Wednesday, December 31, 2008


At a party recently, a friend commented that he was impressed with the accomplishment of building a house off on an island in another country. I was feeling rather pleased, what with my great achievement being recognized, until Sooz chimed in with, no, it really wasn't that difficult at all.

After I got over the ego-deflation (it took a couple days, frankly), it struck me we were both right. As 2007 ended on this blog, we had the land (with a few trees cut down), a well, and application papers sitting over at Värmdö Kommun. Now, as 2008 ends, we have two houses, with rooms, electricity, a kitchen, and furniture. The only significant tasks left are plumbing and finishing the bathroom. That's a fairly big deal; nothing was there a year ago, and now there is something pretty cool. And it was all done under my direction. So I am a bit self-impressed.

But Sooz is right, too. It was surprisingly straightforward to do. The main reason it was so relatively easy is all the help I had, first and foremost from Janne. It's no exaggeration to say that I could not (and probably would not) have done this without him. The practical, legal, emotional and physical support he's given to this project can't be overstated. Margaret's contributions (especially in the practical and emotional realms) were also really necessary.

I probably could have built without the help, advice, and housing provided by Marcia and Rutger and Ann and Dave, and the support of Tony and Ann-Catrin, Britt and Ronnie, Stefan at X-House, Göran the electrician, and the kitchen-assembling Johan and the Cinderella-toilet Johan. But it would have been immeasurably more difficult and not at all as simple or enjoyable without all of them.

Of course, Wille and his crew actually did it. They wrestled up the beams and made a house out of an enormous jigsaw puzzle. Seeing it first-hand, that was pretty impressive, and not easy by anyone's measure.

So, on that note, may I close a very eventful year by wishing all a Happy New Year (or Gott Nytt År as they say in Sweden)!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Back from Stockholm

We are safely home tonight after a great week.

This morning, I spoke to Wille and we went over a few things. There was an area of dirt on our new floors, which was the one thing that upset Sooz. He is going to talk to his floor expert on the best way to clean them up. He'll also put me in touch with the bathroom guy on Runmarö. I want to be sure he's OK by Janne before I contract him to the task.

Wille really wants to finish up all the little trim stuff, and we have to resolve the door issues too. Stefan is on holiday this week and we'll both talk to him next week to get that going. We also talked about building out the garderobes.

Grant and I visited Mio, and Sooz, IKEA, to look at possible couch/table candidates. We have some good ideas which I will expand on in future posts.

Lastly, we are toying with coming back in early February when Grant is on a school trip. Perhaps we can order the furniture and spend a day or two in the house, especially if Janne turns on the heat a day in advance!

We had a super time with the Wilhelmis; it was hard to leave. I'll get a family webpage up soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Day in December

It's Sunday morning and Grant is making breakfast so I have time to recap our day yesterday.

We loaded up the families early (7 plus Archie) in both cars. It was a tight fit, what with the big boxes of radiators and lamps! But the Waxholms boat allowed us to take it all and we managed to hike the load up to the house with a great deal of effort, but no real trouble.

Tim and Grant went to shoot their air rifles, Camille and Marcia assembled the lamps, Rutger and I worked on general assembly and installation, and Sooz filled the kitchen cabinets with implements.

After a few hours, we managed to heat up the house enough to take off our coats at least (although Archie needed Marcia's lap to warm him up). Our decision not to spend the night was validated, because it was still pretty cold.

My drill ran out of battery, but I stopped by Ronnie's and he came to the rescue with his usual grace and provided tools and advice. I had the pleasure of seeing Britt, Jenny and Jessica as well.

We ended up leaving at 5:30 in a bit of a rush. I took far fewer photos than usual because we were so busy, but there is still a decent selection in the December gallery.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back from Aspö

We all had a good day today. Got lots of things done. More tomorrow but here's a nice night photo for now.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


We had a great day! Marcia laid out a spectacular traditional Christmas spread. I think we ate pretty much the entire day, excepting the hour we took Archie for a walk. The gift-opening was a great success, too, and all the kids (and grown-ups) ended the evening happy.

And of course, we all joined the rest of Sweden in watching Kalle Anka at 3PM. Here's a snippet of the star of the show.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve Eve

A beautiful, cold, clear sunny day in Stockholm. We visited the National Museum to see an exhibition called Lura ögat (The Deluded Eye), and then had lunch on Kungstragården. Sooz and I hit IKEA just before they closed to pick up a few things, and I scored 3 black and 3 green Rubrik cabinet fronts for a total of 42 kronor! At that price, we can experiment with the look of the kitchen a little.

We also bought three simple lamps for the house, because it's going to be darned dark! We got a Melodi for the ceiling, a Jonisk for Grant's room and a Vreten floor lamp.

An administrative point: I'm going to blog mostly on the house-related part of our vacation. I'll make a traditional family page about our Christmas on our website,

UPDATE: Ollie had a good swimming session yesterday and he is relaxing happily in front of the fire at Ethie's house with his pal Dino this evening.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Onboard SK1524

We're about to depart from the gate at Heathrow. Rutger will pick us up around 11PM and then our holiday begins!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Preparing for our trip

We're packing up all our stuff today; what with Christmas presents and house supplies, we're going to have 3 boxes and 2 suitcases!

We just took Ollie for a walk, he's able to be out for a few minutes to get a little exercise and sniff around his old haunts, which he clearly enjoys. His recovery is progressing, although his back legs are still wobbly and he tires quickly. Tomorrow morning is another swimming session, and then he's going to spend the week with Ethie, his dogsitter, who loves and cares for Ollie almost as much as we do.

We get in to Marcia & Rutger's late tomorrow night, then it's an IKEA visit on the 23rd, Christmas Eve with Kalle Anka, Christmas afternoon with Margaret and Janne, and Aspö on the 27th. I'll be posting during the week, with photos to the webgallery for sure.

UPDATE: It is the shortest day of the year, I almost forgot! Sunrise on Aspö is 8:50, and it sets at 2:52.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wille checks in

...with a few news tidbits. He met someone on the boat yesterday from Runmarö (the nearby big island with the grocery store) who might be able to do bathroom work for me. Being nearby is a big advantage as travel time and cost is significant for people coming from Stockholm. Wille will get details and I'll check with Janne.

He also suggested a solution for our warped doors. Currently, they have separate planks of wood for the facing, which is causing warping at each seam. We could get a door that has just one big piece of wood with a similar look, but no chance for warpage. Or it might be possible to just replace the current door's facing and keep the door itself, as they currently work OK. He and I will talk further with Stefan about that.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More photos from the house

Wille sent a few more mobile phone photos which I made into a collage. Two are of the deck, trimmed and secured, and the other two are the extra wood strips to hold down the tarpaper on the roof, which Janne was especially concerned about, given the stong winds that are usual over the next couple of months.

Wille also finished up some of the inside bits and bobs, although I haven't spoken to him this evening so I'm not sure what all has been completed. I'll update after I speak with him, probably tomorrow, and we'll see it ourselves on the 27th. Things outside should be well secured now for the next 3 months of winter, but will seem odd for the house to be so closed up for so long.

We'll be back again mid-April, with (weather permitting) the key tasks being painting the outside (me), completing the bathroom (Jonny, with Sooz's design direction), installing steps and the water infrastructure (Janne), and strengthening the foundations (Wille). We should be able to finish those tasks in the 8 weeks between Påsk and Midsommar, and then let the good times roll!

Photo this morning

Wille just sent over this photo of our front door and it's looking even worse than I had thought. To quote him directly, they're "real crap". The doors close and seal OK but it's the facings that are really faulty, and they will only get worse with the melt/freeze cycle we'll see over the winter.

As I had posted earlier, Wille has spoken to Stefan and new doors are in the offing. I have forwarded this photo to Stefan for his discussions with the door provider.

UPDATE: Stefan has replied with: "It should not be like this, I come back to you with a solution as soon as I have talked to Designa Doors."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Earthquake in Southern Sweden!

I talked to Janne tonight and he said Skåne was hit by a mild earthquake. Sure enough, The Local has a story of a quake at 4.6 on the Richter scale. No injuries reported, thankfully.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Welsh Water Dog

Here's a movie of Ollie from earlier today in his first hydrotherapy session. Sooz said he wasn't overly keen, but he did get into it after a lap or two. The idea is that he will eventually be able to swim on his own without his helper. The exercise is great to help rehabilitate his hind legs, although he's sure feeling it tonight. He's pretty stiff, although that is normal.

Sooz got the details for the swimming vest he wore and we'll buy him one before we leave for Aspö. If he's able to get stronger, and also get in some swimming practice, that sounds like a great deal all around.


I exchanged texts with Wille- he isn't going out as planned today, and is now shooting for Thursday. I told him I was disappointed, that I was anxious to finish up all the outside stuff in advance of the winter.

I can see why his urgency is less than mine; after all, we won't be spending any significant time at the house until April. But I've managed lots of projects and all of them have a deadline of some sort. And we can't leave the house 93% done indefinitely.

So we talked and I reminded him we were going to be out to the house on the 27th and that I wanted to be sure we finished up by then. He understands and is on the case. I'll report back later in the week- and we'll be out there in only 12 days to see everything ourselves!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saint Lucia's Day

Today is St. Lucia's day in Sweden. The link gives lots of good information on Lucia and her holiday, so instead of rehashing that info, I thought I'd mention two memorable Lucias from my past.

The first was 1988 and Sooz and I took our first trip to Sweden, in advance of our move there, on Lucia day itself. On the SAS flight from Newark, in the middle of the night and high over the North Atlantic, a number of young girls put on the white robes (with electric lights in place of the traditional candles) and sang in the aisles for their fellow passengers. It was beautiful, and in retrospect, I was hooked right there and then.

The next one was just 3 years later; we had moved to Chicago a few months before, and Sooz was pregnant with Grant. We really missed our friends and went to the Swedish neighborhood of Andersonville to celebrate Lucia. They did a great job, the celebrations were beautiful and we had a great Scandinavian meal just a few miles from our new home. Our Swedish homesickness was cured for that night at least.

Lots of years have passed since then, but I still remember the beauty of those two Lucia celebrations just as clearly as ever.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wille checks in

As I thought, he didn't go out this week, the weather has been very poor (as I write this, it's 2°C and raining hard). Working outside in the cold rain isn't very fun or safe.

However, high pressure and sun is due in on the weekend so he is planning to come out Monday. He's going to talk to Jonny, whose company sent us the expert kitchen assembler Johan in October. Jonny's guys are going to do our bathroom and Wille will see if he can send someone to start next week when he's there. Our plan is to complete the bathroom when we're there in April, but a head start won't hurt.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ollie's Recovery

We went back to the vet for a checkup and to remove his stitches. So far, he's doing really well. We saw a couple of other dogs with the same haircut and back scar, so he fit right in. (That's him looking expectant in the waiting room this morning.)

Ollie's going to do a little hydrotherapy over the upcoming weeks to strengthen his muscles. That should be interesting! A side benefit is that he'll get used to the water, which will be handy for his upcoming Aspö summer.

I haven't heard from Wille yet but I hope to soon, and will report quickly.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Good news today

I talked to Göran this morning and he reports the electricity inside is all complete and that he hopes I will be happy with what he's done. I was darned impressed with his first installation, so I am sure I will be this time, too.

I called Wille to report that good news. He's back in Leksand, and it's all snowy like a Christmas card. He's still coming to Aspö later this week, and we decided to concentrate on finishing all of the outside stuff, rather than completing the bathroom. The weather is still OK but the winter will hit sooner or later and we need to ensure all of the trim and other exterior work is complete so the elements don't gain a foothold. I'll talk to Jonny (the kitchen guy) about finishing the bathroom in the spring.

Wille also spoke to Stefan and it appears our doors were from a new supplier, who did not provide the correct standard. Stefan will arrange with the door company to have new ones fitted. For the moment, they seal the house fine but they are weathering very poorly.

So, progress all around! Jättefint!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Recovery News

First things first, Ollie is making good progress. He's walking pretty well and his cheery personality is already back. We'll see the doctor for a formal checkup next week, but the nurse tells me he is doing great for just 6 days after surgery.

Back to the stuga now- I talked to Wille this morning and he said he was knee deep in muck, working on a house up north. He plans to be back to ours next Wednesday and Thursday to finish up.

We should have the electricity in by then; I'm waiting to hear back from Göran to confirm.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Diversion

You might have noticed a slowdown in posting recently. Our Cardigan Corgi, Ollie, unexpectedly suffered a ruptured disk in his back on Tuesday and has had emergency surgery to repair three vertebrae and protect his spinal cord.

He's just barely five, and I am struggling to accept how my beautiful boy could go from healthy to hurting so suddenly. Our little stuga seems the least of my concerns right now. (Although Grant did point out we should add a ramp to the deck, since Ollie will need to avoid stairs for at least a while, if not permanently.)

But, as of this writing, he is beginning his recovery, and if we all work hard, he should be back to his happy self in a month or two. Once he's better, I can start to think of other things again. For now, though, please keep him in your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Giant Moose

The latest American Way magazine has an article about a giant moose being constructed in Norrland as a tourist attraction.

My favorite part of the story is that it's being made of glue-laminated wood, just like our house. It didn't occur to me to make our own house moose-shaped. Darn.

UPDATE: Actually my other favorite part of that story is the moose cheese. I'm going to find some of that for sure!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Spacesaver Stairs

Wille sent a cameraphone picture of an alternate-tread stair for the bunk beds. I've been reading up on these, as there's a lot of information and examples out there.

They are a great space-saving solution, especially for lower use areas. Grant's bunk beds fit the bill perfectly, so we're going to go on ahead.

Monday, November 24, 2008

First snow of the year

Marcia called this morning and said they were having a big winter storm today. The Sandhamn webcam is being repaired but here's a shot from the camera at Finnhamn which is pretty representative. I wish I could see our house in the snow!

UPDATE: I found a great webcam of Sergels Torg, right in the center of Stockholm. Hours of amusement as it updates every few seconds.

UPDATE2: Marcia reports that the Sergels Torg cam doesn't accurately show large the amount of snow out by her. Fortunately, there's a webcam right in Järfälla, so we can see her neighborhood for ourselves.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Magica De Spell

Marcia changed her hairstyle a while ago, to a kind of black bob with bangs. I told her she looked like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. She said her friends thought she looked like Magica De Spell. (Of course, being Dutch, Marcia also goes by that country's translation: Zwarte Magica.)

I'd be willing to bet none of my American or UK readers have any idea who that is. But in Scandinavia, for various reasons, Donald Duck and all of his friends in Duckburg are hugely popular. Even today, millions of Swedes read or watch Kalle Anka (literally "Carl Duck") every week. So, telling someone they look like Magica makes perfect sense.

Swedish television has a tradition of playing a specific program of Donald Duck cartoons every Christmas Eve. Here's a good blog post on this phenomenon. I know Rutger really looks forward to watching Kalle on Christmas Eve. I look forward to watching all these cartoons with him this year!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Evening call from Wille #2

Another project was installing Grant's bunk beds. Wille measured everything, made the bed platforms back at home, and brought them out this week. He sent a couple of photos from the house today and they look great.

Wille talked to Tony last night, who had the idea of a ladder with alternating steps to give access to the bunks. I'm a bit worried about mounting anything permanently because I think I'd rather move a ladder back and forth as needed but Wille is going to send some photos about what he wants to do.

He also mentioned that he wasn't happy with the way our front doors were holding up. I know what he means; I thought the door's facings were warping already when I saw them in October. Wille says they are unacceptable and he is going to talk to Stefan on Monday morning.

Saturday Evening call from Wille #1

Wille called this evening with a good summary of his past couple of days. The weather has been very cold- in fact, Margaret reported quite a bit of snow in the city this morning. So Wille concentrated on indoor work, especially the bathroom. He installed the drains for the shower, sink, and washing machine, and has mounted all the waterproof boards; there's a special technique to mount them to our wooden walls so they are able to give with the flex caused by heating and cooling. He'll bring a bigger heater in a few days to keep the bathroom warm while he does the grout and flooring (in fact, he said it was colder inside than outside; that doesn't bode well for our planned overnight at Christmas!!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Exchange Rates

It's 8.22 to the dollar today. Absolutely amazing.

I am going to have a little whine because, about a hundred days ago, I transferred a whole bunch of money at 6.02. Doing the same today would have saved me many thousands of dollars. It is puzzling to me how there can be that much of a swing, especially since the US economy is supposedly in meltdown.

Of course, future purchases (of which many are planned) will be much cheaper. My bad decision on my last money transfer still rankles, though.

OK, whine is over.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happy World Toilet Day!

Yes, it's today.

All potty humor aside, over two billion people don't have access to any kind of toilet or sanitation. All of the searching for the right solution for my little house has taught me to never take toilets for granted again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Talked to Wille tonight

For a bunch of reasons, he's delayed a couple of days, but has booked a taxi boat for 0900 Thursday. The weather is also quite bad today (to put it mildly; the forecast is 1°C, 43kph breeze, and a 70% chance of rain), but the days after that look a lot better. He plans to stay through the weekend and get everything sorted out.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A new toilet

...not for us, but for the International Space Station.

And here I am complaining about how hard it is to move things out to Aspö.

Box Wine

I'm not a wine snob by any means, but I do like a nice glass now and then (mostly now). A huge selection of excellent wine is easily available here in the UK, and is comparatively inexpensive (especially if one travels across La Manche). And like most Americans, I used to think of wine sold in boxes as pretty low quality.

But box wine is very popular on the islands, largely for logistical reasons. It's much more efficient to carry and store, it keeps for a long time, and the only trash it generates is the plastic bag, so no need to carry back bottles for recycling (as Margaret told me once, you really want to avoid carrying stuff back off the island). And boxes are certainly cheaper than bottles at the Systembolaget.

The good news is that boxed wine- especially in Europe- is on the up these days. Lots of good wine is now being sold in boxes, and the idea is taking hold in the USA as well. We will surely be enjoying lots of box wine next summer, I'm sure!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Garderobe is Swedish for "clothes closet". (I think the term also applies informally to any sort of non-kitchen cabinet in a house.) Swedish homes and flats are typically pretty small, so they have to use their space very carefully. Efficient furniture is IKEA's stock in trade, so there's no surprise they have a very robust garderobe offering. There's an online planner on the UK and Swedish websites, although not the US one, likely because homes there usually have built-in closets. Rutger and I spent time on the planner last weekend when he was visiting, and there must be literally a million variations that can be put together.

Our house needs storage, of course, and space being at a premium, we want to make good use of what's available. The photos to the left show the entryways in both Stefan's own home and the X-House show home. Along the exterior of the bedroom wall, just past the front door, is a space about 1.75 meters long, about 80cm deep, and over 3m high. In both photos, plain vanilla IKEA cabinets have been stacked high, even above the bedroom doors, and then given a pine fascia to give a nice built-in look.

Sooz really wants the same in our house, in fact she doesn't want to put up anything there even temporarily. I can see her point; if we were to put up a bunch of white cabinets, we'd have our storage, ugly as it might be, and I'd move on to other matters.

Stefan gave us a lot of information on how he achieved this look, and we're going to make that an April project. For the moment, we'll put simple cabinets in the small house, because the aesthetics there aren't as important.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Those Dancing Days

I'm quite fond of a girl group called "Those Dancing Days." They're from Nacka, a suburb of Stockholm which we pass through on the way out to Stavsnäs. They have a myspace page if you're interested.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wille's sleepover

Wille will be heading out next Monday (the 17th) with a load of supplies. He's going to work on the finishing items for our houses, and to do all the bathroom prep work (drains, waterproofing, and wall and floor treatments.) He also has plans for the foundations, too.

The bathroom needs a number of coats and drying time between courses, so Wille's plan is to stay over during the week and do the woodworking while the bathroom is drying. So it looks like he'll be the first person to sleep over in our house! At least we have beds, a kitchen, and electricity for him.

By the end of that week, we really should be substantially done, save the water and bathroom tiling. Janne will work on the water infrastructure over the next few months, and I plan to tile the bathroom when we're there in April.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


When we were at the house last month, there were a number of little things that needed to be completed. Sooz tallied a list to send to Wille. Most of the list items are small trim and completion things that he was going to do anyways.

But there was one big issue remaining. Basically, neither Sooz or I are happy yet with the foundations on either house. Our house is damned heavy and it sets on a number of plinths, some fairly tall. A few of them are a bit out of alignment, two were off-height, and perhaps a third of them are not perfectly straight. These misalignments make them not as strong as they were designed to be, and they don't look quite right, especially set against the lines of our great cube of a house.

And there's an issue about the proper number of foundations in the first place. Stefan added two plinths to the original drawings back on March 1, and Wille has spoken to Stefan about the need for more, especially on houses of our size.

I think Wille's done a good job on our house overall, and we are happy, but the foundations are the one area that isn't up to the specification of the rest of the building. I spoke to Wille at length and asked him to do two things.
  1. Add a few more foundation posts at some of the key load beams under the building to make sure it's well shored up. The idea is that three posts at 75% strength are as good as, if not better than, two at 100%.
  2. When done, we need to cover up the perimeter of the house with skirting boards. All of the houses on Aspö have these installed. The underside of an island house is pretty unsightly, especially with all of the plumbing and electrical infrastructure snaking around. In our case, the boards will also cover up what will become a bit of a jumble of foundation posts.
I had flirted with the idea of leaving the posts as an integral part of the building, like the Villa Savoie as shown above. But frankly, given the exigencies of island construction, that really wasn't realistic. And comparing my little stuga to one of Le Corbusier's is a tad harsh, too.

In any case, Wille was gracious and understood our concerns, he said he was glad we were honest with him and he wants us to be satisfied. He's going to work on adding foundation posts and then skirting the perimeter of both houses.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Wilhelmis are visiting...

...this weekend. It's only fair, since we seem to have moved into their house this year. The girls will go shopping, of course, and us boys are going to a football match, QPR vs Cardiff City. And I'm sure Rutger will go to a museum or two, as he is a history buff, especially WWII.

The handsome picture of Rutger is from our trip to Berlin last year.

UPDATE: The home team won 1-0, and the girls' shopping trips boosted the retail sector of the UK economy, so everyone's happy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An email from Göran

Got this email last night:

"Hello Don.

I think we will be back in two weeks and put the electricity on. We
installed everything we can and will be back when we can finish up the rest.


Trip to Maidenhead

I have just picked up the afore-mentioned door screws from a very nice lock shop in Maidenhead (First time for me there, so it was an added bonus to see what the town's all about). We'll send to Janne and hope they work!

Mail efficiency

I left behind a couple of prescriptions at Marcia and Rutger's house when we last visited, and of course realised this about an hour after we left for Aspö. I called Marcia and she retrieved them and mailed an envelope to me later that day.

The next morning, when the 0830 boat arrived, there was my envelope in the mail packet. Marcia said she mailed it at about 1400 the day before. How's that for postal efficiency!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Weather report from Leksand

I just talked to Wille, he said it was below zero and they had 15cm of snow over the weekend. It looks like more of the same for the next few days. Good hockey weather, I guess. He is feeling better, though; he was rough when I talked to him last weekend.

Wille is going to get together all of the materials needed to do the bathroom and to finish off the house trim, bunk beds, etc., and head there next week. The bathroom needs a number of hours to dry between waterproofing treatments, so he plans to stay through a few days, work on the trim items during drying periods, and get it all done. We should certainly be able to stay there for a night, at least, when we visit in December.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Door hardware

We bought a couple of standard door handles and locks on our last trip. I had info on the doors from Stefan and we picked up what we needed.

But of course, I ran into a snag. The screws that go through the door to attach the handles to each other are a smidgen too short. The size was the standard 90mm but it seems I need 95 or so. I'm not sure why, but I think our door is a little warped which probably added the extra width.

Finding longer screws for a Swedish door, especially here in the UK, has proved to be a challenge. However, I've talked to three unexpectedly helpful locksmiths in the London area, and one of them has ordered what we believe to be the right screws. Sooz will pick them up next week, and we'll mail them to Janne, who has offered to screw everything together properly.

Introduction, part 2

My first post was well over a year ago. I thought it'd be a good idea to recap what has happened since then, so new visitors have a place to go to catch up, rather than just starting cold with seemingly random stories of swimming moose and toilet technology.

So, in a nutshell:
  • I'm Don, my wife is Sooz, and our son is Grant. We're Americans who lived in Sweden 1989-91, and we've lived in London since 1999.
  • We all love Sweden, and have many friends there. It's common for Swedes to have a summer house, often on one of the many islands in the archipelago. We were able to buy land on the island of Aspö in the summer of 2007.
  • I like modern Scandinavian design, and found a Swedish company, X-House, who make very square and clean timber buildings from glue-laminated wood. We designed two homes, a large (62 sq. m.) house and a smaller guest house, and applied for permission to build.
  • We received our permission in April, and built in August 2008. As of this writing, the house is essentially done, save the bathroom and interior plumbing.
  • Building on an island, especially in another country, has with it many challenges, to say the least. Our friend Janne, an island resident, has been essential to this process, although, frankly, I've leaned on many friends, both old and new, to get this done. You'll find many references to all these people in the blog.
  • In fact, there are many posts about Swedish and island culture, as well as asides on related topics. This isn't just a building blog, although I have tried to give realistic and practical information.
  • I have many photos of the building process, which are arranged in galleries, along the right side of the blog. I've also been careful about tagging my entries, so you can easily find posts related to building, people, culture, etc.
  • For the next few months, the winter weather will slow work on the house, but I'll continue to post on a number of related topics. Our big push will be towards midsummer's day 2009, which is an important day on the Swedish calendar, particularly for island residents, and also especially for me, as it's my 50th birthday.
I welcome comments and feedback. My goal is to make this blog useful and amusing, and I can always use help from readers to accomplish that!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I found a cool website in which you can input your latitude and longitude (or your zip code if you're in America) and get a chart of the sun's seasonal position at your location.

Thanks to Google Maps, I have the precise location of our house, so after a bit of data entry- voilà! (I will admit to spending a good part of the morning entering various locations and playing with the chart output.)

When we arrive in December for a short visit, we'll have (fairly weak) sunshine only from 8:30 and 14:30. But next midsummer, we'll have sunshine between 2:30 and 21:30! Better buy some window shades.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Text from Johan

I received a picture message from Johan just now. He said that little Leila was finally born at 3:40 Monday morning. Mother and daughter are well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I need to mention how impressed I was with Göran's installation inside the house. Everything is extremely neat and professional. The circuit breaker box looks like it could run NASA, and it's obvious lots of care has been taken in the work.

The one annoyance (especially to Janne) is the delay by the electrical company in providing the power to the house. We got by fine with the temporary electricity, but it will be neat to have it all working inside.

UPDATE: Janne just emailed; the power was hooked up today and Göran will be out next week to finish up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Too bad this wasn't the game we went to!

Found an interesting news item regarding a Leksand hockey game last week. I asked Wille about it and he said the player in question was a friend of his, whose 13 year old daughter is out of school right now after being teased mercilessly. Those Swedes...

Error in the October photo gallery

I noticed the photo link on the right was faulty, it's fixed now so the photos should be available again. My apologies.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Leaving Sweden once again

Another airport post just before we take off. Apparently this flight is oversold, they're offering €300 each to take a flight through Oslo arriving at 9:30PM. That is tempting but we all really need to be back earlier than that.

Anyways, we went to Bauhaus and IKEA first thing this morning to return/exchange/buy more stuff. There was a pretty good scrum at IKEA right when they opened. By 11AM, it was packed. One annoyance is that I need special long screws to attach the door handles. Nobody has them in stock so I will have to try to find them.

Rutger helped me finish the work Janne started on my tax form and that will be mailed off. We believe my bill should be about 6000 kronor a year for a freshly-built småhus like mine.

A last few photos in the webgallery. We are planning to make a 24 hour visit in December when we return for Christmas, so more photos then, but plenty of posts in the meantime.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

By the way....

The kronor is 7.90 today.

And the pound is under 1.6.


Back in Stockholm

Up early after a nice dinner with Janne the night before. We cleared out our guest stuga and decamped to our place to give it a final clear out. Since Janne was staying until Thursday, we took his trash with us.

It was funny to see so many more people on the island Saturday morning, lots of people must have arrived on the early boat. Anyways, we cleaned up and brought quite a load of stuff and garbage to the main dock. The noon boat wasn't full at all.

We loaded up Rutger's car and headed to Margaret's. She took us to a couple of home furnishing stores in her funky neighborhood and we found lots of stuff we liked.

Now we're at Rutger & Marcia's; Rutger made lasagne (after flying in from New York this morning) and Marcia bought my favorite Pripps beer and Vicknings chips. I'm a happy man.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Another productive day

Although the weather wasn't that great, we still managed to get a lot done. Grant tended the fire diligently all day and we got rid of all our paper and wood scraps, plus we made a dent in the brushpile.

Inside, we finished a lot of kitchen details, and Janne and Tony stopped by; they provided a lot of insight on a bunch of questions regarding plumbing, storage, woodworking, and electricity, among other disciplines.

And outside, I cleared up a lot of building scrap. Most everything is in one big pile as opposed to all over the place. We're going to carry as much garbage as we can on the Waxholms boat tomorrow, but I am starting to fear we will need to contract Sten to do a garbage run for us in the spring.

Another nice dinner with Janne and then back tomorrow noontime. We're going to see Margaret at her shop, which will be great, but I really hate to leave!

A few photos in the webgallery, including the best shots yet of the house.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just as planned so far

We spent the day clearing up and completing lots of smaller tasks. I put handles on the drawers, which took me way too long, but at least they're all straight. We successfully finished the wardrobe (which had 44 steps in its instruction book and about a half-million parts), and put all the beds together. We also changed the hinges on the fridges so they swung the other direction.

It appears our whole IKEA order arrived complete, with only one tiny damage, which is amazing.

Grant started a fire to burn the paper and wood scraps. He also cleaned up a lot of the building material left around outside, and also ran our well-water tests, all of which were fine.

The October webgallery is of course updated.

UPDATE: I called Johan; no baby yet.

More Kitchen info

It's the next morning and we're about to head back to the house. We had a successful day yesterday, indeed. Johan was an amazingly skilled worker and he whipped through the kitchen in quick order. He lived in Northern California for a couple of years and became an Oakland A's fan. He's also a water polo player, and most excitingly, is about to become a father any minute now. Jenny, his partner, is 11 days overdue so we all jumped when the phone rang.

At the end of the day, we finished up in near total darkness, with only one lamp, and then we all hustled to the dock with Johan's gear, Grant leading the way with his flashlight. The boat needs to be called with a flashlight in the winter, so we waved with all our might, and Johan was rescued to return to his impending fatherhood.

Winston if it's a boy and Leila if it's a girl. I'll be sure to report back once we know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The kitchen is done!

I contracted help for the day, who arrived on the morning boat in the form of Johan. He was a super-nice guy and very efficient. He was able (with our minimal help) to complete 90% of the kitchen today. Grant and I spent the equivalent amount of time making a table, 4 chairs, and most of a wardrobe.

It's late, so more info (and new photos) in the morning.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I'm back to end the evening and I have to say I am as tired as I can ever remember being. (And I run marathons for fun!)

The IKEA delivery made it to the dock right on time, two pallets, 850kg just as promised. Janne came with his ATV and we loaded goods on it, and he made 6 or 7 runs to our house. The path up from the Waxholmsbolaget dock is quite steep, so we had to carry everything up a hill that got worse as the afternoon wore on.

And then we had to carry everything overland through the mud the last 300 meters. Man was that tough, I literally ran out of gas and physically couldn't carry any more.

The good news is that everything is up to our house, ready for assembly, with the exception of the fridge, which we wrapped up safely for the last push tomorrow morning when Grant and I get our strength back.

And we will have a helper tomorrow, Johan, who I've contacted to spend a day with us. He's a kitchen assembly expert so we should make good progress under his direction.

Much more to post about but I'm too tired to work the keys. Photos will be updated in the October webgallery.

Back to Aspö (barely)

We loaded Rutger's wagon up to the gills, left early, and made it to Stavsnäs, no problem. The boat ride, however, was a heck of a trip, the seas were rougher than I had ever seen and we rocked and rolled our way across the Baltic.

Once here, it was pretty miserable, cold and drizzly, but we managed to get our stuff over to our house and to set up camp again at Ann and Dave's. We're taking a break for lunch now and will be down to the big dock in an hour to meet our IKEA shipment.

Our house looks great, photos posted later.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Safely in Stockholm

I'll skip over the logistical detail with all the transport, but suffice it to say that Marcia picked us up, and we met Wille at the Globen for the hockey game. With him was his girlfriend Liselotte, and her kids Vandela and Toste.

We had a great time, especially since Djurgården beat Linköping 3-1 in a good game. Mikael didn't play as he's with the youth team, but we did get to talk with him on the phone. Afterwards, we picked up Rutger's car from the glass repair, so all is well.

We talked with Wille about various details and we're going to get together again before we go to Aspö on Tuesday.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I just checked this evening and the krona has plummeted to 7.45! Wow! All that shopping we plan to do this weekend will have a little less sting in it.

Of course, I paid for the house at closer to 6.2 just a few months ago, but even then it's still one of my better recent investments.

But there's sad news, too. Rutger's new Volvo wagon was broken into today. That messes up our logistics a bit, but importantly, it was his baby and Rutger's upset. I will do my best to cheer him up tomorrow.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More briefs

Writing this on the hoof at Heathrow Terminal 5. I just talked to Wille again; he is really pleased with the way the floors turned out. He also put me in touch with Jonny, a colleague who has a firm that installs IKEA kitchens.

I called and Jonny will be able to send a couple of people to help me move up all the stuff from the dock on Wednesday the 22nd. Janne agrees that will be smart to do as there's 850kg of stuff, including beds, stove, fridge, etc.

Janne also says no electricity drop has been installed yet and he's awaiting word from Vattenfall as to when. We can use our temporary electricity though, so that's not a huge problem.

Wille and I talked about the bathroom. He's going to our house the week after us to finish up, and we might go ahead and waterproof the bathroom at that time. I'm going to do a sketch for us to work from. I hope Sooz and I can decide on the sink and other details next Monday when we go shopping.

Last bit of news before I board- the Cinderella has landed! Janne has brought the electric toilet up to our house...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brief update-2

Rutger called and he had spoken to the IKEA driver today. The full order is now supposedly at the Stavsnäs harbor storage. I say 'supposedly' because the driver said there were two pallets. Rutger feels that is a little suspicious, given the size of our order, unless they are two giant pallets, indeed! He is trying to contact the harbor now to confirm.

And the photo? That's the Sandhamn webcam from today. Obviously there is a bit of construction going on. I thought it was interesting in an oddball way.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A brief update

Wille called Sooz briefly; the mobile phone connection was bad. But he's on the island now, finishing up, and he says the floors "look really good." That's good news, because the floors really needed to be done now so we'd be able to get the kitchen in as planned next week. More tomorrow.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Janne has news

The grey water system has been successfully dug and installed this weekend. We need to take photos to send to the kommun before it's buried, but all was done without trouble. (That's easy for me to say; it was Janne who did the digging!)

The electricity hasn't been connected yet but there has been lots of discussion and some progress. The electric company (Vattenfall) will attach to the pole by Olle's house, and he's given permission and direction for the cable to be dug under his property over to ours. Janne still thinks they may be done when we come, but if not, we'll still have our temporary line from Tony's.

The Cinderella toilet will arrive tomorrow, and Janne will bring it up to our house. He has also moved some of the boulders which were right in front of the small house, so we now have a much clearer path leading up to the main house.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A small delay

Wille wasn't able to go out this week due to a family emergency. He plans to go next Tuesday to do the floors and finish up some small things, so we should still be OK for our big kitchen delivery the week after.

UPDATE: Rutger talked with IKEA; our kitchen order is set to be delivered to the Stavsnäs as scheduled next Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sooz received a text from IKEA

...telling her that our order is being completed and that we'll receive a phone call shortly when it is ready to ship.

That call should go to Rutger, who's coordinating the shipment to the storage in Stavsnäs, for shipping to us on October 21st.

So far, so good, but the logistical chain has many links...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Financial Panic

I don't think I had made this clear in the past, but our little house project has been self-financed through savings, no credit worries here. In fact, I'm probably better off then if I had left that house-building money in the bank, or perish forbid, in stocks.

In fact, if things get worse, I could add an energy ball or two, grow some vegetables, and shoot a moose. Then I can live off the grid, as they say.

In all seriousness, Sweden was in a very similar financial position in 1992. The New York Times has a great article on how Swedes reacted to their crisis.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A quiet week, but action next week

I talked to Wille this morning and he'll be back next week, probably October 7th, along with his floor expert, to treat the interior floors and to finish a few snagging items.

And I spoke to Janne (who's on his way for a little warm-weather weekend break with his birthday girl Margaret), and he'll be back the weekend of October 11/12 to dig and install the grey water system.

Lastly, Sooz paid IKEA yesterday for our massive kitchen order, and we still seem to be on track for an October 21 island delivery.

Further news as conditions warrant.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Boat Accident

I talked to Janne Friday morning instead of Thursday evening. Turns out he was at an end-of-season dinner on Nämdö with a whole bunch of his fellow island builders. He and Lennart boated home around 10 PM.

The next morning, Janne's phone started ringing. There had been an accident north of Nämdö, not far from the southern tip of Aspö, around 1AM. A good-sized boat had run aground at high speed. Two men were killed, and two injured. Although the names of those involved have not been released, Janne fears one of the men was his tablemate from the dinner.

A sobering reminder of the perils of the sea. A news story in English is here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Electricity's done

I had a quick chat with Janne this morning and he said Göran has finished his work. The electrical company still has to make the drop to our house, but all the work to enable its connection is done, and Janne expects it to be made before we arrive.

Göran put a couple of simple lamps on the outside of both houses, so as Janne puts it, "you can find the houses in the dark." Seeing how sunrise is at 7:40 and sunset 5:24 when we're there, he has a good point.

(Trivia: On Christmas Day, sunrise is at 8:46, and sunset is 2:49. Ugh.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Driving to Sweden

We've a bit of a lull until Göran arrives next week for the electricity, so I thought I'd post about something we've been thinking about for a while.

Next summer, we plan for Sooz and Grant to spend 6-7 weeks on Aspö, and 3 weeks for me at least. Of course we want to bring Ollie, too, so we're planning to drive from London. It allows us to load up the wagon with fragile stuff, take the pooch, and give us our own car while in Sweden. Public transport is excellent, but it's not the best when you have a dog and a lot of stuff with you.

There are a bunch of possible routes, but dogs aren't allowed on the longest ferries, so it looks like a hop through the chunnel and overland to Sweden either via the Öresundsbron or on a ferry to Göteborg and then cross-country. Either way, it's two full days and about a thousand miles. Imagine how many blog posts that trip would generate!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Talked to Janne again...

...and he has recovered from the cold he's been suffering from. The weather isn't great on Aspö right now; Janne is hoping for the 'Indian Summer'.

He has sent in the official request for our electricity drop. It looks like it will have to be provided from a greater distance than I thought, as the poles bordering our property are high-voltage lines. But the good news is that I pay a flat fee, even if the electrical company has to do more work. Göran will set up the electrical box and finish the inside of the house next week. Janne thinks it's still likely that all the work will be done by the time we return on October 20.

He's also going to order the Cinderella for us through his account at Fredells, and bring it up to our house later this month. I talked to Johan and he said that ordering through them was fine.
With electricity and a Cinderella, we'll be all set for our trip back next month.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Update from Wille

He called me from the boat back from Aspö and said that he was all done, at last. There are only two small things to followup on:
  • The door frame on the little house is 120mm wide but the house walls are only 78mm thick so the frame is too wide
  • He can't figure out how to do the bunk beds from the wood that is supplied
He's going to talk to Stefan tomorrow about those items. Otherwise, the roofs are done, the deck is turned over and stained (he says it looks great), and the electrical wires are pulled through.

The plan is for Göran to come and do electrical work late next week, and then Wille will return with his floor-finishing colleague to treat the interior floors in early October. If all goes according to plan, we'll be set for our kitchen install on October 21 (after we all see Mikael play for Djurgården against Linköpings HC on October 18, of course.)

I asked Willie if he was sick of our little island, and he said the opposite, that he'd miss it. He's become friendly with Tony and Janne and all the boat captains. I can see that; he should be a politician!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A boat

Rutger and I talked in the past about going halfsies on a boat. I've been so busy with the house-building, I hadn't thought about a boat at all lately.

But he called the other day with news that a friend of his was selling his boat next spring and it seems like a good deal. It has a 60hp motor which is enough for water-skiing, which pleases Grant. I don't know much more about it (or much about boats in general) but will look into it. The price is right, especially if we split the purchase cost. The boat in question is shown above.

I will talk to Janne and Tony in detail when we're over to Aspö next, because I'm not fully clear on where and how we would keep the boat, both in terms of docking in the summer, and storage in the winter. And of course I have a lot to learn about maintaining a boat and especially navigating Swedish waters. But it does sound like fun!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Fireorb returns

I had posted about this fireplace almost 10 months ago, and kept the contact info for the company. I called them the other day and talked to Andrew, who is a nice guy and a Cubs fan to boot. (He's much more confident about their chances this year than I am.)

Anyways, we talked about the issues of shipping to Sweden, specifically customs duties, VAT, and the like. He said they've sent many to Scandinavia. I told him I fancied a white one (as pictured) and he tried to talk me away from the white, as they only fit into certain interiors. Hmmm.

UPDATE: Andrew has given me the name of a contact at a local architectural firm to take a closer look at an installed unit or two. I'll report back.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ruukki roofing

Next year, we will have to replace the roof on our houses. Today we have a few layers of tarpaper which I'm told will last one winter, max.

One of the houses Janne built recently used a Finnish roof system which has nice vertical lines that would match our house nicely, as seen in the photo to the left. The company, Ruukki, has a webpage with details about their roofing systems.

An advantage to Ruukki is that, once the roof is measured and ordered, it is easy to install with hand tools (well, easy for Janne, anyways.) My plan is to install this roof next summer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Talked to Wille

He's been back at home, dealing with a water problem at his own house. But all is fixed now, and he's on his way down to Aspö later this week to finish off the roofs on both houses.

His colleague will be able to do the sanding, lut, and oil on our floors. The plan is for Göran to do the electricity in late September, the floor to be done in early October, and for us to do the kitchen in late October.

Also Janne told me the grey water system has arrived, and Olle will bring it to our house. That should get installed within the month, too.

Wille also told me that Mikael has been signed to Djurgården's first team, which is great news. We hope to see a match when we're there in October.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A text from Rutger

Apparently IKEA called him today because I received a text that said "1,311 packages, 850 kg, 5 cubic meters going on the wheelbarrow".

I wonder if the helicopter is available that day??

Water testing

Both Wille and Rutger told me that the kommun would test our well water. I took a sample last week, and it was pretty yellow when I bottled it, although it still tasted and smelled fine. One reason for testing is to see if a filter is recommended, and if so, what kind of filter. Janne says there are many types, and installing one is no problem.

I just sent an email, all in Swedish, to Värmdö kommun to inquire about testing. Let's see if I have any luck with my inquiry!

UPDATE: After reading Marg's comments, I decided to take a different tack and have ordered this kit. My goal is to have a general sense of our water so we can decide if we want a filter, and if so, what kind. I hope this kit will do the trick; if not, it wasn't that expensive.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Energy Ball

A bit of a digression, but I found a Swedish company selling windmills for home use. The economics don't work out very well for us, at least for now, plus I'm not too sure about the wind available at our house, given our location. The website I found this on is worth a look, though.

Sooz is home

Sooz is safely home, with her bag full of pepparkakor and many catalogs of various descriptions. She showed me the furniture she ordered for the kitchen. For those of you who like the names IKEA gives everything, the chair is Gilbert, and the table, Docksta.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Electrical installation

We decided to put the main outdoor fuse box for our house on the back wall of the little house. That keeps it out of the way, and is in fact closer to our electricity drop. We had to wait until the little house was up before we could have the electrical company come out.

Now that the little house is up, I tried calling Göran, the electrician, this morning, and either misdialed or spoke so poorly he couldn't understand me. Janne came to the rescue and called him, and Margaret reported back that "Janne spoke with Göran, he (and 3 or 4 helpers) will be out on Aspö Tues-Fri the week of 22 September...apparently they've got your house plus 2 or 3 others."

So we're still on track for our October visit.

The bathroom door

After some discussion, we've decided to leave the door as installed. Apparently, changing it is difficult. Stefan pointed out the drawing did show it properly, but he did offer to send out a new door at a discount. Sooz decided not to mess with it, at least for now. We may still be able to change the door--or at least how ours is installed-- at some point in the future should we want. I am disappointed in myself for missing this.

We talked about a lot of bathroom stuff, specifically what sort of treatments to put on the walls and floors. I've decided to leave that for now and to think a bit more about just what to do with the bathroom walls and tile before we make any decisions.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sooz busy on Friday

Sooz and Marcia chased down a bunch of details today. She met with Wille and they talked about the floors (among other things). Stefan sent along a photo of his house, whose floors are treated with lut (a kind of lye) and white oil, as we had discussed with Wille and Rutger previously. We're going to do the same on ours, we're not yet sure who will do the lut and the oil, maybe Wille, but he's going to do the sanding for sure. Willie will also put a protective varnish on the outside decks so the stay that nice fresh pine colour.

She and Marcia also shopped for door handles, small appliances, etc., etc., and we have a good idea of what and where to buy stuff in October.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sooz's new kitchen

A big day for Mrs. Langford. She was at IKEA for over 8 solid hours, but she finished the day by placing the order for the whole kitchen, plus beds, a table and chairs, and our bedroom furniture. Impressive.

She made some adjustments (pictured here) with the help of a great kitchen planning assistant. The plan is for an October 14 delivery to the depot for delivery a week later to Aspö. Overall, a very successful day, with more details to follow.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Update from Sweden

I talked to Wille. He's stuck being alone again this week; Mikael is in a hockey tournament in Linköping, and Mats is unable (or unwilling) to come down to help. So he's a little frustrated, working hard, and things are going slowly. He is also having problems with changing the swing of the bathroom door, he's going to confer with Janne and Stefan tomorrow.

And I talked to Janne, too. He's still suffering from his cold, although the weather is good there. He has ordered the grey water system. In fact, he's ordered four for various homes, which gives us a collective price break. My neighbor, Olle, is getting one, and he's in charge of receiving them on the dock. He and Janne plan to install these systems pretty soon.

And lastly, I spoke to my darling Sooz over at Marcia's, and she is having a relaxing evening, getting ready for the exertions of a massive IKEA purchase tomorrow.

Sooz is on her way Stockholm, where she'll spend the next couple of nights with Marcia & Rutger and her days at the local IKEA, finalising the order for the kitchen and bedroom furnishings.

She'll also meet with Wille to talk about the floor finishes, and also find a lock and handle for the front doors on both houses. I'll post updates as I get them from the shopping floor.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday in Aspö

It was a lovely day, with a warm sun and cool breeze. Janne called me over for breakfast and then I went to the house for a bit more cleaning and measuring. Back in London, Sooz has the bit between her teeth now; she called and we talked about a bunch of options and ideas for the bedrooms and bathrooms, too.

The bathroom has two problems; first, the door swings the wrong way, essentially opening into the living area. It can be fixed but it will be a bother to do. The other issue is that the window is pretty smack in the middle of the wall, so that limits our options for the shower. (I think glass blocks are out of the picture now).

I cleaned out Ann & Dave's guest house, making sure to dispose of or bag all food and soaps, etc. Janne fed me lunch and I brought him a bunch of leftovers. On the way out, I saw Tony and Ann-Catrin. They showed me the kitchen and bathrooms in both their house and the new one Tony's refurbishing. I got a bunch of ideas I'll talk to Sooz about tomorrow.

I'm writing this from Marcia and Rutger's spare bedroom; he'll run me out to the bus stop tomorrow morning at 6AM. What a guy!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday progress

Rutger took me to Slussen in the morning and I schlepped all my stuff onto the bus and then the taxi boat at Stavsnäs. This taxi was unlike any other I'd been on; it was much bigger and took a very different route. I got off at the stop nearest our house, the dock by Tony's (called 'the village'). As I contemplated carrying all my stuff, I saw my wheelbarrow waiting for me! Janne had seen that I had booked to go to the village, so he brought it over. What a guy.

I headed to the house and saw that Wille had made a lot of progress with the interior walls and the ceiling, and the little house is up to shoulder height. The big house looks smaller with the walls in (as you'd expect) but the little house sure doesn't look that little!

I made a bunch of measurements and laid out the outline of the kitchen on the floor (as seen in the gallery). I talked to Sooz and we went over some details and ideas. The biggest question from today is what do we do with the 145cm of space between the end of the kitchen counter and the glass wall. We want to have a small table for the three of us that we can expand and move for larger gatherings. Lots of things to think about!

The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning up and trimming trees, and then I joined Janne for a nice dinner. I also paid a few bills electronically, one of which was the helicopter, which was nearly double what I had budgeted, but still decent value in the end.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Getting ready to go

I just talked to Janne; I'll come over to his house Saturday night for a potluck dinner with my leftovers from our guest cabin. He also has a bunch of bills for me to pay, the helicopter and the insulation being chief among them.

Looks like the weather will be good on the weekend, sunny and in the high teens (that's Centigrade; in the 60's Fahrenheit).

Sooz is packing yet another bag of stuff to take to Marcia and Rutger's. I will repack and carry as much as the boat will allow on Saturday morning. (We're using their house as a base camp for all our supplies!)


Got my TBE shot today; the NHS had to special-order as it's not a normal item here in the UK. Also it cost £35, which is bit of a bummer since each of need three shots to be fully protected. Do the math for three of us and it's not cheap.

It's cheaper than having encephalitis, however!

We'll get our second shot before we go in October, and the final one before next summer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fresh photos

Wille sent a few photos from yesterday (Tuesday). The little house is looking pretty big! And the interior walls look great. No moose, however.

Mikael's off to Norway with his team so he wasn't available to come and help. Willie has plenty to do solo, but he will need at least an extra pair of hands to finish the small house and get the ceiling in.

Good news/bad news

I hadn't checked the kronor lately, and today I saw it was up to 6.40 to the dollar. That's good news and a little bad, too.

Good because it's a lot better than being below 6 as it has been recently. My dollar goes 7% further today! That will help with many of the expenditures that are coming up.

A little bad because I already paid for most of the house at 6.04. I'd make a lousy currency speculator.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wille-gram for Mongo!

Willie called with a few updates:
  • He saw the mother moose and baby about 5 meters from our deck this morning!
  • The little house is half-up; Mikael will be there tomorrow to help lift the remaining pieces. (I'm impressed Wille got that far by himself!)
  • He's been reading about the järn vitrol, which is still my favored way to treat the house. He said that letting the house weather on its own for a season and then applying the coat makes for a better result. I will have to check into that; I could just protect the trim, and let the house go gray on its own. But to do that, I'll have to get rid of all the glue drips. Wille will leave me a scraper of the type Stefan recommends.
In other news:
  • Marcia went to IKEA and they told her it would be ten weeks for the countertops, not five as I understood. If so, that's a real drag; I had hoped to get the whole kitchen done when we were there in October. Sooz will have to get the whole story next week when she makes the final order.
  • Rutger is calling daily with more ideas for the kitchen, he's not too keen on having a cabinet with the extractor fan, he says it's poor storage and not very good looking. He prefers the hood.
  • And I got an email from Andrew, with the Fireorb company in Chicago. The good news is that the price hasn't changed since we last corresponded a year ago. He's also a Cubs fan which is a great reason to do business with him.
(There's an inside joke in the title, bonus points for anyone who answers it in the comments.)

Home Insurance

Janne reminded me while we were building that I needed to get homeowner's insurance. Once it became a house, it was my responsibility, rather than a kit that somebody else was responsible for transporting safely.

Janne got me in contact with Länsförsäkringar, and on my 4th phone call, I reached Carina, who spoke excellent English and was able to help a foreigner like me. A couple days after I returned home, a package arrived from Carina, with all the info I needed, and a helpful personal note. I had one question and emailed her, and received an answer within a hour. So now we're all insured, and the recipient of great service to boot!

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Photos!

Margaret was on Aspö for the weekend and she and Britt visited our house on Sunday morning. She took lots of good photos and generously sent me a whole bunch this morning. I've made a webgallery for your enjoyment. Thanks, Margaret!!!

I hope to post more myself next weekend after my own visit.

Kitchen redux

We've been through another iteration on the kitchen. Instead of the hood extractor, Sooz has added a couple of cabinets, one with an in-built fan. She's also added a wall cabinet (with glass doors) that I'm not convinced about, but we do need to fit in as much storage as we can.

The problem we're wrestling with is that we need lots of storage as we can't run to the grocery every day, and so will need to keep a goodly supply of food. Working against this is that we don't have a lot of space to work with.