Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bertridge: A Year in the Life, Part One

Just like the Gilmore Girls revival, only with slightly less disappointment and better life decisions.

A year ago this weekend, we were moving into (the then-unnamed) Bertridge.

Though moving day was in mid-January, we actually got the keys to the house several weeks before. The regret started seeping in several minutes after walking in the door.

We weren't expecting to walk into our dream house. We were aware that the house needed some extra love. Built in 1948, the house had seen plenty of small renovations, but few large upgrades, and we'd had to replace the old shake roof before even gaining possession of the house.  And we were gearing up for the task of painting every wall in the house. What we weren't expecting was...
  • Years of old dog food coating the garage and kitchen floors
  • Rodent droppings in a kitchen cabinet
  • Literal piles of debris in the backyard
  • Cat pee covering every wall of what was to be Teddy's room
  • The discovery that the previous owner possibly tried to stain the wood floors around the couch
  • The discovery that half the windows and doors were missing their wood casings
  • A heavy coat of grime on virtually everything
Ah, home sweet home. 

With a lot of help (and even a little bloodshed) from family, gallons of paint, and a ton of enzyme cleaner, we were able to scrub away the grunge.  But the issue of the floors remained. We're not whether it was mistreatment or simply age that left them in such poor shape, but the dark stains, scratches, and discoloration lent the house a permanent vibe of filthiness. With the help of parental benefactors, we opted to have them sanded and stained before move-in day. Finding a Sacramento floor guy in the days following Christmas wasn't easy, but Young's Hardwood Floor Sanding saved the day.

The effect was immediate. Sanding the floors alone made such an enormous impact on the house. The impact made it all the more difficult to choose a stain. Should we say light or give it some color?

Initially, we were going to try to choose a very light stain, but in the end, due to a few subtle but deeply-rooted stains, we opted for Minwax wood stain in Colonial Maple. I worried it would be a bit too orange, but it turned out great.

And so, before we even moved in, we tackled some pretty big home improvement projects. We've made a habit of taking on a project each weekend. Sometimes it's just a matter of touching up the trim, while other times it's soliciting dozens of quotes to demolish and rebuild the pesky cement steps out back.

This post wasn't what I imagined it would be, but as it's been sitting my drafts folder for a good six months now, I'm going to go ahead and post it. Don't judge me. I'm a busy working mom with a high-energy toddler, Crohn's disease, and limited spoons. As the great Nina Bonina Brown would say - "Sue me!"

Friday, January 6, 2017

Review: Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants

I was not compensated in any way by Betabrand or any of the 
other brands mentioned in this post.

Pants for People Who Hate Pants

Pants are one of those things that I absolutely hate purchasing, along with shoes (flat feet), bras, oil changes, and cat litter. More often then not, they tend to disappoint. When I do find a trusty pair of work pants, the style is guaranteed promptly disappears from the retailer's website and I will inexplicably gain or lose 5 pounds. (Remind me to write about the joy that is Crohn's disease in a future post.)

Enter the clothing retailer and crowdfunding company Betabrand's dress pant yoga pants. So what are these pants exactly? Betabrand claims that they "combine sophisticated styling with a soft, stretch performance knit. We think they'll be the most comfortable pants you ever wear to work."

Basically, they're yoga pants that you can probably wear to the office without getting fired.

Betabrand stalked me for a solid year before I caved and purchased my first pair of dress pant yoga pants earlier this year. I must've been hit with their Facebook ads fifty times over the past year, but while the concept appealed to me, the $78 price tag seemed a bit much. 

The pants are currently offered in four styles (boot-cut, straight-leg, leggings, and cropped-leg) and a variety of office-friendly colors. To add to the illusion of professionalism, they feature belt loops, a non-functional button and pockets, and a faux zipper. Because nothing screams "I'm an important business lady" like a zipper.

Too good to be true? I thought so, which is why I waited until I started working in an extremely casual office to put these pants to the test. Here's how it went.

Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants - The Yeh

Comfort - 4.5 out of 5

Oh man. So comfortable. Having the ability to work a full work day without feeling pinched or squeezed is simply luxurious. There's not much to say except that they feel like you'd expect. You're essentially wearing stretchy yoga pants to work - it's as simple as that. 

If I were to recommend this to any group of people out there, it would be Crohn's sufferers. Not having to battle the ebb and flow of belly bloat is delightful. And, indeed, you'll find a whole underground community of IBD sufferers out there who sing the praises of these pants. There is nothing worse than having to wear a pair of restrictive pants during a flare up, especially when that pair of restrictive pants is two sizes two big everywhere but the waistline because of said flare up.

I knocked off half a point for mental comfort, which I'll address in the following section. 

Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants - The Meh

Appearance - 3.5 out of 5

The comfort comes at a bit of a cost. With increased stretch and give comes a little bit of lumpiness. There's a reason the models on the site are largely over 5'9 and less than 130 lbs. 

At 5'6" and 133 lbs., you would think that I'm close enough to the template to make it work. Only kind of. While the medium, straight leg dress pant yoga pants are certainly forgiving when it comes to fit, they have a tendency to cling to all of my curves, including my subtle saddlebags. Granted, I've had this issue with plenty of other pants, most notably the J. Crew Minnie in stretch twill. The Betabrand version traverses the curves better than its J. Crew counterpart, but I still don't don't dare wear them in public with my shirt tucked in. The models make it so effortless and chic. Me...well, see for yourself. To be honest, I feel more polished and professional in a nice pair of skinny jeans.

Still, they do pass as dress pants in the workplace. I've paired them with blouses and blazers without any of my colleagues screaming, "THOSE ARE YOGA PANTS!" in the middle of staff meetings. I've even taken in a lunchtime yoga class in them. I'm just feel a little more self-conscious in them than I feel in a pair of lined trousers.

Length - 3 out of 5

A work friend of mine once empathized with my short-legged woes by saying that we both "had the body types of corgis." I'm 5'6", with the torso of a supermodel and the leg length of an Olympic gymnast. I had to Google this latter analogy to see if it's actually a thing. According to Teen Vogue, it is, with the average Olympic gymnast measuring in at only 4 feet, 8 inches tall. 

I digress. With a 29" inseam, I should've opted for the Petite option. But I always like to give my legs the benefit of the doubt. I figured that  I might have had a growth spurt in my 31st year of life and I was a gazelle and I just hadn't realized it yet.  

Of course, that wasn't the case. The minute after tried on the Regular (with an inseam of 32"), I tossed it back in the packaging and sent for the Petite instead. The Petite are a much better fit, though it's clear that these pants are truly designed to be worn with heels rather than flats. This kind of works against the whole notion of having dual-action (board room to yoga studio) pants. No one wants to be stepping on their hems while they're in down dog. 

Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants - The Blegh

Care - 2 out of 5

While not the most delicate of trousers, the Dress Pant Yoga Pants do have specific care instructions. The Betabrand website suggests "Machine wash cold, lay flat to dry or line dry." That's great and all, but my husband isn't going to remember to seek out what looks like athletic pants from the wash and gently lay them out flat. Thus, I fear that my pricey pants might have an unfortunately short lifespan. 

I've noticed that all three pairs get a bit wrinkly. I'm a firm believer in not washing pants after every wear, but the dress pant yoga pants tend to look noticeably rumpled after a single use. I'd take a light ironing to them, but they also seem to be a bit prone to marking and smudging at the slightest brush, so I'm afraid of inadvertently scalding them. 

Just as an FYI - comments on the Betabrand site indicate that the pants shrink significantly after washing.

Price - 2 out of 5

With a price tag of $78, Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants are comparable to a nice pair of trousers from Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, or J. Crew. However, despite its overnight success, Betabrand appears to be a fledgling company, so you're less likely to find a great sale.  I bought one pair 20% off ($74, including shipping and handling), another pair on eBay ($45 with free shipping), and my third pair with a pre-order discount ($68, including shipping and handling). 

To me, they're worth about $50 a pair, so the price is just out of my comfort zone. I'd give it a 3 out of 5, but I knocked another point off for their in-your-face financing options on their product pages. Guys, if you have to pay for your fancy dress pant yoga pants in monthly installments, don't buy them. Just don't. Put down your credit card and step away from the computer. Set up an eBay saved search and wait. Don't put yourself in debt for yoga pants.  And Betabrand, shame on you for telling people they ought to put themselves in debt for yoga pants. Come on.


Come to think of it, not only do I not like shopping for pants, I don't like wearing them all that much either. So consider that before putting too much stock in this review.  
I'd recommend Betabrand dress pant yoga pants if you...

A. Are fortunate enough to have a work situation that allows you prioritize comfort over appearance;
B. Aren't self-conscious about your curves;
C. Have an average to long inseam;
D. Are of means or can wait for a decent sale.

Still intrigued? Try them out. Betabrand's return policy offers 110% store credit or a refund to the purchasing payment method in addition to free, pre-paid return labels for domestic orders. Not bad. 

(But seriously, don't opt for the payment plan.)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Requiem for a Cat

Hermes Bip Catbert (2005 - 2017)

Brown tabby and radio personality Hermes B. Catbert, whose fierce purrs won the hearts of countless buddies across Oregon and California, passed away peacefully today at the age of 11. 

Born in Coos Bay, Oregon in summer 2005, Hermes spent his youth surrounded by community college theater students in a squalid apartment in a charming neighborhood known as "Methpire." He repaid his beloved humans for his adoption with snuggles and the worst case of ringworm Coos County health professionals had ever seen. 

In 2006, Hermes met his would-be talk show co-host and life partner Millicent Moo Lightfoot Catbert. The two shared a tempestuous relationship, earning them the moniker "the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of the feline world." Despite their troubled romance, the two developed and hosted the recommended and hella splendid Hermes and Moo Radio Show between 2007 and 2015. When Hermes was fired by the station for his controversial remarks about the value of dogs as pets, Moo resigned in solidarity and protest. Together, they returned to school, where they both earned degrees in nursing and nannying. 
Hermes loved sunny windowsills, unwatched plates full of people food, picking at bedsheets with a single claw at 4:30 am, tiny hats, and snuggling with his main buddy, Jason, at the end of a long day. If you were stressed or ill, he would never hesitate to lend a tender, comforting paw.

Mr. Catbert is survived by his life partner Moo, his humans Jason and Elizabeth, his charge Teddy, and a nameless sister who probably lives on the streets of Coos Bay. 

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to the Friends of of Coos County Animals and the Coos County Animal Shelter.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Spring Cleaning in January

Here's some unsolicited advice: Never watch Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things right before the start of a new year. Just don't do it.

Not only will you get heebie-jeebies when anyone describes themselves as "a hugger," but you'll spend the duration of the documentary creating a mental checklist of things that need to be sold/donated/burnt in a backyard trash can immediately.

I tend to dabble minimalism. Truth be told, I typically enjoy ridding my closet, house, and life of things more than I like buying and receiving new stuff. According to the California Department of Transportation's report Tract Housing in California, 1945-1973:A Context for National Register Evaluation report, our 846 square foot home was built in the "postwar minimal" (also known as "minimal traditional") style common in neighborhoods built for returning World War II veterans and their young families. Of course, at that point in time, families didn't typically have two cars, closets full of fast fashion manufactured in China, an abundance of small kitchen appliances, and multiple personal computers. In order to comfortably fit into our house, we must constantly assess the usefulness of every item to cross its threshold.

Oh, don't tell me to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I did, and it took a decent concept to a laughable level. I'm all for systematically purging your home of clutter. That's kind of my deal. But when you tell me that I need to remove all the contents from my purse when I get home each day and then put it in a protective

While Christmas was magical this year (toddlers are delightful), it brought with its twinkling lights and warm family gatherings an inordinate amount of clutter. Gifts to and from us hidden in various nooks and crannies, stacks of half-empty cookie tins, and enough cardboard to build an MLS soccer stadium in Sacramento. I tend to be superstitious about packing up Christmas prior to the start of the new year, even more so at the close of the cursed and deadly 2016. So it's gone. Every single stocking, ornament, Christmas sock, and candle has been safely tucked into a storage box in the attic, which won't see the light of day until December 1st, 2017.

And yet, it wasn't enough.  Damn those Minimalists and their tiny, empty houses and their stupid huggy hugs.

Life has changed quite a bit over the past year. The dress code at UC Davis is decidedly more related than it was at Drexel and University of the Pacific. In fact, I don't think I've worn heels once since starting my new position in late July. Yet my closet still contained the remnants of a different, more structured life: blazers, pencil skirts, pumps, and pearls.

So woke up this morning and quickly set to work with our phone cameras and Nextdoor accounts. Here's what we were able to sell in the past twelve hours...

Stuff That's No Longer Our Stuff

  • Brand new fireplace tool set (because it turns out our fireplace will never work!)
  • Mid-century modern formica tiered end table
  • Hot pink J. Crew Cece flats (these were for a wedding, I don't typically wear hot pink)
  • Hot pink Betsey Johnson peep-toe pumps (see above)
  • 5x7 Anthropologie Coqo rug in lime (still available on Nextdoor for $30)
  • Blinds (still available on Nextdoor for $15)
  • 5 other pairs of shoes
Oh, we're not done.

I haven't even touched the coat closet/wardrobe out in the garage. Yes, we have a wardrobe in the garage, but we'll get to that when we talk about Bertridge and its many quirks. A post for another day.

For now, we're just basking the starkness of our living room. It's clean, sterile, and a space conducive to new year's reflection and meditative thought. Our world is changing, rapidly and frighteningly, and so carving out a small space to call your own so that you can come home, decompress, and reflect on how you can use your talents to make the world a better place is a sweet and achievable luxury.

I hope that we can all find strength, courage, and resilience 2017. May we resist the temptation to create escapes, and work toward creating spaces that inspire us to truly make a positive difference in the lives of others. This year, don't close your eyes. Look the world and its beauty and its cruelty straight in the face and acknowledge it. Call it out. Denounce the bad. Celebrate the kind and the beautiful.

Yeah, I know. That got a little weird. But 2016 has been bizarre year, and 2017 is bound to be a bumpy ride. So I'm fastening my seat belt and getting rid of the baggage.