High Sierra Loop — My Very Useful, Inexpensive Travel Backpack

In addition to my carryon luggage, I am really glad I found the perfect backpack. Let me begin this post by saying that I don’t care about high end (aka expensive) gear. I am after function, convenience, and it’s even better if I get it inexpensively.

I tend to keep my backpacks for several years. As long as they work and they don’t look like they’ve been picked up from the dump, I will keep using them.

My former backpack was a 1400-peso Adidas backpack, which I bought in the Philippines in 2014. It has been with me to South Africa, Germany, and the United States. A friend of mine who works at Goodwill gifted me with a smaller UnderArmour backpack from Goodwill. Yes I got it secondhand and I don’t mind using it.

Stumbling onto the Best Backpack

I looked online for the best travel backpack that I could use. I finally stumbled onto the High Sierra Loop. It costs $34 on Amazon and I just added it to my wishlist.

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What’s the right age for a child to get a smartphone

Unless you want to live under a rock, you cannot escape the invasion of smartphones in our world today. You could see smartphones being used by adults falling in line while waiting for their coffee, by teenagers hanging out in the classroom or in public spaces, by adults walking down the street, and just about anyone in the train or a bus.

Increasingly, bored children are also staring down at a smartphone or tablet screen when they are at a restaurant, or when their parents want to have some peace and quiet in the house or in a public space.

It’s one thing for a child to borrow his or her parent’s phone. It’s an entirely different thing for a child to own a smartphone. What is the right age for a child to get a smartphone?

Here are several facts from Influence Central about smartphones and kids that you might want to know:

  • On average, kids get their first smartphones when they are 10.3 years old
  • Families text each other even when they are home
  • Kids are using tablet computers and smartphones for entertainment when they travel with family
  • 50% of kids have social media accounts by age 12, Facebook and Instagram lead the way in kids’ usage

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Herbert’s First Halloween by Cynthia Rylang & Steven Henry

Every week I write about the books that we read for my son. He is currently 4 years old and loves a good book! Most of the books come from the Nashville Public Library. Although we buy a good book or two every now and then. I am not a professional book and illustration reviewer or critic, but I can write about the book, what I think about it, and how our son reacted to it.

Book Information

Title: Herbert’s First Halloween
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Steven Henry
Published by Chronicle Books San Francisco
Text Copyright 2017 by Cynthia Rylant
Illustration Copyright 2017 by Steven Henry 
No. of pages: 29

About the Author & Illustrator

from the back flap jacket: Cynthia Rylant is the author of more than 100 books for young people, including the beloved Henry and Mudge and Mr. Putter & Tabby series. Her novel Missing May received the Newberry Medal. She lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Visit her at http://CynthiaRylant.com.

Steven Henry (formerly Steven D’Amico) has illustrated several children’s books, including the award-winning Ella the Elephant series and It’s Raining Bats & Frogs. He lives in West Seattle, Washington, with his wife, daughter, and a cat named Wini. For more information, visit http://StevenHenry.net. 


Herbert’s First Halloween tells the story of how Herbert, a pig, and his father prepared for Halloween. Herbert’s father shows Halloween photos from his own childhood to encourage Herbert and prepare him for his first.

After asking if he can be a cowboy like his dad, he decides to dress up as a tiger, instead. His father took his measurements then prepared his costume. Father pig sewed Herbert’s tiger costume. Herbert practiced his roar. When the last day of October arrived, he and his father went around the neighborhood and gathered candy while meeting a lot of other kids in costume.

Values or Lessons

The father-son relationship in this story is touching. The dad helps prepare Herbert’s costume and is hands-on with Herbert’s preparation for Halloween. As a book about Halloween, it’s also a good way to talk about the tradition, and what it means in the community.

Herbert’s father measured his head, body and tail for the costume. This is a great way to talk about the growth of the child and how, in just a year, he or she will outgrow this year’s costume. It’s also a great reminder about the importance of preparing for a community event.


The drawings are cute and nice. Facial expressions are captured well and the colors are akin to Halloween colors–orange and dark hues. The font for reading is sans serif, but they are big and easy to read. They do not distract to the artwork at all.

Fun Factor

Our son loved this book. We talked about scary costumes during Halloween and he also got to practice his own roar, if he were to be a tiger like Herbert.

You’re an OFW Now, So What’s Next?

Many Filipinos consider the United States as the “Land of Milk and Honey,” and that if you had the chance to go there, your life will never be the same. If you just get there, you will be swimming in dollars and you can lift yourself and your family out of poverty.

Some Filipinos may have found that to be true. And even for those who do struggle, life in the USA tends to be more comfortable than life in the Philippines. The good thing about working and living in the US is that you earn dollars. And if you convert your money to Philippine Pesos, you’d get a lot! If you had $1,000, that would be equal to around PhP50,000, depending on the exchange rate.

Alas, you earn in dollars, you also spend in US dollars. And if you’re not careful, you also get into the consumeristic, materialistic lifestyle of most Americans.

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Visiting Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg is a beautiful city. Its O.R. Tambo airport is one of the biggest hubs in the continent of Africa with flights to and from major airports around the world. South Africa is also home to beautiful wildlife.

Johannesburg, and the whole country of South Africa, has a difficult past. Apartheid, or institutional racism, has made life difficult for many Black South Africans. It ended only in 1991, which is pretty recent.

Amid this tumultuous history, heroes rose and helped pave the way for peace and reconciliation. Nobel Peace Prize awardee Nelson Mandela is easily the most recognizable name from this era.

I visited Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg sometime in July 2017. It was a chilly, rainy morning. We bought our tickets. We waited for the guide and took the tour of the facility.

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