Monday, August 29, 2011

Star Trails

I'd like to try some star trail photography when we're on Aspö next week, as seen in this example. I feel I should take advantage of the wonderful dark nights out there.

One of my colleagues is an accomplished photographer, and she lent me a number of articles about the technique. I now have a bit of software on my mac, along with a star tracker app for my iPhone!

We'll see how successful I am (weather permitting) in just a few days, and of course I'll share any decent photos that I may come up with.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I found a website with a bunch of cool modernish birdhouses. They are also pretty pricey but it gave me the idea to perhaps make one of my own. I have plenty of scrap wood and I might give it a go.

What we really would like to do is to make a bat house; we've seen a few bats on Aspö and they're threatened in Sweden. I looked into plans and kits but that seems a more complicated project than I'm willing to get into right now. I'll give a birdhouse a try for starters!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Labor Day

I realized that I haven't posted about our next trip to our house.

It will be pretty soon, just over two weeks from now, as we're going to spend the week of Labor Day on Aspö. We don't have a big agenda this time. Getting away from the Texas heat will be nice. Seeing Rutger, Marcia and Janne is always great.  We'll have dinner with Tony and Ann-Catrin one night. And we plan to meet with Krister the painter and Janne the electrician too.

The only building project I have is to make a cabinet for the circuit breaker box in the little stuga. I also want to try to take more time lapse movies, should the weather permit. But that's it. Just island relaxation.

We will also be closing up the house for the winter which is bothering me a bit. We're not planning to be back until next spring, and I find it unsettling to be away for 7 months. Also Janne won't be on Aspö this winter, although Annica and Olle have said they'd keep an eye on our place.

You may ask why we'll be away for so long? It's a good question. It is because of the different policies  regarding vacation time in the US and UK. Interestingly, the United States is the only industrialized country that does not have any legal requirements for vacation time. Vacation rules are up to one's employer. New employees joining my company here in the US earn their vacation during the year to be used in the next year.

For various tax and legal reasons, my return to the US after so long in the UK caused me to be treated as a new employee, and as such, I have no paid vacation at all this year. This became clear to me only after I had already spent three weeks in Sweden and bought tickets for a fourth.

Fortunately, my employers are reasonable, and a fair solution was reached. The big downside to me is that my September trip will use up my last vacation days this year. I'll have my usual 6 weeks next year, but it doesn't make much sense to go all the way to Sweden for a limited trip in the wintertime. So it looks like perhaps Easter next year for our first trip back, which is why there's a 7 month gap between visits.

Sooz and I are talking about changing our travel calendar for next year, in any case. That will be a subject for us, and for this blog, in the coming months.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Other Homes

I've been flying a lot recently, and on a trip home the other day, I read about not one, not two, but three interesting houses. The first was in the New York Times about a home near Death Valley, built for an Italian couple. I love its interior, and I share the owner's admiration of their night sky. Seeing a huge field of stars is one of my favourite things on Aspö.

The second house was in Dwell, a simple little cabin, but with the ability to literally crank the deck up and close the house away from the elements. I looked at the architects' website about the cabin and found another house I liked even more. I spent a lot of time reviewing all their projects and I highly recommend a look.

Dwell also provided the third house, a funky blue number on Quebec's Magdelen island. I like the way a simple house, which reflected a simple way of life, can be restored and updated so charmingly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Box Wine Redux

I posted almost three years ago about the phenomenon of boxed wine. The logistical appeal of an easily transported unit of wine is very strong for island dwellers. On the mainlands, box wine is increasingly popular, especially on the lower ends of the wine market.

Things seem to be changing these days, however. The New York Times ran an article last week which points out that some pretty good wines can be had in boxes these days. I just might splurge and bring a special box from the USA out to Aspö next summer!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Paint colors

Sooz went through a huge number of options when we repainted our Texas kitchen. Being color blind myself (and a fan of primary colors), I found the process a bit difficult. Sooz would show me a selection of paint chips that all looked pretty much the same to me, yet I felt compelled to provide some sort of input.

In the end, the kitchen island was painted "Moose Mousse", the walls "Apple Blossom", the breakfast room "Raffia", and the living room is in "Cliff". The dining room is now covered in "Sheer Pout" and our office is "Morning Sand".

I mention all of these color names because of an amusing article in the New York Times about the trend for obscure paint naming. It's worth a read.

As for our stuga, I've spoken to Krister, the house painting expert on Nämdö. He's seen our place and he will be back in September to talk to us about the best way to go forward. After talking to a bunch of people and researching a bit, we know we need a specific type of paint called slamfärg (literally "mud paint"). The traditional red color of Swedish houses comes from the copper mines in Falun, commonly known as Falu red. Slamfärg is a derivative of the standard Falu red; it contains more linseed oil, among other things.

Red is by far the predominant color, but yellow and grey are also popular. The good news is that we can get slamfärg in most any color we want. The bad news (see my previous post) is that we can get just about any color we want. We had chosen a medium grey which just about matches the non-darkened exposures of the house. I have to say I'm wavering on that now. Perhaps a darker grey would be better. Maybe even a greenish or brownish grey?

We will talk further with Krister when we see him and of course we'll have to think this over thoroughly before choosing, as I assume he'll be painting next spring.