Crown Princess Victoria in Afghanistan.
It was all very much under wraps, but Crown Princess Victoria and her husband-to-be Daniel Westling visited the Swedish-Finnish military forces in Afghanistan recently. Nina Eldh, director of information at the Royal Court, explains: “Her visit was to follow the Swedish soldiers on duty and to show support for what they are doing.” During the visit, Victoria test drove the new army vehicle “90” and met with people cleaning up land mines. She also met with Colonel Christer Tistam, head of the Swedish soldiers. “It has been very rewarding to be here and meeting all of you,” the Princess said. “I’m very impressed with the work you’re doing.” Before the couple left Camp Northern Lights in Mazar-i-Sharif, Victoria sent a greeting to the soldiers, wishing them luck and hoping that “you feel that you make a difference for the people of Afghanistan.” There are about 500 Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan today, and their safety has been shaky lately. Several of them have been wounded in bomb attacks and firings. “A visit like this has to be carried through with a great deal of discretion,” explained Eldh.

How the Swedes read.
Do you read a lot? What do you read? According to the Swedish Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), the reading habits of the Swedish people have changed, and radically so. But how? “There’s a difference reading ‘The Ugly Duckling’ and hundreds of text messages,” says Christer Nylander, a Liberal Party member of the Sveriges Riksdag. He asks for a new study on books and reading. “It’s important to always think about how we can increase a lust for reading in the younger generations. It’s more important to read and understand a book than to update one’s status on Facebook.” Nylander also wants the study to sort out the importance of literature, how it affects our cultural heritage and ways for Swedish literature to reach other countries. It’s been 12 years since the last study on Swedes and their reading habits was published, and much has happened since then. “Technological and social changes, as well as a focus on bestsellers, have changed the book,” Nylander continues. “Access to high quality literature that challenges us, our thoughts and our habits is a prerequisite for a working democracy and a high level of education in a society. Perhaps it sounds pretentious, but I really believe it is so.” What do you think?

Stockholm Heroes 2009.
They made life more fun, they added color and a breath of fresh air to a year that, in retrospect, was quite a lousy one. Dagens Nyheter made a list of 50 Stockholmers that made last year a bit better. Nordstjernan takes a look at the top 3. 1.Topping the list is Martin Mutumba, a winger/striker for AIK (Swedish soccer club), the reigning champions of the highest Swedish league, Allsvenskan. But it is his winning attitude that makes him a Stockholm hero. Days before the deciding final game of the 2009 season he tattooed "A.I.K SM-GULD 2LAX9" (AIK league champions 2009) across his chest. Fortunately for him it came true. “It’s his authentic Stockholm arrogance coupled with a humorous twinkle in his eye that makes him a winner,” DN writes. The fact that Mutumba has aroused enthusiasm in people who aren’t even interested in soccer is also of importance. Mutumba is of Ugandan descent, and collaborated on the book "Svartskallar—Så funkar vi" (Blackheads—This is how we work) where 11 young people from multicultural and minority backgrounds talk about what it is like to be of immigrant background in modern Swedish society. “I am not very well educated,” Mutumba himself said. “I don’t spell words correctly, I spell more or less how I feel. I don’t try to be perfect. That’s why it makes me so happy when young people from Rinkeby, Angered and Rosengård—where Zlatan comes from!—tell me ‘when you play, it’s like I play myself.’ When a Swede asks me to pose on a photograph to show his kid, I feel as if I have accomplished something.” And you won’t find Mutumba hanging with the in-crowd at Stureplan. “I am always in Rinkeby, there’s no love as true as the one in Rinkeby. Once when we had played against Djurgården, I came home tired thinking I would watch the game. But all the kids came running, knocking on my door: ‘Come and play with us! Do you think you’re so good? Come on, Zlatan is in Spain, you’re only in Allsvenskan!’ And then I go out and play with them. I have cramps everywhere from the match, but they don’t care, they’ve already forgotten about that match. For them, it’s a new match already. These kids keep me grounded.” 2.In the second spot of Stockholmers who brightened up 2009, we find designer Ann-Sofie Back, who is responsible for “everything except denim” at the denim company Cheap Monday. She returned to Stockholm after having lived in London for 12 years. When asked to describe the general Stockholm look last year, Back said: “Torn jeans, leggings and Balmain shoulders.” And what does she think will be the look for 2010? “Sweatpants and high heels.” 3.An actor takes third place among the heroes. “Rolf Lassgård,” Dagens Nyheter’s critic wrote, “was born to play Edna Turnblad in the musical ‘Hairspray.’” Most of us know Lassgård as Kurt Wallander in several films of Henning Mankell’s novels. “I began walking in high heels four months before we began rehearsals of ‘Hairspray,'” Lassgård comments. “I wore 1.5 inch heels at first, but ended up walking on 3 inches.”

Anna’s post-holiday detox.
Do you need to lose a few pounds of holiday excess? Do you want to begin 2010 a bit healthier? Diets don’t work and New Year’s resolutions that you cannot follow through with can make you depressed. So what’s a person to do? Expressen’s nutritionist Anna Ottosson has a great idea: A simple detox! She writes, “I’ve been in Australia a couple of weeks now. I tend to lead a healthy life to begin with, since my work as a nutritionist is also my biggest interest, and because I know that what we consume affects our mind and body. When I traveled here I decided to do a bit more, however. Exercise more and eat better than I usually do. My detox means: no sugar, no alcohol, a lot of fruit and vegetables at all meals. Lots of water. Green tea. Walks and yoga on a daily basis.” Anna asks us to ask ourselves what we really want out of the new year. What are the positive changes we want to make? Instead of rigid and impossible-to-follow-through resolutions, why not think of the new year as a perfect time to make a few positive changes in life. It doesn’t have to be difficult or boring. Maybe the solution for me and you?