Product Review: GTM 70 Shoulder Bag

I needed a purse with a surprise in it. No, not a live frog, a dedicated secondary compartment for self-defense items. To my surprise, none of the places I’d expect to find this kind of thing up here had them, and this wasn’t something I wanted to buy on-line without trying it. So I ended up in Fredericksburg window shopping, and lo and behold, they had this sort of handbag, shoulder-bag, and . . . leather “gun tacos”* with the hair still on.

I emerged with a lighter wallet and a GTM-70 “Basic hobo handbag.” I later purchased a longer strap, so I could wear it cross-body. I don’t like having a bag only over one shoulder for an extended period of time. It’s too easy for someone to snatch it. Since the straps have a steel cable running through them, having a local leather worker patch in extra length wasn’t an option. The leather is high quality, and the two main pockets have a pale, satin-like lining so it is easier to find “things that drop to the bottom of the bag.” It also has a radio-shielded pocket for your wallet or car keys. (Remember – it also blocks the signal from your key fob, so your vehicle won’t open or start until you remove your keys from the pocket, if you have a newer car.) There’s a small outside zip pocket for ID, keys, or other little items.

The bag weighs what you’d expect from a good leather and fabric bag. It doesn’t have metal feet on the bottom, alas, or it would be close to perfect. It looks somewhat dressy, so if you need it for office or church/synagogue/concert use, it would be suitable. It doesn’t have a front flap or an outside phone pocket or water-bottle pocket. The style is clean and sleek.

There are two main compartments, plus the little zip pocket. And then the other outside pocket. That is reachable by means of zippers on either end, so you can get into it either left or right handed. The heavy leather keeps the contents of the compartment from screaming “Hi! I’m a phone, wallet, and 20 Kt diamond ring!” It is designed for flatter items, but bulkier ones work as well. I carry the bag with that side against me. The bag feels more comfortable that way anyway. And I wear it cross-body, not over-the-shoulder.

I have no difficulty drawing from the external pocket. As always, discipline and practice are vital, and being aware of which way items in the external pocket are pointing. Trigger discipline is a must, but that’s also true for drawing from any holster at any time.** And if one has to in an emergency, putting a hole through the bag is not the end of the world. Despite what one individual told me, most women (or men) would much rather put a hole or holes in a handbag or satchel then be beat up or worse.

If you need a “+30 Bag of Holding” for large items, laptop, tablet computer, kid-stuff, and so on, this is not your bag. The two main compartments are not as capacious as they might be, because of the external-access pocket and its contents. If you want a good every-day handbag that happens to work to safely carry a Little Friend, this is a good choice. No, it is not cheap. But it doesn’t scream “Hi! I’m packing heat!” like a few I’ve seen.

*The zip-open, soft-sided pistol cases are commonly called “gun blankets.” Except down here, where we call them “gun tacos,” for obvious reasons. These were $60 or so, attractive hair-on leather. I’m not entirely sure why one needs a fancy gun-taco, but someone must like them. I giggled.

**In general, on-body carry is better. However, there may be times and clothing requirements that make off-body carry more practical. Choice of self-defense tool also plays a role in this decision. There is no One Right Way.

FTC Note: I purchased this for my own use and received no compensation or remuneration from the store from the manufacturer for this review.

Product Review: New Mexico Tea Company

Cream Early Grey, Persian (Earl Grey with cardamom), New Mexico Breakfast, Scottish Breakfast, Ginger Black, Sandia Spice, Monks Grenadine, Bengal Spice, Kama Sutra Chai.

It was time to re-stock the tea cabinet. I get a lot of teas locally, but there are some “treat” teas that I buy from New Mexico. I first encountered New Mexico Tea Company in a small shop in an office-park area in Albuquerque, and was taken by their melon black tea (Monk’s Grenadine). They have expanded their offerings since then, and it’s always interesting to see what new things they offer. They have a wide range of straight black, green, and white teas from China and India. I prefer to get those locally, and buy the flavored teas and tisanes from New Mexico.

Cream Earl Grey is one of my go-to flavors. It is strong, black, and really has to be drunk with a little milk or cream to soften the heavy tannins. The tea itself has a creamy under-flavor to it even black. It’s pretty high-caffeine, although not as stout as Scottish Breakfast. Scottish Breakfast is a solid, mellow black tea that fights back. It’s not for your “just before bedtime” cup, unless you have a lot higher caffeine tolerance than I do. The nice ladies at the shop warned me about Scottish Breakfast on my first visit. They were right.

New Mexico Breakfast is a milder, slightly spicy Earl Grey variant that was blended to stand up to very hard water and to multiple steepings*. This is your “keep adding water to the pot for an hour or so because it’s that kind of morning.” It reminds me of Lady Grey tea, but with a stronger flavor and less citrus. I will probably end up getting this in the bigger bag, like Cream Earl Grey. Persian is another Earl Grey variant that has cardamom in it, not enough to turn it into chai, but enough to produce a slightly sweet, mild cup either with or without milk. I wasn’t sure about this one, but it is a very smooth tea that’s good in the morning or evening.

Ginger black is strong. The ginger almost overwhelms the tea flavor, and it stands up to multiple steepings. I like it, but it’s probably not for the purists. Or don’t steep it as long, and use fewer leaves.

Sandia Spice, Monk’s Grenadine, and Bengal Spice are all black teas with pretty heavy secondary fruit or spice flavors. Monk’s Grenadine has a clear melon (cantaloupe) flavor and tends to be tannic if it steeps too long. Sandia and Bengal spice teas are both dessert teas, or good on cold, wet nights when you want something spicy that isn’t a chai. Sandia Spice on occasion causes me a slightly sour stomach, especially on an empty stomach, even with milk in it. I’m not sure which component causes the problem, and it’s intermittent, so I don’t worry about it.

Kama Sutra chai is a bright, mild chai. It has to be drunk with milk and a little sweetener to get the full blend of flavors. It is lighter than Sandia and Bengal, but has a slight peppery bite like most chais. I like it despite the name – it is not an aphrodisiac.

Please note: I get loose tea and brew it in a teapot with boiling water. New Mexico Tea Company does offer bagged teas if you prefer that. (They are also a little left of center and heavy on the organic and Fair Trade, but they don’t rub your nose in it like certain spice purveyors.)

https://www.nmteaco.com/

*Two heaping teaspoons in the pot, add water. Pour a cup, add more water. This can go on for an hour or so. I’m not a gourmet who makes “proper” tea. This is the method I grew up with and I like the results. You may prefer a different preparation style.

FTC Notice: I purchased these teas for my own use and received no product or other remuneration from New Mexico Tea Company for this review.

Odd Name, Fun Place

I wasn’t certain what to expect when MomRed announced that she’d booked a small cabin “with a loft.” Actually, it started with “how do you feel about climbing a ladder into a loft?” Since RedQuarters lacks lofts, I wondered if this meant that she was hiring me out to help someone at church or who she knew. No, it had to do with sleeping quarters.

So, seven and a bit miles east of Fredericksburg, TX, we pulled onto a small side road and wound through houses to a set of four small cabins, very much like the Sunday Houses found in the region. “Rumpelpunzeldornaschenwittchen” filled a small sign. I had been warned that the cabins were named for fairy tale characters, and that the hosts Heinrich (Henry) and Barbara were German, so I sorted out “Rumpelstiltzken, Rapunzel, Dornrose, Aschenputtel, Schneewittchen.” My parents and I stayed in “Rapunzel,” a lovely small cabin with a tiny half kitchen (no stove but has small fridge and microwave), bathroom, sitting area, large downstairs bed in an alcove, and a twin bed upstairs.

Lurking at the top of the ladder . . .

OK, any place with a dragon waiting in the loft can’t be too bad.

Not recommended for those who dislike heights.

The ladder’s not as bad as feared, although making multiple trips up and down per day reminded me why I don’t like stairs. The cabin was very quiet, and comfortable (good Air Conditioning). Breakfasts were semi-German, meaning that Barbara used US meats and cheeses to provide a German-style breakfast with cold cuts, boiled eggs, bread and cheese and butter, fresh fruit, fruit juice, yogurt, and occasionally pastries. The cabin came with a coffee maker and microwave and hot-plate, as well as plates, bowls, glasses, and utensils.

The landscaping is attractive, and you don’t feel as if you are surrounded by houses (aside from the chickens from across the creek who sometimes visit). There’s a nice little pond, and fireflies at night. Hummingbirds, cardinals, and other birds nest in the area, and swallowtail butterflies worked over the clover in the yard. Yes, mosquitoes, but that’s par for the course in this part of Texas, especially after the wet May and early June they had. All damage from Snowvid 21 has been repaired.

The other place of note where I stayed was the Whitten Inn.

Yes, there are two cats who supervise housekeeping and maintenance.

The Whitten is in Abilene, TX. It is just off I-20. It is not fancy, but it is amazingly clean, with very reasonable rates. The family is pro military, and there are retired and active duty military and police/fire/EMS discounts. The place advertises that they use My Pillow™ brand bedding, which tells you a bit about their opinions, if the USMC flag flying beneath Old Glory wasn’t a clue. However, they don’t make a big deal about politics. The big deal is a quiet, comfortable, no-frills stay. The furnishings are not fancy, but they are comfortable, at least for me. I was delighted not to have a pillow-topped mattress for once (I prefer firm rather than “disappears into the fluff never to be seen again.”) The Whitten Inn doesn’t serve breakfast at the moment, but there are several eating places close by.

Dining in Fredericksburg ranges from chain restaurant (pizza, Diary Queen, and so on) to German-style and German. There are several very good Italian places, a number of bakeries and coffee shops, and so on. One thing to be aware of is that even in tourist season, Monday and Tuesday, or Tuesday and Wednesday, are often closing days. Tuesday is the most common “closed” day. The bakeries are good, and if you want snacks, well, bakeries, popcorn shops, candy shops, fudge, ice cream . . . And then there’s the peach ice cream from the farm stands by the highway . . .

Product Review: Schaefer Outfitter

I don’t remember when we first got the little paper catalogue for Schaefer’s Ranchwear. Dad and I looked through it, and each of us ended up buying a vest. We liked them so much that I ended up with two heavy vests, two lighter ones, and a ranch coat.

That first purchase was several years ago, maybe ten or more. I’m still wearing those vests and that jacket. They are my go-to vest for around the house or very cold weather wear, and live on top of the woolens stack all year round. One has gone to Europe (the least Western-looking one). Continue reading

Product Review: MosoNatural air cleaners

MomRed decided that the litter box was too stout. Specifically, the scent of the litter box, whenever we couldn’t open the window for a few minutes/day to air the cat’s bathroom. So she decided that a charcoal bag was called for. Now, I didn’t notice a problem, but I spend more time around that part of the house, and so my nose might be more accustomed to kitty’s whiffy biffy. That, and I stir the litter several times a day (hourly) when I’m home, so it airs better. When I’m a Day Job, that doesn’t get done as often. Continue reading

Product Review: Buffalo Gold Socks

Long time readers know that I am very picky about shoes and socks. I stand a lot on cement floors, and walk several miles a day (or try to) on asphalt and cement. I won’t wear shoes I can’t run in. Socks have to be durable, have a little padding, and not rub. Most of what I wear are Smartwool and the house-brand dress socks from Vermont Country Store, all wool. In 2018, I got curious about the All-Things-Buffalo store (HerdWear) in Goodnight, TX, and wandered in. I wandered out with some snacks, some books, mitts, and socks. They are great socks, but they are a three wool blend and require special washing. Then I found these heavier-duty buffalo socks. Continue reading

Book/Product Review: The Book of Mormon – A Reader’s Edition

Before I start, a big neon-sign warning – this is NOT the place to debate The Book of Mormon or the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (also called Mormons). I’m reviewing an edition of the Book of Mormon that I found useful. Thus this is more of a product review than a true book review.

Hardy, Grant. The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition. (University of Illinois Press, 2005) Kindle edition.

Continue reading

Product Review: Shark Vacuum Cleaner

It sucks very well, perhaps too well for my peace of mind. It moves easily. It is awkward to get used to, and feels off balance. You can see the grunge you get out of the carpet. The bad news is, you can see the grunge you get out of the carpet.

It is the Shark Lift-Away True Pet. The filters are washable, so there is no longer a need to stockpile air filters in anticipation of them being discontinued. Instead of a bag, it has a clear canister that you remove and empty into the garbage. The cord is not as long as the old WindTunnel, but it is long enough for what I need. Continue reading