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.

Aby-a-Day – 9 June: Logistics (Swedish Saturday)

When we go to the vet, we always go by bus. It’s not a bad bus trip, just a long one, but the stops are convenient at either end.

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I prefer to take Jacoby and Angel in the stroller. It’s easier than having to carry them both.

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The very first time we went to the vet here in Skövde, we tried taking Jake and Angel in the double Sturdi carrier Meg gave me.

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I mean, it works…

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…but it’s a pretty heavy bag to carry around with the both of them in it!

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It’s also a lot harder for Jake to greet his adoring fans.

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No, it’s much easier to have the two big cats in the stroller.

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In fact, it’s easier to have all the cats in strollers. Since Jake doesn’t like to share his stroller with the younger cats, we took both strollers to our annual vet visit!

Aby-a-Day – 5 May: “Life is short. Talk fast.”

Today’s post is going to be short and quick, because it’s been a very long day, spent mostly either on trains or walking. But today we added S*Backilandets Mercedes von Ekorntorp, better known as Lorelai (Rory for short). This is Lorelai and her sister, Maya. Annnnddd…yeah, I may or may not have picked the two of them up, kind of made them dance, and sang the the “Sisters” song from White Christmas.

I have a lot of photos of Rory’s trip home and first encounter with the boys, but for now, these will have to do.

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Angel was unimpressed. Curious, but unimpressed.

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Alfred was so interested in Rory. He loved her at first sight.

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Freddy really misses his little buddy Logan. He is head over heels in love with his new little sister. He’s going to be a great big brother.

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Jacoby…well, he’ll warm to her. Eventually. I hope.

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But they are actually related! On her father's grandmother's side, she and Jake are related through Instincts Klein Bonaire. And she and Freddy are related by at least Purrsynian's Jambe Finite, and probably closer…but I haven't had time to research it. And then if Angel's breeder and sister are who I think they are, Angel is related to everyone, distantly, too. We really are one big happy family.

Aby-a-Day – 24 March: Cat-apulted into a new life (Swedish Saturday)

Björn has written another post for me, this time about our cat show career. He is such a great help to me at shows, and he’s better at talking to the spectators than I am! I am so glad he doesn’t hate going to shows with me.

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Dogs have masters. Cats have servants. And show cats have an entourage. Since Koshka moved to Sweden, I’ve become sort of her tour manager.

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We’ve been to shows both in Sweden and abroad (Finland and Estonia thus far) with both Logan and Jacoby, and I’m usually the one who books hotels, tickets for trains and ferries, and rent and drive a car if one is needed.

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Hauling all that luggage (one big bag for the cat, and one for us, plus a few smaller bags) is too much for one person, so that’s another task.

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Then, at the shows, it’s the usual setting up to do. That’s pretty much Koshka’s thing, as she has done it so many more times before. Once the show starts, I’m still bewildered by what and when things are supposed to happen, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.

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I take it that men are in minority in the world of cat shows. There are the judges and breeders, the spouses (enthusiastic or suffering), and the occasional single guy with his cat. As we go to a show on average once every two months, it doesn’t get boring. What is fun is to go to new places, meet new people, and to stay at a nice hotel and go to a good restaurant.

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Also, as I have come to know Jake and Logan, I have become more invested in their success. After all, no one goes to a show just to display your cat and chat with the neighbor!

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While I’ll never have the cat show circuit as a lifestyle, I’m not doing this to indulge my wife, but to do something that I’ve come to enjoy.

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After all, we do this at the pleasure of our feline overlords, right?