Aby-a-Day – 29 September: Why we don’t let Alfred outside off leash (Swedish Saturday)

People have asked why we don’t take Alfred out on our off-leash walking training with Lorelai and Izaak.

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This is why. He bolts. The second he’s let outside, he heads for the trees at the bottom of the slope.

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And naturally the kittens follow him into the exciting jungle. I was too busy capturing Freddy to get any good photos. But he spent the rest of the outing on his leash.

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He was good-natured about it. But he tried to go back into the woods again despite his leash.

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Freddy is an excellent leash walker, though.

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You can see how far those trees are…and how Freddy longs to go back down there. Sorry, Freddy.

Aby-a-Day – 22 September: Run like the wind (Swedish Saturday)

Lorelai and Izaak love to go on walks around our apartment buildings.

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We are teaching them to go outside with us in the områden of our apartment. We want to be able to have them come outside with us without leashes and harnesses, and to come back to us when we call them.

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So far, it’s going fairly well.

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They love going outside, there’s no question there.

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It’s fun to watch them run with no limitations, that’s for sure. Look at Zak! He’s airborne!

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They work as a team when they are outside together.

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Although Rory is a little more adventurous than Zak is.

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Look at her run!

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Her energy is boundless.

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She loves to just run as fast as she can.

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…And then, she saw the pigeon

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At first, she wasn’t sure what to do.

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But Zak did.

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It was truly impressive, watching his raw instinct take over as he stalked the pigeon (which was almost as big as he is).

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Watching him approach the bird, you would think he had done this before. He was that good.

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And then…he made his rush. It was glorious.

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Rory finally joined in. And then I noticed that there were actually two pigeons!

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But too little, too late. The pigeons were gone.

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One did remain sitting high atop a street lamp, mocking our kittens.

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Zak didn’t mind. He ran it off.

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Run, Izaak, run!

Aby-a-Day – 8 September: Into the woods (Part 1) (Swedish Saturday)

These are some more photos from August 2016, a couple of months after I moved here.

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One day, Kalle was home during summer vacation, and he said we should take the cats out for a walk around the small lake near our house.

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So, we got the stroller out…

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…and we headed towards the lake.

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Jacoby and Angel seemed happy to be going out on an adventure.

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The lake is not at all far from our apartment buildings.

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Even so, I hadn’t been down there yet, so Kalle lead the way.

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Around the lake there are signs showing the kinds of birds and other wildlife that can be found in the area. I laughingly joked that they were “cat menus.”

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Jake was, perhaps, a bit more excited about going exploring than Angel was…

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Around all lakes of a certain size in Sweden, live preservers are posted at the ready in case of emergency.

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Even if it’s not a lake that anyone might possibly swim in on a whim, at least in summertime (and who would want to swim any other time), because look at these reeds!

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Here’s the stroller for comparison.

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The forest is a mix of coniferous and deciduous trees. For being so close to two apartment complexes, it’s all the more impressive.

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At least, Jake and Angel were impressed.

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Kalle showed me this wicked cool spot under the trees…and oh, it was awesome!

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We parked the stroller and prepared to explore…what we saw will be posted tomorrow.

Aby-a-Day – 4 August: No allen wrench required (Silly Swedish Saturday)

Back in April, I posted about Malt, a Japanese Singapura who loves to drag his favourite toy all over the house.

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It seems Izaak and Malt have something in common.

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Zak absolutely LOVES IKEA mice and rats.

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LOVES them.

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He also loves to carry them around.

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We are always finding them in our bed.

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Apparently, this is the best place to play with them.

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It’s tempting to call his mousies his “friends,” but he doesn’t see them that way. When he picks them up, he tends to go for the backs of their necks. And then he shakes them. So…probably not friends.

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Whatever they are, he loves to carry them around the house.

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What’s funny is, we had a load of mice and one rat that lay around the house for over a year, because nobody ever played with them. The best they could hope for was to end up helping to bury the food bowls when Alfred was done eating. So now, whenever we go to IKEA, we of course have to get Zak some new mousies.

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The last time we went, we got one of each colour mice, plus a black and a grey rat. And a lion, because why not?

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Zak immediately decided he liked the big grey rat the best.

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He picked it right up and carried it off.

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He had a bit of a struggle with it on the balcony floor…

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…and then he carried it into the living room.

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His ultimate goal was this little tent we have set up in the living room.

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There was a little bit of distraction involving a brown mouse from an earlier IKEA trip.

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But in the end, Zak got his rat into his tent.

Aby-a-Day – 28 July: A breath of fresh air (Swedish Saturday)

Ever since I moved here with Jacoby and Angel, we have wanted to put up cat netting and turn the balcony into a real, open-air catio.

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Thing is, the netting is a bit expensive. You probably can’t see the prices on the stickers, but the regular price is 548kr ($62). The box with the red tag is marked down because it’s missing screws…but even so, it’s still 488kr ($55). And it’s difficult to install, especially since our 50-year-old concrete walls are murder to drill into. So we let inertia rule, and made do with the glass windows just barely cracked open. It was a little warm out there when the sun was shining on it, but the cats didn’t mind.

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However, a couple of months ago I had the incredible good fortune to find a complete cat netting set at a second-hand store…for only 25kr (a little less than $3)! We find a lot of great things at the second-hand stores here…but this was one of our best scores.

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The netting sat around for a bit while we tried to figure out how we were going to put it up. As you may have heard, Northern Europe has been experiencing a wicked heatwave this summer, and with the balcony glassed in and closed up to keep the cats in, the temperature on the balcony was getting up to 40°C (104°F). We had real motivation to put up the netting and open the balcony up to whatever breeze we could get.

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Finally, even though it was hot, sweaty work, we finally sucked it up and hung the netting.

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And it was great!

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For about five seconds. Then Jacoby came to take a look and worked out how to escape through the side. Alfred was not far behind.

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So we closed the windows again and went back to the drawing board. Björn came up with a way of reinforcing the bottom section of the net with chicken wire. We fastened that to the lower screw eyes the net was attached to, secured it well at the bottom edge, and then wove wire through both the netting and the chicken wire along the top. Then we opened the windows again and held our breath. Would it stand up to Jake and Freddy?

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Jake tried his old trick to break through the way he did the last time, pushing hard with his head.

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But it held!

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Freddy had a go as well, but even with his method (leaning on it with all his weight till he fell out) the reinforced netting kept him inside.

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Finally, both of them stopped trying to escape and just enjoyed the fresh air.

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Izaak and Lorelai were quick to join them.

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They love it out there!

Aby-a-Day – 23 June: Små grodorna, små grodorna är lustiga att se (Swedish Saturday)

Yesterday, Sweden celebrated Midsommar, the second biggest holiday after Jul (Christmas), on par with the States’ Thanksgiving in terms of gathering together and feasting. The Nordic countries love their solstice celebrations.

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Swedish Midsommar is celebrated on the Friday nearest the Summer Solstice. It has varied origins, much like Christmas, but mainly comes from pagan rites. It has a lot to do with Freya and Freyr and the worshipping of fertility and a rich harvest during the Viking age (The fact that many Swedes, including both Björn and Kalle, have March birthdays may or may not have anything to do with all that fertility worshipping). Traditions include erecting a leaf-and-flower covered midsommarstång (or majstång – maypole), which Swedes dance around (this post’s title comes from the “Frog Dance” song, which involves hopping like a frog and croaking. There’s also a verse about pigs).

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Traditional foods eaten at Midsommar include lax (salmon), boiled new potatoes, sill (herring) and strawberries. People also have barbecues and dinner parties. And they drink (it’s best to get to the alcohol stores early before Midsommar, because the lines can get wicked long and they can run out of your favourites,

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Beer, wine and especially snaps (something like aquavit) are the beverages of choice. There are several nubbevisor (drinking songs) which are often based on popular tunes with the lyrics changed to booze- and food-related themes.

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Ironically for a summer celebration, the weather is almost always cloudy and/or rainy. My first Midsommar was sunny and bright, but the last two were grey. Yesterday was overcast all day…but of course today the sky is blue without a cloud to be seen. Perfect hangover weather.

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Another tradition is to wear a wreath of flowers on your head.

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Usually you see women wearing them, but men can wear a flower crown, too. The wreaths can be made using real wildflowers or silk flowers, and of course you can buy them ready-made in stores.

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I made this one for Jacoby for our first Midsommar, which happened about a week after we arrived here. As you can see, he rocked it.

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Treats may or may not have been involved in the making of this post.

Aby-a-Day – 16 June: Watch the birdie (Swedish Saturday)

We have a really cool little suction-cup birdfeeder on our living room window. We got it to help the birds have food in winter, but the birds actually eat more during the spring and summer than they do when there’s snow on the ground.

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We also got it to entertain the cats.

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Which it does. Everyone loves watching the birds come to eat.

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We get Blue Tits, Great Tits, and House Sparrows. The tits are a lot of fun to watch.

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Sometimes, they go inside the ball to eat!

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The sparrows are more aggressive and pushy. Which makes sense, when you think about it; after all, you never see the tits hopping around outdoor cafés stealing leftovers. I mean, there are five of them trying to eat at the same time in this photo!

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We rarely see the tits and the sparrows eating at the same time.

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I put fat balls into the feeder because it’s hard to pour seeds in there. The fat balls are hard, and when the birds come to eat, they peck at the balls which makes a thumping noise on the window. It’s loud enough to wake a sleeping cat.

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So close…

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…And yet, so far…

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Even though we got the feeder for the birds and the cats, it is a lot fun for us, too.