Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I spy with my little eye....

I turned on the internet earlier this week at the stuga so I could have a look at the cameras and the weather station. It's been quiet, no moose or snowstorms, but I still get a kick out of looking at our house from far away:

First snow of the year

Nice and quiet on the inside
Glad to see my indoor radiator is working as designed.

Until we can get back out to our little house, this is the next best thing!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Julafton!

I've posted plenty of times before about the Swedish tradition of watching Kalle Anka on Christmas Eve. (Click that link if you don't believe me!)

This Julafton, I thought I'd post something a touch classier. The Financial Times commissioned a new Christmas carol, with lyrics adapted from Scandinavian rune poems.

It's beautiful, and the video certainly does it justice. I'm sharing it here as a tiny present to my readers.

Merry Christmas and God Jul, everyone!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

An inflatable hot tub

I mentioned an inflatable ferry earlier this month. Today I present another inflatable, one that may well end up in our home one day: a hot tub!

This is the Bestway 4-person tub, their "Miami" model. It can be assembled/inflated within 10 minutes, and has a circulating pump, 81 air jets, a timer, and a 40°C heater all included.

It would be fairly easy to tote it out to the island and set it up, perhaps on our new deck, on a local flat rock. Sitting under the stars on a cool evening would be wonderful!

The biggest problem would be to fill it up with 800 litres of water. I'm not sure I would want to take that much out of our well, and moving it from the ocean wouldn't be that easy, either. Something to think about...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Lucia in London

I had hoped to come to the Swedish church for Lucia celebrations today, but I found out too late that it's the hottest ticket on the expatriate social calendar. Next year, I'll buy early.

Thankfully, we found something even better: Skandilicious, a Swedish pop-up restaurant nearby in Chelsea.

We had a fantastic time; all of the staff were Swedish, so we just chatted the afternoon away, being adopted Swedish ex-pats ourselves.

Most importantly, the food was absolutely delicious. Let's just say that we skipped dinner tonight!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A portable ferryboat

I've recently read about an inflatable ferry from a Slovenian company. When folded, it's portable, easily inflatable, and can carry up to 5,000kg, which is a heck of a big vehicle!

The company also says their boat is "practically unsinkable and incapable of overturning", which I think was also said about the Titanic. Of course, there aren't any icebergs in the archipelago, so it should be safe.

I certainly wouldn't have use for such a vessel, but it might be handy for some ad hoc construction projects around the islands.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Swedes in London

We've been busy getting settled into our new life in London. Only recently have we been able to start visiting further afield.

When we lived in the UK before, we went to Marleybone and visited the Swedish pub in 2010 to watch the Melodifestival live. Sooz went back to that part of town today, and brought me back a quart of my beloved filmjölk! (Here I am smiling at breakfast this morning.)

She also reported all sorts of restaurants, stores, shops and general Swedishness in the neighbourhood. It is fun to think that we are so close to a proper Swedish enclave, and we will definitely take advantage of it.

The Swedish Embassy runs a great page of information for Swedes in London, as does the Swedish Church. There are lots of other online resources, as well.

I have bookmarked all of these, and I plan to keep a close eye on nearby Swedish events!

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Time for my seventh annual Thanksgiving address. Looking back, quite a bit has happened. We lived in London at the first posting, then moved to Texas, and now we're back in the UK. Grant's graduated high school and college, and moved to New York. Ollie, though, is still with us. Today marks seven years on his repaired back. Although he's slowed down a lot, he remains (just like Sooz and Grant) handsome and happy. That is plenty to be thankful for today.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

World Toilet Day

Today is World Toilet Day, as set by the United Nations.

I realize all my postings about toilets are half in jest, but the issue of sanitation is serious business. Over two billion people don't have access to any kind of toilet facility at all. 

WaterAid, a worldwide charity active in both the UK and Sweden, is working to raise awareness (and money) for toilet construction in the third world. As they say, "having access to water and toilets transforms people’s life chances, leading to better health, education and economic opportunities." Every dollar (or pound, or kronor) spent to improve access to sanitation and water provides 4 timereturns in economic and social benefits.

I am choosy about the charities I support, but there's no question I'll be donating on World Toilet Day, and I hope my readers, do, too.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

House prices in Stockholm

They're pretty darned high, and only going higher. The Economist has a good (although slightly technical) article about the problem and the difficulty of addressing it.

Between these issues, and the huge growth in Varmdö kommun, I'm glad we built when we did!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dark Danish Prefab

Here's a pretty cool-looking prefab from the Danish design firm Vipp. Better known for its all-black designs for the kitchen, Vipp has branched out to an all-black home, the Shelter.

One thing I like about the Shelter is that it's all-inclusive. All of the hi-spec fixtures and fittings are provided for a fixed price of €485,000.

I'm not sure about the black-on-black esthetic, though. In a sunny climate, it would likely be damned hot, and in a Swedish winter, I think it'd be pretty gloomy.

That said, it is a very good-looking structure!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Another webcam

When I visited the house a couple of weeks ago, I left behind a second webcam to go along with my moose-cam. I set one high up on a shelf so I can have an eye on the inside of the house. Here's a recent look at its view.

There's not much to see, really. At night it's ghostly grey. Frankly, it mostly makes me pine for our little stuga.

More practically, though, I have moved my Netatmo weather station into the bathroom. Now I can have a check of the temperature of my 'warm room' over the winter. I suppose the next step will be the ability to actually change the temperature after I check it. I will look into that.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A harsh winter??

Olle told me that he had read that the upcoming winter was going to be a harsh one.

I found a couple of articles that backed him up. First was an accuweather forecast that said cold air would "build over Scandinavia" this winter.

The Local also repeats the accuweather news, with additions of their own.

They point out, however, that such long-range forecasts can be inaccurate.  Last year's forecast was also for a cold winter. In the end, it was one of the warmest ever recorded in Europe!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A quick weekend!

It's Tuesday evening, about my first chance to update after going to Aspö this weekend.

Everything worked out just as planned; I caught Norwegian Air right after work and made it to Marcia & Rutger's house in time for Rutger to make me a tasty hamburger.

I took the mid-day boat to Aspö on Saturday. The weather was spectacular: mid-50's, and sunny.   Olle and Annika had me over for another usually wonderful meal, and I rode back with them from Stavsnäs on Sunday afternoon.

My Norwegian flight back on Monday morning was smooth as well, and I was in the office well before 9.

The only snag is that I came down with a terrible cold as soon as I arrived in Sweden, so I was much lower-energy than I would have liked. I managed to pack up all the food and close up the house, but not a lot more than that.

I did manage to take a bunch of photos, thanks to Annika's encouragement, so an October photo page is now up.

This is our last trip for the year, but we'd like to make a winter visit early next year. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A quick update

We are all in London now; I started work recently, and Sooz and Ollie have made the journey from Texas safely.

Our belongings arrive next week, and the weekend after that, I'll be taking a quick jaunt to Aspö to close up our house for the winter.

We had hoped to perhaps spend a longer time there in the fall, but our London life is already pretty full these days. This will be a good test of the "quick flight over on the weekend" plan we'd like to use in the future!

Stay tuned for photos and updates in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain"

An interesting scientific study recently found that time spent in nature can make positive changes in one's mood and well-being.

I've certainly found this to be true in my time on Aspö. My connection to the environment around me there is much stronger than I've experienced before: what flowers are blooming, the different birds flying about, the crunch of a moose's hooves in the distance.

Perhaps the connection to nature, and one's fellow island residents, pushes away the stresses of a more fast-paced urban life?

That makes sense on an emotional level, but now we have scientific proof as well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Robot Garden

I written about a little device, the Click & Grow, which I bought to see if I could grow fresh herbs at the stuga. In 2014, I had a bit of success growing coriander.

I was going to grow basil this summer but I had a problem with the device. I was sent a new growing cartridge, but it arrived too late for me to start this year.

The Click & Grow people are working on a new product, called the "Smart Farm". The idea is to grow a whole lot of greens at once, in theory feeding a whole family.

I really like this idea. Sooz could have an extra countertop surface in the kitchen, and we could have a whole bunch of fresh greens year-round!

Right now, though, it isn't practical. We're back to spending just a week or two at a time at the stuga, not the longer periods we've spent the past few years, let along the whole summers of our retirement.

Another drawback of these products are the grow lights. The LED's used are very power efficient, and great for the plants, but they are bright. We one in our Texas home, and it's been banished to the laundry room as it fills the whole downstairs with light in the evenings. I'd probably have to keep it in the guest house, or the shed, which is a bit besides the point.

I am sure this technology will improve in the next few years, and it will be easy for me to become an indoor gardener!

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I read an interesting article recently on the BBC website about Västerbottensost, a very special type of Swedish cheese.

Because I love my cheese, I'm disappointed to say I can't remember ever having any. It sounds fascinating: a cheese that can be made successfully in only one specific location, for reasons unknown to science. Plus, it apparently tastes delicious!

I will make sure I find some västerbottensost the next time I'm in Sweden, and I'll report back to the blog.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Runmarö in the New York Times

My friend Rob forwarded me a fantastic article from this weekend's New York Times.

It's about the entomologist Fredrik Sjöberg, a longtime Runmarö resident, and unlikely bestselling author of books about native insects.

The article also describes Runmarö and its neighboring islands beautifully. I defy anyone to read it and not long to spend a summer in the archipelago!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Annika told us about a grocery delivery service called Mathem (which translates literally as "food home".)

Like any big-city shopping delivery service, one can select pretty much anything sold in a grocery store and have it delivered to the door.

The cool thing about this service is that they deliver to the archipelago as well. Aspö is within the daily delivery area.  (That cute little photo is from their website.)

In theory, Sooz could shop by clicking online, and her goods would be delivered the next day to the taxi boat dock by our house. I say "in theory," because we were all set to give it a try, only to see a banner page saying their delivery boat was unexpectedly out of service! It was not going to be back operating until after we left, so we weren't able to test the service. (We have since heard that deliveries are back on track, and are working well for Aspö residents.)

Guns Livs will still deliver on the Waxholms boat. We successfully did that over 5 years ago. (I even found a picture of that delivery!) And of course, with our own boat, we can pop over to Nämdö whenever the weather is decent. One difference is that Guns has a limited selection of goods. Mathem  have a much wider range available.

The local Skärgården newspaper had a long article recently about Mathem's first summer. The idea originated last year from a group of islanders who approached delivery companies with the plan to deliver in the archipelago. Mathem, who already deliver in Stockholm, took on the idea. Service started in mid-June and was a huge success. In fact, a bit too much of a success; there weren't nearly enough boats to fulfill demand. The good news is that Mathem already plans to add more delivery boats and have a more robust service next year.

It is great to have a delivery option. I was getting tired of carrying heavy groceries on the bus, boat, and wheelbarrow. Having stuff delivered is a nice break, and it will make it a lot easier for us to go straight to Aspö from the airport without having to arrange an enroute shopping trip as well.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A reply from Vattenfall

Regular readers may remember that we found the power off at our house when we arrived in June. With Tony's help, we found it was a faulty meter from Vattenfall, our electricity provider.

Sooz took careful note of all the food that had been ruined, and we calculated our loss was about 1300 kronor. We sent along our information to Vattenfall for compensation.

I heard back recently, and it appears our work to document our loss wasn't necessary. The Swedish power regulations set out rules for compensation for a power cut. Our power was out for 10 days, which means we are due a payment of 10,600 kronor!

That will cover our lost food and inconvenience quite nicely.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Transition again

It's been over a year and a half since I left my job of 30 years. I have been looking for new employment since then, although it's probably more accurate to say that, by now, I've become more of a retiree than a job-seeker.

I can't really complain so far. It's been different and fun to have no demands on my time, to travel and read and do a bit of volunteering. I could easily see myself remaining a man of leisure.

However, I've had a job opportunity that is just too fantastic to pass up. So... in the next few weeks, Sooz, Ollie, and I will be packing up our life in Texas, and moving back to London!

We are going to live right in the city; our life in the UK the last time around was west of London, outside the M25. Living an urban life will be very different than our time in the suburbs of Texas and Surrey, not to mention the island life in Aspö.

A great advantage of being in the UK is that we'll be much closer to our Swedish home. I won't be able to spend 3 weeks at a time, as we have been doing these past summers, but it will be much easier to take shorter and more frequent trips.

I promise not to clog the blog with English content, but soon enough, we'll be Europeans again!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Kalles Kaviar

I read an amusing article in the New York Times about an ad campaign for Kalles Kaviar.

Kalles is essentially cod roe in a toothpaste tube. It's one of those foods that is specific to Swedish culture.

It's taste, especially to non-Swedes, is also unique. This is the idea behind the ad campaign, in which earnest Swedes offer Kalles to people all around the world.

The ads are pretty funny, so be sure to read the article, or visit Kalles YouTube channel. You'll thank me later!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Swedish wine??

The Guardian ran an article recently about the nascent Swedish wine industry. Thanks to longer growing seasons, southern Sweden is becoming a viable area for viniculture.

A number of wineries have grown up in Skåne over the past years, joining the list of non-traditional wine growing areas.

English wine, for example, has moved from a curiosity to a £100 million industry. It's not just quantity, it's quality, too. English wines are starting to win awards, much like California wines did 40 years ago.

The Swedish wine industry has a way to go, both in the fields, and also administratively. Dealing with the Systembolaget won't be easy, I'm sure. But I hope one day to buy a bottle (or box) of Swedish wine to enjoy at our Swedish home.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bungenas on Gotland

The New York Times recently ran a charming travel article about a recent resort on the island of Gotland.

A decommissioned military site on the Bungenas peninsula opened a coffee shop in 2008, and over the years, a fine restaurant and a small hotel has been added.

Much of the charm of Bungenas is its effort to maintain the rustic nature of the area. Cars aren't allowed past the main gate, for example, and dinner is served communally.

It looks like a great place to visit. Perhaps we'll make it to Gotland one day to take a look.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Webcam action...

Spotted last night. I love that my phone in Texas can alert me that something is walking by our house in Aspö!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Weather station Aspö

I had posted over a year ago about the Netatmo weather station. Sooz bought me one for my birthday a few months after that post, and I've used it this past year in Texas.

I decided to bring it with me this visit, and as I had forecast, there's now an internet weather station on Aspö:

The one problem is that it needs internet access to work, and I usually only pay for a connection while I'm there. I think I will keep my router plugged in over the winter. I'll pay for connectivity for a week here and there, to get it reconnected and get an idea of what it's like at the house.

It's nice to see there's a similar unit on Nämdö, so even if mine is offline, I can see the weather close by!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hello from Arlanda

It's early Thursday morning. We are at the airport, waiting for our flight to London.

Yesterday was a fun, if long, day. We took the afternoon boat to Saltsjöbaden, which gave us lots of time to relax and tidy up the stuga at our own pace. As usual, we had over-shopped at the grocery and had lots of leftovers for Olle and Annika!

The Saltis boat was nice, we've taken it a few times before. It was different this time around, as we'd been over part of the route in our own boat! That gave us a different perspective.

The big difference for us was connecting to a Stockholm boat at Saltsjöbaden. That was an hour's trip through a whole bunch of beautiful areas. Even the weather cooperated, becoming clearer through the day. The trip ended in the city centre at Gamla Stan, just under 4 hours door-to-door. Very civilised, indeed!

We walked through the city, had an ice cream, and caught the train to Marcia and Rutger's house. Only Camille was home, but she was an excellent hostess. I took advantage of their super-fast internet to upload 56 more photos and movies to the Flickr page.

Now it's time to board for the first leg of the long trip onward to Texas. I see it will be over 100° (40°C) there today. I wouldn't mind some heat, but maybe not that much heat!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lots going on!!

It's Tuesday afternoon, and I have now found time to write about the past couple of days.

Winding back takes us to a super dinner at our house Saturday night with our neighbours Peter and Jeannette, which ended quite late! This led to a lie-in Sunday morning, but Olle asked if I'd like to set out fishing nets that afternoon with him and Bosse. Of course I said yes! We took my boat and put out gill nets in 4 different spots. Bosse piloted us through lots of little nooks and crannies in the nearby islands.

Monday morning, we went to retrieve our nets, with a disappointing haul: only 2 sea bass and 10 flounder. We detangled and hung the nets to dry, and Bosse cleaned the fish with a skilled hand. I took home the sea bass for lunch, which Sooz prepared deliciously.

After my fish lunch, we were invited to a fika at Annika and Olle's with friends and relatives. We filled up on lots of sweets cooked by the lovely ladies of Aspö— although Bosse contributed with delicious raisin cookies too!

We capped the evening by decamping with Olle, Annika, her friend Lena, and Bosse and Gun for a picnic barbecue on the nearby island, Lilla Alskäret. Bosse brought along the flounder he had smoked, which was delicious. The little island was beautiful, and the evening turned out sunny and calm. To say it was perfect doesn't do it justice. I took a whole bunch of photos, but it'll take me a few days to post them all. It will be worth the wait!

This morning, I needed to put my boat up for the season, and it was Olle to the rescue yet again. First, we took off the motor. I made a stand for it in my shed, but it was a heck of a chore to get it up to our house. It was also a lot of work to get the boat up on the shore at a neighbour's land. Olle towed us over to the spot, which was a wild ride! We had to navigate shallow water and a reed bed, plus lots of muscle power, to get the boat high enough to be safe. (Lots of fun photos are on their way!)

I am very sorry to have worked Olle so hard! As he said, we can't do this every year. I have to come up with a better place to put my boat and motor which isn't so reliant on muscle power.

Tomorrow, sadly, we have to leave in the afternoon. I don't want to think about that just yet.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Östanviks Gård

Our neighbouring island of Nämdö is known mostly (to me, at least) as the home of Guns Livs, the grocery store, and its beautiful church.

But Nämdö is much more than that, of course. It's been inhabited since the 13th century and farmed since the 16th. Today, about a hundred people live on the island full-time. It has a number of great walking trails and even a few gravel roads along its length.

There is a big barn on the east side of the island at Östanvik, visible from the sea on the way to Guns. It's the site of a farm which has been on that site for many years, now operated under the auspices of the Skärgårdsstiftelsen.

The farm shop at Östanviks Gård is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays during the summer. Since we have a boat now, Sooz and I decided to pop over to have a look. The weather today wasn't great, but at least it wasn't raining. We've decided that we can't wait for perfect weather whenever we want to take a trip!

We had a fun time. I'm happy to report that our boating skills are improving, and we made the journey with no fuss. The farm itself was really nice. We got to chat with Stina and Jon about their life on the island as farmers. We picked up some fresh bread, local spinach, and their lamb salami. Photos from the trip are on the July photo page.

Having a boat makes a big difference. To know that we can make a trip pretty much whenever we want changes the way we think about being here for longer visits. We're no longer reliant on the boat and bus timetables...or the generosity of our neighbours. Now we can live much more like the locals!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A moose festival!

Our mystery guests were indeed Margaret and Janne, who visited yesterday afternoon, bringing dinner provisions with them!

We invited Annika and Olle over, and enjoyed a fine meal prepared by our friends. The evening was capped by a visit by the mama moose, who was nibbling on leaves quite near the house.

This morning, the moose returned, along with her baby. All of us got an unprecedentedly long look, as they hung around all morning.

Marg and Janne took the mid-afternoon boat to Saltsjöbaden, which makes a connection all the way into the center of Stockholm. I think we'll try the same next week, it should be a beautiful ride.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sunshine, suntans, painting, and mystery guests

The weather's been super the past couple days, and we have taken full advantage! We awoke yesterday with pleasently few ill-effects of our marathon running the day before. Olle and Annika invited us on a boat trip to Stora Alskäret, their favourite secluded island, so we packed a lunch and hung out on the rocks. Olle and I did a bit of exploring and picture-taking; the girls topped up their tans.

When we got back, Sooz and I decided to start painting the little house. We started on the back, as that isn't much seen, so we could safely practice our techniques. It took us about 3 hours and turned out great. I'm sorry I didn't take any before/after photos.

I rectified my photographic omission this morning when we painted the front of the house. If it were only as easy as the movie makes it seem!

We'll leave the house sides to another day, as we're preparing now for evening guests. Any guesses who?

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Aspö Marathon

It was a wonderful day! I managed to last all 12 laps (14.6 miles) as I had hoped. Each lap around the island is about 2 kilometres (the official measure is 1960 meters. My Apple Watch pegged it at about 2150.)

We had a great turnout. Annica Bergman did a super job setting everything up. The race was held to raise money for a children's cancer charity. Her partner, Anders, (our resident priest), finished the full marathon distance. We saw lots of new people from neighbouring islands who joined in. It was quite the crowd!

Even more impressive, Sooz managed 7 laps herself. (I say "more impressive", as I run regularly, and Sooz doesn't.) We are both feeling fairly sore and worn-out this evening. But we wouldn't have missed a minute of today.

Annica and her fellow Aspö residents should be rightfully proud today. Photos have been posted, of course.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Sunny Saturday

Sailing race for the grown-ups The rain of the past few days seems to have passed at last. By midday, the sun started to shine, and it's turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. Thankfully, the forecast looks decent as well.

Today was the graduation day for the sailing school. The learning sailors all received a diploma. The day ended with a race by a few grown-ups, which was great fun.

We had a great dinner with Annika and Olle last night. Sooz made lemon chicken, and four hours passed effortlessly. They brought me a few boating gifts for my birthday; two lovely cushions and a waterproof pouch for my iPhone and iPad. All of those will be put to good use!

Tomorrow, we're going to the church at Nämdö, as our neighbor Anders will be conducting a service there. It's a beautiful little church, and it will be fun to see Anders "in action", so to speak.

We'll have pasta tomorrow night, as Monday is the day of the second Aspö Marathon, 24 laps of the island. I am going to try to do a half-marathon, myself. I do a few laps most mornings, and I think I can do a dozen! Stay tuned to see if I manage it....

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Monday was rainy, which was expected, but still a bummer after the gorgeous past few days. We decided to experiment by taking a Uber ride from Marcia & Rutger's all the way to Mölnvik for our shopping. It was a heck of a lot more convenient and quicker than the walk/train/tube/bus connection, although a bit pricey at 700 kronor. Still, I'd have no problem doing that again if needed.

Because of the speedy ride, we were able to shop at our leisure for a change, and Sooz replaced all of our spoiled frozen goods. Our bus ride to Stavsnäs was heavily-laden but uneventful.

There's been development at Stavsnäs harbour which makes a wait there much more pleasent. A nice pizzeria opened last year, with a bar as well, so it's easy to enjoy a beer on a sunny day. Even more exciting is this year's opening of Sytrarna Delselius, a branch of the famous and delicious bakery/deli in Värmdö. There's now an ice cream shop next door, too!

It was good we had these options, because the skies opened after we got off the bus. Fortunately, the rain stopped just as we got on our boat, and our walk home from the dock was a little wet, although it could've been far worse.

Yesterday was mixed cloudy and sunny. I was able to fix our ceiling fan with a bit of inventive thinking (and a spare part from Jula). I was quite proud of that! We also contacted our insurance company regarding the loss of all our food. Sooz completed the reports; she took pictures of all the spoiled stuff. We helped Olle and Annika take down a big branch near their house and Olle lent me his big gas trimmer to clear the path by our house. His made my electric trimmer look like a toothbrush!

It's rainy today so we're relaxing and doing indoor projects. It looks like the weather will gradually improve over the coming days, so we should be able to start painting the little house soon. A bunch of fun things are planned over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more updates.

Also the July photo page is updated on a regular basis, so take a look!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Grant's on his way home :(

We're here with Marcia and Rutger today. We came into the city yesterday as Grant had a 0630 flight this morning back to Boston. We're going to enjoy the nice weather today and go back to Aspö tomorrow after a bit of shopping.

A few more photos are on the Flickr page for your enjoyment.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Catching up

We had another beautiful day today (and it's going to be nice the next few days at least!) We were a bit jetlagged so it was a lazy day. We managed to get the party lights up with a little pulley system so I don't have to climb a tree every time I want to string them.

Grant and I also retrieved the boat from Bosse. He drove us around the island to point out the dangerous points of navigation, and then we tooled around on our own for a bit.

Today, we're going to make our inaugural trip to Nämdö in our boat. We're going to have lunch and do a bit of shopping to replace our lost food. I hope we'll be back from our sea voyage to post again tomorrow!

UPDATE: We survived. It was a lot of fun, although I got a bit wet there in the back of the boat. The journey took us about 25 minutes each way. The navigation (with Sooz's help) was straightforward. The only problem was the '3 Stooges' routine every time we went to moor the boat! But we managed to do it safely in the end, even if it might have been less than elegant.

It's nice to know we can get to Nämdö pretty much anytime we want, at least in times of decent weather. More photos available on the July Flickr page.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

My gosh what a day!

Things started out with a problem right at the start. The flight Sooz and I were taking from Texas was nearly 3 hours late. This meant we were going to miss our connection in London. Grant was going to meet up with us on that flight, flying in from Boston.

I talked to British Airways, who put us on a later flight, but kept Grant on his original flight. The upshot was that we all met in Stockholm, just 2 ½ hours late. Our poor boy had to hang around Arlanda all that time, suffering from jet lag!

We rescheduled our taxi boat to 7PM, and took a taxi to Slussen to catch the bus to Stavsnäs. Sooz and Grant got off a stop early to shop at the ICA in Stavsnäs for fresh food. (Remember, I had stocked the freezer on our last visit.) I schlepped all the bags off the bus at the harbor and waited.

Everything worked out just fine, and we arrived the dock with all our stuff before 7:30. It was a beautiful sunny evening, and everything was perfect after a loooooong day.

That was, until we found that there was no electricity at the house at all! Sooz noticed the small first. All of the food I so expensively and laboriously brought the house had spoiled. Plus we had no water, no fan, no lights, and no Cinderella.

I asked Tony for help and we troubleshot the problem to my meter reader. He called Vattenfall (the power company) on my behalf. They told him a repair team would be out within two hours. Since it was already after 8PM, I thought this was optimistic, but then again, I'd never bet against Tony. The man knows his stuff.

Tony and Ann-Catrin gave us shelf space in their fridge, and also fed us, as we were starved. We went back to the house to await the repair team. Sure enough, they showed up near Tony's dock at 10PM. Two workmen, Albert and Stefan, hiked over and replaced the faulty meter. By 10:30, we had power again! We certainly couldn't have done any of this without Tony's help.

I've written Vattenfall about compensation for the loss of a lot of food, plus the trouble and smell we have to deal with. We'll see what they say about that.

But besides that wrinkle, all is well. Grant is with us, and the weather is perfect. The July photo album has started.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

We're on our way!

Meeting up with Grant in London, and then straight through to Aspö in time for cocktail hour tomorrow. Planes, trains, and automobiles, indeed!

Stay tuned for further updates from the traveling family.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bird Identification

I enjoyed reading about a new project at Cornell University. Their Lab of Ornithology has an extensive online resource about birds. Sooz knew all about it, but it is new to me!

We have a couple of good birding books at the stuga, one from Margaret, and another from Anette. Sooz is usually in charge of identifying the birds we see,and our books have come in handy.

Being a bit of a tech geek myself, I came across Cornell's Merlin project through a tech website. It's essentially facial recognition for birds. Upload a good photo of a bird, and it will analyze the image to determine what kind of bird it is. Very cool. Soon enough this technology will be in an iPhone app, and all I'll have to do is point and I'll know the name of our little neighbors!

The website mentions "North American" birds, but I think we'll give it a try anyways. Perhaps it can identify Northern European birds, too.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Midsummer at the American Swedish Institute

We won't be in Sweden for the midsummer celebrations today. Instead, Sooz and I are in Minneapolis, visiting my family.

Minnesota has a huge Scandinavian population. Even today, the roots of the Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians who settled there are still visible in daily life.

One of the organizations most responsible for maintaining these Scandinavian links is the American Swedish Institute. They're holding a traditional midsummer celebration today. I'd like to attend, but I'm not sure our schedule will allow it.

Sooz and I have fond memories of the ASI. When we found out in December 1988 that we were moving to Sweden, we visited to find out what we could about our new country. This was way before the internet, so one of the big draws to the institute were the Swedish newspapers they made available. I remember lots of elderly Swedes reading their Svenska Dagbladets and Dagens Nyheters in their reading room. Everyone we met that day were so pleased for us, and so accommodating and helpful about our upcoming move. It's not a stretch to say that I began to fall in love with Sweden right then and there.

I've always been proud of how well Minneapolis (and St. Paul) maintain a community feeling; it is easily the American city most like Stockholm in my experience. The ASI has a big part in that.

Glad Midsommar, everyone!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Letter from Värmdö Kommun

I received a multi-page letter earlier this week from the local government on Värmdö. It alarmed me a bit, so I asked my friend Anette to take a quick look for me before I settled down for a full translation. I also sent a copy to Willie, too. They both told me the letter had to do with our waste water tank and the kommun wanted more information about it.

It appeared that I had needed to send a statement back to the kommun after our grey water system was installed to show it was done according to the rules. I had not done that, and to make matters worse, I never responded to letters they sent me earlier in the year (because I never received them, of course.)

So they sent someone out to take a look. They found  I was missing an air pipe at the end of the trench to oxygenate the bacteria, and they were also unable to tell much about the installation since it had grown over the past five years. They also charged me a fee of 4500kr for the cost of their visit.

I sent a copy of the letter to both Anders (our bathroom builders) and Janne for their feedback. Janne and I talked. He gave me good information about the trench he had dug, and the preparations completed for the water system. I will talk to Anders again soon about his work on the water, and about adding an air pipe.

The most important conversation I had was with Camilla at Värmdö Kommun. She was very kind in explaining everything to me in English, and also agreed to waive the visiting fee, since I had obviously never received any of her previous correspondence. I'll get the installation information together, and be back to her, although I may just have Janne and/or Anders speak with her directly. I'll install the air pipe this summer.

So... a bit of a complication, but nothing big, and easily fixable. I'm especially happy to report that he people at Värmdö were very nice to a slightly befuddled, but well-meaning Texan over the phone.

Friday, June 12, 2015


Sooz sent me a gorgeous video about the island of Bullerö. It originally appeared on SVT a few years back. It's in Swedish, but even without the narration, English speakers can appreciate its beauty:

We haven't yet visited, although Janne has told us in the past about how pretty it is. The Stavsnäs boat taxi runs out to Bullerö, and they make a stop at Aspö as well! It'd be easy for us to spend a day there. If and when we go, there'll be plenty of photos on the blog, I promise.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Summer plans

I briefly mentioned our return plans in a previous post. Now things are set. We'll be back on July 1, and Grant will be joining us! He can't take much time off from work, so it'll be a brief visit. But it will be great to have him with us, even for just a few days.

Us retired folks will stay for most of July, however. The only big project we have planned is to paint the guest house. I've already bought the same linoljefärg to match the big house; it's sitting in Rutger's garage. It's a small enough job that we can do it pretty easily ourselves, I think.

Other than that, we plan to sharpen our boating skills and enjoy the community on Aspö!

Monday, June 1, 2015

A dozen years!

The birthday boy
Today is Ollie's birthday. He's reached the ripe old age of twelve. I seem to have mentioned most of his birthdays since I started this blog. Looking back, we've all been through a lot!

I am glad to report that he's still the same happy and handsome boy he's always been. A drawback of living in Texas is that it's not feasible for him to join us in Aspö for the summers. He stays at a great kennel while we're away, so we know he is well cared for. That said, we sure wish he was with us.

Perhaps he can celebrate his next birthday in Sweden? We can only dream. Today, though, he gets his traditional lamb chop.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Another familiar-looking cabin

Courtesy of Dwell, of course, is another designer cabin in the north woods.

This one shares the profile of our own little stuga. It's much taller, and doesn't have the deck ours has, but it shares the same boxy, angular style.

I also find it interesting that it sets on only 6 concrete footings. Our own house is held up by a dozen!

Sunday, May 24, 2015


He did it! Måns Zelmerlöw can add "Eurovision winner" to his resume. The title is back in Sweden.

It was a great show, with only a few truly bad acts. The voting was unusually close; Russia was in the lead for much of the evening, and Italy was a very close third.

In the end, though, Måns prevailed. Now my goal will be to actually go to the contest in Sweden next year. I can't wait!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Eurovision is tomorrow!

With all of the activity the past few weeks, the Eurovision final has snuck up on me.

Actually, that's not strictly true. We saw a lot of Måns Zelmerlöw while we were in Sweden these past few weeks. There's excitement building over his entry; the bookies have him as the favourite to win. It would be great if he could pull it off! Perhaps my dream of attending a Eurovision final in person might come true.

The second favourite is Italy, who are bringing the heavy firepower in the form of Il Volo:

I'm betting Sooz will really like this one: hunky Italians singing in their native language about amore

The standard in the semifinals was, disappointingly, pretty good. There are usually some amusingly bad acts in the semis, but not this time. I am surprised that neither Denmark (with a 60's themed song) or Trijntje Oosterhuis's catchy tune from the Netherlands went through.

I rather liked Russia, and especially Norway. But I'm well known for using attractiveness as a criteria in my Eurovision picks.

We usually have a big viewing party at home, but this time, it'll just be a couple of close friends. I'm really looking forward to it!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Time to go...

Sadly, it's time for me to fly back to Texas. Sooz and Ollie have been holding down the fort there for the past week.

It's been rainy and cold the past couple of days, so I don't feel too bad about going. We will be back in the beginning of July. Knowing our return is so soon makes it easier to leave, as well!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Arbetsdag

Yesterday was a great day. First off, it was sunny and beautiful for a change. I took advantage of the morning sunshine to clean and water seal the deck of the guest house.

Then it was time for the spring "working day" (arbetsdag in Swedish). Twice a year, residents assemble to take care of various tasks to maintain Aspö's infrastructure. I've always wanted to be part of the working day, and this year was my chance.

Lots of people assembled on the midsummer meadow, and a list of the day's jobs were discussed. One of the major tasks was to maintain the low spots on the path. Big bags of gravel had been brought in to spread around. A wood chipper was also used to mulch fallen branches and provide more path cover. I thought I might do that, since I was one of the younger people there at the beginning. Fortunately, though, lots of actual young people showed up and I was able to leave the hauling and chipping to them.

I instead volunteered to cut new pieces of wood for the path markings. I was able to bring the timber over to my house easily, and it was a simple enough job that I could do it without messing up! It turned out that I had to cut 50, though, so it took me a couple of hours.

Others volunteered to paint my cut pieces, so we had a nice assembly line going. After a day's drying, the new markers will be put up in place of the old faded ones. I like the thought that, on future walks around Aspö, it'll be a little bit of my work marking the path!

We all took a lunch break at 12:30. Peter grilled korvs for everyone, and Jeanette handed out cold beers. A perfect afternoon. I tagged a bunch of photos for quick viewing.

When the work was done, I walked over to Bosse's house and took possession of my new boat. Tony said I could keep it at his dock, so I motored over to find him waiting for me. He even made a little nameplate for my spot! (A photo of that, among lots of other stuff, is on the May photo page.)

The day ended splendidly; Peter and Jeanette invited me over for dinner. Peter grilled an amazing steak, and Jeanette shared her special pesto potatoes. We also drank quite a bit of very nice red wine! It was a superb evening to cap a really special day.

Friday, May 15, 2015

My new boat!

Here it is... my new boat!I went over to Bosse today and finalised the sale. He had installed a new battery and I took it for a quick shake-down cruise. The weather was not good for boating; it was barely 50°, with a light rain that "felt like nails", as Bosse put it.

I'm a bit leery of sailing too much by myself. I don't know all the rocks or shoals just yet. It feels safer to me with a lookout at the helm.

We will be doing lots of sailing this summer, though. I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Viktor's new house

I had posted almost exactly four years ago about out neighbor Viktor, who was building an X-House much like ours in the center of the island.

Viktor finished the house and it is beautiful. However, he's recently acquired land closer to the water, and sold his house last year. Now he's in the process of building a new pre-fabricated house, but not an X-House this time. He has chosen a system from Leva, who are from the island of Gotland. An example is in the photo to the left.

They are much like X-House, with long beams of pre-cut glue-laminated wood. Viktor told me his house will be 95 square meters, which is about a third larger than ours. I visited his building site, and it looked huge!

His helicopter delivery was indeed yesterday. Everything—50 ton's worth—was loaded on one of the big goods boats and brought to the island at a northern dock. Viktor used a helicopter (as we did) to ferry everything over. He told me it took 60 trips by the 'copter to move it all.

Janne, Ronnie and I supervised the work yesterday. Viktor had a big crew who seemed to know what they were doing, so we were able to leave after a couple of hours.

Janne and I hung out in the afternoon, and in the evening, he made spaghetti, which was delicious.

This morning, Janne left back for Stockholm, and I visited Viktor again. He has quite the stack of building materials spread all over!

I have a bunch of photos of all this on the May photo page. I also am experimenting with tags on Flickr, so to see every photo I've associated with Viktor, click this link. There will be photo updates to both pages, I promise.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The latest news from the island

We had initially planned to leave this week, but I decided to stay one more week on my own, so I can be here for the island working day this Saturday. As much as Sooz doesn't like to leave Aspö, she hates leaving Ollie in the kennel more, so she kept her original plan.

So we left Aspö on Monday mid-day and made our way to Marcia and Rutger's house. Sooz's flight was very early Tuesday morning. I took her to the airport, and then took the bus out to shop at Gustavsberg in the afternoon. Sooz gave me a grocery list to stock the house. We had also ordered a few boxes of wine, so we'll be all set for staples and booze when we come back in July.

I fear I over-reached a bit at the store, because I had an enormous load of stuff to carry up to the bus. It turns out boxes of wine and frozen flanks of beef can be pretty heavy!

The good news is that I was met at the port in Stavsnäs by Janne himself, who is in Sweden for a few weeks. He's spending a couple of nights with me, and we'll hang out and visit his old stomping grounds. Word is that Viktor is having the helicopter deliver a new house tomorrow, so that'll be fun for us to check out. I'm really looking forward to having Janne around!

UPDATE: Sooz made it to Texas in good shape, and Ollie was very pleased to see his mommy again!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A few updates

It's a lovely Saturday afternoon and I'm sitting on our new deck with Sooz, who's video chatting with her dad on her iPad. The sun is nice and warm, but the breeze is still crisp!

We've been busy with a few small projects. Sooz managed a fire at our traditional spot, and we were able to get rid of last year's logs, along with a big pile of fresh cuttings as we groomed our forest.

We also strung our party lights over our deck. They are attached to the house, and then strung out to a nearby tree. I'm going to figure out a better way to attach them so I don't have to climb a tree every time I set them up. I think a pulley and some black rope might do the trick. I will investigate at the hardware store and report back.

I also tried to take some star photos, with limited success. Frankly the nights are too short already. Sooz mentioned she thought the days were getting perceptibly longer, and, as usual, she's right. The day we arrived here, April 28, was 15 hours and 30 minutes long. Today will have an additional hour of daylight. At this time of year, each day is 5 minutes longer than the day before.

Annika and Olle brought me a new TV antenna pole, and I was able to raise my antenna about a meter. This enabled me to clear the treetops, and my signal is now significantly better. However, most of the local broadcasts we've watched is just the hockey, to be honest.

The other big news is that it looks like we have bought a boat!! Annika's stepfather, Bosse, is selling his little boat. It's double-hulled fibreglass,  4.3 meters long (14 feet), and has a 15HP Yamaha 4 stroke Yamaha engine, with an electric start. We got it into the water today, and took it for a spin around Aspö. I think it would be perfect to make grocery trips to Guns Livs, and to visit the little islands around us.

Photos of all this (and more!) are on the May 2015 photo page.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lots going on...

The weather has been a bit spotty so we have spent a lot of our time indoors since Marcia & Rutger left. Olle and Annika came over for dinner on Saturday night which was fun.

I managed to get the lights installed around the big deck (a photo is on the most recent album). Sooz has been baking, foraging for edibles in the forest, and working on a new jigsaw puzzle.

The only other real job I have to do this trip is to sort out the TV antenna. With Rutger's help, I found a website which uses your phone's GPS coordinates to determine the exact location of the nearest broadcast antenna. I then found that the tree between the big house and the guest house is exactly in the way.

Rutger's solution was to cut it down! But I don't want that, so I plan to add another pole to lift the antenna above the tree. Annika is bringing me a pole this weekend, so I will give my plan a try.

We may have a line on a little boat for us to buy for the summer. We have a test drive planned for Saturday, so more on that in a few days.

The sun has just come out, so I have to dash. There'll be further blog posts in a few days, but photos get updated a couple of times a day.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

We have arrived!

Sorry for the delay in posting, but we're here and everything is fine. I always find it amazing that our house seems so untouched after 6 months away.

We tried something different this time out, I found a taxi service that could take us from Rutger & Marcia's all the way to Stavsnäs. We had too much stuff to carry for the bus, and borrowing Marcia's car wasn't an option this time. 

The taxi worked well, it cost us just over 1000 kronor (about $120). Not cheap, but a good option when I have to carry a lot out to the harbour. The only snag was that I left our groceries unattended at the dock, and the seagulls found my bag of potato chips! Fortunately I was able to save a few for myself. Lesson learned.

The next day, we had a big surprise when we came home from a walk. Waiting for us was Marcia and Rutger! They decided to make a last-minute visit for the May Day holiday. Rutger brought meat for grilling, and Marcia shared a great bottle of her birthday champagne. What a nice day.

Yesterday was the clean-up day around our area. Olle had cleared some brush recently, and Tony masterminded a huge fire to burn it all, along with a whole bunch of fresh cuttings we made to clear the path area. Photos are on the new page for this trip.

Today it's a little drizzly. Marcia and Rutger have to leave on the noon boat, so we'll all just chill this morning, I think. Life is good.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I'm on my way!

First, we will be stopping by in London to visit friends. It's the weekend of the London Marathon. I won't be joining the runners; I ran it in 2001. (I plan to save my energy to run the Stockholm marathon for a fourth time, in 2020!)

We'll fly to Stockholm in a few days, and then make the schlep to Aspö with all our stuff in time for the Valborg weekend.

I always look forward to seeing the house after closing it for the winter. Ole and Annika have taken good care of it, or course, and I've received many pictures over the past few months. But being back again for the first visit of the year is a real joy for me.

I'll get a photo page up as soon as I can. We don't have any big projects, rather lots of little things going on. There will be an island cleanup on the next two weekends, and I'm looking forward to pitching in and helping my neighbours. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Moose Cam

I've posted about my Dropcam, which is a very simple and efficient web camera. I use it to keep an eye on Ollie here in Texas, and last summer, I used it to spy on wildlife (and visiting neighbors!)

The big flaw with my dropcam is that it isn't made for outdoor use. I have to shelter it under the deck when I'm away, which limits its vision.

I recently read of a new camera, made by Flir, It's a direct competitor to my drop cam, with a few improvements. The biggest thing for me, though, is that it comes with an outdoor housing! I could mount the camera in a much better location to capture wildlife passing by overnight.

Sooz already has the hint this would make me a great present. If all goes well, we'll be capturing moose video in July.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The iT Cabin

I've recently found a fantastic prefab house system from Tallman Koch, an architecture firm in Los Angeles.

They have developed a building system which allows quick on-site assembly of steel panels with no need for heavy machinery. The structure is built around standard sizes of cabinets, windows, etc. This provides flexibility and cost efficiency.

Pictured above is their cabin, which reminds me of our own little stuga in a way, especially in this photo to the right. Fuller-size houses are also available.

The website is full of information about their buildings and the construction process. Of course, they are ecologically friendly, too, with various innovations in solar energy, passive heating/cooling, and water reclamation available.

They also remind me of the Case Study homes built a half-century ago in Southern California: efficient, simple, open, steel and glass structures. I like these very much!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Party Lights, part 3

I've posted before about getting a ring of party lights for the stuga. I had said that I found a good product and planned to get them in the UK.

After a bit more research, though, I don't think I can do that successfully. These lights work on lower voltage and so need a transformer. That isn't usually a problem, but in this case, the power plug is integrated into the transformer itself. These kinds of transformers are called "wall warts" and it isn't possible to change the plug fitting.

Rather than mess with it, I found the same lamps in Sweden, for a bit more of course. Marcia has bought them on my behalf and they're in her garage, awaiting my arrival. Despite the cost, it is better to have the right thing when one is dealing with outdoor-rated electricity.

Now I have to decide where to put them! Sooz has some specific ideas. We will have to experiment when we're there next.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Not just a sliding roof, but a sliding house

Sooz sent me this one, a house in the Suffolk countryside.

Designed by the UK firm dRMM, the house is three buildings, linked together by a 20-ton sliding structure.

The roof/walls can be moved along hidden tracks to change the living experience significantly.

With a click of a button, the house changes from a greenhouse to a barn! It's a brilliant idea.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


The dark blue envelopes from the nice people at Skatteverket arrived recently. I've written before about my dealings with the Swedish tax authorities. Looking back, I was always concerned that my tax bill was always zero. That is pretty funny; most people would be thrilled with no tax bill!

Last October, I wrote that I expected a bill this year of 5-6000 kronor. I am ironically happy to report that I did indeed receive a bill this time, of 3500 kronor. So I was right about the timing, although the amount was about half.

In subsequent years, though, I think my bill will raise to the amount I was expecting. There is a period of transition from a zero tax rate to the full rate. Even the Swedish tax authorities don't give the full whack on the first year!

The rest was easy. I was able to file my taxes over the phone, through an English-speaking automated phone line. A few clicks online through my Nordea account paid my bill instantly.

If only my dealings with the IRS here in America were as simple (or as cheap!)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Palm Springs

We just returned from a short stay in Palm Springs, California. It was the first place Sooz and I visited as airline employees, 32 years ago.

Besides the beautiful weather and scenery, Palm Springs has reinvented itself as a center for mid-century architecture. Many iconic homes were built in the area after the war.

The most famous is the Kaufmann House, which has been restored to its original glory, although it isn't open to the public.

A vibrant design district has grown up, with stores catering in new and vintage "modern" furnishings and accessories. We spent a good chunk of time shopping there.

At our favorite store, Pelago, we bought a Chilewich rug for the stuga's kitchen, as well as new place mats and a table runner. I was glad to get out of there having bought only that much; the store was packed with a huge range of beautiful things!

I've put up a photo page for anyone interested. It is a gorgeous part of the country.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Coming back to Aspö

We've made our plans for our spring return to Aspö. We'll be there in time for Valborg, the bonfire night on April 30. I've written about my first Valborg in Sweden before.

There's an advantage of arriving at this time of year. The island community has a number of clean-up events in early May. Typically, I haven't been able to attend those, preferring to save my vacation time for later in the summer.

Now, though, I have lots of free time, so we will stay longer, and be part of Aspö's clean-up this year. I'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Ábaton modular home

I'm a sucker for small, prefab homes. This one, the ÁPH80 Portable Home from the Spanish firm Ábaton, is nifty.

It's a high-spec, all-in-one unit that can be plunked down most anywhere.

The outside is covered in concrete board, designed so it can be closed up tight. Perfect for a winter climate!

The photos are sumptuous, and well worth a click through.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Shaker wood stove

I spotted this one recently. It's by Wittus, and it's their Shaker model.

I like the lightness of the legs. Most of the units I've put on the blog over the years are more square, and this one seems less heavy.

It's still not really practical to have a fireplace, at least not until we spend a lot of cold-weather time out at the house. That doesn't stop me from looking, though.

PS. Happy Birthday, Grant!!

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Sofa Covers

Thanks once again to an article in Dwell, I've found Bemz, a company with a brilliantly simple product.

Simply put, Bemz produces custom slip covers for IKEA couches, including discontinued models. This is a cost-effective way to renew an old sofa, or to add color at low cost.

Here is our stuga's Karlstad sofa in one of their crazy-bold patterns. Don't worry, this is just for illustrative purposes. Sooz wouldn't let me do anything like this!

Instead of the whole couch, though, it might be easy to take our footstool and make it a feature piece. For example, here it is in a funky Marimekko print.

Even a high-quality fabric like this costs only $159. Simpler colours and patterns are as low as $59. It would be easy to carry a slipcover (or two) out to the island. Changing out our footstool every so often would make a significant difference to the interior of our house. Perhaps a bright yellow during the darker months? A floral pattern for the spring? It's fun to think about.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Courtesy of the nice people at Dwell once again is a slide show on one of my favourite subjects: plyscrapers.

There's a growing trend of constructing larger buildings from wood, instead of the much more common concrete and steel. The environmental impact of concrete is significant; it's estimated that 5% of global carbon emissions are from the cement industry alone.

New technologies, such as cross-laminated timber, allow sustainably grown wood to be made into building elements suitable for tall buildings. The wood used in a 20 story building would capture about 3000 tons of carbon. In contrast, a typical concrete structure would expend around 1300 tons. That's a big swing!

Such tall building has so far been outside of the USA. The Guardian has a great report on big timber structures going up in Canada and New Zealand, for example.

Sweden is also involved, of course. Radio Sweden recently covered the growth in tall timber construction. PM Stefan Löfven visited wood apartment buildings in Sundbyberg just last week. A quarter of all new construction in the city of Växjö is in timber, with the intent to double that in five years. The fact almost all of the wood used comes from sustainable Swedish forests is a bonus.

Things are moving in America, too. The US Government has announced a Tall Wood Building Competition. The time for submissions has recently closed, and winners will be announced in the coming months. I'll be sure to report back here on the contest.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Måns Zelmerlöw is the Melodifestival champion!

It was Måns in a landslide. He won handily in the votes of both the international jury and the Swedish public. We watched it live online, and I even voted, through my Swedish iPhone.

I thought Måns would do well, although I thought Eric Saade was the bigger favorite. Turns out I was wrong.

Now on to Vienna on May 23rd!