Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Engelbert Humperdinck

Yes, ol' Engelbert was appointed as the representative of the UK for the upcoming contest. I don't say "old" lightly; he is 76, after all. But he is an experienced performer who can add a good dose of professionalism to a well-written ballad on the night. I think it interesting the BBC moved away from their recent contest format and simply announced the performer and song. It seems they're doing everything "old-school" this year!

PS. Engelbert may not be that young, but the Russian grannies are even older still...

Friday, March 23, 2012

An IKEA House

Margaret sent along this story from the Daily Mail (not my favourite paper, I have to say) about an "IKEA house". It makes perfect sense; you buy everything else, why not just buy the house, too?

The house isn't really made by IKEA; it's by Ideabox, a Portland-based architectural firm who have designed a number of interesting small homes. The idea behind their "Aktiv" home is that it is built around IKEA systems, so the two parts, interior and exterior, are designed together.

It's certainly smaller than a typical home here in America; 745 square feet (69 square meters). That's just a touch bigger than our home on Aspö, and about the size of a Texas 3-car garage! I think smaller, more efficient homes like these are the way of the future and I like the idea very much.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring indeed!

Annika sent along a few photos this weekend and it's a big change from her snowy February pics! As I said just a few days ago, Spring is making its way to Aspö, too. You can see the latest on my Annika's photo page.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Skärgårds Radio

One of our favourite things when we're out on Aspö is listening to the local radio station. Skärdårdsradion, 90.2 on your FM dial, translates to 'archipelago radio'. Its target audience are the people who live and work out in the islands. The broadcast is localized; I tried once to receive it at Rutger's house in Stockholm and couldn't pick it up.

They provide maritime weather on a regular basis, a bit of news on the hour, and a limited but charming playlist of new and classic middle-of-the road songs. They play all of the popular Melodifestival and Eurovision hits, for example. It's hard to put the exact musical formula into words, but both Sooz and I have heard a song and said to each other, "we'll hear that one this summer," and we're almost always right. Listening to their station has become part of our experience on the island.

It is possible to listen to the station from their website but I haven't been able to listen to it on my internet radio at home. Until now, that is. I stumbled across an iPhone app that streams the station right into my pocket. It's free and it works perfectly. We're able to sit outside in the Texas evenings and listen to the latest in Swedish pop. Bliss.

The app is available on the iTunes store here. Give it a try!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A view from the UK on Sweden and Eurovision

The Guardian ran an interesting article about how seriously Swedes take the Eurovision contest- and how the UK should, too. I thought it was worth sharing.

UPDATE: Marcia sent me a text today about the Russian's entry of singing grannies. I agree with her observation this song may be hard to beat in Baku:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The stirrings of Spring

Here in Texas, we're already into the 80's and everything started greening up seemingly overnight. I fear this is the prelude for another brutal summer. But right now, it is lovely, so we are trying to enjoy it as much as we can.

In Sweden, however, the temperature change is more gradual. The snow is gone and the temperatures over the next weeks aren't forecast to be below freezing. Conversely, this is the time of year when days get longer very quickly. In fact, tomorrow will have 5½ more minutes of sunlight than today did. By this weekend, the days will be 12 hours long, and a month later, 15 hours.

Janne is leaving sunny Florida in a couple of days to head back to Aspö. He's not looking forward to the swap from warm sunshine to cool and cloudy. I can't say as I blame him!

One good thing for me, selfishly, is that he'll be able to help me out with a shopping list of lumber and a few other bits of building supplies. My one big project for our May visit will be to build the stairs up to the little house, especially now that Grant will be with us that week to help.

I sent Janne my shopping list, and I am pleased to report that he thought it looked correct. There's no higher praise for me than Janne's approval of anything I do building-wise! He will order my stuff and we will share the shipping cost with any other orders he places for himself, so that's a win-win. And he said he'd drop it off at our house. I can't imagine better service than that.

It's about 9 weeks until I can be back out to Aspö...and I can't wait!!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Loreen is the winner!

I spotted Loreen in the first semi-final and at the risk of sounding smug, I was darned good with my guesses. I thought it would come down to her and Danny and I'll be darned if I wasn't right!

We had an atypically rainy day here in Texas so I put the live feed from SVT on my flatscreen and watched it in real-time. Even more fun was video-chatting and messaging with Marcia and Camille during the show. It was almost like being there.

Now on to Baku at the end of May!!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stockholm Design Week

Stockholm Design Week (and the Stockholm Furniture Fair) was held in the second week of February. I have found a couple of websites that have a great gallery of photos and information about all of the wares on display.

First is a slideshow from core77, which is a pretty interesting design website.

Second is coverage from designboom of a number of different designers and furniture displays.

Lots of interesting and beautiful things on display in the dark of the Swedish winter!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We're ready for the Melodifestival final!

Last night was the "second chance" show, which is my least favourite of the six-week process. None of those acts are as good as the winners, in my highly-educated opinion at least. What is good is that SVT has now put up video of all the performances, so please take a look.

My favourite is still Loreen's "Euphoria". There's also the Don Draper breakdancing wannabe David Lindgren with a classic Eurodisco/Eurovision song that might play well in Baku. And for sheer head-scratching entertainment value, check out "Mirakel" with Björn Ranelid & Sara Li.

My second fave is Danny Saucedo's catchy song with has some very inventive staging. He is also going last in the running order next week which is usually helpful.

I wish we could be at the Swedish pub in London once again to watch the big final!!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Marathon training

I am 4½ weeks into an 18 week schedule for the Stockholm Marathon. It is 93 days until the race, and so far, things are going well.

My last full marathon was in 2004, so I am easing back into my training. I am once again using Hal Higdon's running calendar to schedule my runs. I am using the novice calendar, although in my heyday fifteen years ago, I followed the expert. It's hard to imagine doing that now.

My knees were worringly creaky at the start but everything has settled down. I am a bit concerned about it getting warm too quickly down here in Texas. Marathons are typically held here in the December-February period. I think I may well have some hot May mornings to deal with!

I am automatically posting my runs on my twitter page now (thanks to a really great little app) so if you're curious, you can see my progress in great detail there.