Friday, February 29, 2008

The dollar's outlook

I talked to a financier friend and asked him if he had any insight on the dollar's outlook vs my favorite foreign currency.

He checked with his company's experts and shared with me their (publicly available) forecasts on the medium-term. Should've asked about this long ago, really.

Suffice it to say, they don't see it getting any better...and long term is worse. I think I'll find an advantageous day in the currency markets soonish and just take my lumps. Long-term, if they're right, I should sell everything now and move it into kronor!!! Sheesh.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Setting a new date

Stefan sent me a note and said we were only a few weeks away from setting our spot in their production line for our originally-planned early June delivery. Given the delays in getting permission from Värmdö, that's really just too soon.

I spoke to our Janne, and also Janne W the builder; we've decided to go for construction on week 32 instead. That would mean delivery to the dock on Tuesday, August 5. This should give us plenty of time to get the full building permissions, complete the foundations, and be ready to go.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A new sketch of the interior

I asked Stefan if it was possible to have a drawing of the interior dimensions. We're getting closer to detailed decisions on fixtures, especially in the bathroom, and all of my plans have been based on estimations with a ruler.

Within a day, his colleague Johan sent the attached drawing, along with a nice note that he was reading my blog, too. So hello, Johan, and thanks for the quick work!

The main bedroom is 3.1 by 3 meters, or almost exactly 100 square feet. The second is a touch smaller at 96, and the bathroom is a cozy 55 square feet. (The whole house is 627 square feet, and the deck an additional 466).

Monday, February 25, 2008

$1 = 6.28 Kronor

I know Sooz hates it when I mention this, but my gosh. This is getting silly. I had budgeted more like 6.85. Sigh.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Melodifestivalen

An unexpected benefit of being in Stockholm over two Saturdays is that I could watch two of the competition shows for the 2008 Melodifestivalen.

The winner of the Melodifestivalen will be Sweden's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. I don't have the writing skills to explain this contest adequately, especially to a non-European. Suffice it to say it is an amazing amalgam of camp, earnestness, cheese, and nationalism, and I deeply love the Eurovision Song Contest, much to the puzzlement of my friends.

Sweden takes it pretty seriously; this is a 6-week, nationwide process, as opposed to the BBC's rather embarrassed selection show. Of course, Sweden did have the most famous winners, way back in 1974.

Update: Apparently Ireland (a 7-time winner) has chosen a turkey puppet as its entry. This is the kind of show that has turkey puppets, opera singers, and Moldovan girl groups all on the same stage. Amazing.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The bathroom shower

I've always liked glass bricks, and Sooz mentioned that she thought we could use them in the bathroom as part of the shower.

Janne suggested we visit Fredells, a huge building store just south of Stockholm, and sure enough, I found exactly what we were looking for!

A simple glass brick wall and a glass door makes for a small, simple and stylish shower area. The ones shown here are frosted but we're planning on going clear, with maybe the off blue and green block added for interest.

I want to build it myself, although Sooz isn't convinced about that!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kitchen details

It's hard to find good images of the type of kitchen we're looking at. There are lot of IKEA-focused blogs and forums out there but none of them show our ideas very well.

Here's a snapshot I took of the 'Rubrik' cabinet fronts, which shows the look of the black, white, and green doors. The stainless looks just like stainless steel.

We've decided to go slow on the initial installation, to get the base cabinets and countertops installed and to do any taller or wall cabinets in a second order. It's probably best to get a good idea of the available space so we don't overwhelm our little kitchen!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An Update

Our lovely Margaret writes in: "Janne spoke with Per this morning. According to Per, the 'new-builders map' should be finished by the 15th of March and then that map will be handed over to Per, and that's when he starts the building permission process. Janne asked if he could get a preliminary (oral) permit and Per said maybe in May.

Probably better news is that Tony reports that the Värmdö paper just ran a big scathing article on how bloody long these applications are taking and it's unacceptable. Apparently the office attached has responded that they are working on a way to get the waiting time down to 1 month.

Fingers crossed, by the end of May, you'll be ready to build."

That gives me a while to get myself into concrete-hauling shape!

Friday, February 15, 2008


Janne and I talked in more detail about the process of making the foundations. Once we get the permit go-ahead, Janne will rent a drill and order the concrete, along with reinforcing steel bars and a bunch of paper tubes.

For each foundation point, he'll drill down at least 20cm, (maybe more depending on the quality of the rock), and slide in a few steel rods. The paper tube goes over the rods and is filled in with the concrete to make a cylindrical post. The tubes are supported by lumber to keep them straight during pouring and curing. The plan for our main house (shown above) calls for 10 foundation points.

Janne has a laser mechanism to ensure the tops of all the foundations are level. Because the rock is uneven, each of the foundation tubes will be different heights. By the front door, they'll be 20 or 30 cm, and in the back, facing Claes' house, they'll be much higher, well over a meter. That will be handy to for us to fit the water tanks under the house.

About hundred 20 kilo bags of concrete will be needed. I plan to take a few days off when Janne's ready so I can provide the manual labor to haul everything up from the dock, and to help him with the foundations as much as I can.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Electricity Pt. 3

I found the nearest pole to our property (that's it in the photo) and Janne has contacted his electrician friend Göran to get our order in.

Göran will make up a circuit-breaker box with provision for Janne's tools on a temporary basis. That should be ready in a couple of weeks and Janne will then mount it at the house site, perhaps on a tree or a pallet. Once that's done, Göran will order the electricity to be dropped from the pole, along the ground, out to the box.

It's my hope this will all be done by the end of March, and Janne thinks that's reasonable.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Phone numbers

I should have thought of this earlier- I bought a SIM chip for my phone so now I can make and receive local calls much more easily (and cheaply).

The number's 0708 949177 for the adventurous.

PS. Yes, that is a Swedish phone and yes, I have one just like it!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Arriving at Aspö

We took a 4PM bus from the city to a 4:50 boat on Monday night. There were about 3 other people onboard with us. We got off on the dock at about 5:20, and as the boat left, we were pretty darned alone in the dark.

Janne reminded us to take our flashlights and were we glad we did. When you're on an almost-uninhabited island and it's dark and cold, getting lost is the very last thing you want to do! After a bit of stumbling, we made our way successfully to Janne's, and it was sure nice to see him waiting for us in his warm kitchen.


In Sweden, everybody has a personnummer. It's like a social security number in the US, or a UK National Insurance ID. Without it, you can't, say, sign up for internet access, or order electricity.

Fortunately, Sooz and I both had personnummers when we lived in Sweden. Marcia gave a call to the tax authorities, and with surprising ease, our old numbers were dusted off and we're good to go. Another hurdle crossed.

IKEA Kitchen

We went to the IKEA in Barkarby first thing this morning and got lots of kitchen stuff decided. I wanted to have some color, and not wood, since we're in a massive wood house; Sooz wanted it to be neutral so it didn't dominate the whole house. We decided on a 'Rubrik' cabinet type, which allows us to mix stainless steel, dark green, black, and smoked-glass white. I hope to do a Mondrian pattern!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Manchester United 1 Manchester City 2

It has nothing to do with building a house here in Sweden, I know.

But, damn, am I happy!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Swedish Cinderella

We're in Sweden today and visited Johan in his new shop in Bromma. He was kind enough to meet with all of us in the late afternoon. We asked a bunch of questions and I've satisfied all of my curiosity about the Cinderella.

A couple of things- first, we've calculated it costs about 2.5 kronor for each 'flush'; this includes the cost of the electricity and the lining paper. Second, if there's a power cut, the unit has a battery to run the cooling fan for safety if the combustion chamber is in full heat. We also talked about the details of installation and ventilation, both of which are pretty simple.

In the attached photo, I am holding the ashes generated by one person's use for 30 days. Generally, our family could use it for a couple weeks and only need to empty the unit once. Plus, it handles toilet paper as well as liquids, which is an advantage over other types of toilets. Frankly, it looks pretty darn good.

It also turns out their warehouse is almost within walking distance of Marcia and Rutger's house. Johan is doing a good job of making me think seriously about buying a 30,000 kronor toilet.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Sooz tried a little experiment recently. She ordered a book for Janne through, and sent it successfully to his Aspö address.

Now we know that with a couple of clicks on Amazon, a mail boat will arrive on our little island a few days later with whatever goodie our heart desires!!! Cool.