Monday, November 13, 2017

The health benefits of island life

My friend Chuck sent along an article from the Telegraph recently. The author spent 72 hours in the Gothenburg archipelago as part of a project to measure the health benefits of island life.

Readers won't be surprised to learn that time spent in the wilds has a measurable calming effect. For example, the group in the article had a collective drop in stress of almost 70 percent.


I can attest to the effect myself. We always have our best sleep over the calm, quiet, dark nights in the archipelago.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

October's weather

To quote Game of Thrones, "winter is coming". The temperature showed a steady decline through the month. We're getting pretty close to freezing by Halloween!

One good sign was that we had nearly 3 inches of rain this month. The October average in Stockholm is about 2 inches, so the extra rain is welcome.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Farewell, Ollie


I’m desperately sad to share that our beloved Ollie passed away peacefully this week. 

Ollie was handsome and strong and stubborn and smart. We will miss his beautiful face and his charming personality. 

Our family was blessed to have such a wonderful boy with us for so long.

RIP, Oliver Rhiwelli Blue Moon. You were a very very good dog.


Monday, October 23, 2017

"Hacking" Ikea

I've written over the years about the idea of customising IKEA products. (For example, see here or here.) The New York Times recently published an article about the growing community of companies that are using IKEA furniture as a starting point for customisation.

The Times even mentioned my friends at Bemz, who have received a few mentions on the blog. We bought a Bemz cushion cover this year and we love it.

Our kitchen has the standard white glossy drawer fronts. It might be fun to go to a company like Semihandmade, Dunsmuir, Kokeena, or even the high-end people at Reform to update our kitchen at a relatively low cost. A huge number of colours, finishes and drawer pulls are available. It would be fairly easy to order doors in the USA and check them on a flight to Sweden.

It'll be fun to think about what we might want to do! Our kitchen is smack-dab in the middle of our house, so any changes there would impact the look of the whole place.


Monday, October 16, 2017

"Ticks have found a way to get around the immune system"

We all know that Sooz is not a fan of ticks. I was surprised when she sent me an article recently about  research underway. New medicines may be developed that build on the survival techniques employed by the lowly tick.

It's quite an interesting article. It doesn't make me like ticks any better, but perhaps I will respect them a bit more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

September's Weather

Although September looks rainy on the graph, the month's total was only 1.6 inches, well below the Stockholm average of 2.1 inches.

It's been fairly dry and cool all summer. We could use a turn in the weather; the wells in our area could use a refilling. There's also nothing like a good cold snap to kill the bugs, too!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Time to leave

We're leaving shortly on a taxi boat. I'm hoping it's not a small boat as it is blowing up quite a storm outside right now!

We had good weather over the past few days, though. Our own boat is nice and snug, so our main job is complete. It's peak mushroom season, so we spent lots of time investigating all the different fungi around the island. We weren't brave enough (or foolish enough) to eat any of them, though.

Photos of the visit (mostly photos of mushrooms, to be honest) are on the Flickr page.

We're not sure when we'll be back. We want to make a winter visit and take advantage of our new luftpump. In the meantime, I will have a few more tidbits to share on the blog.

Friday, September 29, 2017

We've arrived!

This was one of our rare trips in which we want straight from London to the house. We left Gatwick at 9:30 and were at the stuga before 5. We even had plenty of time to do a bit of grocery shopping at the central station, and have a beer at the new restaurant at Stavsnäs harbor!

The house was in great shape as usual. I was able to warm it up in advance with my internet-enabled luftpump, so we were cozy very quickly.

We're only here a few days. My main task is to cover up our boat, although Olle seems to have done a lot of the work for me already!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Back for a quick visit

Sooz and I have carved out a 4-day weekend and we will be back at our stuga next week. We'll close things up for the winter as usual.

We are hoping to use our new luftpump to enable weekend visits over the winter as well. I'd like to take more winter pictures like this one!

Stay tuned for another bunch of reports from our visit.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The perfect cartoon!


From now on, when I'm asked why I enjoy being out at the stuga so much, I'll show them this cartoon. Says it all, really!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

August's weather



It wasn't that warm last month. The high was 77F (25C), and the low 48F (9C). We got some much-needed rain, however. And it was windy to boot!

Cool, rainy, windy: sounds like late summer in Sweden...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Apologies for the lack of activity

It looks like I am starting out my next blogging decade at a snail's pace! I have been distracted by lots of happenings back in my "real life". My time available for Swedish stuga blogging is less than I'd like right now. Full service should return in a month or two.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ten Years of Blogging

Believe it or not, today marks the ten year anniversary of my first blog post. Over the past decade:

- I've made 1400 posts. The most viewed post was, inexplicably, about November's weather. The most searched topic is, of course, Cinderella!

- Over 355,000 different people have viewed the blog. The lovely people at Cabin Porn were my top referral site. Strangely enough, France is the home of my most avid readers.

- I've also posted nearly 2100 photos so far. A few of them are pretty good.

It's been fun to skim back through the years and see how the whole project has moved from designing, to building, and now onto living in our little house. We have made many great friends over the years, and it's no exaggeration to say that Sooz and I feel as home there as anywhere we've ever been.

So what does the next decade hold? That's a good question. Our plan is to spend our summers on Aspö when we retire. What with the grocery deliveries from Mat Hem, the pending installation of fibre broadband, the new luftpump, and our own little boat giving us freedom, such a prospect is very easy to imagine.

Retirement is not that far away, either. I'm pretty sure it will be within five years, perhaps even a bit sooner. We've thought about how long-term living at the house would be different from the way we've been using it so far. Sooz is really looking forward to our growing our own vegetables; I'll be making a few planters over the coming summers. I'm also planning a new closet as we will need more clothes available. It's easy to wear the same shirt a few days in a row when all I do is putter about the house by myself. We will have to think differently about water usage, too. Being there every day will strain our well quite a bit more than 6 weeks' worth of visits.

We always use our house in "vacation mode," too. We're always anxious to get to Aspö quickly and not leave when we are there, to maximise our time at our house. Time won't be in short supply when we move from vacation mode to retirement, so we will have to re-adjust our thinking. We'll have to think of our house more as a base from which to do things, as opposed to a destination in itself. We will also have to change our eating (and drinking) habits from vacation mode to daily living!

All of that is a bit in the future though, although it is lovely to think about spending long, lazy days watching the seasons progress through our beautiful little island.

Here's to another decade as wonderful as the first!


Friday, August 4, 2017

July's weather

It was a pretty dry month. We could definitely see the impact on the island. For example, the blueberry crop is a lot smaller than usual, and a number of the traditionally wetter parts of the island were bone dry.

There was a huge rainfall this past Friday, over an inch fell that afternoon. We could use quite a bit more, to be honest. But selfishly, we liked having a nice dry time on our holiday.

I also left in the sound meter readings from the month. It's quite obvious when we're in the house!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It's been a fun week!

Marcia and Rutger arrived on Friday afternoon, at almost the exact time as our Mat Hem delivery, so that was perfect timing. The Aspö Marathon was on Saturday morning. I'm not in full running condition, so I ran only 7 laps, which is one-third of a marathon. I am happy to report that our community raised over 30,000kr for a children's cancer charity!

We went out in our boat in the afternoon to have a picnic at a nearby skerry. Rutger is an experienced boater and he gave me plenty of advice. We also went to Nämdöbote to climb the observation tower. It was a great day.

We ended up having a family shift change: when they left, Marcia and Rutger's kids Tim and Camille came out to spend a couple of days with us. The good weather held, so we took another boat trip and the girls topped up their tans. Annika and Olle came over for dinner and we all had a great time.

The next day, Peter and Jeanette (along with their son Niklas and adorable granddaughter Noelle) gave us all a ride to Nämdö for lunch. We got to have one last visit at the venerable Guns Livs, the grocery store on Nämdö which has been sold to a still-unknown buyer. That's bittersweet for archipelago residents; Guns has become a bit tired over the years, so a bit of investment is needed. But it's been the the same family for many years.

Sadly, we have to leave a few days early as I had a work commitment crop up, so we are ordering an early taxi boat for tomorrow. But we'll be back for a long weekend as soon as we can arrange it.

Lots of photos of all this fun are now available in a Flickr album.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Settling in

We flew in on Sunday because Ollie's dog sitter was busy on Saturday (and we won't leave him with anyone else!) That gave us a nice evening with Rutger and much of the day Monday to shop in Gustavsberg at our leisure. The house was in fine shape and I started on my little projects.

One task was to install the new footstool cover we ordered from Bemz. It fit really well and is pretty funky, as you can see from the before and after photo here.

We also got the boat back into the water and I installed a new bilge pump that would turn on automatically when the water accumulation gets too high. I also made little tops for the deck railing poles (in Swedish, stolphatts, or "pole hats"). I was going to buy some at the building store but they were clean out. Perhaps that's a good thing because I found a whole new world online of deck railings and pole caps. That will be worth a blog post on its own one day.

Marcia and Rutger are coming this afternoon to spend the weekend, and tomorrow is the Aspö Marathon. I'm in fair shape, so I'll do a few laps, but not a full one! Stay tuned for photos and updates.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Our summer return

It's time for our official summer holiday! We leave this weekend for two lovely weeks on our island.

Ollie's back with his dog-sitter, and everyone's happy about that. I have a few projects at our bus, but nothing too demanding. Stay tuned for more updates on island life.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

June's weather

Here's the June recap. We appear to have hit the nicest days when we arrived on the 17th! There was a bit of rain when we were there, but a lot more fell earlier in the month. We could certainly use more, though.

I added the sound meter. It's fun to see graphically the changes in the house when we show up.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

A great midsummer

Time for a quick catchup. We did indeed have a successful trip to Guns and retrieved a huge amount of alcohol. (Clicking boxes on the internet is a lot simpler than carrying bottles of sparkling wine on our little boat!)

The midsummer celebrations were on the 23rd and our 'neighborhood' on the island was responsible for the kid's games and the clean-up. The six of us (Raymond and Eva, along with Karin and Kalle) made plans to man the various games. Thankfully the weather was perfect. Lots of us came together to decorate and raise the midsummer stång.

We joined Gun and Bosse at their house for lunch; afterwards was the traditional boat parade around the island, followed by music, games, and dancing. We all had a great time and our little group ran the games very well, if I say so myself. Dinner was at Annika and Olle's with their friends and family. We had a super time. It's so nice to have friends who would include us in their family celebrations.

Speaking of being included, the next day was my birthday, and we had dinner with Peter and Jeanette. We were joined by their son Sebastian and his girlfriend Jade, and their dog Harry. We had a stupendous meal. This weekend was one of my best birthdays ever.

Lots of photos of all this fun are on my flickr page. We'll be back in three weeks, and I can't wait!!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We've arrived!

And I'm happy to report excellent weather so far. The island is ablaze with flowers and greenery and it looks superb. Our transportation and logistics worked perfectly; we've become experts at this! It hasn't been that long since our last visit so everything was in good order. I got the posts for the deck railing mounted, and brought along some poly-hemp rope for the railing itself. We experimented with the right height for the rope before drilling any holes.

The highlight so far was joining Annika & Olle and Gun & Bosse for a lighthouse cruise on Sunday/Monday. We went back into town on Sunday afternoon and set sail around 4PM. The boat cruised through the archipelago and stopped briefly in Mariehamn, which has the bonus of making the shopping onboard duty-free!

We had a fantastic time, the weather was good, the food was great, the scenery was wonderful, and the company was the best. I took a whole bunch of photos for the Midsummer flickr page.

We got a taxi boat back from Slussen late last night. Tomorrow, we take our little boat to Nämdö for a bit of shopping at Guns Livs. We ordered some wine and beer through the Systembolaget for pickup at Guns. If it all works out, this will make it a lot easier to order and transport our drinks in the future. Hauling boxes of wine on the bus gets to be a drag...literally!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

May's Weather

As expected, May showed a warming trend. We got lucky with the weather on our weekend visit; they were the warmest days of the month! We even avoided the rain perfectly.

We could use more rain, though. It's been quite dry on Aspö. In fact, all of southern Sweden is dealing with a growing water shortage. Since our water comes from a well, that's a worry.


I left in the readings from the sound meter. It's pretty easy to see the days we were at the house.

We're less than two weeks away from our next visit. Can't wait!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Happy Birthday, Ollie!

My furry boy has become an old man! He is 14 today. He's darned slow these days, but he still remains as happy and handsome as ever.

I've made a little slideshow of his birthdays over the years:

Ollie's 14 birthdays!

Who would've thought what the future had in store for us when we brought our little puppy home all those years ago?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A bank holiday visit


It still floats!Ollie's dog sitter was able to keep him for the bank holiday weekend, so we decided to do a quick trip to the stuga. Our biggest job was to get the boat into the water. I also wanted to trim the posts for the deck railing. I'm pleased to report we were successful on both tasks! (The posts I managed to do myself, but the boat needed Olle and Annika's help).

We had a bit of trouble getting the engine started but it was all fine in the end. I was particularly happy with the way my wood posts worked out. I plan to install them on our next visit. I'll be bringing along a length of polyester hemp rope I found from Amazon. It looks just like old-fashioned rope but is resistant to rot and weathering. We will see how well it holds up.

I have a Flickr album of the weekend posted; it's also on the photo list along the right side too.

I have one special photo to show, though. Long-time readers with keen memories will remember Johan, my Cinderella provider. I needed a new back-up battery for Cindy (as we call her these days). Marcia gave me a lift to his store in Bromma on my way to the harbour.

I have to give Johan credit; he recognised me immediately, after almost a decade! We had a nice time catching up. So here's a "then and now" photo for old times' sake.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rope railings

I've posted last year about my desire to add a railing to our deck.

Originally, I thought of something more temporary but the more I think about it, such a big deck needs something substantial.

I have some leftover 95x95 posts (equivalent to an American 4x4) which would make perfect stanchions. The internet has provided me with plenty of information on how to fasten such posts.

I've also bought a few rope samples from Amazon. I plan to do a bit of experimenting on our next visit and will advise my progress on the blog.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Portugal is the winner

For the first time ever, Portugal has claimed the Eurovision title. Salvador Sobral's fey ballad was a convincing winner, in both the the jury and popular votes. It wasn't my style, especially Salvador's overwrought performance, but I'm not that good at picking winners.

However, Sooz and I heard the song on the radio earlier in the day, and the song itself without the visuals was pretty darned good. Also, in the final performance of the night, Salvador was joined by his sister, who was the songwriter, and a good singer herself. I enjoyed their impromptu duet:


Next year, Lisbon!