Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A treat in the evening

A lazy day today, Sooz painted the trim and I put up the TV antenna permanently. The high point was when Ole and Annica invited us to go over to Annica's parents, Bo and Gun's house, for a sit in the sauna and a taste of smoked fish caught that morning. We took Ole's boat around the island, and Grant followed with Annica's son, Patrick, in his boat.

We all took a sauna and the boys jumped in the cold water. Ole and I satisfied ourselves with a quick dip. The fish was smoked while we were taking our sauna, and then we all had a taste. It was wonderful. Bo and Gun were great hosts and we heard lots of stores about life in the island fifty years ago. In fact, Gun's grandmother's grandmother was one of the first people to live on Aspö!!

The boys went boating and the grownups drank beer. It was a beautiful evening.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Our jaunt to Värmdö

...went very well. We made our boat/bus connection and got all of our shopping done, right on schedule. I had called Johan early this morning about sending us more Cinderella papers but he told me the Bygg-Ole in Värmdö sold them, and so he was right. Now Sooz can 'flush' with no supply worries. Fortunately, we were able to fit in Grant's haircut with perfect timing.

And I found a weed-whacker at Jula for a super price so I bought that, too. When we got home, Grant immediately went to work clearing our path.

I was also able to acquire a bottle of gin. Spirits are very expensive here in Sweden so I went to a lower-priced brand, which appears this evening to have the desired effect. Tomorrow, Janne arrives back on the island, followed by Marg, so we'll have a few fine dinners later this week, what with the good company and fresh supplies.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


England was hammered by Germany 4-1. Glad I'm not in London tomorrow! Ugly. Also Göran the electrician didn't show up and we're out of gin.

However, the weather remains perfect and I successfully felled a few trees and cleared some brush so that part of the day was good. Tomorrow, our excursion to Värmdö!

Another perfect morning

At the risk of jinxing things, I have to say the weather has been super these past 10 days. We've been pretty lucky with that.

We watched US - Ghana last night. I have to say Ghana were the better team, scoring two beautiful goals. This afternoon is the big one, England-Germany. There's a lot of history with this fixture, at least from the UK point of view. In a way, I'm glad I'm over here. I'm sure the hype back home is feverish. But we'll be watching anxiously ourselves.

Tomorrow, we're going to the Värmdö shopping center at Gustavsberg for a day trip. Sooz needs to top up the groceries and I want to get a few building supplies at Bygg-Ole. Grant, uncharacteristically, wants to get his haircut; I'm really looking forward to that. We'll leave on an 11:00 taxi boat which should get us to Värmdö by noon. That leaves us, at most, 2½ hours before we have to get back for a 3:15 boat. This will be an interesting logistical exercise!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bits & Bobs

It was fairly cloudy (as forecast) this morning so I tried to read a book but couldn't hold still! So I made a little shoe rack out of the cornucopia of wood under the house. It holds six pair of shoes, maybe 4 if they're all Grant's. I'm quite pleased, even though it's something a competent 10 year old could probably do better.

Sooz took an inventory of our Cinderella paper bags, and found to our surprise there are only 37 left! It seems hard to believe we've gone through over 450 of them, but we have used the house quite a bit in the past year. I'm going to call Johan Monday morning and ask him to mail a batch.

I was also neglectful in mentioning my birthday gifts. Marcia and Rutger got me a cute bird carving and Marg & Janne provided me Swedish flash cards and a cool commemorative royal wedding mouse mat. I should also mention that my sweetie bought me an external 3G antenna for our internet connection, made in South Africa and imported by a company in Hull. A more deeply geeky gift would be hard to imagine. (EDIT: Actually, there is. I've been dropping Sooz hints the past few birthdays about one of these to no avail.)

She and Grant also attempted to update my style by providing a pair of trendy Paul Smith jeans. They're a little tighter and lower than I'm used to, but that's the point I suppose. Jury's still out.

We had some dark clouds and thunder around noon but it's clearing up now, so I can resume my work with the chain saw!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Glad Midsommar!

It's yet another beautiful day here on the archipelago, which is especially important for the midsummer holiday.

We went to the midsommer meadow at 9:30 and we helped getting the stång ready this year. Sooz gathered flowers and I, green branches with Tony. I even helped in raising the pole iself! That was really fun. I also saw Göran, our electrician, who's going to stop by on Sunday to look at a couple of my small requests.

Grant and I also helped Olle and a few of the manly neighbors to lift up one of his little outbuildings to a new location behind his house. Being responsible for health & safety at my workplace, I advised against the pre-move can of Carlsberg. (I did have one post-move, however!)

Photos and even movies of all this activity are now on the webgallery.

The big midsummer party was a bit of a letdown for us, though. With Marg & Janne away, we didn't have anyone to latch onto, so we circulated a bit, but didn't hang around too long in a big crowd of families and friends. Instead we sat on our deck and played Skip-Bo while listening to Michael Jackson. Still a darned nice afternoon!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy birthday to me!

I had a nice 51st birthday today, doing lots of little jobs around the house, keeping nature from gaining a foothold, e.g., nailing loose boards, staining the deck, etc., which is just the way I wanted to spend the day. We saw Margaret off on the noon boat, and Sooz baked me a nice little birthday cake.

Tomorrow is midsummer, and we're going to help out neighbors Olle and Annica with a little chore in the morning. Celebrations are at 14:30, so I'll try to post more photos before the Aquavit kicks in!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Grocery delivery

We've decided to place an order from Guns Livs, the grocery store on nearby Nämdö.

Guns is an institution in this part of the archipelago, they've been around since 1950. One nice service is that they'll put your order on the next Waxholms boat heading your way and leave it on the dock. They'll even place an order with the Systembolaget or the pharmacy as an agent on your behalf.

Sooz sent in her email shopping list yesterday, and after a couple of back-and-forths about missing/substitute items, our order was sent on the noon boat today. Us menfolk picked up three boxes' worth of goodies and we're all set for another few days' worth of island living.

It's another nice afternoon. The girls are sunning and Grant and Tim are working on a jigsaw puzzle. I made a little shelf for my stereo and we're enjoying Portishead right now (at least I am, that is). Photos are being updated daily.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A new wildlife sighting!

We knew there were bats on the island but we just got to see one close up. Sooz picked up her boots off the deck this afternoon and hiding underneath was a tiny little bat! He seemed a bit slow- moving but not injured (or rabid) so I scooped him up in a plant pot and took him downhill to the woods. He scampered up a bush and immediately hung upside-down. How cute!

We like bats in our family. Grant had a teacher who was crazy about them so he learned more than a usual amount on the subject in school. They also eat lots of mosquitoes, which makes them all right in my book.

The electricity is out!

About 7:15 this morning, I noticed my MacBook stopped charging and a quick investigation showed no power anywhere. I checked the big electrical cabinet and saw the main meter was dead, too.

Marcia called Vattenfall and their automated system said we had a known problem in our area, which was a relief, since it meant there wasn't a specific problem with our wiring.

She called back about 9:30 and spoke to a person who told us of scheduled maintenance to the high-voltage system on the island which should be done by 11. Apparently they sent a notification message, which I didn't receive, although I get their bills quite efficiently.

So now we're all queuing for the Cinderella to be back in service!

UPDATE: The power came on around 10:45. I let Marcia go first.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A super day

The weather was perfect. The girls sunbathed (no photos allowed), the boys went fishing (really!) and Rutger and I puttered around with little carpentry projects. Janne joined us for dinner and it was just a storybook day. Bliss.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trash day is complete

It's another nice morning and us boys spent it chopping up all the trash and bringing it to the recycling boat. We had to recruit the women-folk to help carry one last load before the boat left, but we managed to get rid of it all.

We're now settling in to watch Holland-Japan, and after that, the big wedding! Photos are now up in the webgallery.

Friday, June 18, 2010

We're in full swing now!

We spent the day getting the little house in shape for Rutger and Marcia. (Rutger refers to it as the "Love Shack". Marcia is lukewarm on that name.) Grant and I mounted the TV and it works well and looks very cool. We watched USA-Slovenia and are about to watch England after dinner.

I'll post photos tomorrow, but so far, all is well.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

We're here!

After a typically whirlwind day, we've made it safely to our little house. After a lovely morning with the Wilhelmis, we loaded up Marcia's car to a circus-like standard; Grant ended up having two bags of groceries in his lap on the last leg.

We met a new taxi boat driver, Daniel, who's a pianist in a jazz band, and who took us a new way, through the Runmarö Canal, in his boat, Astrid.

One snag is that my internet access seems to have degraded a great deal and my connection is pretty ropey. I'll have to work on that tomorrow. But for now, we're all snuggling up on the couch!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our schedule

Just for background, here's roughly what we have planned for our midsummer:
  • We arrive at Marcia & Rutger's tomorrow. Sooz & Grant take an earlier flight on SAS than I do; I'm flying BA after work. We go out the next day (borrowing Marcia's car) and  Marcia & Rutger (plus Archie) follow on Friday.
  • We spend a few days together as one big happy family but Rutger has to leave early, and then Marcia and the kids leave on Tuesday.
  • Margaret and Janne are going away for midsummer this year, so we'll be solo on the holiday weekend (although we'll see them before and after that weekend, of course). I think it's a good opportunity for us to get to know our neighbors better. And we really need to host Tony and Ann-Catrin at some point!
  • Grant is going to do some more painting at Dave's house, so he'll be occupied for a few days and earn a bit of pocket money for college.
  • We'll probably head to Gustavsberg and Namdö on a couple of day trips to pick up supplies and stave off island fever.
This visit will be a lot different than previous ones; there really isn't much building or fixing to do. We should be able to chill out and enjoy our little house and our little island with our friends. Stay tuned on the blog to see how that goes; I'm not well-known for chilling out.

UPDATE: There's some sort of wildcat pilot's strike in Sweden tomorrow and Sooz and Grant's flight has been canceled. We think they've been rebooked on a flight about 3 hours later but we're trying to confirm through the terrible hold music on SAS reservations. Sigh.

UPDATE 2: They're all set, leaving on a flight about 3 hours later. A bit inconvenient for Marcia & Rutger but at least we'll all get there tonight as planned. Phew.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Royal Wedding

I've been remiss in not posting about one of the biggest events on the Swedish social calendar. Next Saturday is the date of the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling.

Swedes are pulling out all the stops on this one. The English press (no stranger to royalty) are saying this is the biggest royal event since Charles and Diana were married (and that was a big one). When Sooz and I were in Arlanda late in April, the shops were filled with all sorts of wedding memorabilia. We decided against a commemorative tea towel at the time, but we might catch royal fever next week and buy some lovely kitsch!

It's a typically Swedish egalitarian story: Victoria fell in love with her gym instructor, a young man from a small town, and despite pressure from all sides, persevered and now her young man is soon to be, literally, a prince.

I'm sure we will watch at least the ceremony's highlights on TV, although both Holland and Denmark are playing that day, so there'll be competition for the remote.

As an aside, I've had a brush with Swedish royalty. I met Victoria's younger sister, Madeleine, on a few occasions, and even had the chance once to chat with her parents. They were very nice.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

England v USA

The World Cup is underway. Tonight is the big match round these parts, England vs the USA. As an American, everyone has been asking me who I will support tonight.

Honestly, I'll be supporting England. I have over a decade's worth of emotional investment in the team here, and there's no way I can switch that. But the US will be my second team for sure!

UPDATE: A 1-1 draw. The press in the US is much happier than that in the UK, to say the least.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Blackhawks win!

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last night, beating the Flyers in Philadelphia in overtime.

There's just one longer sports drought that needs to be finished now, but it's a big one.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

One week away!

We'll all be leaving a week from today- Sooz and Grant early in the day, and me after work. Then to start 18 glorious days in the Swedish sunshine (I hope!) I can't wait.

The 10-day weather forecast is starting to show our first days and so far things are looking good, sunny and about 16°C (61°F). Because it's a favorable forecast, I of course have a lot of confidence in it!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lord Stanley's Cup

I had posted previously about the World Cup (which begins in only 5 days) but there's a far older trophy being competed for just now. The Stanley Cup is awarded to the champions of professional hockey in North America, as it has been since 1893.

The finals are going on this week, and my Chicago Blackhawks are in it for the first time in a long while. Chicago sports teams are typically poorly managed. For a huge, sports-mad city, the success of its teams has been pretty meagre.

The Blackhawks have been no exception to this rule. They last won the Stanley Cup in 1961. When I was a boy, they had some of the most exciting players in the game: Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito. But in typical fashion, the team squandered the talents of those players, and even worse, their legacy over the years. I was really pleased by a New York Times article on how the club has reconnected with its stars. I hope the Hawks win the Cup this year; I'm watching the games on ESPN at ungodly hours in London. But even if they don't do it this year, I'm happy to see they've recaptured their history.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ollie's vacation

I had posted about Ollie's sitter, Ethie, having a hip replacement in April, which caused us to reschedule our Easter trip. I am happy to report she's recovering well, and is looking forward to Ollie being with her when we leave on June 16. That's a relief.

Naturally, we would prefer Ollie to be with us on Aspö, but it's not worth the cost and stress of flying or driving him to Sweden for a 2½ week vacation. Although we'll miss him, he'll be quite happy to stay with his old friends Ethie and her dog Dino, who has a touch of arthritis himself. The three of them will be a slow-moving group while we're away!

Also, we're celebrating Ollie's 7th birthday today. Coincidentally it's 1½ years since his surgery; he's having swimming therapy today to keep his back strong, and I think he'll get a bit of liver tonight as a birthday treat!