Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Broadband is on its way!

This may not look too exciting, but it is to me. These are the contracts I just received from the Nämdö Fibre association.

My broadband internet dream is becoming real. The schedule is to install fibre on Aspö by the summer of 2019. All the funding is in place.

Our financial contribution to the work is 25,000 kronor. It's not cheap, but it is broadly in line with the costs I wrote about almost 6 years ago.

Although our current mobile internet setup is fine, it's still fairly slow and has a data cap I always seem to blow through.

Having fast, stable, and unlimited broadband will be a real treat. It won't be long now for live moose videos on demand!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

More wooden skyscrapers

Thanks to the people at, I found an interesting article about wooden skyscrapers, one of my favorite topics. The video above details a building recently completed in British Columbia.

Tall buildings made of laminated wood can be lighter, stronger, and more fire-resistant than steel. They're also much friendlier on the environment. A win all around!

There handsome building on the left is from a design proposed for a design competition in Stockholm, a 34 story mix-used tower made of tower made of the same wood as our little stuga.

Even taller ones have been proposed for London, and the home of the skyscraper, Chicago itself.

I'm sure we will see more and more buildings like these in the near future. Their advantages are too many to ignore!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Blocket Design

Marcia recently sent me a link to a dangerously addicting website. Blocket is essentially the Swedish version of eBay for online selling. The link she sent was for something even better, for "Blocket Design".

It's like regular Blocket, with people selling all sorts of stuff, but it focuses on designer goods. I've already seen all sorts of fantastic furnishings I'd love to have, but have absolutely no room for.

That won't stop me from looking, though. A bit of internet window shopping is a nice way to pass the time.

Friday, December 1, 2017

November's weather

Pretty cold and dreary this month. Most days had a little bit of rain, although the total for the month was just over an inch. A few days drifted below freezing, although the real cold has not hit just yet.

Monday, November 27, 2017

First Snö!

The webcam spotted the first dusting on Aspö today. I'm sure it will melt shortly. It is nice to see the island all nice and white, however!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The IKEA Museum

When Sooz and I lived in Stockholm in the late 80's, we used to go to the big IKEA in Kungens Kurva and spend our Sunday afternoons looking around (and having meatballs for lunch!)

As we've well documented in this blog, most of our house is furnished by IKEA. It makes perfect sense to do that: their offerings are cheap, cheerful, and stylish, plus they're easy to bring out to our island.

I read recently about an IKEA museum that's opened in Älmhult. It's packed with IKEA's history, with recreations of their furnishings through the years. I'd love to visit; I'm sure it would bring back memories of our Sunday afternoons nearly 30 years ago.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The health benefits of island life

My friend Chuck sent along an article from the Telegraph recently. The author spent 72 hours in the Gothenburg archipelago as part of a project to measure the health benefits of island life.

Readers won't be surprised to learn that time spent in the wilds has a measurable calming effect. For example, the group in the article had a collective drop in stress of almost 70 percent.

I can attest to the effect myself. We always have our best sleep over the calm, quiet, dark nights in the archipelago.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

October's weather

To quote Game of Thrones, "winter is coming". The temperature showed a steady decline through the month. We're getting pretty close to freezing by Halloween!

One good sign was that we had nearly 3 inches of rain this month. The October average in Stockholm is about 2 inches, so the extra rain is welcome.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Farewell, Ollie

I’m desperately sad to share that our beloved Ollie passed away peacefully this week. 

Ollie was handsome and strong and stubborn and smart. We will miss his beautiful face and his charming personality. 

Our family was blessed to have such a wonderful boy with us for so long.

RIP, Oliver Rhiwelli Blue Moon. You were a very very good dog.

Monday, October 23, 2017

"Hacking" Ikea

I've written over the years about the idea of customising IKEA products. (For example, see here or here.) The New York Times recently published an article about the growing community of companies that are using IKEA furniture as a starting point for customisation.

The Times even mentioned my friends at Bemz, who have received a few mentions on the blog. We bought a Bemz cushion cover this year and we love it.

Our kitchen has the standard white glossy drawer fronts. It might be fun to go to a company like Semihandmade, Dunsmuir, Kokeena, or even the high-end people at Reform to update our kitchen at a relatively low cost. A huge number of colours, finishes and drawer pulls are available. It would be fairly easy to order doors in the USA and check them on a flight to Sweden.

It'll be fun to think about what we might want to do! Our kitchen is smack-dab in the middle of our house, so any changes there would impact the look of the whole place.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"Ticks have found a way to get around the immune system"

We all know that Sooz is not a fan of ticks. I was surprised when she sent me an article recently about  research underway. New medicines may be developed that build on the survival techniques employed by the lowly tick.

It's quite an interesting article. It doesn't make me like ticks any better, but perhaps I will respect them a bit more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

September's Weather

Although September looks rainy on the graph, the month's total was only 1.6 inches, well below the Stockholm average of 2.1 inches.

It's been fairly dry and cool all summer. We could use a turn in the weather; the wells in our area could use a refilling. There's also nothing like a good cold snap to kill the bugs, too!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Time to leave

We're leaving shortly on a taxi boat. I'm hoping it's not a small boat as it is blowing up quite a storm outside right now!

We had good weather over the past few days, though. Our own boat is nice and snug, so our main job is complete. It's peak mushroom season, so we spent lots of time investigating all the different fungi around the island. We weren't brave enough (or foolish enough) to eat any of them, though.

Photos of the visit (mostly photos of mushrooms, to be honest) are on the Flickr page.

We're not sure when we'll be back. We want to make a winter visit and take advantage of our new luftpump. In the meantime, I will have a few more tidbits to share on the blog.

Friday, September 29, 2017

We've arrived!

This was one of our rare trips in which we want straight from London to the house. We left Gatwick at 9:30 and were at the stuga before 5. We even had plenty of time to do a bit of grocery shopping at the central station, and have a beer at the new restaurant at Stavsnäs harbor!

The house was in great shape as usual. I was able to warm it up in advance with my internet-enabled luftpump, so we were cozy very quickly.

We're only here a few days. My main task is to cover up our boat, although Olle seems to have done a lot of the work for me already!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Back for a quick visit

Sooz and I have carved out a 4-day weekend and we will be back at our stuga next week. We'll close things up for the winter as usual.

We are hoping to use our new luftpump to enable weekend visits over the winter as well. I'd like to take more winter pictures like this one!

Stay tuned for another bunch of reports from our visit.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The perfect cartoon!

From now on, when I'm asked why I enjoy being out at the stuga so much, I'll show them this cartoon. Says it all, really!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

August's weather

It wasn't that warm last month. The high was 77F (25C), and the low 48F (9C). We got some much-needed rain, however. And it was windy to boot!

Cool, rainy, windy: sounds like late summer in Sweden...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Apologies for the lack of activity

It looks like I am starting out my next blogging decade at a snail's pace! I have been distracted by lots of happenings back in my "real life". My time available for Swedish stuga blogging is less than I'd like right now. Full service should return in a month or two.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ten Years of Blogging

Believe it or not, today marks the ten year anniversary of my first blog post. Over the past decade:

- I've made 1400 posts. The most viewed post was, inexplicably, about November's weather. The most searched topic is, of course, Cinderella!

- Over 355,000 different people have viewed the blog. The lovely people at Cabin Porn were my top referral site. Strangely enough, France is the home of my most avid readers.

- I've also posted nearly 2100 photos so far. A few of them are pretty good.

It's been fun to skim back through the years and see how the whole project has moved from designing, to building, and now onto living in our little house. We have made many great friends over the years, and it's no exaggeration to say that Sooz and I feel as home there as anywhere we've ever been.

So what does the next decade hold? That's a good question. Our plan is to spend our summers on Aspö when we retire. What with the grocery deliveries from Mat Hem, the pending installation of fibre broadband, the new luftpump, and our own little boat giving us freedom, such a prospect is very easy to imagine.

Retirement is not that far away, either. I'm pretty sure it will be within five years, perhaps even a bit sooner. We've thought about how long-term living at the house would be different from the way we've been using it so far. Sooz is really looking forward to our growing our own vegetables; I'll be making a few planters over the coming summers. I'm also planning a new closet as we will need more clothes available. It's easy to wear the same shirt a few days in a row when all I do is putter about the house by myself. We will have to think differently about water usage, too. Being there every day will strain our well quite a bit more than 6 weeks' worth of visits.

We always use our house in "vacation mode," too. We're always anxious to get to Aspö quickly and not leave when we are there, to maximise our time at our house. Time won't be in short supply when we move from vacation mode to retirement, so we will have to re-adjust our thinking. We'll have to think of our house more as a base from which to do things, as opposed to a destination in itself. We will also have to change our eating (and drinking) habits from vacation mode to daily living!

All of that is a bit in the future though, although it is lovely to think about spending long, lazy days watching the seasons progress through our beautiful little island.

Here's to another decade as wonderful as the first!

Friday, August 4, 2017

July's weather

It was a pretty dry month. We could definitely see the impact on the island. For example, the blueberry crop is a lot smaller than usual, and a number of the traditionally wetter parts of the island were bone dry.

There was a huge rainfall this past Friday, over an inch fell that afternoon. We could use quite a bit more, to be honest. But selfishly, we liked having a nice dry time on our holiday.

I also left in the sound meter readings from the month. It's quite obvious when we're in the house!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It's been a fun week!

Marcia and Rutger arrived on Friday afternoon, at almost the exact time as our Mat Hem delivery, so that was perfect timing. The Aspö Marathon was on Saturday morning. I'm not in full running condition, so I ran only 7 laps, which is one-third of a marathon. I am happy to report that our community raised over 30,000kr for a children's cancer charity!

We went out in our boat in the afternoon to have a picnic at a nearby skerry. Rutger is an experienced boater and he gave me plenty of advice. We also went to Nämdöbote to climb the observation tower. It was a great day.

We ended up having a family shift change: when they left, Marcia and Rutger's kids Tim and Camille came out to spend a couple of days with us. The good weather held, so we took another boat trip and the girls topped up their tans. Annika and Olle came over for dinner and we all had a great time.

The next day, Peter and Jeanette (along with their son Niklas and adorable granddaughter Noelle) gave us all a ride to Nämdö for lunch. We got to have one last visit at the venerable Guns Livs, the grocery store on Nämdö which has been sold to a still-unknown buyer. That's bittersweet for archipelago residents; Guns has become a bit tired over the years, so a bit of investment is needed. But it's been the the same family for many years.

Sadly, we have to leave a few days early as I had a work commitment crop up, so we are ordering an early taxi boat for tomorrow. But we'll be back for a long weekend as soon as we can arrange it.

Lots of photos of all this fun are now available in a Flickr album.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Settling in

We flew in on Sunday because Ollie's dog sitter was busy on Saturday (and we won't leave him with anyone else!) That gave us a nice evening with Rutger and much of the day Monday to shop in Gustavsberg at our leisure. The house was in fine shape and I started on my little projects.

One task was to install the new footstool cover we ordered from Bemz. It fit really well and is pretty funky, as you can see from the before and after photo here.

We also got the boat back into the water and I installed a new bilge pump that would turn on automatically when the water accumulation gets too high. I also made little tops for the deck railing poles (in Swedish, stolphatts, or "pole hats"). I was going to buy some at the building store but they were clean out. Perhaps that's a good thing because I found a whole new world online of deck railings and pole caps. That will be worth a blog post on its own one day.

Marcia and Rutger are coming this afternoon to spend the weekend, and tomorrow is the Aspö Marathon. I'm in fair shape, so I'll do a few laps, but not a full one! Stay tuned for photos and updates.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Our summer return

It's time for our official summer holiday! We leave this weekend for two lovely weeks on our island.

Ollie's back with his dog-sitter, and everyone's happy about that. I have a few projects at our bus, but nothing too demanding. Stay tuned for more updates on island life.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

June's weather

Here's the June recap. We appear to have hit the nicest days when we arrived on the 17th! There was a bit of rain when we were there, but a lot more fell earlier in the month. We could certainly use more, though.

I added the sound meter. It's fun to see graphically the changes in the house when we show up.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A great midsummer

Time for a quick catchup. We did indeed have a successful trip to Guns and retrieved a huge amount of alcohol. (Clicking boxes on the internet is a lot simpler than carrying bottles of sparkling wine on our little boat!)

The midsummer celebrations were on the 23rd and our 'neighborhood' on the island was responsible for the kid's games and the clean-up. The six of us (Raymond and Eva, along with Karin and Kalle) made plans to man the various games. Thankfully the weather was perfect. Lots of us came together to decorate and raise the midsummer stång.

We joined Gun and Bosse at their house for lunch; afterwards was the traditional boat parade around the island, followed by music, games, and dancing. We all had a great time and our little group ran the games very well, if I say so myself. Dinner was at Annika and Olle's with their friends and family. We had a super time. It's so nice to have friends who would include us in their family celebrations.

Speaking of being included, the next day was my birthday, and we had dinner with Peter and Jeanette. We were joined by their son Sebastian and his girlfriend Jade, and their dog Harry. We had a stupendous meal. This weekend was one of my best birthdays ever.

Lots of photos of all this fun are on my flickr page. We'll be back in three weeks, and I can't wait!!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We've arrived!

And I'm happy to report excellent weather so far. The island is ablaze with flowers and greenery and it looks superb. Our transportation and logistics worked perfectly; we've become experts at this! It hasn't been that long since our last visit so everything was in good order. I got the posts for the deck railing mounted, and brought along some poly-hemp rope for the railing itself. We experimented with the right height for the rope before drilling any holes.

The highlight so far was joining Annika & Olle and Gun & Bosse for a lighthouse cruise on Sunday/Monday. We went back into town on Sunday afternoon and set sail around 4PM. The boat cruised through the archipelago and stopped briefly in Mariehamn, which has the bonus of making the shopping onboard duty-free!

We had a fantastic time, the weather was good, the food was great, the scenery was wonderful, and the company was the best. I took a whole bunch of photos for the Midsummer flickr page.

We got a taxi boat back from Slussen late last night. Tomorrow, we take our little boat to Nämdö for a bit of shopping at Guns Livs. We ordered some wine and beer through the Systembolaget for pickup at Guns. If it all works out, this will make it a lot easier to order and transport our drinks in the future. Hauling boxes of wine on the bus gets to be a drag...literally!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

May's Weather

As expected, May showed a warming trend. We got lucky with the weather on our weekend visit; they were the warmest days of the month! We even avoided the rain perfectly.

We could use more rain, though. It's been quite dry on Aspö. In fact, all of southern Sweden is dealing with a growing water shortage. Since our water comes from a well, that's a worry.

I left in the readings from the sound meter. It's pretty easy to see the days we were at the house.

We're less than two weeks away from our next visit. Can't wait!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Happy Birthday, Ollie!

My furry boy has become an old man! He is 14 today. He's darned slow these days, but he still remains as happy and handsome as ever.

I've made a little slideshow of his birthdays over the years:

Ollie's 14 birthdays!

Who would've thought what the future had in store for us when we brought our little puppy home all those years ago?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A bank holiday visit

It still floats!Ollie's dog sitter was able to keep him for the bank holiday weekend, so we decided to do a quick trip to the stuga. Our biggest job was to get the boat into the water. I also wanted to trim the posts for the deck railing. I'm pleased to report we were successful on both tasks! (The posts I managed to do myself, but the boat needed Olle and Annika's help).

We had a bit of trouble getting the engine started but it was all fine in the end. I was particularly happy with the way my wood posts worked out. I plan to install them on our next visit. I'll be bringing along a length of polyester hemp rope I found from Amazon. It looks just like old-fashioned rope but is resistant to rot and weathering. We will see how well it holds up.

I have a Flickr album of the weekend posted; it's also on the photo list along the right side too.

I have one special photo to show, though. Long-time readers with keen memories will remember Johan, my Cinderella provider. I needed a new back-up battery for Cindy (as we call her these days). Marcia gave me a lift to his store in Bromma on my way to the harbour.

I have to give Johan credit; he recognised me immediately, after almost a decade! We had a nice time catching up. So here's a "then and now" photo for old times' sake.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rope railings

I've posted last year about my desire to add a railing to our deck.

Originally, I thought of something more temporary but the more I think about it, such a big deck needs something substantial.

I have some leftover 95x95 posts (equivalent to an American 4x4) which would make perfect stanchions. The internet has provided me with plenty of information on how to fasten such posts.

I've also bought a few rope samples from Amazon. I plan to do a bit of experimenting on our next visit and will advise my progress on the blog.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Portugal is the winner

For the first time ever, Portugal has claimed the Eurovision title. Salvador Sobral's fey ballad was a convincing winner, in both the the jury and popular votes. It wasn't my style, especially Salvador's overwrought performance, but I'm not that good at picking winners.

However, Sooz and I heard the song on the radio earlier in the day, and the song itself without the visuals was pretty darned good. Also, in the final performance of the night, Salvador was joined by his sister, who was the songwriter, and a good singer herself. I enjoyed their impromptu duet:

Next year, Lisbon!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The final is tonight!

We're hosting a party as usual this evening, lots of old friends and new ones, too, including one Eurovision virgin! There will be 15 people jammed into our little flat, which will be interesting.

As for the show, I'm looking forward to it. The first semi-final was terrible in my opinion. Belgium somehow made into the final with an insipid song. But what do I know? The bookies have Blanche singing "City Lights" at fourth favourites:

The act that is making me smile, though, is Moldova. It's a perfect Eurovision song in every way:

The fake saxophone, the backup singers becoming brides, the rubber-leg dance... all perfect.

An advantage for both the UK and Sweden is that they go late in the show: the UK is in lucky 18th spot, and Sweden is 24th of 26 performers. Going later is better.

All the chatter today remains around Italy and Portugal. The bookies agree with online polls that it's a race between those two. But it's Eurovison, so literally anything can happen! I can't wait.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A few more Eurovision videos

Lucie Jones was chosen to represent the UK this January in an one-hour BBC show (as opposed to the six-week extravaganza held on Swedish television. The good news is that Lucie can sing, and she has been working very hard on promoting her song. The bad news is that it's a minor key ballad. Those don't typically do very well:

I rather like the Netherlands' entry. Or I should say I admire their efforts to create a diverse girl group:

Denmark, Finland, and Germany all have blond divas belting out their songs. At least Norway tried something different:

That's enough for today. I'll be back after the semifinals.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Eurovision 2017

We're exactly a week away from the big show in Kiev. As usual, Sooz and I are hosting a viewing party. It's going to be interesting cramming a dozen people into our tiny flat, but that's part of the fun!

The hot tip is Italy, believe it or not. (The Italians last won in 1990 and have participated infrequently over the past 20 years.) Francesco Gabbani is the bookie's and critic's favourite right now:

Another hot tip is Portugal's Salvador Sobral, although it's not my style, neither the falsetto ballad, or the haircut. My gosh, what hair.

Sweden's own Robin Bengtsson is also doing well, and I have to admit this song is growing on me. Goodness knows we heard it often enough on Skärgårds radio over Easter!

And if you want a song that is both perfectly daft and yet also a possible winner, you can't do worse than Romania. Be sure to watch the whole song:

Yes, yodelling is still alive and well, at least in Eastern Europe. And that belt buckle! It's worth 12 points all by itself.

I'll share a few more as the big day approaches. I'm getting excited now.

Friday, May 5, 2017


I posted in March 2015 about Bemz, a company that makes custom covers for new and discontinued IKEA furniture in a wide range of colours and fabrics. Here, for example, is our old standby Kramfors sofa in shocking pink. (Don't worry, we're not getting pink.)

When we were at the house last, we both thought our couch was looking a bit tired. I visited the Bemz website and ordered a few fabric swatches in different colours and fabrics.

We will take a look over the summer and see what looks best. I wouldn't mind some colour, but Sooz thinks we have enough already. We will see who wins that debate! (Hint: It's going to be Sooz.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

April's weather

April was a typical Spring month in the archipelago: windy, wet (although not wet enough) and not that warm. I added the indoor temperature which shows very clearly the days we were at the house!

We'll be back at the end of May and I expect it to be a lot warmer then. At least I hope so...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The week's wrap-up

We're back in London after a whirlwind week. We had a houseful of guests for a few days, which was nice. Rutger helped me with some chain-sawing and electrical work. The weather stayed dry but got increasingly colder each day. The mornings were frosty but our luftpump kept us all warm. Photos are on my Flickr page.

A couple of my deck lights appear to have burned out so I have ordered replacements. Rutger and I also spent some time talking about putting up a deck railing. I found some leftover wood for posts under the house so I may well do some work on a railing this summer. More to come on that.

We'll be back for a long weekend in May. Sooz decided to leave the fridge on until then. I've put the spare thermometer inside the fridge so we can confirm that it stays on all that time! I'll report back in my next monthly weather recap.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Our new chair

Quick chair assembly

I posted about 6 weeks ago that Sooz was going to buy an Eames rocker for our house. We thought it would be a stylish and easy way to add guest seating.

She found a company in Amsterdam,, who came through with flying colours. Our lovely chair was delivered to us on Aspö right on time and with minimal fuss. I made a little video of its unboxing and assembly.

Otherwise things are fine. The weather turned colder today but our heat pump is keeping us nice and warm. We're having Annika and Olle and Peter and Jeanette over for dinner tomorrow, and then Marcia and Rutger arrive on Thursday. Looking forward to the social whirl!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

We've arrived

We started our Friday in Slussen and decided to go to Gustavsberg for mid-day so we'd have lots of time to do our yearly shopping. We always seem to be rushed for time and so we made plans to avoid that by keeping the whole afternoon free.

Sooz loaded up at ICA and I visited the Systembolaget and the building store to pick up supplies. We ended up at Stavsnäs a bit early so we stopped at the harbour's pizzeria. News of the attack on Drottninggatan came through and we all watched it unfold on the TV. It's hard to put into words the disgust we all felt at such a cowardly act.

The taxi boat to Aspö was very quick if a bit subdued. However we were able to make it to a nice pre-warmed house easily and set about unpacking and setting things up.

The next morning, we joined Annika and Olle as they took their old boat to Stavsnäs. Olle decided to consolidate his two boats (one big, one small) into one that does everything: the Anytec 622. It is a gorgeous aluminium boat, filled with all the latest conveniences. And it is fast!

So far, so good. The house is in great shape and we are expecting fine weather tomorrow, although it looks to be getting worse as the week goes on. I've started a new photo page for this visit which I update through the week. Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

March's weather

The stirrings of Spring are visible. The temperatures are on a gradual rise, notwithstanding a big dip in the last days of the month. The majority of days were pretty windy, with gusts over 15 mph.

Although my rain gauge reported 0.6 inches (15mm) for the month, I have reason to believe it's not fully accurate. It may well be clogged by pine needles. I will check next week!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Returning next week

We'll be leaving in a week from for our usual Eastertime opening up of the stuga. We're going to have Friday in the city so we can be at our leisure, and take the later afternoon boat to Aspö with all the weekenders.

I have a few projects to work on, nothing too big, but I will have plenty to report on the blog, I promise.

Our remote control Luftpump should have the house nice and toasty for our arrival! We can't wait.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Great news on fiber broadband!

I received great news from Nilla at the Nämdö Fiber association last week. The news recently hasn't been great. My last post of many on the subject was not hopeful for the association's efforts to get further grant money.

However, Nilla's news was excellent. Thanks to everyone's diligent work, our association has received a 57.5 million kronor grant to wire up the remainder of our archipelago by 2020.

Looking back at my posts, there have been many ups and downs over the years. There's no question, though, that this news is a 'up'. I'm very thankful for the Nämdö Fiber association's work on our behalf. 

Who knows? Perhaps we'll have broadband in time for us to retire out to our little hus...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Robin Bengtsson is the winner!

The Melfest 2017 was a darned good show, in my humble opinion. The hosts did a great job, keeping the show moving, and hosting funny parodies and skits.

Our winner was Robin Bengtsson, the man who beat Loreen head-to-head last week, with "I Can't Go On":

Interestingly, he was not in the top two of the viewers' votes. The popular winner was Nano with "Hold On". However, the international jury counts for half of the total vote, and the experts pushed Robin to the top. I can see why they did that; Robin's is a more classical Eurovision song.

Frankly, I could have seen most of the songs being potential winners. Wiktoria was the bookies' favourite, but she faded on the day. I'm sure we will hear Ace Wilder and FO&O on the radio all summer, too.

Next stop: Kiev!!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February's weather

It was a mild and dry month. High temperatures were above freezing from the middle of the month, and we had only a few days of sprinkles. Even the wind was consistently calm.

The length of the day increases slowly in February, from just over 8 hours on the first, to 10 ½ hours yesterday. There's a strong link between sunshine and warmer weather!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Melfest recap

Last night was the end of the semifinals in Skellefteå. There was a bit of a bombshell in that Loreen, a previous Eurovision winner, only made it to the "second chance" round.

Wiktoria, whose entry had an elaborate light show last year, went very simple this time, and made it to the final easily:

I think Loreen's performance was a touch too art-school symbolic for the Mello crowd, although I have to give her credit for doing something differently:

The second-chance show is next week, and the grand final is in Stockholm on March 11. Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A new chair

Sooz has always wanted another chair for the house. When we have guests and it's not nice enough to sit on the deck, everyone tends to pile onto our couch.

She wanted to have a simple but nice chair we could easily move around as needed. The problem is the chairs we saw were too large or heavy to be as mobile as we wanted, and lighter chairs were not nice enough.

We had a brainwave recently, however. Our breakfast table here in London has Eames armchairs, which are very light and comfortable. Sooz thought we could get an Eames rocker which we could move around the house with ease.

I liked the idea, too. One problem is that the chair is a single piece of plastic, not like an IKEA flat-pack. The box would be too large to easily transport on our usual plane-bus-boat journey. It would have to be delivered to Aspö, or at least to the harbour at Stavsnäs.

I did a bit of googling to find a Swedish vendor of the Eames rockers, and found a few. Sooz has accepted the assignment of buying one and having it delivered to Aspö during our next visit. I will report on her progress.

UPDATE March 10: Sooz has placed the order, and the chair should be delivered to Aspö the week we're there.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Big Mac Index

It's been a few years since I posted about the Economist's Big Mac Index. I think it's time for a revisit.

To recap, the Economist started the index as a way to measure global currencies against the dollar. McDonald's is very good at making their Big Mac exactly the same everywhere. In a perfect world, the currency-adjusted cost of a Big Mac in each country would also be the same as the cost in the US.

Any disparity over or below the US cost would expose that currency as overvalued or undervalued against the dollar. Over the years, the index has become more sophisticated. Their most recent index is a lovely interactive website that allows looking at all sorts of data in a range of countries.

The currency we're most interested in is the kronor, of course. It has been consistently overvalued against the dollar; in fact, the Swedish currency has been consistently overvalued for more than a decade, along with the Norwegian kronor and Swiss franc.

The good news is that lately, the kronor has been much closer to its "true" value. The Economist calculates that the kronor should be about 9.5 to a US dollar. Lately it's been about 9.2. This is as close as its gotten to parity in almost 15 years. Now if we could do something about the Pound Sterling!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Melodifestival, Parts 1 and 2

We watched the initial show from Göteborg last weekend in Minnesota. My sister Kelly had her first experience with the madness that is "Mello". Ace Wilder was back again, and she made it to the final, along with new artist Nano. Kelly's favourite act was by Road Trip. It's a perfectly wacky Melodifestival song:

Tonight's show from Malmö provided pretty slim pickings. The two winners, boy-bandy Benjamin Ingrosso and dreadlocked Mariette, were far ahead of the rest of the pack. (Although Lisa Ajax's song "I Don't Give A" has a controversy over the word that you can probably have guessed that came next in the lyrics.)

I've also found SVT's Melodifestival page in English. I'm of two minds about that. It is much easier for me to get Melfest gossip, but I rather liked having to work for it!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

January's weather

Here's the January recap. It was a darned mild and dry month. There were a few days early in the new year below freezing, but the rest of the month was well above zero.

There were a few days of rain around the 10th, but that was essentially it.

I don't mind the warmer temperatures; it is good for the wildlife, although the lack of snow is another worrying reminder of climate change. It's the lack of rain that is a problem, given that all Aspö residents are reliant on their well water!

Friday, February 3, 2017

RIP Buddy

Ironically, I'm not far from Clear Lake, Iowa,  tonight. It's my mom's birthday and we're in Minneapolis to celebrate. It is darned cold. I wouldn't blame Buddy Holly at all for wanting to avoid a long bus ride on a night like this.

Today's picture is from his last concert at the Surf Ballroom. There aren't many images from that show 58 years ago.

I recently found a website collecting all of the songs found on Buddy's tape recorder after his death. In some of the recordings, the sounds of apartment life are heard in the background, which make them both charming and heartbreaking.

Today's selection is from those recordings: Buddy's beautiful version of Dearest.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Time to turn to Eurovision

The holidays are over, and we've just about made it through January. Now is the time for my thoughts  to turn towards the Eurovision song contest.

The BBC held their song selection contest last night. It was nothing like the six-week, 60 song extravaganza held by the Swedes, although it was much more than the past few desultory shows held by the UK.

As usual, the contestants are drawn from the various TV singing contests, so at least the six performers could sing...most of them, that is.

The winner was Lucie Jones, with "Never Give Up on You." It's not that bad a song, and the early selection show gives her a few months to polish her performance. 

Ballads have a mixed record of success in the contest, but as we all know, anything can be a winning song on the night!

Next weekend is the start of the Melodifestival and I can't wait! Stay tuned for weekly updates.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sweden's population: now 10 million

Today marks a significant milestone for the country of Sweden. The official statistics website,, announced this morning that its population clock has crossed the 10 million mark.

It's happened much sooner than originally thought. As recently as 2010, this mark wasn't due to be hit until 2021. Now, it looks like the 11 million mark might be hit by then!

About three-quarters of this rapid increase is due to immigration, with the remainder due to Sweden's high birth rate. Nordic Business has a good article (if slightly dated) about Sweden's huge population growth.

Perhaps one day, Sooz and I will add a couple of digits to that number!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Stair safety

I don't have too many projects to work on out at the house any more! I've been ticking them off one by one over the years.

One thing that I've been thinking about recently is the stairs out to our deck. Janne built me broad stairs all those years ago. But over time, the wood has become weathered and grey. This reduces the visibility of each step.

The stairs look wonderfully silvery in this photo, but they are hard to tell apart, especially in flat light. Wearing bifocals (as Sooz and I do these days) also add to the problem of depth perception.

The easiest solution is to add some tread tape to the edge of the stairs. That would provide both visual and tactile feedback about the edge of each step.

Even my ridiculously simple drawing of three black lines on the second photo shows how much more contrast is visible on those stairs.

There is a lot of science behind stair safety. It is clear that being able to clearly see and feel the edge of each step is helpful in reducing slips and falls.

I am going to try out tread tape this spring when we're out to the house next. I think I can do it in a way that looks decent. My main concern is such tape surviving the winter weather, but we'll have to experiment with that. I will report back more fully in a few months.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Gott Nytt År, allihopa!

Happy New Year to everyone. Here's to a better 2017!

Let's start the year with my monthly weather update. Not too much to report except a good period of rain just after Christmas. We certainly can use as much as rain as we can get!

The fun thing to see is the impact of my visit on December 19th. The indoor temperature, carbon dioxide, and especially the noise levels, all can be seen to jump on that day.

It will be interesting to fire up the luftpump remotely to warm up the house and monitor its progress.