Friday, May 27, 2011

Radiator II

I posted in February about a radiator with a digital thermostat I had seen at Bauhaus. I planned to use it to allow much more precise control of the temperature in the bathroom over the next winter. Rutger picked it up for me, in fact I think it was the exact same one pictured in my post, as it was a floor model, and it was only 249 kronor. Such a deal!

It fits perfectly in the bathroom and it looks great. However, I found a fatal flaw. I can set it to 5 degrees, no problem, however, if the power were to go out at our house, its thermostat resets... to 25 degrees! That would be really bad. So this radiator is definitely out for winter use.

Thankfully, Clas Ohlson came to the rescue. I found a plug-in thermostat online which can be used to work any radiator. Their helpful tech support desk confirmed to me this unit has a battery inside so it remembers its setting in case of a power cut. It is designed to do exactly what I want, in fact in Swedish it's called a "frost guard". I ordered one and will use it this winter for sure.

The good news is that the radiator and the extra thermostat ended up costing far less than the radiator's original price. I'm happy.

Monday, May 23, 2011


... is, as you may remember, the Swedish tax authority. My tax forms arrived to my Texas address this week, and once again, my net tax is zero. I like that figure, but I admit I still retain a nagging feeling that I should owe something.

Rutger happened to be visiting and he looked at my papers. He agrees that I have properly registered my house; all the numbers and names match, so I'm not hiding or misrepresenting anything. If the authorities say I don't owe them anything, I'm going to believe them.

Skatteverket has a cool iPhone app to submit your taxes; unfortunately, it doesn't work from the USA as their text number isn't recognized. I had to do it over the internet, but that took about a minute.

There's a wealth of info in English on the Skatteverket website. My favorite is "Purchasing and performing undeclared work in Sweden". These guys are serious about collecting tax on everything.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another power cut

We found a postcard from Vattenfall in our Texas mailbox when we got home. They said our power was going to be out for an hour at 9:00 last Tuesday morning. (Readers may remember the same thing happened last summer.)

Normally, I wouldn't worry too much about this, but we left our fridge on with lots of food, so Sooz was worried about the power not coming back for some reason and spoiling our stuff. I called Janne and he said it was no big deal, but of course Sooz still worried. Janne came to her rescue with a site visit and confirmed all was well at our home.

Then we got another postcard yesterday about yet another power cut, coincidentally yesterday, too.  I sent Vattenfall an email asking why they send postcards about this, when we correspond over email on everything else. They responded that, legally, they had to send a postcard. Still seems strange to me. Since this is becoming old hat nowadays, we won't bother Janne to double-check this recent power cut, too. Who knows how many more postcards we will get over the next few weeks?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Meet Viktor!

On our most recent visit, Sooz and I took an evening walk through the center of the island, instead of our customary lap of the perimeter. We came across someone working on a site fairly high up on the berg, or "rock". When we went over to introduce ourselves, the workman said his name was Viktor, and we told him we lived in the X-House further downhill.

To our astonishment, he said, "oh yes, I know you, family Langford". Turns out Viktor is building an X-House much like ours, and Stefan had showed him our blog. He has been reading it closely and said it inspired him to build an X-House of his own. Wow.

He came over to visit us the next day and we had a good walk through of our house, shared our photos and plans, and Viktor made a few measurements of his own. It was great fun, and we look forward to seeing him again when we're back this summer.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eurovision wrap-up

We had a great party with a bunch of ex-pats and one newbie family. I was able to get the show on a Spanish TV channel in the end. My friend Kenji picked Greece as the winner a number of years ago at a party in my house and he did it again by picking Azerbaijan. Rick (the newbie) got into the spirit very quickly and had a number of excellent one-liners throughout the show.

The UK entry was OK- I think it was let down by the costumes and staging, which were a bit odd. Sweden's Eric Saade did well- for a while there I thought he might win and make my day perfect, but he faded a bit in the end.

I'm sure we will be hearing a bunch of these songs all summer on Skärgardsradio!

Next year in Baku

Azerbaijan is the winner of tonight's contest, and I give myself credit for calling it in Tuesday's post!

We had a super party at our house, but it's bedtime now. More tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The day has started out very well!

For the first time in 42 years, City are the winners of the FA Cup. Thank God!

Now all I need is a Swedish or English win at the Eurovision tonight and it will be a perfect day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The second semi-final

I'm pleased to report that Sweden's Eric Saade made it through to the final with the last available slot. Ireland made a good call with their crazy twins Jedward also making the final. Austria's Nadine can actually sing, which is becoming a rarity in the show these days. (Sooz also liked her asymmetrical haircut).

The bookies have France as the big favourite, with some sort of opera number. France is one of the "big five" countries (along with Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK)  that don't have to qualify. So all we know of those songs are their music videos, which aren't always indicative of the live show.

I'll try to post a recap before the show, but I may be distracted by the FA Cup that morning!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The First Semi-Final

....was held in Dusseldorf last night. I watched it on the website. The stream suffered a bit on my big TV but was perfectly watchable.

The semi-finals are fun to watch as the likes of San Marino won't ever make the final so this the only place to see them. However, there's a lot of dross on offer as well. Obviously, auto-tune hasn't made its way very far east across Europe.

Croatia didn't go through, which was a shame as they has a couple of classic-old school costume changes. Turkey had a contortionist in an ball cage for some reason. As for Portugal, I really don't have the words.

From the ones that successfully went through to the Saturday final, I liked Serbia and Sooz's favourite was Russia. Look at the clips and you can guess why. I have to say that Azerbaijan had a pretty catchy mid-tempo duet. They may do well on the big day.

I trawled through the depths of my cable TV guide and found a Portugese channel which looks to be showing the final live. I signed up for the station on a 3-month trial. We'll see if it works; if not, I have my trusty, if slightly pixellated, internet for our evening's Eurovision party.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I found one consequence of returning to the US rather than the UK: jetlag. I've been up for a couple of hours now with no more sleep on the horizon...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hello from Heathrow

As I thought- we had a great time with a bunch of really interesting people at a trendy restaurant last night. One of my favorite comments was when my seat-mate told me he had heard on the radio that this was the coldest week in May since records were kept! It sure felt that way on Tuesday and Wednesday, especially.

Our 0500 wake up call hit us pretty hard. Thankfully it was quite bright outside already which made the journey easier to take.

We made our SAS flight with no problems and now are waiting for our connecting flight to Texas. So it's back to Ollie and our American life for now.

Stay tuned, as there will be a few Eurovision posts this week, leading up to the big day on Saturday!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Onboard the m/s Roslagen

Damn is it hard to leave, especially on such a beautiful day. There aren't many of us on the boat going from the islands on a sunny Saturday afternoon. At least we didn't have to do a lot to close up the house as Sooz will be back in just 4 weeks.

Claes and Eva-Lis, the artists who have a studio behind our house, are holding an open house today, sponsored (I think) by Varmdö kommun, so they have little signs and ribbons along the trail. We'll be missing that as our boat left just as things were getting started. Damn again.

Our plan is to do a bit of shopping at Gustavsberg and then back to Marcia & Rutger's. We've been invited to join a birthday party of one of Marcia's friends in the city tonight which should be fun, but it will probably make for a short night as we need to catch the 0600 airport bus the next morning.

UPDATE: We talked to Willie; he called while we were at Gustavsberg. All is well in Dalarna, but like all contractors, he's scrambling because the harsh winter took away a couple of months of the building season so there's a big backlog to get work done. His son, Eddie, is doing well playing hockey in Canada. Willie said he might be in the archipelago at the end of June, so perhaps we'll get to see him at our house. We both would like that.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What a beautiful day!

It was finally clear and sunny today, with a great big blue sky and warm sunshine. If only the whole week was like this! Sooz burned all of our trimmings from yesterday and I stained the deck. Our neighbor, Karin, came by to say hello, plus another visitor, Vincent, whom I'll write more about later. I also tried to straighten out one of the deck planks which turned into a larger project than I had planned. Lots of photos are on the gallery.

Janne was over for another fine dinner, and we ended up with 'Dancing With the Stars'. There are plenty of stars outside, tonight, too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Becoming sunnier!

We didn't sleep in quite as late today. The weather seemed to be improving, so we went down to the dock to dump our trash and check our mail (like we ever get anything other than birthday cards for me!)

Sooz decided to spread some grass and flower seeds on top of the dirt mound covering our grey water tank. I dug out the bridges I built last fall to try to get them to set better into the earth. I put some grass seed around my dug-up areas as well. Hopefully it will look great when we're back in June!

I noticed that our Cinderella exhaust pipe was knocked askew, probably by the same storm that took down all our branches. I was able to put it back into place but I feared it may not yet be sealed fully. I called Anders, who installed our bathroom, and he said he'd stop by over the coming weeks to take a look.

We spent the afternoon cutting trees and brush. I used the chain saw with no damage to myself, I'm happy to report. It is almost an addicting pursuit; there's always one more branch to lop off somewhere.

Tomorrow Sooz will burn the pile and we'll be all neat for the summer. Janne stopped by with our paper towels and ketchup, bless him. He didn't stay for dinner as the dentist really did a number on him today. We'll dine together tomorrow for sure.

Tonight is 'Modern Family' and 'Glee', downloaded over my surprisingly fast internet connection. First, though, I'm making Sooz listen to 'My Life In the Bush of Ghosts" which she's not really enjoying, I'm sorry to say.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that I talked today to Johan, my Cinderella vendor, about a question I had. He remembered us very well after 3 years, which I thought was very nice. He told me his business was doing great; they're selling more Cinderellas every year!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A rainy Wednesday better than snow, I suppose! We slept to 9 (I blame the jetlag) and didn't do much besides a lap of the island to see Janne and Tony and their latest building project. A few photos are on the gallery now.

Janne's going into town tonight and he's going to pick up some ketchup and paper towels, both of which are vital goods we seem to have run out of.

We are expecting improving weather over the next couple of days. We sure wouldn't mind some sunshine!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

All is OK!

Sorry for not posting the past couple of days. I was hit with jetlag Saturday night and Sunday was spent shopping at Bauhaus for various supplies. We crammed Marcia's car Monday morning with the Fatboy and the rest of our stuff. Sooz drove it to Gustavsberg for grocery shopping and I took the bus to Stavsnäs. We met our taxibåt, and laden almost to the gunwales, we arrived on Aspö around 12:30 to a nice sunny day.

Janne and Tony met us and a quick wheelbarrow brigade got all our goods safely home. The house looked in great shape, (except for a number of fallen branches on the property) and our well-practiced routine had it all cleaned up and commissioned in no time.

Sooz caught some sunshine and then we retired for the evening by watching 'Dancing With The Stars' through my MacBook on our TV set.

Tuesday wasn't sunny, in fact it was pretty cold and damp. I set to making my storage bench, and after a few hours, and with only a few mis-steps, I ended up building exactly what I was hoping for. Sooz started a fire to burn our wood scraps and the fallen timber. Good thing she started early, as the cold and damp turned to snow later in the day! Sooz was Not Happy. I hid in the little house, replacing the ugly shop light with a more stylish IKEA paper one.

Janne and Tony came over for dinner and we were all cheerful after Sooz's lemon-thyme pork chops and a half a box of red wine. It's an early bedtime as we're both beat. But what's that? Where are the pictures? Don't worry—click here for your May 2011 photo gallery.