Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bathroom Estimate

I spoke to Tommy the other day, he said he had my email and that he would be in touch regarding the bathroom work.

Given my misunderstanding of Göran's bill of work, I want to be sure I have a good reckoning of costs for this work before going forward. Using all the info I gathered on our February trip, I made an estimate of my own and came up with about 50,000 kronor.

The main variable in my estimate (guesstimate?) is the cost of labor (both price and hours) and all the ancillary stuff like plumbing, grout, etc. But at least I have something to measure against when I get Tommy's quote. If it stays in this ballpark, we'll be fine for my budget.

Electrical Bill

Got our first electrical bill today from the folks at Vattenfall; 1500 kronor. It was split almost equally between actual power use and various connection charges. As best as I could figure, I'll pay around 150 kronor a month for the basic connection and then usage on top.

The good news is that the summer won't drive much power usage; mostly the fridge and the Cinderella, which I calculate will cost about 3 crowns per 'flush'.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bunk Bed Stairs

I had posted previously about having an alternating-tread staircase for access to Grant's bunk beds. Willie had sent me a sample of one done by a colleague, but that was pretty expensive, even before our recent budget crunch.

A further search found a UK company who makes these stairs, and I contacted them regarding a custom set. They responded very quickly with a detailed offer, but the total cost was still £325.

Sooz thinks this is overkill and she prefers a simple £25 ladder from IKEA. We'll look more closely on our Easter trip and decide then. I'm leaning towards cheaper these days....!

Monday, February 23, 2009

A few updates

I finally got Göran's bill for all the electrical work and it was a whopper, about 40,000 kronor more than I had originally planned. The good news is that he did excellent work, and it's all done now; the bad news is that it represents a significant chunk out of my remaining budget. Aside from the helicopter, I had been pretty much on plan, so this is a little setback.

There's more good news/bad news: The kronor is 8.8 to the dollar, which is fantastic. However, my funds in the US are by no means bottomless, and we still have the bathroom, water, stairs and final furniture and fittings to do.

I still think I have enough cash on hand to accomplish those things, but we'll have to see!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Melodifestival part 3

The Melodivestival was in Leksand this weekend and they started with a hilarious 'homage' to the area. See how many cliches you can spot in this official clip from Swedish TV.

Overall, the acts were kind of blah. Nothing really good, but nothing really bad either (which is more fun). The best/worst of the lot was "BWO", who wore futuristic jumpsuits paired with terrible haircuts and a friendly-alien theme. They made it through as a "second chance" contestant. And Maja Gullstrand looked a lot like a friend of ours, which was quite amusing.

But I don't see a winner coming from this heat, for sure.


We talked to Janne about the need for stairs. There are two approaches to the big house, one from the main path near Tony's house and the taxi boat dock, and the other downhill through the woods towards the sea.

The main access will be along the side, facing the little house, and they're really needed there as the deck is over waist high. Today we have a few pallets acting as steps but it's still a bit dicey to get up and down. We want to have as shallow a step as possible, mostly for Ollie, but shallow is better for us older folks as well! The problem with wide and shallow steps is that you'll need a lot of them to provide enough rise to get the height needed, and this makes the whole staircase longer.

I measured a bunch of steps to get an idea of what would be the best compromise and discussed it with Janne. The treads of the steps will be wider, about 36 cm, and the steps will be quite broad, to match the width of the deck, or about 2.3 meters. The key measurement is the rise, or height of each step. The average rise is 17cm, and we're going to use that as the maximum; Janne will try for 15cm but we have to fit the staircase to its surroundings as the real world isn't as simple as my little sketches!

I don't know if we'll be able to do that work when I'm over at Easter; the weather is unpredictable then. But I told Janne I was ready to carry the lumber over at least if he was able to order it to arrive when we're there.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An update on Ollie

It's been over a month since his last post, so I'm happy to report the news is still good; Ollie is making a steady recovery. He took a 45 minute walk recently with no ill effects, and his hydrotherapy is down to twice a month. Plus his fur is grown back somewhat so he looks a whole lot better (which bothered us a lot more than it bothered him, frankly).

I took this photo a few hours ago, and we just finished playing (carefully) with his beloved tennis ball; he really is himself again. It's safe to say we are all much more confident in his back successfully weathering a summer on Aspö.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Garderob details

I sent Wille the attached sketch of our wardrobe purchases. We ended up buying 5 cabinets to put on the wall, one 100cm x 236cm high, one 75 x 236, two 100 x 70's and one 60 x 57, stacked as shown. Wille will make 4 doors out of wood so they look built-in, and cover all of the surfaces so we don't see the cabinets, as per my previous posts.

Dusting off my high school math (well, using the internet, really), I calculated that we'll need 8.95 square meters of wood to build the doors and cover everything. So call it ten, I suppose. We'll see if Wille agrees.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Round 2 of the Melodifestival

Margaret sent me an email last night, saying she was going to watch the melodifestival for the first time in many years (she has a much lower tolerance for cheesy music and camp performances than I!)

The reason for this change of heart is that one of the bands, the unfortunately-named Cookies 'n Beans, was performing. Marg saw them playing at her local coffee shop last summer and was quite impressed.

Unfortunately, they didn't do too well; you can see their Dixie Chicks-ish performance here. My favourite part was the concealed harmonica whipped out for a solo right towards the end. Fantastic.

Good news, though, was that the band I liked best, H.E.A.T., came through as the winner. It was a good song and the performance was a perfect pastiche of 80's hair-metal rock. Unfortunately, the winners aren't available on the otherwise excellent SVT website, so you'll have to take my word for it. Imagine Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Poison, RATT, Def Leppard, and Motley Crüe, mixed with a little Bob Seger and Judas Priest, all thrown into a Swedish blender. Wow.

UPDATE: Next week, the show moves to Leksand. Maybe I'll see Wille in the audience??

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The bathroom

I spent an unhealthily-large part of the day working on a document to send to Anders and Tommy to show our bathroom choices. I ended up with a 7 page PDF, which you can see here if you're so inclined.

It was my intention to make it pretty complete, so I hope it is clear. Any feedback from my dear readers will be very welcomed!

Now off to Valentine's dinner with my sweetie...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Leaving once again

We had another good day, Rutger dropped us off at Bauhaus and we looked more closely at tiles. We've decided on the pebbles for the floor and found big white wall tiles a lot cheaper than at the Kakelspecialists, but we're still going to buy the funky turquoise tiles from them for the shower.

Then off to IKEA, and we successfully ordered the couch, Grant's futon, the garderobes (with a zillion accessories), plus various other furniture. IKEA saved the same delivery instructions from our kitchen purchase in October; let's hope it all works as well this time!

Marcia joined us for a meatball lunch and we went back to Bauhaus, and pretty much decided on the sink and and other fixtures. The idea is that Rutger will make the order on my behalf and have it all sent to Stavsnäs so it can come out with the IKEA order.

Then it was time to leave the Wilhelmis again, which is hard to do (for me at least!)

I'll have a lot more posts coming up with details and photos, but this is plenty for now, I think!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Back at M&R's

We had a full day for sure! We made our way to the Kakel specialists and met a nice saleslady there. Bottom line is that we decided on a slate floor, with turquoise glass in the shower area and big white tiles everywhere else. Photos will be on the webgallery, and there'll be subsequent posts as we finalise our decisions.

After that, we took the tunnelbana to Margaret's, and she had a nice tan, too! After a nice visit (and a few bookshop sales), we headed back to Marcia and Rutger's for a much-needed shower, and a delicious fish dinner.

Tomorrow, we place a few orders at IKEA, and then head home on SAS, seats 22DF.

Onboard the Vindöga

We're sailing back to Stavsnäs right now, online through the miracle of wireless broadband. There are six of us on the boat right now.

Last night was great; we slept perfectly. It wasn't sunny this morning, however. We cleaned up the house and checked the subway map for our afternoon jaunt to Kakelspecialisten to check out bathroom details. Then we'll see Margaret and head back to Marcia and Rutger for the evening.

The highlight of the morning was seeing Janne; he took the morning boat in, so he stopped by for 20 minutes before we had to go. He still had his Florida tan, too! We talked about details for the stairs and the water installation. Sooz really wants the water to be in by Easter but that's going to be a push, I fear.

More later and be sure to check out the photos in the webgallery. I may upload more during my bus ride...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Settling in for the night

We've had a good day. First, it was clear and sunny for the first time here in a good while. We took the boat in with Tony and he helped us carry our bags up to the house. Janne had turned on the radiators for us and Tony double-checked, so the house was pretty warm when we opened the door!

We got the bedroom put together (pictured) and spent a lot of time cleaning up and organizing. I cleared out Ann & Dave's little stuga of the last of our stuff. We've accumulated a lot over our many trips, so Sooz made an inventory, which we help a lot when we decide what we need to bring out next. (Hint: we don't need any more flashlights! Or scotch for that matter...)

Tommy the bathroom guy came over with his partner, Anders, and we had a good talk about the work there. They're familiar with the Cinderella, and Anders told us about a massive tile store near the Globen I think we will visit tomorrow. They seem to be very knowledgeable and they liked our house, too, which is nice. (By the way, his last name is Rust, which is a lot shorter than 'bathroom guy'.)

We made detailed measurements of the bathroom and garderob area, and checked out the size and placement of the various couches. Sooz managed to video chat with girlfriends in Boston and Houston, as well as Marcia on her new MacBook, of course!

The moon is massively full and bright and the stars are out in force tonight. Our bed seems nice and soft, our bedroom is cozy, and we're looking forward to a first good night's sleep in our new house!

On the 433 bus

...right now to Stavsnas. It's clear and sunny and the bus isn't full. We met Tony at Slussen and he helped us with all our bags. The ride down is a lot different in the winter- less traffic and all the lakes and inlets are frozen and white.

UPDATE: Our bus hit the brakes hard just before Djurö. The driver got on the PA and said that he had just avoided a reindeer!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday shopping

After an entertaining evening of the first round of the Melodifestival, we dragged Marcia, Rutger, and Camille along on a festival of shopping today. I think we made good progress on deciding everything but the bathroom, there are just too many final choices to make over tiles and fixtures, etc. But we've gained lots of good ideas so we hope we can get further along tomorrow when we're at the house.

Tommy also plans to see us when we're there so that should help the decision-making too. Janne won't be on the island but he's asked us to draw up our ideas for the steps; we will have the pleasure of seeing him, and Margaret, on Tuesday.

There's a lot of snow at Marcia & Rutger's house but apparently none on the island; that's Sandhamn this evening in the webcam photo above. I've started a new webgallery and I will update it over the next couple of days. Now I must sign off for Marcia's dinner of Brazilian coconut shrimp, which is bubbling on the stove as I type...!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ready to leave

The well-documented weather here in London has given us an interesting week. It's ironic there's no snow in Stockholm while there's a good 6 inches of the fresh stuff out our window!

We should be OK with the weather tomorrow for our flight to Sweden, Marcia is gong to pick us up. I'll report back on Sunday after our arrival and day's shopping.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Drove my Chevy to the levee...

Exactly fifty years ago, Buddy Holly's plane crashed outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Don McLean called it "the day the music died" in his song, American Pie.

Growing up in Minnesota, I had many opportunities to drive by the Clear Lake exit on I-35. In the summer of 1983, I stopped into the McDonalds there and went on a whim to the Surf ballroom, the site of Buddy's last concert.

Back then, it hadn't changed much, and in the lobby were a bunch of pictures. There was a particular photo of Buddy, standing in the Surf's lobby. That photo struck me; Buddy Holly changed in a flash from somebody in the past to a real person who had stood in the same place I was standing now. I knew the story of his last concert and his plane crash, but somehow the whole story played out right there in my mind's eye: freezing, broke, far from his friends and family, desperate to get a good night's sleep, Buddy rents a little airplane in the middle of a snowy night in the middle of nowhere...

The realisation of that moment has stayed with me vividly to this day, and I have become a real Buddy Holly fan. The anniversary of his plane crash has always since made me feel terrible.

When I first moved to Stockholm in 1989, I went to the Hard Rock Cafe on the crash's 30th anniversary, expecting to hear a little Buddy on the stereo, but, much to my disappointment, the man there said the music wouldn't play. I realised later there were many other places in the city where Buddy's music was being played. Rock n' roll is very popular in Sweden.

A great deal has been written about Buddy Holly, his short life and his musical legacy. The Independent newspaper here in London had a great article and the Des Moines Register has a media-rich site, too, if you're interested to know more.

Last story: a couple of weeks ago, we were at a local market, and one of the stands was playing "Everyday" as we walked by (the percussion provided by Buddy's drummer, Jerry Allison, slapping his knees). I said to Grant, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically for his liking, "Hey! That's Buddy!", like I had just seen an old friend. Which, in a sense, I had.

Sorry for the long off-topic post. Normal service resumes tomorrow. But listen to a Buddy Holly song today; he's left us a lot of classics to choose from.