Saturday, December 28, 2013

Swedish Billionaires


Following on from my recent post about Swedish equality comes an article in Slate, courtesy of Marcia, in the same vein.

It appears that, despite the successful push towards social equality, there are more Swedish billionaires per capita than in the US.

Here's the key quote: "... almost every place on Earth would like to be the kind of place where successful new firms are born and raised. The good news about Sweden is that it’s exactly that kind of place. High taxes go to finance cheap health care and education, an excellent system of public transportation, and relatively generous subsidies to low-income households that keep the poverty rate and inequality low."

I find it heartening to read about a system of government that does what the US aspires to, and does it better.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kalle Anka önskar dig en God Jul

It's time for all good Swedes to sit down and enjoy the traditional Donald Duck cartoon in celebration of Christmas.

I've blogged about this phenomenon many times in the past. Slate magazine has a good article about Kalle Anka. Strangely enough, Sweden's official website makes no mention of the Disney tradition.

We're not in Sweden this Christmas, sadly, but we are there in spirit. I know Rutger and many millions of his countrymen are safely in front of the television, watching SVT at this moment.

God Jul till alla!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hockey Night in Texas

We went to the hockey game last night and had a great time. I had seats down by the visitor's goal in the hopes of seeing Eddie play. He didn't start, but came in early in the 3rd period after the Canucks were down 4-1. He played well, making a few good saves. I took these two pictures from our seats.

Eddie is clearly becoming a big part of the team. This article from Vancouver sums him up pretty well.

We weren't able to meet up, but we did exchange texts and we'll try again when the Canucks return in March. Wille was watching on TV, and we were messaging each other furiously during the match. Hockey was my sport growing up in Minnesota. It was nice to be close to the ice again!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hello to all the nice people from Cabin Porn

I had blogged back in August about a drool-worthy website of cabins around the world, cabinporn.com. I sent in a photo of our little stuga but didn't hear back.

I visited as usual today, and lo and behold, there it is! A lovely Christmas image of our house is now listed with all of the other beautiful cabins on the site. It looks like a number of people have made their way this blog from the Cabin Porn link.

For those interested in learning more, the introductory posts are a good summary of our project.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Happy Lucia!

I'm up to my sixth Lucia celebration on the blog. This year, it happens on a Friday, but I think the good vibes of a Lucia celebration will overwhelm any bad vibes of it being a Friday the 13th.

A listing of my previous posts on the subject is here, and the Sweden.se website has a great recap of the tradition and its celebrations in the country.

Although we haven't found any local Lucia celebrations, Sooz and I did find a band with the same name when we were in Austin earlier this year. We'll see them on their upcoming tour, too!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Sweden's Eden"

A colleague brought me a recent Wall Street Journal article about the tradition of Stockholmer's summer homes. It's a good summary, but doesn't hold a lot new for frequent readers here.

The article is focused on real estate values. It does a good job of highlighting the huge growth in Varmdö kommun. The key quote is that "buying a one-room apartment in Stockholm is incredibly expensive and the average price of a summer house is much less."

Olle and Janne both told me recently that Varmdö is the fastest- growing area of Stockholm, and I can believe it. The new mega-ICA is just one example of growth in the area; the full busses on the Stavsnäs route are another.

The bus journey between Gustavsberg and Slussen, even at rush hour, is not that bad by European standards. (Although the upcoming 7-year reconstruction at Slussen may well gum things up!) Despite all that, I can see how a home in Varmdö would be a good alternative for people working around the city center.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Goalies are weird"


The Vancouver Canucks (of the NHL) have a number of videos on their YouTube channel. This one's entitled "Goalies Are Weird", about the backup goaltender Eddie Läck.

Around the 3:40 mark of the video, Eddie talks about his father back in Sweden. Sharp-eyed readers might recognize Eddie's dad as none other than our own Wille, who led the team who assembled our house.

As you can imagine, Wille is quite proud of his boy, who has gone on to become a professional goaltender in the USA. I have been following his progress over the years, and I'm a tiny bit proud myself!

The Canucks are coming into town in a few weeks, and I bought tickets down by the visitor's goal. I hope he gets to play that day; we'd love to see him in action! Wille is going to see if we could somehow meet Eddie before/after the game.

For those interested, Eddie's performances are on his NHL webpage.

UPDATE December 10: Eddie started and had his first shutout last night!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory

I was sent a link a while ago from Dawn, one of my more avid readers. She found a webpage about the "Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory" and wondered if it was our little island.

It was a bit alarming to see the page linked to the "final repository for spent nuclear fuel at the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company’s (SKB) underground hard rock laboratory on the island of Äspö."

I am happy to report that no nuclear waste is being stored beneath our little stuga. Firstly, the spelling is different: Äspö vs Aspö. Secondly, the atomic island is down south near Oskarsham, and not up in the Stockholm archipelago.

The website is quite well-written and it tells the story of the company's work to test technologies to safely store spent nuclear fuel in the bedrock and clay nearly 500 meters beneath Äspö. They provide a brochure explaining all of their tests, and I found it fascinating.

Apparently tours of the facility can be arranged. I'll have to add a tour to my Swedish "to-do" list!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

Time for the yearly Thanksgiving post. We're back in Minneapolis with my mom and extended family. Everyone, that is, except Ollie, who's back in Texas at his favorite kennel. He's still doing fine, 5 years after his surgery, and I'm very thankful for that.

We have an extra special guest in Marcia & Rutger's son, Tim, who is in school in the US. He was able to join us for his first American Thanksgiving, and my mother and sister filled him to the brim with turkey and all the trimmings.

In fact, everyone is doing well, and it's been a great family day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

"What Sweden Can Teach America"

An interesting article and short video on the CNN website pokes holes in the thinking that Sweden is a big-government, socialist paradise. To quote:

"It turns out that socialist Sweden is not as socialist or crazy as the American right would have you believe. Instead, the changes of the last two decades reveal a Swedish government and people who are pragmatic and adaptable."

The idea is that Swedish government is not really 'big', but rather 'smart'. Of course nothing is perfect, and I know Rutger and Janne can point out many flaws about life in Sweden. But it is interesting to see that significant social and political changes can happen. That's perhaps the most important lesson to be learned in the US.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Funky Radiators

The New York Times ran an article recently on the trend of radiators as art objects.

Radiators are not nearly as prevalent in the US as they are in Europe. In the UK and Scandinavia, few homes have (or need) air conditioning. In the US, forced air heating and cooling is much more common to deal with the extremes of temperature. (Here in my Texas home, my thermostat has a setting to run the heater at night and the AC during the day. I thought it was a gimmick, but I have used it more than once!)

Since radiators have such prominence in European homes, it's no surprise that artists and designers are looking to move them from being utilitarian into being more of a statement. The Times has a slideshow of many cool designs.

Some homeowners take a completely different tack and use radiant floor heating. Marcia & Rutger's house has such a system, and their home is perfectly cozy, even on the coldest days, as if by magic.

We aren't out at our little stuga that much in the coldest time of the year. We get by just fine with our radiators and Dyson fan. Regular blog readers know, however, that I still pine for a nice little fireplace. Perhaps one day...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Waxholmsbolaget Strike?!?

I missed this one completely, I'm sorry to say. The Waxholmsbolaget went on strike November 5th, ending a number of ferry services, including the Stavsnäs-Aspö run. That would have been a pain in the neck if we had been out on Aspö.

The strike ended last night; details are on Radio Sweden. I'm upset with myself that I missed such a breaking and pertinent news story!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Gender Neutrality

Boys with toy guns and girls with baby dolls. Not in Sweden, that is.

The Wall Street Journal shares the story of the gender-neutral Swedish Toys R Us catalog. In its pages, boys handle hair dryers and girls hold giant Nerf cannons. It's not just altruism on the part of toy retailers; Swedish authorities watch these kinds of things very carefully!

In fact, cinemas in Sweden are starting to classify films according to the Bechdel test, which is essentially a measure of the presence and importance of a film's female characters. (I'm intrigued to see that three of my favorite movies, all candidates for the best films of all time, each fail the test spectacularly.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wood buildings

I've posted previously (here and here) about ever-larger buildings being made of wood. Seeing how our little cabin is literally made of nothing but glue-laminated wood and a bucket of screws, I've become quite interested in wood construction.

It appears the 'big guys' are getting interested, too. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is a world-renowned firm who have built the Sears Tower and the Burj Khalifa, among many, many other projects. (Frank Lloyd Wright called them the "three blind Mies" which is probably the best architecture joke ever.)

SOM have turned their hand to the idea of wood in skyscraper construction, and lo and behold, they see quite a bit of promise in the idea. The New York Times reports that SOM have determined tall wooden buildings to be feasible from an engineering standpoint, and more sustainable than concrete-and-steel, to boot.

I have no plans to build a multistory stuga, even if Värmdö kommun would allow it. But the idea of using wood, especially wood from sustainable forests, to build tall, is fascinating, and likely becoming more common in the future.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Internet redux

There has been a good deal of movement on the quest for better internet service out on Aspö. My connection now is OK, but it is slow and a bit fiddly. I've been yearning to improve my connectivity.

During our last visit, we talked with Tony, who told me that Thomas, a fellow resident, and the man who manages the Aspö website, has been using a 4G wireless setup from Telia which he's been happy with. Tony also told me about a similar system from 3, who I have today as a pay-as-you go provider.

The Telia setup is interesting. It's only 99 kronor a month for existing customers. I'm not an existing customer, but Rutger is. Perhaps I could have him get a unit on my behalf and then I pay him back the 99 monthly? Advantages: I could have a constant connection so I could set up that webcam I've been dreaming about. Disadvantages: I'd have to hassle Rutger and I'm sure there would be some billing or provisioning complication or two.

I emailed the nice people at 3 and they responded quickly and in perfect English. Essentially I can buy their 4G unit for 1500 kronor (about $230), use my current account and get nice fast 4G at a lower price. Advantages: I can use my current account and not involve Rutger and his billing. Disadvantages: not as cheap as the 99:- monthly through Telia. There's a potential curveball, though. The router they use is available on the internet for something less than 3 wants for it. Perhaps I could attach a bootleg router to their network? After all, I'm doing it already with the 3G USB dongle.

One other possibility is xcomglobal. For Americans leaving their shores for points beyond, they'll provide a wireless router for use on their travels for $15 per day. This isn't as cheap as any of the other options above for us as Swedish 'residents', but it would be good for traveling or occasional use.

All this is potentially trumped by the latest news from Stefan on Ladholmen, who has been a champion of the Nämdö fiber project. He emailed me earlier this week: "Hi Don! We have just awarded contractor for fiber in stage 1, the southern Nämdö and surrounding islands. Our three islands and northern Nämdö will probably be included in stage 2, which is currently projected, the probable procurement in the beginning of 2014."

So it looks possible, at least, that we could have that super-fast Swedish connection as soon as next year. I would just love that!

UPDATE November 8: I received an email from Nilla on Nämdö, informing me of a December 8 board meeting. She also told me she expected the submarine cable for stage one should be laid before then. So there is lots of progress, indeed!

Friday, November 1, 2013

A sense of style

I found a fascinating article on the official Visit Sweden website. It was entitled "Why are Swedes so Stylish?" The most interesting part to me is that the article was more about politics and culture than the mechanics or history of good design.

As the article says, the Swedish aesthetic comes from the very Swedish concept of lagom, a word that translates roughly as "just right".  That is a rough translation, too. A lot is packed into that one word.

Lagom has a strong social connotation. It means having just enough as compared to your neighbors, the idea that "I'm not OK unless everyone else is, too". It means avoiding ostentation or displays of consumerism. The celebrity culture, the consumer culture, that is so evident in the US is not nearly as strong in Sweden.

Another way to look at is the Power Distance Index, a measure of the "distance" between the powerful and less-powerful members of a society. Where I live in Texas, there are many gated communities; you need to be pretty wealthy to get in. I think there are very few such communities in Sweden.

The idea of having very little distance between someone powerful or famous and the average person on the street strikes me as a very desirable concept. The Swedish idea of "everyone being in it together" is one of the things I love so much about my adopted country!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

IKEA

It's been an interesting week. We are completing a few renovations on our Texas house and have so made a few trips to our favorite local Swedish furniture store.

I'm having quite a sense of deja vu, because I've spent today with my toolkit, assembling various pieces of furniture and crossing off household projects from my to-do list. It's very much like being out on Aspö.

I also read an interesting article on how IKEA accomplishes all those aspirational photos in their yearly catalog. They have an enormous studio filled with experts to recreate the stylish Swedish lifestyle.

Increasingly, however, those images aren't photographs, but computer simulations. Instead of an army of tradesmen, youngsters at their computers take the contents of the IKEA catalog and recreate the perfect kitchen digitally.

I'm not sure what to make of that; after all, many of the movies and TV shows we watch nowadays are created digitally. But an IKEA kitchen is much more a real thing than the forest moon of Endor, and I would expect that it would exist somewhere, even if it is just in a studio for a photographer's lens. But maybe that's just me being an old fogey!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lots of content on its way

... just not yet. Between the jet lag, lots going on at work, and our own home project in Texas, I've been short on free time. However, I have been keeping a list of future topics and I've jotted 8 subjects so far, so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

On our way home :(

Writing this from lovely Heathrow. We had a jam-packed last few days in Aspö, a fika with Tony and Ann-Catrin, a small kitchen remodel, a visit with Eva-Lis, a botched photo shoot, and a good-bye dinner with Margaret and Janne. Plus a surprise visit from a couple of teenagers! More detail soon, have to run for now, but lots of new photos are up.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A busy few days

Let's see if I can provide a recap on this drizzly Wednesday morning....

Sunday we arrived to the house in fine shape. I had less to carry, as the ceiling fan I had checked went missing somewhere at SAS. They were still tracing it 48 hours later, and I was losing hope of ever seeing it again.

However, my spirits were raised by meeting up with our neighbors Johan and Sofia at their newly-restored barn, just behind Olle and Annika's house. Sofia had planned to have an Oktoberfest beer tasting in the barn so I brought along a few cans of Shiner Oktoberfest as a unique treat.

Afterwards, we hurried up to Margaret and Janne's for a belated birthday dinner which was super, and we survived the dark walk home. We only heard a moose, but didn't see one.

On Monday, I installed the new outdoor lights, which look fantastic, if I say so myself. Marg and Janne came to us for an early dinner, after which I ran down to the dock to pick up my ceiling fan, which was amazingly found and delivered by SAS!

Tuesday was puttering around, I fixed the wheelbarrow among other small tasks. We also met with Lars Dahlin, a local handyman from Runmarö, to take a look at a few leaks, and to get some advice on painting the house and sealing the deck.

Today, we're going to install the fan while it's a bit damp outside, I'll put up a few photos after that's done. It's been relaxing and great fun so far!

UPDATE: All done and working perfectly! (With a bit of help from Rutger giving electrical advice over the phone, that is...) 

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Starry Evening

Just a quick post with last night's photographic product. Lots going on but too busy to add more to the blog right now.

Stay tuned for more news and photos from beautiful Aspö!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Aboard the m/s Roslagen!

We're here and all is well; we will be on Aspö in 20 minutes. We saw Tony and Ann-Catrin on the dock in Stavsnäs and they'll be back tomorrow, so that will be a treat to see them while we're here.

Dinner tonight with Margaret and Janne. More info and photos up later!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Leaving today!

Well, I am, at least. Sooz is already on her way, having spent the past few days in the UK. I'll be in cool Stockholm from sunny Texas soon enough, and we'll head out to Aspö on Sunday.


I should also point out that today is the birthday of both my lovely wife and the gorgeous Margaret. In just a few more days it'll be Grattis på födelsedagen to the beautiful Camille. 

Happy Birthday, girls!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Classic American Cars in Sweden

My mother recently forwarded me an article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It chronicled the fascination Swedes have with classic American cars. I thought I had written about this before, but it appears I haven't. The best I could find was a May 2009 post in which I mentioned the hot rods on Rutger's street.

The love for old American cars (by some estimates there are more from the 50's in Sweden than the US) is intertwined with the love for the culture of the times. That post-war sense of freedom and coolness exemplified by Elvis, rockabilly, and "American Graffiti" took root in central Sweden and has flourished to this day.

It's not just the cars, it's the Levis, the hair pomade, the whole James Dean style, that's been adopted by (mostly) the men and boys in central Sweden. The sub-culture has been dubbed raggare, which has as its root raggar, which essentially means "to pick up girls".

There's a huge car show, the Power Big Meet, in Vasterås every summer. I really should go as it looks like a heck of a time: American cars, slightly adulterated American culture, and lots of cans of strong Swedish beer. Perfect.

Eva and Raymond, our neighbors on Aspö, gifted us a wonderful photo montage of American cars. I'm bringing a shipping tube with us this trip (filled with stuff of course) so I can bring the poster back and hang it in the garage with my own classic car!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The World Happiness Report 2013

I blogged last year about the OECD's "Better Life" well-being index of countries around the world. It's no surprise to me that Sweden (and Scandinavia in general) ranked very well in quality of life measurements.

This week, the Earth Institute at Columbia University released its 2013 World Happiness Report. Once again, northern Europe fared very well. The top ten countries:

1. Denmark
2. Norway
3. Switzerland
4. Netherlands
5. Sweden
6. Canada
7. Finland
8. Austria
9. Iceland
10. Australia

It seems there is a strong correlation between cold weather and happiness. With Minneapolis being my hometown, I have to say there's something to that!



Friday, September 20, 2013

Time is really flying!

Only two more weeks, and we're back in Stockholm! We will have to finish up all of our shopping and packing soon.
 

We got some great news in that Margaret and Janne will be out on Aspö the same week as we are. It's a rare treat to spend island time with both of them, so that is a real bonus!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The comparative price of food in Sweden





I found a fascinating data visualization of the comparative price of food in the EU. The bottom line is that the total cost of food in Sweden is the fourth highest in Europe; 24% above average, behind Norway, Switzerland, and Denmark.

Looks like Macedonia's the place for cheap booze, and Albania for a cheap burger. The overall trend from northwest to southeast is interesting. in fact, I've spent a half-hour clicking on this chart!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tham & Videgård

I found a portfolio of beautiful houses made by Tham & Videgård architects. Most of them seem to be on the coast or in the archipelago.

In fact, my favourite is the Archipelago House, pictured here.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Return

... will be pretty soon, actually, exactly 5 weeks from today.

We'll be there just a week, enjoying the autumn and closing up the house. I think I'll install the two new outdoor new lights, and maybe the bedroom ceiling fan, too, but not much else.

I will try to take more star photos, taking advantage of the dark nights. But that's it. Just relaxing after a very busy summer.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Peepoo




I found (through the @Sweden twitter account) an interesting startup company with the slightly silly name of Peepoople. Their mission is to provide sanitation to the millions of people in the developing world who suffer from a lack of sanitation.

The idea is simple; it is in essence a bag like the ones we take along for Ollie's walks. But the difference is that the Peepoo quickly sanitizes its waste thanks to chemicals in the bag. Also, the bag itself is biodegradable, so the whole thing turns into valuable fertilizer.

Cheap, simple, and turning something bad into something good. I think it's a great idea!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sweden’s Quest To Be The First Oil-Free Nation

I read an interesting article about plans by the Swedish government to become the world's first oil-free economy by 2020.

The use of ethenol has really grown recently. Just in the years since we've begun building our house, I've seen many more flex-fuel vehicles, and the "E85" signs at petrol stations are increasingly common.

Sweden is also leading on obtaining their ethanol from better sources. The most common sources are food crops (such as grains), or importing from sugar cane sources (Brazil being the main supplier). Sweden is working on 'secondary' sources of ethanol, such as waste material or cellulose-based crops. Both of these approaches are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Click & Grow

 
I found a cool little device over at kickstarter. It's called a "click & grow" and it is designed to allow automated growing of herbs and other small plants.

I just love my gadgets, and Sooz likes her fresh herbs. We might be able to start growing at our April/May visit, and then enjoy fresh greens in the summer! It is something fun to think about.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ceiling Fans

We have them all over our Texas house. They do a great job of keeping air moving on these muggy days. There's also one in our stuga; I blogged about it at the time, and there's even a photo of its installation on the flickr page.

Sooz thought it wasn't really necessary at the time, but we've both come to appreciate having the airflow when the sun beams in the big windows and heats the house in the summer (not to Texas levels, of course!)

This past visit, we found our bedroom becoming stuffy. The shades have to be drawn because of the constant sunshine, which reduces fresh air, even if the windows stay open. We both thought a fan would be handy both in cool and warm environments.

The room is small so we want a fan that isn't too big and looks classy. This took me back to modernfan.com, and a model called the Altus. It comes with a small light, a remote control, 220 volt wiring, and is available with 36-inch blades. Perfect.

We're thinking about bringing one along on our next visit this fall.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Plyscrapers

I've blogged previously about the growing use of wood in commercial buildings.

The concept is gaining momentum, as the Economist blogged recently about 'plyscrapers', which I think is a witty name for tall buildings made largely of wood.

There are environmental advantages; sustainably-harvested wood locks in carbon, rather than releasing it as does the manufacture of steel and concrete. (Cement alone accounts for 5% of the world's Carbon Dioxide emissions, for example.)

The photo on this post is of an eight-story residential block in East London. More details on this building, and the use of wood in bigger and bigger buildings, are on the greendiary.com blog.




Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cabin Porn

I found a cool website with a number of user-submitted photos of cabins around the world. It has the slightly unfortunate web address of cabinporn.com, but it is very much worth a look (and it is safe for work!)

And, yes, I have submitted a photo of our little stuga. I'll update this post if it is accepted.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to Life, Back to Reality


I remembered that song, but not who did it. Google remembered, though: it was Soul II Soul.

The jet lag isn't too bad, and our Texas house is in good shape. So now it's time to get back to work!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The whirl ends

...but it ended with a bang. We left Aspö on a surprisingly busy evening boat, and had an equally busy bus ride from Stavsnäs. En route, we met Britt and Ronnie, and then parted ways at Slussen to join Marcia, Rutger, Claire and Chris for a superb dinner in Soder, a neighbourhood in the south of Stockholm.

Now I'm writing from Heathrow after the usual early morning departure from Arlanda. We'll be back in Texas in a dozen hours. There is much to write about, but for now there are lots more photos on the Flickr page.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The whirl continues

...on Friday, when we were invited to a fika by Ann-Catrin at their house in the afternoon. We were joined by Annica and Anders, as well as Ann-Catrin's mother, who is about to turn 91, and could probably beat me in both arm-wrestling and scrabble! Ann-Catrin made a delicious rhubarb/strawberry tart from her garden, and we had a great time in the sunshine.

Tony gave me a tip on aligning my TV antenna more accurately, so I used the compass on my iPhone to improve our reception significantly.

I finished that just in time to meet the evening boat, which carried in Marcia and Rutger, as well as their friends Chris and Claire, Ottawans who had a stopover in Sweden on their European holiday. Heroically overcoming their jetlag, we had a fantastic evening, and our renovated guest house enjoyed a rare sleepover. (And so did Chris and Claire!!)

Today, sadly, very sadly, we are preparing to take the evening boat, for a dinner in the city and then an early journey back to Texas tomorrow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

What a social whirl

Wednesday's weather could not have been more different, the day dawned still and muggy. I got out the ol' chain saw and did a bit of cleaning up the environs. We went to Ann & Dave's again for dinner, a lovely curry made my Mr. Harvey, and we were joined by Janne and Ronnie.

Yesterday was I think our busiest day ever. First was the 1030 exercise class led by Annica, and I have to say it was a hell of a workout. I didn't realize how out of shape I am! Then we visited a little loppis at the midsummer meadow, to see if there were any items for sale by fellow residents. We scored a very cute tray with a drawing of a moose family.

Then at 5, we were invited by Peter and Jeanette, their son Niklas, and his fiance (and sommelier) Naima, for a drink on their lovely deck at their beautiful home. An hour and a half passed very quickly in their company!

Our last social engagement was back to Ann & Dave's for pizza night with Janne. The evening ended with Mad Libs and a spot of cognac. Perfect.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Everyone knows it's Windy

...if you're on Aspö, that is. It's been a strong breeze for the past day, 15 m/s (meters per second in Swedish measurements, about 33mph in the US).

There's been no damage to any trees as far as I can tell, but for today we're holing up with a bit of housekeeping and TV.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Vinprovning

Saturday night was the big wine-tasting at the midsummer meadow. Annika had helped arrange a tasting of French wines from the region of Bourgogne, led by a local resident who's a sommelier at one of Stockholm's best restaurants.

I helped set up the party tent and the benches in the afternoon. In the evening, we were joined by Ann and Dave and Janne, along with about 30 other island residents.

We started with a crémant rosé, a style with which Sooz was quite familiar, followed by a chardonnay, which I liked a lot, because it was kept in steel casks, not oak, as is popular in America and Australia. Last up was a pinot noir, a wine recently made popular by the movie "Sideways".

Naima, our sommelier, gave lots of information about each wine in Swedish, of course, but we got at least some of her talk, and she graciously spoke to us Americans afterwards to answer any questions.

After the event, music started to play, and most everyone produced their own boxes of wine for further tasting. We danced and drank well past midnight with our neighbors and friends, and it was a wonderful evening.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dinner with Annika and Olle

We were invited over for dinner Friday night, and had a wonderful evening. In addition to his carpentry skills, Olle is also a great cook. (Annika says he can sew, too; what a guy.)

The evening started with a turn in the steam sauna. At 55°C and 75% humidity, it was amazing how quickly and profusely we all started to perspire. Olle even had some birch branches with which we smacked ourselves, so we had the full experience. After we showered, we had drinks, and Annika shared with us a book she'd made of the history of their house.

Then it was on to dinner, the centerpiece being a pair of fish Olle had caught earlier in the day, prepared to a recipe of his sister's. Besides the local fish, we had home-grown potatoes and herbs grown in the backyard. It was all delicious, and we had a superb evening.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Brushing the house

I spent Friday scrubbing the front of the house to see if I could remove the black splotches that have grown over the years. I brought along a few deck brushes from Lowe's and found the stiffest one did the trick perfectly.

It was straightforward work, although the iron oxide dust that was kicked up wasn't pleasant. Sooz made me wear a face mask, which surprisingly, I had in the shed.

Along the way, I took few photos of the progress and assembled them into a little time-lapse video above. More photos are on my Flickr page, of course.

A Creative Day

This past Wednesday I had the good fortune to attend a local jewellery making class over on the neighbouring island of Ladholmen. To be more specific, it was the art of tenntrådsbroderi, whereby one makes braids or plaits of silver or pewter wire, and in my case, fixes them to reindeer leather to create a cool bracelet.

I had seen these bracelets for sale in Stockholm over the years, in the little shops in Gamla Stan selling handmade goods or in the market at Hötorget, and had always been curious as to the history of this art form. In a nutshell, pewter thread embroidery has been around since the 11th century but the Laplanders widely used it in decoration of their clothing and household items.

Our teacher, Margit, is a very talented artist and seamstress who also makes and sells children's clothes, and under her tutelage we all learned this clever craft. Some of the attendees have been to her summer class every year and I plan on making it a yearly tradition for me also! It was loads of fun, and gratifying to have something nice to sport on my wrist at the end of the day.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy Wednesday morning!

We've had a fun-filled few days. I have been working on my to-do list; my favourite task so far was to install a new outlet in the kitchen so I could get rid of the dangling light cord. I just hate loose electrical cords. We also installed our new "Bern" light outside and it looks great.

I also extended the stairs to the little house. It looks a little wonky but the ground was so uneven I did my best. They are great to stand on, and are a big improvement, so I am happy, even with their slightly rustic look.

We had dinner with Janne last night, who recently turned 70, believe it or not. Today, Sooz joined Annika and the other local ladies to engage in some jewellery-making on Ladholmen. Olle took me for a spin in his new boat and then he helped me jack up my shed so it's level again. All that and it's not even lunch yet!

Tonight, Dave arrives, with Ann and the kids a day or two after. And then there's the wine tasting/dance on Saturday. Lots going on for sure, and I'm doing daily updates on my flickr page.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Vi är här!

A quick post to acknowledge we're safely on Aspö. Everything is in great shape, although the surroundings are almost unrecognisable from our visit about 9 weeks ago. The amount of new growth is amazing.

Photos (and even a movie) are up on my flickr page. More to come!

Friday, July 12, 2013

We've arrived!

It's a beautiful sunny day here. The best part of my journey was my greeter at the airport, the gorgeous Camille!

Now on on to ICA and Bauhaus for supplies...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

And we're off!

... as far as London, anyways. I have a day of meetings Thursday, and I will meet up with Sooz in Stockholm on Friday, to leave to Aspö Saturday. Stay tuned for lots of blog posts and photos!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

We're less than a week away!

The days are flying by now, it's less than a week, believe it or not.

Our small box of things to take to Aspö has done its usual growing into a much bigger box in the final days, no matter how much we try to reduce the stuff we carry out there.

Olle did get me a couple of planks to extend my stairs in his summer wood order, so I have that project to look forward to.

The long range weather forecast calls for 20°C (68°F) which is about 30 degrees cooler than I've been used to. I'm really looking forward to that!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A few changes

It's been a while since I changed the look of the blog. I played around and came up with a more modern look, I think.

The sidebars on the right look a bit busy to me, so feedback from my devoted readers is welcomed!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

An interesting article on Lyme disease

..is in this week's New Yorker. As I've written here before, both Sooz and I have been exposed to Borrelia, although neither of us have any symptoms at all.

The article covers both the medical and political issues about the spread of Lyme in the US. It's excellent, and worth a read.

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's my birthday!

Since my birthday is right around the midsummer holiday, I usually post about it each year. My 50th birthday was a huge milestone, this one is less so. But it's still my birthday and it's my blog so I get to write about it!

I have recently found out that I share a birthday not only with Gerrit Rietveld, but Micah Richards, Mick Fleetwood, and Brigitte Mohnhaupt as well. As Sooz says, that explains a lot.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Midsummer!

Today is both midsummer's eve and the first day of summer, the longest day of the year. Sunrise on Aspö is at 3:32 AM, with sunset at 10:00 PM.

We have historically been there for the holiday (as it coincides with my birthday), but since moving to Texas, we decided to visit later in the summer to give us a break from the southern heat.

There will still be lots of daylight when we're there in July. Our first weekend will have a sunrise of 3:55 AM and a sunset of 9:45 PM.

I found a great website that gives the amount of daylight anywhere in the world just by clicking on a map and typing in the date. It's kept me amused for far too long!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rural Design in Scotland

I found another cool design website, Rural Design, based on the Isle of Skye. Much of their design has a lot in common with what we're trying to do with our little house in Aspö.

My favourite is the "Hen House", which is a lot like our own place in its color and shape. I highly recommend checking out these links!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Outdoor lamps

Sooz and I each have one thing we obsess about a bit out on Aspö. For her, it's bedding. I swear she has enough sheets, comforters, duvets, blankets, etc. for 20 beds. And she's always talking about buying more.

In return, my thing is lighting. I have installed enough light fixtures, wires, bulbs, remote controls, etc., to run a disco. I admit it. And I'm about to do one more.

When Göran wired the house all those years ago, he added a few very cheap and simple globe lights to the outside of the house. I always wanted to replace them with something nicer and more square, but I haven't found what I wanted until now.

Sooz found a lamp at a lighting store near Marcia and Rutger's for the guest house. While we were there, I found a bunch of lamps by Norlys, a Norwegian company which I liked a lot, although I didn't see the exact thing I wanted.

Perusing their catalog online, however, came up with the prefect thing: the Bern. In galvanized steel, it's just what I was looking for. A bit of internet shopping found it online at a good price, so Marcia is ordering one on my behalf.

It should install easily, so keep an eye out for that project this summer. I have one more light idea in the kitchen, for which I've bought an extra-long drill bit! Hmm...


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Another royal wedding

This one slipped right under my radar. Princess Madeleine, the younger sister of Princess Victoria, was married yesterday in Stockholm, the second Royal wedding in three years.

It is not nearly as big a deal as Victoria's wedding in 2010. Madeleine isn't as popular in Sweden; she was known as a bit of a party girl, and moving to New York and marrying a American hedge fund manager isn't helping matters.

However, a Swedish friend who watched the wedding said it was a grand affair and the couple seemed very happy. The weather was great, and there's nothing in the world better than a sunny June day in Stockholm!

UPDATE: Margaret wrote in to say "the 'party girl' image is perpetuated by the media and that and no one minds at all about her living in the States or marrying a foreigner. Her mother, after all, is not Swedish". Thanks, Marg; I am always happy to publish corrections.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

House colors

I've posted a lot about the issue of the black splotches on the front of our house and our desire to deal with them.

We know now that we don't have mold or fungus, but instead it seems the spots are just iron oxide from the jarn vitrol we applied. It looks like a lot of it can be brushed off, which we'll work on this summer.

But we're still thinking about painting, and thanks to a friend with photoshop skills, I've been able to simulate what the house might look like from the test patches we painted last year.

I rather like the middle grey myself; Sooz likes it lighter. Comments from our readership on this issue would be most appreciated!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Grattis på födelsedagen, Ollie!

My furry boy turns 10 today. Ollie has had an eventful journey from his puppyhood in Aberystwyth, to London, France, Belgium, Holland, and the island of Aspö, to the suburbs of Texas. According to the internet, he is about 56 in human years, which puts his age neatly between me and Sooz.

He has slowed down a bit, which is natural I suppose. Given his big surgery 4½ years ago, I'm thrilled he's still with us today at all, a happy, handsome, and charming dog we all love very much.

The happy birthday song in Sweden is called "Ja må du leva", which translates to "may you live a hundred years". It's a song that even I can sing fairly well. I'll spare you my rendition, but here's a link with a bit more info (and an example) of the well-known Swedish birthday song.

Today, Ollie and I are going to chill out (as best we can in the Texas heat) and I think we'll share a bit of Welsh lamb for dinner tonight.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Expounding on the black splotch phenomenon

I posted earlier this month about how comparatively easily the black staining came off the front of the house with a bit of brushing. This before and after photo shows that we made quite a difference with a couple of hours' worth of elbow grease.

I didn't have the right tools, either. I think the wire brushes I brought were too stiff, and the broom I used was unwieldy. So I will bring a couple more bristle brushes next time we go.

We will have to see how the brushed spots weather over the coming months, but I'm starting to think that we will postpone the painting to next year, to see how well the brushing holds up.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our house is on Bing Maps now

I stumbled across some new aerial photography of our little hus on Bing maps of all places. And, sure enough, our house, plus the guest house, and the walkway between them, all show up as clear as day! I think that's very cool. This is a newer photo than the Apple maps from last year, as the walkway is now visible.

Aspö itself is also looking fetching in the sunshine.

The direct link will take you right to our island, and from there, a virtual tour of the archipelago.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's all over...

... Eurovision, that is. The Swedish hosts held a fantastic show in Malmö, and in the end, the title took the shortest journey possible, across the Øresund bridge to Denmark! Here is Emmelie de Forest performing the winning "Only Teardrops":

She was the bookie's favorite, and the crowd's, too, to be honest. In the end, Denmark won easily. Azerbaijan was second, with a decent ballad, and Margaret Berger, she of the tight white dress from Norway, placed 4th.

We had a great party with a couple of Eurovision newbies in the audience. Looking forward to Copenhagen next year already!

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Eurovision Semifinals

Sooz and I watched both semis tonight. The stream from the eurovision.tv website looked pretty darned good on the big TV.

There has been lots of talk about this being an 'austerity' Eurovision, but penny-pinching did not show up on the screen. The show looked super, and host Petra Mede kept things running well. She had a great line, too, explaining that Sweden was a peaceful country, except for "the recent civil war when Malmö was chosen for Eurovision over Stockholm." That played well with the Malmö crowd!

There were a few amazing acts, Romania being top among them. (It's worth clicking on that link, trust me.) Also look at Montenegro, who didn't make it through, unfortunately. Oh, and Ukraine had a giant. Really.

Now for the good acts. Sooz's favorite was Denmark. We both thought Ireland had a classic euro-disco number.  I rather liked Norway, myself. In fact, all the Scandinavian countries made it through to the final.

It's going to be a great show and we're going to have a fun Eurovison party in the Texas sunshine.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A week from Eurovision!

We are in the home stretch now, only a week until the big show in Malmö. The semi-finals are Tuesday and Thursday in advance of the final on Saturday; I'll be back with an update on those later this week.

The Guardian has an excellent article on the contest in Malmö, and specifically about Swedish schlager music. My favorite quote: "Someone wrote on the event web page, 'I'm coming all the way from America to see Loreen and the finals,' That's amazing." I wish it was me who had written that!

The Swedish Embassy in Washington is showing the event live this weekend, which would be a fun event if we weren't hosting our own Eurovision party that evening.

For my American readers who might want to watch the contest, here's the video link from the official Eurovision web page.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sweden is now importing garbage?!?

From experience, I know that Swedes are big recyclers. Especially out on the islands, where waste disposal is a bit of a logistical issue, people are very careful to minimize their trash.

I didn't realize how efficient Swedes were at recycling, however. Only 4% of trash goes to landfills there. The rest is recycled or burned for energy.

In fact, there isn't enough to burn to keep the power plants going! So, according to the Mother Nature Network, Sweden is importing burnable trash from its neighbors in Norway. That is, as they say, a high-class problem to have.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

On our way back to the USA

We took our usual noon boat on Saturday. Since we'll be back in a couple of months,we didn't have the stressful shutting-down-the-house experience of the fall.

Replacing that was the stressful getting-up-at-six-and-catching-the-0755-SAS-flight experience though. Thank goodness Rutger is such a good sport offering to drive us so early on a Sunday.

Sooz is staying in Europe for another week, so Ollie and I will be bachelors. There are a few new photos up, and I'll add some more in the coming days, too. There will be a few new topics to introduce before we return in July.

I'd better run, it appears my flight here in Heathrow is about to board. Musn't be late!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Yet another lovely day

...spent doing this and that. We did a bit of tree-trimming and brush clearing (I manned the chain saw, and Sooz, the fire).

I also spoke to Wilie, our builder, up in Leksand. He's doing well, but the construction business is a lot harder these days. Work doesn't come as easily, but he's getting by. He also said that X-House isn't selling much lately; I will reach out to Stefan there for a report. We might get together in July, I'd like that very much.

The big news for the day was my brushing experiments on the front of the house. The black spolotches have been well documented, and today was the day I had a go with my wire brushes. Surprisingly, the black dust largely came off with just a bit of elbow grease. I uncovered a good chunk of the house before my rotater cuff gave out. It's looking significantly better already.

I'll give it another pass this summer. This may well change our painting decisions!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

We've lucked out on the weather!

Wednesday and Thursday have been crystal clear beautiful spring days. The sun has been warm but the wind is crisp. Just perfect. We've been doing small projects (staining the deck was the biggest chore today) but we've been hanging out a lot. This is clearly the "laziest" week I've spend out here, and I am loving it.

The clear weather is lending itself to my star photo experiments, although it's really dark only between 11PM and about 3AM. The fall is better for longer, darker nights. I've put a few of my photos and movies on my flicker page.

I will try again the next couple of nights.

Tomorrow is our last day here- I hate to think about that.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Happy Tuesday morning!

We’re enjoying a lazy morning, so this seems an opportune time to update my readership (such as it is).

Since we had Marcia’s car, we went to the brand new ICA grocery store in Gustavsberg and loaded up the larder. I mentioned last October that we saw a new ICA being built, and it looks like it has opened pretty recently. It’s great, a nice new store that Sooz judges is twice as big. But we both miss the charm of the smaller store it replaced.

Our boat pilot from Stavsnäs was Daniel, the jazz musician we’ve had in previous summers. He told us he lives on Runmarö with his family. He has two kids, 8 and 10 years old, and they go to school on the island in a class with 9 others. It sounds live a very different life; there are cars and a few roads on Runmarö but it is also pretty isolated. When the sea ices over, the only way on and off is the twice-daily Waxholms boat. On the other hand, winter makes great skating weather; Daniel and his kids skated around Aspö just a couple months ago!

We dumped our goods at the dock and carried the first load up to the house. Everything was in shockingly good shape. Olle’s turning on the radiator took off the chill, and the house was damned neat and clean for having been left nearly half a year.

The only snag was that our wheelbarrow was flat. This is the second spring we came home to a disintegrated tire. I’m going to have to find a new type of tire! This meant I had to make a number of overland trips, and it wore me out, to be honest.

However, Sooz cooked up the ingredients I carried into a nice supper and I was re-nourished pretty quickly. I also set up our new super-whizzy Dyson fan and it made short work of making our home nice and cozy.

We slept great (as usual) and now it’s a quiet day of puttering around. Thanks to Pharrell Williams, Sooz is into Daft Punk now, so I’m entertaining her with their back catalogue on my iPod. It is great fun, but I don’t think we’ll attract the moose with French house music!

I’ve posted a few pictures, and will have more up through the week.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A sunny Sunday morning

Good morning from the sunny suburbs of Stockholm. After a fine transit through Heathrow, Rutger picked us up so we were home in great shape Friday afternoon.

Rutger took me to a new home store on Saturday, and I found my favourite Cuprinol stain for our deck in a 10 litre bucket for a great price. I bought it because Marcia is loaning us her car, so we can pack it up on Monday. (I sure would not have dragged that on the bus!)

Our plan is to get lots of heavy stuff now (stain, water, Coke, beer, etc.) so we have less to take for our summer visit, especially since Sooz will likely heading out before me. The expiry dates on everything we've bought so far is October or later, so we'll be covered for this season. I've also booked our own boat for noon, so we can shop in the morning and take a leisurely drive to Stavsnäs.

The weather has been great, and the forecast looks decent too. More news tomorrow!!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

We're on our way!

Thanks to the miracle of satellite wifi, I can report we've just left US airspace. We will be in Sweden soon!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Skatteverket

Our 2013 taxes arrived last week in the familiar dark blue plastic envelopes, the second of our Swedish mailings here in the USA. The good news is that our tax is still zero; the bad news is that, as best as I can tell, this is the last year they will be so.

New construction has a 5-year tax break, and this year is the fifth since building began.  The next five years should be at a reduced rate, and I believe we'll be charged about 3700 kronor for each of those five years. In 2019, I'll start paying the full rate of around 7000 kr yearly.

Of course, who knows what the tax code will be like by then???

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Our arrival draws near!

We'll be on Aspö a week from tomorrow. Right now it's sunny although still a bit cold. No snow or ice, though, according to the Sandhamn webcam.

Sooz asked Olle if he could turn on a radiator this weekend to take the chill off for our arrival. I'm like my dad; I hate turning up the thermostat unnecessarily! But I can see her point, we're there only for barely 6 days and it takes a full day to warm up. So I am glad Olle did us that favor.

We will be packing today. As usual, all the bits we've accumulated over the months add up, and we end up schlepping a box across the ocean. But at least it's one box. I remember when Sooz's station wagon was packed to the gills!

PS. Happy Birthday, HRH Elizabeth!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Eurovision austerity

My friend Kenji, a fellow ex-ex-pat, sent along this article from the Wall Street Journal explaining how Sweden is leading the way of lowering the costs of holding the contest.

There has been a bit of an 'arms race' to hold ever-grander spectacles, which can be ruinously expensive to smaller countries.

It's a good read, and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Internet progress

My second mail was from Nilla Söderkvist, our secretary for the Nämdö fiber association. I have been posting about the project to bring very fast broadband out to every home in the Nämdö archipelago.

We have crossed a significant milestone this week; the Nämdö Fiber association has been officially incorporated, and each interested citizen has been asked to pay in a stake of 2000 kronor to become legal members of the association. I've paid mine already!

The first installations will take place on the big island of Nämdö itself, hopefully this summer. It seems to me that Aspö would likely be next, given its size, and the number of interested parties. But I'm just speculating. It does seem likely we will have broadband within the next summer or two, and I am looking forward to it a great deal!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lots of mail!

As April arrives, so begin the stirrings of life on the archipelago, or administrative life, at least. I recently received three mailings of great interest.

First is the official summer guide for 2013, sent via e-mail to us residents, but also available on Aspö's home page.

Two dates caught our eye, as both fall during our planned summer visit. July 17 is a jewelry making seminar held by Margit Roxell, a resident of nearby Ladholmen. Sooz is interested in that. Who knows, maybe she can start a new career with a bit of instruction?

More my speed is a Burgundy wine tasting the evening of July 20. Organized by local sommelier Naima Agnaou, we'll be tasting a red, a white, and a sparkling wine, followed by a bit of dancing on the midsummor meadow. We're looking forward to both events.

I also received two other pieces of Swedish mail, but we'll save them for our next post.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Filmjölk

I've posted before about my love for filmjölk, a specific type of Swedish soured milk. It is my breakfast favourite out on the island. I even went so far as to culture my own.

Now it appears that I don't have to make my own any longer, as my local store sells "Swedish style filmjölk".

It's close to the real thing, perhaps a little tart. All I need is Swedish style Muesli and I can have an Aspö breakfast every morning!

Friday, April 5, 2013

T-minus three weeks

All things being well, we should be landing about this time three weeks from now. We are starting to pack a bit; we've been stacking all the things we've been collecting to take to Sweden in a spare bedroom for the past 5 months. As usual, it becomes a much larger pile once it's all assembled!

The weather is still quite cold. Next weekend's extended forecast (April 13/14) is only about 5°C. I'm not anticipating a huge rise in temperature, so it's gonna be chilly when we get there! Good thing our Dyson fan has arrived safely at Marcia's house.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Vaccinations

I posted in November about finding a way to get a booster for my TBE vaccine here in the US of A. Thanks to my company doctor, I found a traveler's clinic in Montreal that could administer the shot.

Last week, I was in Canada on business and made an appointment to get my vaccine. I'm happy to report that everything went well and a very knowledgeable doctor (with a Welsh diploma) administered my injection. Now I'm set for another three years.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wire brushes

There have been many posts about the discoloration on the front of our house and my desire to address that by painting over it. The last we left this subject in October, I painted a test patch with linseed oil paint to see how it withstood the winter.

At Tim's suggestion, I took a wire brush and cleaned off a section of the wood before painting. My plan was to paint over both brushed and non-brushed sections to see if the paint took differently.

I was surprised at how relatively easily a lot of the black discoloration came off, pretty much as a powder. This makes sense as the jarn vitrol is an iron-based product, and I'm sure what I was removing was a form of iron oxide.

The more I ponder it, though, I think I need to brush the face of the house before painting. Paint must adhere better to the wood without the iron in-between; that's just common sense to me.

Of course it is easy to sit at a desk in Texas and say, "sure it's simple to hand-brush 20 square meters of the house!" I am sure I will curse my decision, once up on a ladder this summer. But I think it's the best thing to do.

Our friends at Amazon have a ridiculous array of wire brushes available. I plan to pick out a couple of types and see how they work out during our April visit. I'll do the brushing deed in July, and have the house painted in September. That's the plan, anyways. There has been a lot of discussion about this over the years, and things always seem to change. But that's the plan for now.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A few links

Princess Lillian passed away on March 10. I have to say I didn't know anything about her. After reading her obituary in the Guardian and the Economist, I wish I had. Hers is an amazing story, and I urge you to read both of these excellent articles.

The Economist has a good article on the intersection of English and Swedish politics.

Also, Dwell has a great article on the restoration of the Rietveld-Schröder house, which is probably the most beautiful building I ever visited. Trivia: Gerrit Rietveld and I share the same birthday.

Lastly, Annika and Olle have been sending me photos of an icy March, which I've put on her Flickr page.

Monday, March 18, 2013

One more Eurovision post

The hasn't been much to talk about house-wise, although the happy day of our arrival is fast approaching, so there'll be more pertinent posting soon.

In the meantime, I found two Eurovision blogs, one here and the other here.  Both are insightful, well-written, and full of videos from other countries. Enjoy!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The UK Eurovision entry

The BBC has announced this year's contestant for Eurovision. Taking after last year's choice of Engelbert Humperdink, the beeb has reached into the past again. Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler will be singing "Believe In Me" in Malmö this May:



I'll admit to being disappointed. Known for belters like "Holding Out For a Hero" and "Total Eclipse Of the Heart", I'm sure Bonnie's voice is not as strong as it was in her heyday 30 years ago. But this track is insipid. I can't imagine any of the younger audience voting for this song, and older viewers (like me) will just be disappointed.

Many countries have a big selection process for their Eurovision entrants; Sweden's six-week, six-city, ten-hour extravaganza is the largest by far, but most other countries in Europe have some sort of selection show. When I lived in England, the BBC held various Saturday night contests to select the nation's entry. Now it seems that Auntie acts as if she knows best, and just announces their choice (very late in the calendar) to the befuddlement of us all.