Long-Term Product Review: So-Phresh cat litters

I’ve used So-phresh™ cat litters in Athena T. Cat’s box for several years now. Clay, paper, odor-eating, and pre-shredded, pretty much everything beside the special crystal and the litter for motorized cat boxes (built-in pooper-scooper). I’m quite satisfied with all of them.

Most of the time, when it is available* I use the pellet, either with or without odor reducers. Athena doesn’t care, and I add a little baking soda to her box anyway. She is high-throughput because of her kidney-care diet, and because she’s always drunk a lot of water. This means her litter has to handle a lot of liquid output, which the pellets do quite well. They last 7-9 days in a semi-well-ventilated space, stirred at least three times a day and sifted at least twice a day. The pellet litter doesn’t scatter as much as either the clay or the pre-shredded.

The scoopable clay is your basic clumping litter. It holds a lot of liquid, and you sift out the solid waste, then collect the clump and put it in the trash. I did not notice much odor from the trash (open-top wastebasket in area with low airflow.) In theory, you can just add a little extra litter as needed and never take out the cat box, but I changed it weekly even so. Like other clay litters, it tracked, even using an anti-track mat. And you have to be very, very careful to sift all the clay away from solid waste if you flush the solid waste (some areas do not allow this, so be aware of local rules). It captured scents well, and handled her outflow.

The pre-shredded paper pellets are for cats with sensitive paws, or those that are a little weaker. I got it because it was the only thing available. Shipments have been off and on, and so I tend to grab a sack whenever I find what I use in stock (can store in garage). The local pet palace had been out of all paper litter for a while, so I saw this and bought it just in case. It works. It tracks, and it feels as if there is less litter in the box, even when I fill the box to the usual depth. It dries faster than the pellets, and the scent is no more or less than with the usual pellets. The store got a few bags of pellets in last week, so I grabbed a sack. The shredded litter seems to last a shorter period of time for the same volume in the sack, since it is fluffier. It costs the same as the pellets, so if you have a choice and don’t need lighter-weight litter, I’d go with the pellets.

I’ve used the wheat-based litters. Other than a repugnance to use food as cat litter (I know intellectually that it’s not the edible part of the wheat, but it still irks me), the dust has been a real problem with all three brands of wheat-pellet litter I’ve used. Other people don’t seem to have a dust overflow.

So, I’m pleased with all the variations on SoPhresh litter I’ve used to date.

FTC Notice: I received no benefit or remuneration for this review of the product. I purchase the product for my own use.

Product Review: Furminator 2.0

Short version: Wow, does this thing work wonders on a double-coated cat!

When the Furminator™ pet comb first came on the market, MomRed got one. It worked OK on the cat, very well on the furniture. The black comb with larger teeth seemed to get more fur out of Athena’s two layers of pelage. However, over time, she became less tolerant of the black comb. [As I’m typing, she’s begging for treats.] The Furminator™, however, she would put up with. This became more and more important, because her arthritis makes it hard for her to reach all the places that need to be groomed and tidied.

Enter Furminator 2.0. The new and improved version has slightly different teeth, and a built-in device that slides forward and cleans the fur out of the comb. Mom got one the day they became available around here.

This is AFTER she was washed and trimmed and de-furred.

Athena T. Cat came back from the groomer that day. The groomer and DadRed had to tag-team the cat in order for the groomer to use the clippers and shave off about half the mats. They stopped then, because Athena was getting very stressed (so were the humans). Mom then began working on Athena with the new Furminator™ at home. The picture above shows the results, and is from the third time that day Mom had combed the cat. The clump of fur closest to the camera has been compressed to about the size of my palm. The other was just removed from the cat, and dropped off the Furminator™.

The thing works beautifully. Athena tolerates it. We are getting enormous amounts of fur out of her, which is good, because she is “blowing” her undercoat (as Maine Coons do). The cat is happier, the people are happier, and the gizmo is easy to use with a good, ergonomic grip.

Two paws up, highly recommend.

UPDATE: If you want to see the product on the Furminator site, with reviews: https://www.furminator.com/products/deshed/cat/undercoat-deshedding-tool-medium-large-cat-short-hair.aspx

FTC Disclaimer: This item was purchased for personal use and no one in the household received any remuneration or benefit in exchange for this review.

Soundtrack Review: The Rocketeer

Horner, James The Rocketeer 2020 remaster and 1991 original.

Way back when, Disney released a film that was pure 1930s pulp, with a fun soundtrack that included period pieces and period-sounding pieces. That movie was The Rocketeer. It was based on a comic-book series that was an homage to the pulps and adventure films of the 1920s-30s. The film is a romp, and the comics are very impressive (a full hardbound set is coming out this fall.) I’d sort of forgotten about the soundtrack until Sib-in-Law pinged me about it. It was released in 1991, re-released in 2016, and expanded and re-released last year.

James Horner (of Titanic fame, among other things), did the soundtrack. Like the film, it is great fun, and you will probably recognize the main theme, because it has been used here and there since the movie was released. The re-master includes the classic “Begin the Beguine,” well done by Melora Hardin (for the original instrumental version, see below).

The music is NOT, in general, 1930s sounding (as compared to soundtracks from actual movies of the era). It is very symphonic Hollywood, lots of soaring melodic lines and fast chase scenes, which fits the film. There are Big Band numbers as well, as befits the time and setting of a stunt pilot/barnstormer trying to romance a Hollywood starlet. (Howard Hughes appears as a character in the film, as does one of his actual aircraft designs. Those in the know laughed at that scene, or at least the pilots I know found it very entertaining.) The remastered soundtrack sounds good as either a CD or MP3.

The 2021 release includes both the later remastered version with additional songs and the two vocal numbers, and the original 1991 “theatrical soundtrack” which is shorter. The price for the MP3 file is reasonable. The prices for the CDs on Amazon started at $100.

I’d recommend this soundtrack recording for fans of the film, fans of pulp movies in general, adventure music buffs, and people looking for a fast, solid melodic recording for writing or work-outs.

FTC Notice: I purchased this soundtrack for my own use and received no remuneration from the composer or the studio.

Product Review: Goat Milk Hand Lotions

A student gave me two small bottles of hand lotion from Amanda’s Country Soaps. This is a small company based in Clarendon, TX, that produces products made from goat milk, shea butter, and similar products. The goat milk comes from their own goats.

Short version – great stuff!

Longer version – I use a lot of hand lotion during the winter. Our relative humidity can get down to two percent (Sahara, Gobi, Antarctica level humidity.) No matter how much water you drink, your skin will get dry. Toss in washing your hands with industrial-strength soap a few times a day, and you can imagine what happens to my skin. It’s not fun. So I use a range of lotions, starting with Vasaline™ Intensive Care and going from that point.

Enter lotions from Amanda’s Country Soaps. I had not heard of this company before, and I’m always happy to buy very local, if the stuff is any good. It’s good. Very, very good. The 2 oz bottle lotion is very thick. The scents are mild, and fade to a nice faintness. The primary ingredients are goat milk, shea butter, olive oil, then water, glycerine, and scents (often essential oils). Unscented versions are also available. The lotion lasts on my hands. Yes, there is a bit residue, but I look at that as a positive. If you prefer a lighter texture, you might try the larger size. That is whipped, and doesn’t seem to go on as heavily.

Because these are small batch products, and depend on how much milk the goats are producing, some scents might not be available at a given time. Amanda’s also seems to sell out of popular scents pretty quickly, but they also come back pretty quickly. The web-site is well organized and makes it easy to see what’s in and what’s currently sold out.

Prices are reasonable. Shipping is a tad steep, but they are sent close to overnight, and they are somewhat fragile. The items were very nicely packaged, and came with a little soap sampler.

If you or someone you know likes thick hand lotions or goat-milk soaps, I recommend these.

FTC Notice: I purchased these with my own money, for my own use, and received no promotional consideration for this review.

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