Red Chair Reads: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, by Julia Strachey (1932)

Virginia Woolf apparently thought highly of this work, originally published by the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press in 1932.  Other people must also have loved it, as both Penguin Books and Persephone Books have republished it, and somebody turned it into a movie in 2012.  Anyway.  I wish I loved the book too.

On a blustery day in March, the pampered elder daughter of a wealthy family marries a dull man destined for an acceptable career somewhere in South America.  Dolly knows it is a mistake, and spends the pre-wedding hours in her room with a bottle of rum, even as her friends and family (including a young man she may or may not have loved and who may or may not still love her) gather downstairs for the celebration.

The book is sharp, funny, and short, which turned out to be a good thing.  Julia Strachey populated her work with a cast of characters one expects in certain novels set in English country houses, but the trenchant observations left no room for sympathy.  The book is unflinchingly unsentimental, but nevertheless I wished for a glimmer of likability in the main characters: just when I thought something interesting was going to happen between Mrs. Thatcham and Joseph, it didn’t.  As I said, disappointing, but ultimately a fitting end to the book.


Let’s read something else, OK?

Red Chair Reads: The Murder of Halland

The Murder of Halland, by Pia Juul, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitkin

Whodunit, who cares?

Halland and Bess live in a small town where everyone knows your name.  One day, Halland is shot dead in the town square, and not surprisingly, this is the catalyst for Bess to reassess her life.  Who killed Halland? Bess is not all that interested, even as her life lurches on and unexpected people keep showing up on her doorstep.  Who, after all,  was the Bess who lived with Halland and yet did not share his life, and who is the Bess who seems unable to grieve for her not-quite-husband?

The book might be called The Murder of Halland, but that is not the actual subject of the book.  Bess is the focus, and we are meant to see the world from her viewpoint.  She is smart, she is skewed, and she may be slowly unhinging.  She does not mourn Halland so much as mourn for the person she may have been: he was never in her life, and neither was she ever in his.  Bess finds out about the pregnant foster-niece in Copenhagen, about the apartment she lives in for which he paid the rent, about his share of the apartment, a small locked room with a gigantic poster of Martin Guerre.  What does it all mean?  She speculates, she gets drunk, she finds out things that she doesn’t share with the police, she loses interest . . . .  and so did I.  In the end, Bess was just too irritating to be intriguing.

The Murder of Halland was my first dip into the Peirene Press, “two-hour books to be devoured in a single sitting: literary cinema for those fatigued by film.”  Clever, well-written, claustrophobic, perhaps too interested in “intellectual dismantling” of an entire genre, and ultimately a most unsatisfying two hours of my life.

Chia, the assitant Red Chair Reader

Chia, the Assistant Red Chair Reader

Chia, who is quite perturbed that Martin Aitkin, PH.D in Linguistics, does not know the difference between further and farther.

Reduce Reuse Recycle Project: Part 4

When we remodelled the kitchen at our old house, the designer made a measurement mistake that made it impossible for us to reuse the old island top on top of the new island base.  We put the countertop in the garage and every once in a while, I would call up our favorite contractor (whose heart is in carpentry) and ask him to build us a base of some sort.  A few years later, we now have a repurposed quartz countertop coffee table!

Basement sitting room

Basement sitting room

He built the base from maple scraps he found at our local Habitat store, and I think it goes beautifully with the dark table top.

We found the auditorium chairs at Wool Hat; the store owners got them from an elementary school somewhere on the eastern plains.  I recovered the seats with fabric from old curtains, and to prevent the chairs from tipping, our contractor gave us some teak slats (saved from a remodelling job at a 1970s house) that we screwed to the base.  The chairs are remarkably comfortable if you are the right size, say a child or a small adult 🙂

And now, the basement really is finished!

Knitting in the Spring: Arabella


Pattern:  Arabella, by Ann McCauley, from Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 7.

Yarn:  Kiwi Wool in cream, a DK weight yarn from Lambspun.  I bought this yarn many years ago in both undyed and the cream colors.  This incredibly soft yarn that has held up well through various recycling projects.

Modifications:  I adjusted the gauge for a thinner yarn, but other than that, I made the sweater pretty much according to pattern.  As usual, I picked up stitches for the sleeves and knitted them from top down (because I really hate sewing in sleeves) and made them shorter than specified.  I also winged the collar; even with proportional adjustments for the gauge, I picked up fewer stitches than the math indicated.

Thoughts:  I love the swing shape of the tunic, although I am not enamoured of the squared-off shape of the split hem.  If I were to knit this again I would start the decrease of the sides from the bottom rather than wait until after the side seams are joined.  The sweater is simple and elegant.

Finished: Basement!

We built our new house knowing we were going to have to finish the walkout basement so The Teenager would have somewhere to live.  DH and I wanted single-floor living, and we got that in 1250+ square feet main floor:  master bedroom suite, his-and-her offices, a guest bathroom, and one continuous space for kitchen, dining room, and living room.  The plan is compact and efficient, and we both like having no hallways.

The basement is pretty much the footprint of the house, minus the crawl space under my office.  We did not finish the basement at the old house because it already had 2000 square feet of living space, and the crappy aluminum windows leaked in big rainstorms.  By the time we built the new house, the city had adopted new building codes that required a comprehensive drainage systems around new constructions.  This is especially important because our new house is about 100 yards from the innocuous-sounding Spring Creek.

Our favorite contractor (who did all our remodels at the old house) finally got going on our basement in mid-February.  Eleven weeks and $32K later, I am declaring the basement DONE!  Well, except for the glass surround for the shower stall, which is being fabricated even as I type . . . .  I hope.

DH's Exercise Room

DH’s Exercise Room

Why yes, those are interlocking play mats from Home Depot 🙂  We had an extra curtain rod, so we are using it to store exercise bands.  The floor here (and everywhere in the basement) is polished and stained concrete.  It turned out beautifully, but had I known about the xylene solvent (“It’s a double benzene ring,” said my brother the chemist) and how toxic-smelling it would be during the first 10 days, I would have had asked for the polish without the stain.

The exercise room is in a Jack-and-Jill setup with The Teenager’s bedroom.  The bathroom is spacious, and is perhaps nicer than our master bathroom:


The Teenager chose the cabinet, in “Purple Gloss,” which looks like a dark eggplant color.  It is indeed very glossy!  It has a solid surface top with integrated sink.  We asked for the extra-large sink, and a good thing because it is the only one in the house large enough for washing sweaters.



The shower base is also solid surface, and because this is a teenager’s shower, the tiles are very large for minimal grout lines.  The decorative strip is made up of glass tiles in shades of pale grey, with blue accent tiles that were left over from her bathroom remodel at the old house.

Storage cubbies!

Storage cubbies!

Our contractor hates wasted space, so he built these cubbies to take advantage of the space under the staircase.  The short side of the space is in The Teenager’s room:


She now has more storage space than she has ever had, but no doubt she will manage to use it all.

Finally, gratuitous pictures of sewing projects:


I sewed the curtains from IKEA linen and the last of my bicycle-themed quilt scraps.  The Teenager chose the fabrics, so I think she actually does like those curtains.

Floor quilt

Floor quilt

This was the third quilt I ever made, and not as successful as I originally envisioned.  I was in my orange phase at the time 🙂  However, it does work well in her room to cut the chill of the concrete floor, so all good!

Final thoughts:

I would not recommend doing this, but because of our timeline, I picked the floor color, the wall paint, and the bathroom colors independent of each other.  It worked out, but while I like the floor color (supposed to be “terra cotta”), I think I could have gone with my original choice of turquoise!