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.