Sunday, October 31, 2010

Speaking of Christmas...

We are indeed returning to the Wilhelmi's for a week over this Christmas. Grant will be joining us, all the way from North Carolina, although Ollie will stay in London with Ethie.

We'll go out to our stuga, but we're not sure if it'll just be a day trip, or if we might try to spend a day or two there. I think we'll play it by ear and see how cold it is that week. (If there's snow, I know Grant will want to go. He still hasn't seen Aspö after a snowfall!)

In any case, I'm sure we'll have a super holiday!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Underhouse supports

In what seems like an eternity ago (but was not quite two years), I had a discussion with Willie about adding foundation supports to our house. He did, and so far, everything seems fine; the house held up well under the huge loads of snow on the roof and there's no obvious signs of settling.

While on one of my forays underneath the house this summer, I found one concrete plinth that Wille hadn't added a support to. I decided to handle this one myself, and looked on the web for some sort of product I could use.

Soon enough, I found the Ellis company in Oklahoma, "shoring and bracing specialists since 1951". I bought a timber jack, designed for a 4x4 piece of lumber which I could tighten under the house and provide one extra support.

I ordered and carried it from Dallas to Stockholm last month when Rutger and I were out. However, there was one snag- the metric lumber I had here didn't fit! I needed a good old American 4x4.

So when we visited Grant's school for parent's day, We visited the local Home Depot and some exceedingly nice folks cut me a piece of wood to measure. (I had measured it in centimeters and of course there wasn't one metric ruler in the whole store. But one of the younger clerks had an app on his iPhone to convert for me.) 

So into my luggage went my North Carolina souvenir, and we carried it out on this visit. I am happy to report it fit perfectly, and in only a couple of minutes, I was able to tighten the jack and provide the house one more contact with our island below.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bill, you got nuthin' on my Don

Just wanted to try my hand at a rare blog post, just to show Don that I -can-.
So, thought I would share this tidbit about Bill Gates, just in from my pal Susan, seeings as the subject matter has been a major issue on this blog in the past:

"According to MG Siegler at TechCrunch, Gates went on and on about the future of latrines. One quote from Gates:
Latrines are fascinating. No one wants to read about it — it’s one of the greatest under-investments.
In Gates’ opinion, according to TechCrunch, he sees the current flushable toilet as ‘the gold standard’, but it isn’t efficient in terms of water consumption. He thinks that the tech sector needs to focus more energy and money on toilets."

Well, well, well. Don was right on top of this one (no pun intended) a couple years ago.

Good morning from London

Sorry I didn't get a chance to write yesterday, it was a slow start to the morning and then a busy afternoon before we flew home. We visited a huge new shopping complex at Bromma airport; the old SAS maintenance hangars were turned into halls filled with stores of every description. My favourite was Clas Ohlson, a stuga owner's dream! I could have bought 50 things there, easily.

Lots more to write about but I'm off to the USA this morning, so more later.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We're at the Wilhelmis

We made the bus, no problem, and we stopped at the ICA in Gustavsberg to do a bit of shopping on our way to Rutger & Marcia's. Rutger is cooking up a huge sirloin steak for dinner. More tomorrow.

Snowy Saturday morning

It was a pretty unusual day for us yesterday. The snow came down pretty heavy until after lunchtime, I think about 3 or 4 inches. Then around 3 o'clock, the storm front passed in a very clear line. We walked to the dock to take a photo (it's on the webgallery), and the views were beautiful, with the sunshine on the fresh snow.

Janne joined us again for dinner. Sooz made a tasty pasta dish out of our leftovers. Janne and I talked about keeping the heat on in the bathroom. Last winter, my electrical bill was about 750kr a month. Janne, living in his house, was about 1500kr, so I think I overheated our bathroom!

I'm still going to leave a radiator on this year, but a smaller one, and I'm going to close the Cinderella's air vent, which I completely forgot about last year. We've also insulated the bathroom window, so I think I'll be a lot more efficient with my heating. We'll see.

Today, it's a noon boat, so we have about 3 hours to close up the house. Sigh.

Friday, October 22, 2010


After a beautiful clear evening (a few night photos are on the webgallery) and another fine dinner with Janne, we awoke to a surprise snowfall! I took a panoramic photo from the deck. It's very pretty, big thick fluffy flakes and it's been coming down for at least 5 hours.

My building plans are on hold, so for the time being, Sooz and I will snuggle away our afternoon in our winter wonderland.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don gets into the act

It's turned into a really nice day, clear as a bell, a crisp autumn afternoon for the the textbooks.

Sooz continued with her citronsyra treatments and she's very pleased with the way it's cleaning up the walls. At Janne's suggestion, I've been building a couple of new bridges over the low spots in the path towards our house. Grant and I had nailed a few boards together 2 years ago but we need something more substantial. So far, so good, and I'll put up photos soon.

Tonight, we're going to Janne's for dinner. Sooz roasted a chicken and we'll bring that over. The moon is full and clear, it should be a lovely evening.

Thursday Morning

...dawned pretty clear but cold, close to 0°c. The rain and snow that had been forecast appears to be passing us by, although the north wind is quite bracing to say the least!

Yesterday was great fun. I managed to get the lamp mounted, and it looks great, works well, and I wasn't electrocuted. Sooz used the citronsyra solution (thanks to Janne's great advice) on the wood stains inside the house, to great success.

We visited Janne and Tony, working on a new stuga on the north of the island, near Janne's house. They joined us for dinner, and we had a great evening.

This morning, I added a second catch to all of our windows. I had used only one, and that north wind made it obvious to me that our windows needed to be squeezed shut on both sides! That has made a big difference already.

Not sure what else we'll do today but I'm sure I'll think of something. Photos are in the webgallery, and more will be up soon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A video post from Sooz

It was a great evening last night at Margaret's, including dinner with Marcia and Rutger. It was an early start today, but we made it from St. Eriksplan with all our stuff intact.

The house looks great, and we've started on a few projects, but I'll let Sooz tell you herself...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The weather's not looking that great!

The latest from the SMHI calls for rain most of the time we're there, and not too warm, either, 8°C/46°F for the high.

Fortunately, Janne is going to stop by and turn on the heat for us. I'd prefer to keep it a little bit cool, however, so Sooz has an excuse to snuggle up for warmth!

UPDATE Tuesday evening, Just received this email from Margaret :"Snow arriving from the North, most likely on Weds evening...not much expected for Stockholm, more like 'wet slush'.

It's supposed to be very cold though, from Wednesday through the weekend...make sure you've got hats, gloves, scarves and an extra sweater on hand out there!"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Does Money Buy Happiness?

I sent this New York Times article to my friends and colleagues a few weeks ago. It must have struck a nerve; virtually everyone I sent it to replied with a thoughtful response.

Most of my friends are around the same stage in life: 20 or so years of accumulated stuff, kids off to school, retirement no longer an abstract concept. The idea of chucking it all, living simply and with little burden of possessions, is alluring to me and, and apparently, to my friends.

I have extra reasons for this article to hit home. First is the matter of an enormous box sitting in a storage facility in Texas. When we moved to London in early 1999, we didn't expect to be gone for very long, so we put most everything in storage when we moved over. Nearly 12 years later, this box has become a time capsule waiting for us (although to Sooz, I think it's more of a time bomb instead). At this point, I can only remember a few of the things left behind. Eventually, we'll have to open it, and I'm sure most of our life from the previous millenium will go either into the trash or on eBay. That really proves the point of the article; do without most of your posessions, and it's surprising how little of it you miss!

Another reason of course, is our stuga. Because our house is small, there's not a lot of room to fill with things in the first place. Even more important is the logistical cost of getting something out to the island. Carrying a big load of groceries on the bus from Gustavsberg, or a piece of furniture uphill from the Waxholms dock, gets old pretty quickly. I find myself thinking very closely about anything I might want to bring out to the house, because to get it there, I'll have to take it on a plane, a train, a bus, a boat, and a wheelbarrow. That's great motivation to cut back!

Which brings us back to the point of having a summer stuga—to live more basically, to have less stuff around you, to be closer to the rhythms and pleasures of daily life. If I don't yet have the nerve to leave it all behind and do it permanently, the simple life sure is nice for a few weeks out of the year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The October weather

We leave a week tomorrow and I took a look at the Stavsnäs long-range forecast. It's calling for the weather to be dry but pretty cool, 8ºC (or 46ºF).

The Local reports on the first big snowfall in northern Sweden over the weekend. I think we'll be safe down south on Aspö, though.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Foreign Sheds

Not much progress on the shed front, unfortunately. I've called the people at Caboden twice and sent them English and Swedish emails, with no reply at all. I really like the look of their product, though, so I guess my next step is to ask Rutger or Janne to talk them Swede-to-Swede. But frankly, it's a Spring 2011 project now, so there's no hurry.

When Rutger and I went up to Aspö a few weeks ago, we stopped by Bygg-Ole in Gustavsberg to look at their shed collection. Rutger thinks I should get something bigger if I'm going to go through the trouble. We saw a model called "Skagen" on sale for 42,000kr which was nice, but I fear too large and definitely too pricey. I think the same company's "Lasse" is more my size (4.2 square meters) and price (15,000 kronor).

Last weekend, I visited a Home Depot while in North Carolina to visit Grant. I have to say I was amazed at the range, and especially the price, of sheds available there. Here's Sooz pictured in front of just the smaller of the models available.

This shed is closest to the size I want. It's actually a little larger, 8 x 8 feet, or about 6 sq. m. But notice the price; $1329, or just under 10,000 kronor with sales tax. That includes delivery, painting, and installation on site!  Holy moly.

I checked the paperwork, and that deal is unfortunately only for installation within 50 miles of the store. Seeing how Aspö is 4420 miles away, that probably wouldn't work. Darn.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Toilets, once again

I read recently of a photographic exhibition of toilets around the world. It was created by the French artist and environmental campaigner, François Cuel.

His key quote: "The exhibition is meant to make people smile but also to invite them to think. Access to proper toilets, and more generally to water, is a privilege denied to many people."

I've touched on this theme before. Dealing with the issues of waste and sanitation at our stuga has shown me how much we take our flush toilets for granted.

The Independent has an article on the exhibition, along with a few photographs, here. It's worth a look.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm still here!

Been travelling a lot these days. (In fact, I'm in Heathrow this morning, just about to leave for Amsterdam). I do have a few interesting topics to write about in the upcoming days, and we leave for Aspö in exactly two weeks. So stay tuned!