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!