Sunday, March 30, 2014

Back in Texas

I've been fighting jet lag the past few days. For some reason, this return trip hit me pretty hard, but I'm returning to normal now.

We'll be back to Sweden in just a couple of months. It looks like we will be able to spend much of this summer out on our island. That's an exciting prospect for both of us.

There's a number of things to write about until we leave, however. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Time to leave. Sigh.

Of course it was a beautiful sunny (although windy) morning on Saturday when I left! That usually seems to happen.

But I made it to Marcia & Rutger's house with no problem, and we spent a fun weekend together. On Monday I want into the city to do a bit of sightseeing and shopping. I also met up with Marcia, who took me to the Kaknäs tower for lunch. Lots of photos on the flickr page.

Today, I am heading home to Texas, but not without stopping through Manchester on my way back. There is the small matter of a derby tonight. I am hoping to board my flight tomorrow in a jolly mood!

UPDATE: I was in a very jolly mood, indeed!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Checking in

I've spent the past couple of days busy with small projects. Wednesday morning was fairly clear, so I repositioned the TV antenna. Annika and Olle told me they saw lots of water running down the antenna to splash against the side of the house when it rained. So I added a pole to raise it above the roof, allowing any water to stream harmlessly downward.

Of course this meant my cable was too short, so I had to reroute it, which meant more drilling, and going up and down the ladder about 50 times. Doing it myself meant I had to go back and forth inside and outside, taking off my snow boots every time. What should've taken an hour took me five! But I got it done just as the snow started to fall.

Thursday was another snowy day, but as the day progressed, it became warmer. (It was an almost balmy +3°C when I went to bed!) I entertained myself with building a fold-up table to the side of the kitchen counter. I intend it to stay folded 95% of the time, but to pop up to hold dishes when we have people over for dinner. It's an idea I cribbed from Margaret and Janne's house.

I am thinking about perhaps getting a cushion made to cover it, as we did for the seat, to complete the bench look. We'll see if I get Sooz's approval for that!

The heat wave is continuing this afternoon. It's 52F/11C as I write this. The island path, especially down by us,  is a sopping mess right now as the snow is melting quickly. On my walk, I found both of my wellies developed a hole, so my feet became soaking wet. I ran across Ronnie, working his wood chipper, and he loaned me a pair of good boots, which were a godsend.

Photos of all this are on my flickr page, of course.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Tuesday Jaunt

I had planned to head into Värmdö today to do a bit of shopping. The boat timings are good; I left Aspö around 1045, and was at the Mölnvik bus stop at noon. I had a bit over 4 hours to play with until I caught the bus back to Stavsnäs for a 1655 boat home. So I was away for about 8 hours to accomplish 4 hours of shopping. Not that bad a deal. There were no snowstorms in the forecast, so off I went!

The great thing about Gustavsberg is that it's really designed for those of us who live in the archipelago. There's every kind of store one would want: a Systembolaget for the booze, a giant ICA for the groceries, Bygg-Ole and Jula for building supplies, my favourite McDonalds, along with electronics stores, toy stores, a pharmacy, etc., etc.

Sooz used the Systembolaget's fantastic website to tell me what box wines she preferred. I was able to tell how much was in stock, and even what aisle it was on in my store! I was in and out in 5 minutes. I did spend a lot more time in the building stores, though. I had the luxury of walking through the power tools at a leisurely pace. What fun!

As usual, though, I bought a heck of a lot, probably too much, and I comically dragged everything onto the bus or the journey home. Fortunately, the bus and boat were both almost empty, and kind fellow passengers lent me a hand.

I wished I'd had a hand with my wheelbarrow home in the approaching darkness. I got my day's workout pushing everything through a few inches of snow and slush. Fortunately, everything finally arrived safely, and I was able to have a nice meal of Swedish meatballs and salad!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Snöig Måndag morgon

...which means "Snowy Monday morning" in Swedish. I woke up to quite a bit of snow. It's fairly warm, so it's perfect snowball snow. There's no wind, so it's falling straight down, smooth and beautifully quiet.

I walked down to the dock to take photos and see if there was anyone else around. I saw a number of animal tracks, but no moose, though. I did see one other set of people tracks. Our neighbors by the sea, Lennart and Marit, were on their way home, so I waited with them at the Waxholms dock.

By the time I got home, I was getting pretty cold! It was good to put my socks on the radiator while I made lunch.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hello from Aspö!

It's been a whirlwind few days, that's for sure. My route to Aspö took me via New York and Barcelona, which isn't the most direct routing. But I am happy to report that all of my complex logistics came through. I made it with all of my stuff safely to our little stuga Friday night.

Special thanks go to my friends: Marcia, who drove me into the city on Friday afternoon, where I was able to meet up with Olle and Annika, with whom I rode in their car down to Stavsnäs.

Friday was a beautiful day, but Saturday started with a gale and snow showers. I fired up the radiators and stayed inside, nice and cozy. It dried out in the afternoon; Olle helped me straighten out the shed door (again), but everything at the house looks like it is in top shape.

On Saturday evening, I joined Olle and Annika, along with our neighbor Karin, for dinner. Besides being a great carpenter, Olle is a heck of a chef as well. He really puts me to shame.

My jet lag caught with me today, so I slept in and then took a long walk around the island. (Photos are available here.) It's sunny but brisk. The forecast is for more snow and rain during the week, so I'll have more time to post on the blog!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An electric wheelbarrow

I came across the website of a Swedish company selling electric wheelbarrows.

The motor is inside the hub of the wheel and it has a great amount of torque. It'd be perfect for pulling things up that steep hill from the Waxholms dock! I could probably use it this weekend when I head out, loaded down with groceries. (Yes, that's right, this weekend! Yay!!)

If I lived there year around, it might be handy to have. But for my infrequent visits, it's better for me to get the exercise.

Their gallery of demonstration photos is quite amusing, it's worth a look.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Melodifestival grand final!

The show begins in a few hours. I will update this post after the winner is chosen, but I wanted to share my predictions in advance.

The bookies really like Sanna Nielsen, and I do, too. However, I like Sanna because she looks a lot like Sooz, not because of her song. It's a pretty ballad, but frankly, a bit boring for Eurovision in my book.

Next on the bookie's list is Ace Wilder. She's the Avril Lavigne lookalike from the Gotebörg show. I think this is a much catchier song, although I'd like her to work on her costumes and staging.

I still have a soft spot for YOHIO. Swedes love their glam rock, and I think the band is tight and professional. I can see this doing well in the final.

So, what's my pick? My head says Ace, but my heart says YOHIO. I'm going to fudge a little bit and leave it at that.

UPDATE: The bookies called it. In a fantastically close vote (212 to 210), Sanna Nielsen won out over Ace Wilder. I almost got it right!

But then again, YOHIO finished sixth, so I can't give myself too much credit.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Weather stations

Once we have full-time internet connectivity out at our stuga, there are a couple of things I really want to do. First is to install a webcam (or two) so I can monitor the house when we're not there, and to do a bit of video moose hunting.

Secondly is to install a weather station so I can monitor the weather at the house. There are many different ones available. However, from what I've read, they can be expensive and a bit fiddly.

I found the Netatmo recently. It is an indoor/outdoor unit, and the cool thing is that it is internet-enabled right out of the box. I didn't realize just how cool it was until recently, when I found their weather map. It aggregates observations from every Netatmo onto a world map. You can zoom out, pan around, and look at real-time observations all over the world.

The closest one I could find is on Värmdö. Perhaps one day, there'll be an Aspö reading on the world map!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Melodifestival: Lidköping

This was the 'second chance' show. Frankly, my expectations were low, given the level of the performances so far. I wasn't that keen on the winners, and this contest of the second-best didn't fill me with hope.

Going through to the final are Helena Paparizou, who strikes me as a bit too old for this sort of song, and Linus Svenning, who spent way too much time at the tattooists'.

I spoke to Marcia over the weekend, and she was very disappointed with the acts this year. I sense that she's not the only one who feels this way. Perhaps the Melodifestival format needs to be refreshed? I don't watch any of the singing competitions on TV these days, but it seems there must be a way to attract and nurture more talent than what's being put on the Swedish stage these days.

The BBC has gone the opposite route of our contest-loving Swedes. They have found their own new artist and commissioned a customized Eurovision-winning song. It was simply announced yesterday, with nary a television show, let alone a contest, in sight!

Here is (the very Britishly named) Molly Smitten-Downes with the UK entry, "Children of the Universe". I believe the Eurovision rules only allow 6 people on stage, so she'll have to prune her backing band a bit. But it has a good chorus, and Molly can sing, which is becoming less common these days.

Stay tuned for my prediction before the Melodifestival grand final!!!