Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sofa shopping confusion

After six years of living with a sofa shopping mistake we've decided to look for another living room couch. The big old brown leather one, chosen for our previous house and for its dirt hiding capacity, is still very practical for the dogs. But it's supremely uncomfortable and totally dominates the living room of this house. I've finally admitted that I hate it.

So for the past week we've been visiting furniture showrooms and looking for a replacement. And we've discovered a few things along the way. We started out knowing what we don't want (ugly, uncomfortable) but we didn't really know what we wanted. The comfort part has been a revelation. It turns out that our old sofa was too big for us, and was probably designed for tall Texans rather than people like us on the shorter side of the spectrum. We've come up with a golden ratio of seat height to seat depth that works for us. We're looking for sofas with a seat height under 18" and a depth under 22" and it's amazing how that quickly eliminates about 75% of what's on the floor.

Thankfully, we also like the look of the lower styles. And we've found some that we like. But this is where the confusion sets in. What color? What fabric? What length? Do we want a sofa and a matching love seat or will that look too contrived? What about a sectional? How will it look in our room? Should we get one that goes with our rug or think about getting a different rug? Do we want a contemporary look or a retro look or mid-century modern to go with our 1960 house? I said I didn't want leather again because I found it cold and slippery rather than cozy. But now we've found a lighter colored leather that might work. Or should we go for microfiber which everyone says is supremely practical? Oh the agony of it all!

Anyway, today we're heading out to Langford to look again a couple of sofas we liked and perhaps we'll make a choice. But then again, maybe we'll decide to live with the old one for a while longer--'cuz it's really not all that bad.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An almost lost dog

Last night I almost lost my dog. Here's how it happened. Friday nights are our flyball practice night at the barn at the Saanich Fairgrounds. We meet up there with some other flyball-addicted people for an hour to practice and train our dogs in the sport. Flyball (for those who haven't been initiated) is a relay race for dogs, although the team also includes people. Anyway, we were out at the barn for our practice and the plan was to meet at the pub afterward for a drink, as is our habit. Somehow with cleaning up and putting away equipment Maggie didn't get put into the car and we drove off home without her. We didn't find out until we pulled into the driveway to put the dogs in the house before going to the pub. By then it had been at least twenty minutes and I was frantic with worry that she might have followed us along the road and onto the busy highway.

Before heading back to the barn to begin a search we stopped by the pub to see if one of the others had seen her or picked her up. As soon as I walked in I was greeted with raised eyebrows and the question, "Do you know where your dog is?" And I knew that she was OK. Julia had spotted her as we drove away and when she couldn't flag us down, she put her Maggie in her car and brought her along. So potential tragedy was averted, but I keep thinking how easily she could have been lost or killed on the road through one little oversight.

Our dogs are so dependent on us and so vulnerable without us. They can't explain or ask questions and there are so many dangers out in the world. This really made me realize the responsibility I have to my furry family members. Here's Maggie safe at home on her pillow; I'm trying not to see a reproach in her soft eyes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Time for reading

I feel so lucky to have time in my life for reading. Without the pressures of having to get to work every day I'm able to sit in the morning with a cup of tea and read for up to an hour before my work ethic forces me to put the book aside. And again in the afternoon or the evening if there's a space in my day I no longer feel guilty for opening my book and reading some more.

I've always been a compulsive reader and have been part of a book club for more than fifteen years. I've read hundreds or maybe thousands of books but unfortunately I only remember a few of them. If someone asks me for what I've read recently I usually draw a blank. So I thought it might be a good idea to put a list of books I've enjoyed on this blog.

Right now I'm reading another novel by Geraldine Brooks, who is an author I recently discovered. I read her first novel, "Year of Wonders, a Novel of the Plague" while we were in Mexico and now I'm reading "March," which is another piece of historical fiction. This book is told through the voice of Mr. March, who is the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women."

Mr. March is an idealistic preacher and abolitionist who doesn't drink alcohol or eat meat, who tells of his experiences in the south during the civil war. This tale draws me in as it reveals the changes that the country and its slavers and freed slaves are going through--not to mention the changes in Mr. March. The book is at times disturbing in its images of the treatment of the slaves. Having just read "The Book of Negros" with my book club in November, I find this one adds even more to my understanding of the appalling way supposedly civilized people viewed Blacks as less than human. Geraldine Brooks was previously a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Bosnia, Somalia and the Middle East. She has a keen eye for detail and tells Mr. March's tale in a revealing and evocative way.

Don't worry--I won't be "reviewing" every book I read, although from time to time I might talk about one I've particularly enjoyed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Here's to February Birthdays

Our Valentines Day / Birthday celebration was a lovely evening and the cheesecake turned out to be tasty. Although not as delicious as the real cheesecake I have to say. I decorated it with little hearts done with the seedless raspberry jam so it even looked appropriate for Valentine's day.

Here's a photo of two of the guests enjoying the dinner, and one of little Callie in her special dress playing with her new toys on my coffee table.

Sunday morning we went to my sister's house in James Bay for brunch. Jan made breakfast with fresh eggs brought over from a friend's chickens on Saturna Island. These are amazing eggs, fresh and deep orange and wonderful flavour. One of them was HUGE--bigger than any egg I've ever seen. Of course it had a double yolk

Later everybody walked down to the beach with all four dogs (her two shelties and my two border collies). It was cold but crystal clear and once we got down on the beach out of the wind it even felt a little balmy. I guess the temperature was about 6 degrees in the sun. The snowdrops and crocuses are up in the gardens and there's hope in the air for spring. Mid-February is not a bad time to celebrate birthdays.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fat Free Feast?

February's a big birthday month for my family. My brother's is on one side of Valentine's day and my sister's on the other. So I'm planning a special family St. Valentine's Day dinner to celebrate them both. My brother and his wife and little girl are coming over from Vancouver and my sister and her partner are driving up here from deepest James Bay. I want to make a festive feast--but since my brother cannot eat fat I face somewhat of a challenge. Is there such a thing as a fat-free feast?

I'm going to try to create one. I plan to make a fat-free cheesecake using non-fat cream cheese and sour cream. I got the recipe from the low-fat section of the Better Homes and Gardens. The picture looked pretty and it's rated 4 out of 5 stars by someone, so I guess it's somewhat edible. I'll be making it tomorrow and hoping that it will set up and taste ok. For the main course I'm thinking of a roast pork loin (with the fat removed) and I'm going to try cooking it with mushrooms and a milk gravy. This is another low-fat recipe. It says to serve it with fettucine noodles (also fat-free).

This whole thing is kind of foreign to me--as I think of a birthday dinner as a nice butter chicken and a big chocolate cake. But we're all of us getting to stage where we have to pay attention to our diet and our health. In fact, it's harder and harder to create menus now. Either someone is vegetarian or lactose intolerant or unable to eat fat. How can we clebrate like this? Well I guess I'll find out. I'll let you know.