bag will not be a good fit for taller guys. I am 5 foot 9 and it fits perfectly so below 6 foot the bag is a good option.

This pack also comes in two other colors:
Bing – Red
Mikado – Yello
Fjord – Blue (the one reviewed)

Overall a very well made bag but with a few concerns. I would recommend the brand, and as stated the craftsmanship is excellent. But depending on usage might not be ideal.

Reviews of other Thule Products:

Chariot Lite 1 Plus Cycle/Stroll
Versant Men's Backpacking Pack Fjord 60 L
Subterra 30 L Backpack Dark Shadow

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla The Gift of Life - Susan Helen Wallace and Patricia Edward Jablonski - Encounter the Saints Book 29

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
The Gift of Life
Encounter the Saints Series Book 29
Susan Helen Wallace
Patricia Edward Jablonski
Rick Powell (Illustrator)
Pauline Books and Media
ISBN 9780819872388
eISBN 9781306806725

With each of the books I read in the Encounter the Saints Series, from Pauline Books and Media, I am more impressed with the series. There are currently 37 books in this series, including The Saints Pray for Us, and I have read about a third of them. I have read book 1 and book 36 and a sampling in between. I have been reading these books with my three children, but I must be honest and say I am reading them on my own. Because I cannot seem to stop reading these books, and I do not want to wait for the pace I am reading them at with my children. Every time I finish one I cannot wait to start the next. And a few of them have been read two or three times through now. The books in this series are written with a target audience of 9-12 year olds, and my 11 year old can read them without any difficulty, and my 9 year old needs help with some words. But Anyone who reads these book will have their faith enriched. But on to this specific book about Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.

This is a very powerful story about a strong female role model. Saint Gianna Molla is not your typical saint. She was a doctor, a wife, a mother. She appreciated fashion, she loved the outdoors. She worked hard at her medical practice and saw he medicine as being in the service of God. And then she had to face a very hard decision, she could save her own life and end that of the child growing in her, or risk her own life so that the child might live. 

For her it was not just a decision about a medical procedure. It was a matter of faith. The faith she had lived her whole life. The faith she had modeled in her practice. The faith she was instilling in her other children. She made a choice out of conscience as both a doctor and as a mother.

 The book contains 5 pencil drawings by Rick Powell. This is the only book in the series illustrated by Powell's. But He does a wonderful job. They include Gianna receiving her first communion. The birth of their first child, her treating a patient and two others. But you will need to read the book to find out what they are. 

This book shows us with following God in hard choices could mean. It also shows us a saint who lived in this last century, who lived a life of service and dedicated to God every day. In her work, in her family life and at play. The prayer to this saint in the book is:

Saint Gianna, you've taught us-not only with words, but through your example-some very important truths. One is that God wants all our families to be centers of love. Remind me that the love and understanding I practice in my own family can help to make the world a better place.
You've also shown us that every unborn baby is a precious and unrepeatable gift of God whose life should never be taken away. Saint Gianna, ask God that all people may come to understand and believe this. Remind me to pray every day for an end to abortion. I want to do what I can to respect and protect the life of each and every person because every human being has been created by God in his own image. 
Saint Gianna, you loved life. You knew it was a great gift. Help me to know what God wishes me to do with my life; to spend it well and for the good of others, just as you did. You found joy by trusting God in everything. Help me to do the same. Please pray for me. Amen.

This book as mentioned is part of the Encounter the Saints Series; from Pauline Books and Media. I have now read about a third of the series this year. This is another inspiring book in a wonderful series and I highly recommend both the book and the series. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Encounter the Saints Series from Pauline Books and Media:
Blessed James Alberione Media Apostle
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati Journey to the Summit
Journeys with Mary Apparitions of Our Lady
Saint André Bessette Miracles in Montreal
Saint Anthony of Padua Fire and Light
Saint Bakhita of Sudan Forever Free
Saint Bernadette Soubirous And Our Lady of Lourdes
Saint Catherine Labouré And Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Saint Clare of Assisi A Light for the World
Saint Damien of Molokai Hero of Hawaii
Saint Edith Stein Blessed by the Cross

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Daughter of America
Saint Faustina Kowalska Messenger of Mercy
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Cecchina's Dream
Saint Francis of Assisi Gentle Revolutionary
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla The Gift of Life
Saint Ignatius of Loyola For the Greater Glory of God
Saint Isaac Jogues With Burning Heart
Saint Joan of Arc God's Soldier
Saint John Bosco Champion for the Young
Saint John Neumann Missionary to Immigrants
Saint John Paul II Be Not Afraid
Saint John Vianney A Priest for All People
Saint Juan Diego And Our Lady of Guadalupe
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: Courageous Faith
Saint Katharine Drexel The Total Gift
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque And the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Saint Martin de Porres Humble Healer
Saint Maximilian Kolbe Mary's Knight
Saint Paul The Thirteenth Apostle
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina Rich in Love
Saint Teresa of Avila Joyful in the Lord
Saint Teresa of Calcutta Missionary of Charity
Saint Teresa of Kalkota Missionary of Charity
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux The Way of Love
Saint Thomas Aquinas Missionary of Truth
Saint Thomas More Courage, Conscience, and the King
Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto: Shepherds of Fatima
The Saints Pray for Us

Monday, 24 July 2017

Crusader King A Novel of Baldwin IV and the Crusades - Susan Peek

Crusader King
A Novel of Baldwin IV and the Crusades
Susan Peek
TAN Books

ISBN 9780895557605

This was the third book I have read by Susan Peek over the last few months. I have been greatly impressed by them all. I loved Saint Magnus The Last Viking, and found it very well written. And her handling of mental illness and especially PTSD in The King's Prey: Saint Dymphna of Ireland was incredible. But this book was incredible. I could barely put it down. I devoured it in two sittings on the same day. And I must admit I went to bed much later than I should have for my alarm goes off at 5am to get up and ready for work. There was not a lot of sleep the night I finished this book!

I found it hard to categorize this book. It is historical fiction. So I count it as a fiction book. But so much actual history is woven into this book and it is so masterfully written I wish I could just call it history. This is the story of the “unusual life of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, the leper crusader king who - despite ascending to the throne at only 13, his early death at 24 and his debilitating disease - performed great and heroic deeds in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.” It is the story of faith, a story of friendship, and a story of how Christianity loses its way when corruption spreads within its ranks. From my university church history courses I was familiar with the basics of this story. But most of all it is the story of a man who sought to do God’s will no matter the personal cost and no matter the odds. For Baldwin IV obedience, trust, faith, and courage were the hallmarks of his life and his reign.      

This book is published as teen fiction, but I know many adults who would love to read this book. The facts in this story will remind us that with faith and obedience we can accomplish the impossible. As mentioned this book is very very well written. I average over 100 books a year and this was one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read. It is right up there with Jack Whyte’s Sky Stone series a retelling of King Arthur, and Taylor R. Marshall’s Sword and the Serpent a retelling of Saint George’s life. This is masterful writing and any fan of history, historical fiction or even just great fiction reads will love this book. My only concern is that there are not a lot of Peek’s books left for me to read, I can only hope she publishes more for us to read soon. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Susan Peek:
Crusader King: A Novel of Baldwin IV and the Crusades
Saint Magnus The Last Viking
A Soldier Surrenders: The Conversion of Saint Camillus de Lellis
Animals of God
Animals of God, Volume Two
The Forgotten Christmas Saint: Saint Anastasia
The Man God Kept Surprising
Small for the Glory of God

The King's Prey: Saint Dymphna of Ireland

Sunday, 23 July 2017

20 Answers Witchcraft & the Occult - Michelle Arnold - 20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers

20 Answers Witchcraft & the Occult
20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers Press

ISBN 9781683570431
eISBN 9781683570455

This was a harder book to read, and to write a review of. Because of stuff in the part, because of family history this book cuts very close to the heart. This book is one of three that was added to the 20 Answers Series in the spring of 2017. The author who contributes to numerous Christian or Catholic websites has written a very grounded book, on a topic most will dispel with a wave of the hand. Though personally not an easy read, I consider this another important book that I believe all Christians could learn from. And yes I know this book will open a can of worms in many a life, family, parish or community. But the information in this book is too valuable to be ignored by Christians in this age. 

The 20 Questions answered in this volume are:
1. What is witchcraft?
2. Are Wicca and witchcraft different words for the same thing?
3. Are witches Satanists?
4. What does the Church say about witchcraft?
5. Did the Church burn witches during the Middle Ages?
6. Is Halloween really a holy day for witches?
7. In what kinds of practices do witches engage?
8. Is witchcraft dangerous?
9. What do I do if I have dabbled in witchcraft?
10. What can I do if my child or friend is experimenting with witchcraft?
11. What is the occult?
12. What do mediums do?
13. What does the Church say about divination?
14. Can Catholics use the Ouija board?
15. Is yoga a pathway to the occult?
16. What are the dangers of magical and occult content in popular culture?
17. Is there such a thing as ghosts?
18. Can I watch ghost hunter shows on TV, go to a haunted house, or take part in ghost hunts?
19. Should psychics be consulted to help solve crimes?
20. What do I do if I think I am a psychic?

The Introduction of this book states:
"Interest in witchcraft and occult practices is on the rise in our culture. Movies and TV shows feature witches, ghosts, vampires, and werewolves. Bookstores are filled not just with depictions of fantasy worlds in which these creatures exist, but also with how-to manuals for casting spells and discovering your inner goddess. There are groups on social media for practitioners of the occult and conventions around the country for devotees.But do you know what witches actually believe and how they practice it? Do you know what to do if your child professes an interest in witchcraft or starts to play with a Ouija board or tarot cards? Do you know what the Church teaches on witchcraft and the occult? Can you answer charges that the Church burned witches during the Middle Ages?This booklet introduces you to what witches believe and to some of their common practices. It also delves into related topics, such as yoga, the Ouija board, and the work of psychics.Witchcraft and occult activity have been around for hundreds of years-possibly thousands. When people live in uncertain times, they begin to worry that God does not hear their prayers, and so they seek other ways of gaining the knowledge they need to take control of their lives. Recourse to witchcraft and the occult is, primarily, a sign of despair of the goodness of God.In responding to the claims of witchcraft and the occult, it is important not to give in to fear, or to attribute to practitioners more power than they have. It is also important to remember that they are ordinary people leading ordinary lives, and, in many cases, that they hope to find in these practices the means to make the world a better place. It is our task, as Christians, to be ready with the information and assistance that can help them find a safe path to the peace and union with the Divine that they crave."
So many people today turn to other sources seeking power, well-being, health or an advantage in life. The premise of this book is that our job as Christians, as Catholics is to be able to understand the person, and be able to answer them and show them the way to God, and to a practice of faith that leads to life. This book presents a lot of hard facts, and any Christian who wants to bury their heads in the sand about the occult and witchcraft is failing those ensnared by these practices. This book highlights the fact that we should not fear the practices, but we should also not sensationalize them. It does a good job of walking that line.

This is one of the shorter books in the series coming in at an even 60 pages. But the author draw from 70 references in her answers to the 20 Questions. It is an important read. A good book in a great series.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Note 2: Currently this series of books is being offered at a 50% discount so get it while you can. That is right you can get all 23 physical books or all 23 eBooks for just $39.95! If you want a way to go deeper this year give this series a try! 


20 Answers Series:
20 Answers Abortion - Trent Horn
20 Answers Angels & Demons - Fr. Mike Driscoll
20 Answers Atheism - Matt Fradd
20 Answers Death & Judgement - Trent Horn
20 Answers Divorce & Remarriage - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers End of Life - Jason Negri
20 Answers Faith & Science - Trent Horn
20 Answers God - Trent Horn
20 Answers Islam - Andrew Blezad
20 Answers Jehovah's Witnesses - Trent Horn
20 Answers Mary - Tim Staples
20 Answers Miracles - Karlo Broussard
20 Answers Mormonism - Trent Horn
20 Answers Salvation - Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Scripture and Tradition - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Bible - Trent Horn
20 Answers The Eucharist - Trent Horn
20 Answers The Papacy - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Real Jesus - Trent Horn

20 Answers The Church - Trent Horn
20 Answers Witchcraft & the Occult - Michelle Arnold
20 Answers Apparitions & Revelations - Michael O'Neill
20 Answers The Sacraments - Fr. Mike Driscoll

Other Books from Catholic Answers:
Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties - Trent Horn
A Daily Defense: Apologetics Lessons for Every Day - Jimmy Akin
The Apostasy That Wasn't: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church - Rod Bennett
Answering Atheism - How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity - Trent Horn
Persuasive Pro Life: How to Talk About Our Culture's Toughest Issue - Trent Horn and Fr Frank Pavone
The Protestant's Dilemma: How the Reformation's Shocking Consequences Point to the Truth of Catholicism - Devin Rose
Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines - Tim Staples
Handed Down: The Catholic Faith of the Early Christians - James L. Papandrea
Demons, Deliverance, Discernment: Separating Fact from Fiction about the Spirit World - Fr. Mike Driscoll
Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith - Devin Rose
100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura - Dave Armstrong
The Drama of Salvation: How God Rescues You from Your Sins and Brings You to Eternal Life - Jimmy Akin
The Truth is Out There (Brendan and Erc in Exile Book 1 - Brother Amadeus and Amadeus
...Memorize the Reasons! Defending the Faith with the Catholic Art of Memory - Kevin Vost
Marching Orders: A Tactical Plan for Converting the World to Christ - Dan McGuire

The Fathers Know Best - Jimmy Akin
Why We're Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope, and Love - Trent Horn
The Old Evangelization: How to Spread the Faith Like Jesus Did - Eric Sammons

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Product Review - Organic Goji Berries - Viva Naturals

Organic Goji Berries
Viva Naturals

This was one of a number of Viva Naturals products I recently got in order to test and review. Overall I have been very impressed with the products. And see them becoming staples in my working towards health and nutrition goals. Viva Naturals is a company was founded in 2011, they strive to be an all-around health and wellness company. Their products range from nutritional supplements, organic food, beauty products, and essentials oils. Their focus is to help you with your wellness goals, and now thankfully, they are expanding into the Canadian market place. And these Goji Berries are awesome. I have tried them numerous times and am almost done my first 1 pound bag of them, but it will not be my last!

How I tested this product:
Straight up
In Smoothies
Added to Salads
In a trail mix blend

Product Specifics:
Gluten Free
Certified Organic

Now I must state, my three children ages 10 and under were willing to give these a try. Both of my daughters love them straight up. Every time I pull the bag out to make a smoothie, the girls ask for some and eat a small handful each. The girls also love them in smoothies. They are also really good in a trial mix with nuts and seeds and the Viva Cacao Nibs. I am currently snacking on these, the cacao nibs, with macadamia nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds as a mix for afternoon snack.

Great taste

The foil pouch tears from the rough dried berries
The reseal feature on the pouch does not work well

The packaging is the only real drawback of this product, it just does not reseal properly, and I have noticed that on a number of Viva products. My workaround is to put in inside a different container, but would really like to see that resolved. But I still give it 5 stars based on the product itself and not the issues with the package. 

Prior to giving these a try I have never had Goji berries at home that did not come mixed with something else; either in tea or prepackaged salad kits. I love the sweet-tart taste that they have. And they are very versatile. I know I will be experimenting with more ways to add them into my diet. Since these products are now available in Canada through the Amazon Marketplace, it is easy to stay stocked up. I highly recommend these berries, and to be honest all of the Viva products that I have tested to date! 

Viva Naturals Reviews:
Supplements and Nutritional:
Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 16 Ounce
Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 32 Ounce
Organic Ground Flax Seed
Organic Goji Berries
Maca Powder
Coconut Flour: Non-GMO and Gluten-Free
Royal Quinoa Whole Grain
Chia Seeds
Organic Raw Cacao Nibs

Cacao Powder
Krill Oil 1250 milligram

Essential Oil Difusers:

Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser 300ml, Ash Zen Model
Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser 400ml, Pine Tranquil Model
Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser 400ml, Espresso Tranquil Model