Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Onboard the m/s Solöga

We're heading back on the 1830 boat. The Solöga is an icebreaker, which tonight is almost empty. We're on the upper deck by ourselves. It's an eerie feeling, scraping through the ice in the pitch darkness.

The walk to the dock was also surreal. It's hard to describe how dark it is at 6 o'clock! Thank goodness for flashlights.

Our last day was nice; we walked around the island (including the ice!) and Grant finished clearing the deck. Lots of new photos on the webgallery and I have a few topics to post about in the coming days. But for now, the bus from Stavsnäs is waiting...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We're here!

It was an early start but our trip out to Stavsnäs was smooth. The bus and the boat were both pretty empty, although we saw Annica and Ole, which was a treat.

The sea was pretty iced over, and there is a lot of snow on the island. The main path was OK but the last bit to our house was deep. We were knee-high in places!

The house was warm, it was great that Janne turned on the heat for us. It was a balmy 70°F inside by dinnertime, and only 20°F outside. Cozy!

Grant and I (well. mostly Grant) moved a lot of snow off the deck, I calculated 2700 pounds' worth. At least it was light and fluffy. Otherwise, the house seems to be in great shape. Lots of photos are on the Christmas webgallery and lots more tomorrow.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Plan B

It's a lot colder than I had expected. I was fine with turning the on the water with the temperature close to zero. But with it dropping to -10°, I'm not happy with doing that.

So we're now planning to go out for only a day and a half, and do without the water. I have a few bottles of H2O under the house, and we'll bring paper plates. The Cinderella, of course, doesn't require any water, so we should be all set for at least an overnight visit.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Kalle Anka

We're about 15 minutes away from sitting down together (with half of all Swedes) to watch the traditional Christmas broadcast of Donald Duck and friends. I've posted previously about this phenomenon. Marcia forwarded me an article from Slate which tells the whole story of Kalle Anka far better than I ever could.

After Kalle, then Marcia's julbord, and finally, the opening of gifts. Photos are up on the right in the 'Christmas 2010' webgallery.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fortune is smiling upon us?

Not only has the weather (and Heathrow's second runway) cleared up, but a friend at SAS called to say they were running an extra flight to Stockholm at noon, and would we rather take it than our scheduled 6PM flight? Yes, please!

So we're about to go to the airport. I'll update once we're on our way...

UPDATE: We're all checked in and sitting in the SAS lounge. We should be departing within the hour. It's darned busy here but things are moving pretty well.

UPDATE 2: We made it in around 5pm and had a lovely evening with the Wilhelmis, even though it is -19 tonight! Brrrrr....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weather, etc.

Lots going on this morning, weather-wise.
  • The trouble at Heathrow is well documented these past few days. I find it amazing that one of the biggest airports in the world can't clear both runways after one 6-inch snowfall. At the moment, our flight on Thursday evening is still operating, and the forecast the next few days is favorable, so I'm still confident we can make it to Sweden.
  • I called Janne just now and he was at our house! He said the bathroom was nice and warm and he was turning on the heat, as it was -10°C. He was also shoveling the deck a bit; he estimated about 70cm of snow there.
  • Skatteverket mailed tax forms yesterday, our first full year after registering our property. I'm pleased to report that our tax bill is zero! Hooray!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas weather

We'll be leaving for Sweden in just 5 days, close enough to take a look at the long-range forecast.

It doesn't look too bad, although there's a lot of snow on the ground, as reported by Janne, Margaret and Marcia. It's also snowing heavily in London right now, too.

We're still planning to spend a few days on Aspö from the 27th, although that depends on how cold and snowy it is there. I know Grant would love to stay in the snow- he's never seen the island snowed over. Sooz, on the other hand, is less enthusiastic.

At minimum, Grant and I will go out for a day to check on the house and bring stuff out. Janne is going to turn on the heat a few days early, so our house should be nice and toasty, which I think will help convince Sooz to spend a few winter nights on our little island.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


We're in the throes of our move from London; as anyone who has moved can relate, there are boxes all over our house. I'm responsible for the moving into our Texas home, and Sooz has the move out from London.

To complicate matters, we have one last big load of house stuff and Christmas presents to take to Sweden. We have, for example, a few 240-volt items that make no sense to take to the US, so we're carrying them to Aspö.

We've just found out about the weight of our items, which is pretty interesting. I had posted previously about living with less, and now I know the scale of the task ahead of us. The combination of our mystery box in Texas storage and our goods from the UK comes to almost exactly 10 tons of accumulated posessions.

Going through all of this stuff over the coming months will be interesting, to say the least. A simple summer holiday on Aspö will probably be just what the doctor ordered after that project!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Lucia!

I don't have much to add today; there's not much of a Swedish community in Texas as far as I can tell.

My previous posts will have to suffice for this year!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Terror comes to Stockholm

Not to sound glib, but we're a bit used to extremist attacks here in London. To have read about a bombing on Drottninggatan came as a shock, although it's interesting the suspect in yesterday's attack lived in England for a period.

In hindsight, though, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. Immigration, especially from Muslim countries, is a hot issue all throughout northern Europe. The Sweden Democrats, a nationalistic, anti-immigrant party, made significant gains in the recent elections.

Sweden prides itself on being a tolerant and accepting society. However, the recent influx of immigrants, and the response to it by a significant segment of the population, is placing the country's self-image under a stern test these days.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Renewable energy

One thing I've found during my time in Texas is that energy usage is not viewed the same way as it is in Europe. I'm used to talking about it in terms of climate change, sustainability, the carbon footprint, etc.

Here in Texas, the lead story on the morning news was the rise in the price of a gallon of gas (to $2.75 a gallon, as opposed to $7.45 in the UK). It's all about consumption rather then conservation, which to be fair, might be expected in a oil-producing state. (I do drive past a gas well on my way to work every day).

The New York Times published an article today about the Swedish city of Kristianstad, who decided to change their energy usage from fossil fuels to a sustainable model. It's taken some work, but the city now gets their energy from local, renewable sources.

There's one great renewable energy source on Aspö: wood. Most every house has a big stack of firewood outside, and a fireplace inside. I've looked at fireplaces a lot over the years, and our stay last October would have been a lot more comfy with a roaring fire. One day, we'll have one...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

More on Winter Weather

I came back from Dallas yesterday to quite a bit of snow here in London. Whenever it snows here, there's always quite a bit of disruption and lots of national hand-wringing about our inability to handle the precipitation.

This article in the Guardian is a perfect example. Sweden is used as a model for handling winter weather. I think it's a little funny. Of course Swedes are accomplished at coping with snow and cold; after all, they have many months to practice every year!

We'll be there in less than three weeks to sample the winter delights ourselves. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Approach the Bench

We had thought early on about having some sort of a breakfast nook at the end of the kitchen. Sooz and I kicked around a lot of ideas but never settled on anything. When we bought our little round table, we thought we'd tuck it into that corner, but frankly it's been moved around a lot during our stays there, and rarely stays in that corner anymore. When we bought our big teak outdoor table, we found ourselves eating outside the majority of time.

I don't have any specific photos of the area in question but here's a couple from last summer. I've added yellow arrows for clarity:
We've hit upon the idea of building a bench along that wall. The space is 140cm, or about 55 inches wide. Luckily, this is a good length. It's a standard size for bench cushions (although there are a number of custom shops out there, too). It is also just wide enough for 4 IKEA baskets to fit underneath. An extra advantage of a bench is that it's simple enough for me to make myself.
I like the idea of under-seat baskets, as we accumulate recycling and various other stuff in that area (just look at the photos to see what I mean). We could easily keep those things neat and out of the way.

When we go at Christmas, I think we'll bring along a couple of baskets (with Marcia, of course, doing the actual shopping for us) and measure everything carefully so I can be ready to get the wood and install next spring. I'll leave the cushion choice to Sooz, though!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Sweden braces for record freeze'

From The Local:
"Stockholm is forecast to experience its coldest seasonal temperatures for over 100 years this week as winter weather takes hold of the country, according to the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI).

Temperatures across the country are expected to drop to record lows for the first week of December, with the exception of the far north, with averages coming in 7-10 degrees Celsius below normal.

Stockholm registered -11 degrees Celsius at the weekend, the coldest November temperature since 1965 and the mercury is set to plunge further on Wednesday and Thursday, dropping as low as -15.

"It is far below average temperatures, which usually oscillate around zero at this time of the year," said Alexandra Ohlsson, a meteorologist with SMHI."