Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Yes I know I have so many cups already and I should not have bought them, but these were simply a work of art, and what better way to enjoy art than when you have a cup of lovely tea. They fit my criteria for a fine cup, a pleasing shape, easy to hold and balance in your hand and "lip friendly" and of course a lovely glaze.

I love the dark glaze going half way up the cup.

The Artist

The cups look good from this angle too.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013


These Christmas decorations are pure nostalgia from my childhood in Sweden.
They were wonderfully simple --  printed on paper and folded out every year.
And so wonderfully easy to recycle.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


90 year old former Swedish Minister of Social Affairs Gertrud Sigurdsen is upset that  society is forcing the Swedish elderly to remain in their homes where they are "forced to receive" the care society offers in the form of home care and home medical care --  even when the wishes of the elderly individuals are to go to a home for the elderly. 
 Picture from here.

If you are 90 years old in Sweden your voice is usually not considered particularly interesting or valued unless you are a former minister and you write a letter to a major newspaper. Then people will listen for a few seconds. Hopefully longer.  Gertrud Sigurdsen was a member of the Swedish Parliament from 1969 and has had several ministerial posts, the last being the Minister of Social Affairs 1985-1989. She is upset that  society is forcing the elderly to remain in their homes where they are "forced to receive" the care society offers in the form of home care and home medical care --  even when the wishes of the elderly individuals are to go to a home for the elderly. 

In Sweden we have a very fancy law with many wonderful rights and considerations for the elderly, the The Social Services Act which is a national, federal law. The fancy words and rights of the Social Services Act prescribe that local authorities have a duty to ensure that elderly people can (1) live an active life and exercise influence in society over their everyday life, (2)  maintain security and independence as they grow older,  (3) are treated with respect and (4) have access to quality care. Pretty sensible and straightforward stuff for a society like the Swedish Society with some of the highest taxes in the world. That law gives the former minister Gertrud Sigurdsen the right to chose how, and where she wants to live in her old age. But there is an important "but" here.

The problem is that the local authorities who collect the taxes and who are supposed to provide the care according to the Social Services Act have a budget to consider and they are not allowed to run a deficit, pretty much like the American States are not allowed to run deficits. So when the budget rules, the fine intentions of the law  collide with reality. That is where the former Swedish minister finds herself. In reality. And she wrote to Dagens Nyheter, a major daily newspaper in Sweden, to describe her reality which she shares with other Swedes.

The former Minister of Social Affairs, Gertrud Sigurdsen lives alone in a flat in central Stockholm, is increasingly feeble, falls easily, has had a mini-stroke and needs a walker to get around. She is not greatly handicapped, but the main thing is that SHE experiences a great insecurity and SHE wants to go to a home for the elderly, but that is of no interest to the local authority. THEY think that her needs can be taken care of in her home and THEY have denied her request  twice and her third appeal to go to a home for the elderly, is now being considered. Her situation is very common all over Sweden, people's wishes are ignored and they are overruled. The choices that the law gives elderly people are being totally ignored -- for economic reasons. It is cheaper to care for people in their homes. 

But so many elderly people feel terribly lonely in their homes and long for some companionship with other elderly people. Gertrude Sigurdsen, the former minister, tells the story of an 84 year old woman who became so unhappy when she was told that she could not get into a home for the elderly -- she threw herself of the balcony and died. Another story is of a man who applied to get to a home for the elderly because he could not walk upstairs to the toilet in his house. His request was denied as the local authority proposed to put a toilet (portable?) in his living room.

Many of the home care personnel who rush in and out of the homes of the elderly to carry out their allotted tasks in record time (no time to chat) witness of desperate and lonely people longing for some human companionship which they would get in a home for the elderly. But no. It is cheaper this way. And that is the way it is going to be in the foreseeable future as more homes for the elderly are closed one after the other. Care in the home is THE way. 

The woman who threw herself of a balcony had just had a meeting with a "care assessor" in her flat. She had been told that she must remain in her home and continue to receive the home care she had received before.  She was not allowed to go to a home for the elderly which she desperately wanted. She stood up, left the room and never came back. She had walked out on the balcony, jumped . That was her reply. That was her reply to the Swedish system denying the elderly a place in a home for the elderly. That was also, I think, her reply to what she thought of the care she had been given in the home up to that point. Was it so bad that she would rather kill herself that continue with it? Let's have a look at the home care available:

The care given is based on what someone else, after talking to you, decides you need, not necessarily what you want and after an interview with a local government "care-assessor", you are given so many minutes or hours for your need. You might be denied help too, which is more common these days when local government wants to save money. In that case it is up to you or your relatives to do the work, or appeal the decision. The help you are granted can vary from a few minutes, to hours, to as much as 24 hour care. If your health deteriorates, then you will be assessed again and a new decision gives you additional time. Also, if you need medical care, you are allowed that. Otherwise you have to go to your doctor as usual. The quality of home and medical care varies a lot depending on where you live, but there are certain general aspects one can mention.

If you live in a home for the elderly, there is not much administration to think of. But if you live in your own home and you are being cared for at home, there is an enormous administrative burden for you or your relative (hopefully you have one). If you get help only a few hours a week with some chores, no problem, but if your needs are more complex, then you or your relative really have to be on top of things -- there are many different people to deal with, such as the care assessor, the care team leader, the physiotherapist, the rehab specialist, the team that cleans the flat, the team that cares for you and so on. And as they all work in closed compartments, there is not much coordination and of course this means that there is a great  risk that something is forgotten or goes wrong. But the real problem is with the many people that come through the door (with the key you have given them) to take care of you.

It used to be that there were a few people assigned to care for you, you got to know them and they got to know you. It was nice and something to look forward to for all involved. But new computerized personnel systems use the employees 100 percent  by turning their workday into inhumanly fragmented minutes and they, stressed all the time too, never know from one day to the other where they will be the next day. This means that you or they, never know who will come to you tomorrow. This "effective" use of people means that  sometimes 20-30  different people in a month walk into your home. New faces all the time. Not the best situation for old people who like security and continuity. And not the best situation as regards personal and medical safety either. 

There is no way that new, inexperienced people who have never met you before, could possibly know your complicated care-needs. The situation gets worse when the patient has had a stroke and cannot speak for themselves. The present system is  very risky for the patient. Nurses are supposed to be responsible for dispensing medicine, but this task has been delegated to the home care people with very limited medical knowledge, sometimes none at all and there are great risks involved here when increasingly more dissatisfied, inexperienced and substitute personnel are involved.

If needed and granted, medical care is provided in the home by nurses and doctors that come home to you. The quality varies from tremendously well functioning situations to utter neglect. My mother died this year from untreated pneumonia in both lungs , her home-care doctor refused to attend despite a million pleadings from the family. This is perhaps unusual, but  indicative of a Swedish affliction -- old people in Sweden are treated like something the cat dragged in. This is a philosophical dilemma for Swedes today. A society that treats its older generation with such disrespect is a "sick"society. Politicians, especially local ones, must question themselves why they show all sorts of sympathy for various exposed groups in society but turn their backs on their own elderly generation. It seems to me that the cold-hearted politicians are in need of treatment for this malfunction of their value system.
©Leif Sodergren

Monday, November 25, 2013


In 1941, when my Swedish mother Gunilla was twenty and had gone to Uppsala to study at the university there, she tried to find a suitable room for herself. Her girl friend already had a room but my mother still had not found a room two weeks after her arrival. Her American born mother Olga, writes in English which was her habit, wondering why she still has not a proper room for herself. This was after all during World War II and many men had been conscripted so there should be rooms available for a student. I suspect she thinks that my mother was not quite organized and mother Olga delivers some good advice for her seemingly disorganized daughter:

"Begin to plan your day calmly in the morning  -- give yourself good   time for everything    -- one hour you must take for your 'toilet' and at night put your clothes orderly on  a chair for the next morning. Give yourself good time for everything. People who are always in a hurry are not orderly people. Keep your nails manicured, your hair well brushed and never wear a slightly soiled collar. If you have order in your drawers, you will have order in your mind and always remember that a woman's daintiness -- freshness are what attract a man. You will not forget things or lose your belongings if you make up your mind to begin at once and plan each hour of your day -- if you do not begin NOW, you will acquire a habit of slovenliness and it will grow on to you and cling to you and before you know it, you are a slave to the habit of disorder and it will be noticeable in all you do.
                      Now, if from the beginning of your arrival in Uppsala you had made up your mind that you were going to find a nice room, you would have one by now. Go forth in life with a purpose and do not be afraid of to say no when necessary -- it is a sign of strength to be able to clearly demand what you want. Now enough of the preaching, but I hope you will read and reread what I have written and abide by it...I want you to be perfect and want to be proud of my little Gunilla. You are too fine and good not to make the best of your life.

Lots of love and kisses from Mams"
February 20, 1941

My mother Gunilla in Uppsala, not exactly studying at this moment -- but having fun on her way to a spring ball.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


The little antique ceramic vase was broken and ended up in the trash. I took pity on it since I liked the design so much. It was no doubt one of the many items made in China many years ago for the Western market. The vase is very small and a  very fine brush has been used by the skilled artist. It looks like a family crest of some kind. It was a shame to see the vase end up in the trash, so I figured out a way to let the design live on…

I photographed the design and reworked it in Adobe Indesign and made this mug design. This modern mug is made in China and the mug is "Print-On-Demand", which means that it is produced when one orders it. So I have saved the old Chinese artist's design with modern technique and a Chinese mug and it makes me feel quite pleased. Here is where the mug can be bought.

Monday, November 11, 2013


For years I saw this silver tea pot on a shelf in my grandmother's serving hall. It stood there with many more silver pieces, always perfectly polished by her loyal Linnea.

 I never noticed that there was an inscription on one side. It wasn't until I was given the teapot by my mother who had had it for a few years that I looked more closely at it and noticed the rather strange inscription.

 The tea pot is silver plated (and thus not of any great value) and the thin outer silver layer has worn off from the frequent polishing. It is difficult to read the letters -- but the teapot is interesting because of the inscription:

I am not sure about the letters, so I am guessing. Any suggestion is welcome. It would be interesting to find out more about John and who the mystery friend was.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


This year I ordered some of my own Swedish Folk Art cards to use for Christmas cards: "Our Noble King" and "Kurbits Wreath".
See all cards at the CHRISTMAS CARD SHOP.  The cards have a very fine glossy finish and are delivered in a sturdy green box. At no extra cost, one can get a personal message inside. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Many people around the world are fascinated by what people will do to build or rebuild their dream home. The program GRAND DESIGNS shows the trials and tribulations people go through and it is sometimes painful to watch.

But in the two programs below, the two couples have worked their asses of and they have shown such remarkable good cheer and calm that one wonders how that is possible.
Watch and enjoy!

The episode below shows a truly remarkable carpenter who builds his home almost single handedly --  and what an artist he is. The guy is not very big, but  a hard and strong worker -- truly inspirational. The best Grand Design episode ever. You feel better as a human being after you watch such a fellow.

Alan Dawson below is a wizard with steel and his vision, talent and hard work is also to be admired.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


JANI Ceramic production (1949-1970) in the Swedish city of Laholm employed around 20 people and sold their items world wide. It was started by Jane Wahlstedt. She and her husband Nils Larsson used the Sgraffito technique on Swedish red clay. 

Salt, Sugar and Pepper

Rooster candle stick
The hole for the candle does not show
Ash Trays were so common in the 1950ies

Friday, July 5, 2013


In the summer of 1959, Ingemar Johansson, the 27 year old boxer from Gothenburg departed for the US to fight Floyd Patterson. I remember the fantastic atmosphere when Ingemar vas victorious and won the World heavyweight Championship - everyone in Sweden glued to their radios in the middle of the night What a feat for the stone-worker from Gothenburg. 

Monday, July 1, 2013


This is the sort of lace my mother and grandmother had on their tables. Young people today might laugh at it but stop!
This is serious art.
Such workmanship!

The pattern around the edge reminds me of corn on the cobs

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I, like so many other people around the world, have a love affair with IKEA and their innovative products at good prices. Trimming costs in manufacturing has been an essential element in this, but lately I have noted that their cost-cutting is showing up in the shopping experience itself --  and that is a big mistake.

It used to be fun to go to my local IKEA and just look around and eat or have a latte, but the cafe' where you could get a very good latte has been removed. At the restaurant where the food used to quite good, there is no longer the same variety and the quality is down. This is no doubt a way to cut costs. But the cost-cutting has gone too far when you no longer feel inspired to go there. Self-defeating certainly for IKEA if people do not turn up. 

No more hand-made latte at my local IKEA.

IKEA introduced customers to a self-check system claiming that would be faster, but since they have reduced check out personnel generally, this is no longer a faster way. You still have to wait a very long time sometimes. Last month, a customer who desperately looked for someone to ask something, asked two women who loaded plastic shopping bags if they could help. "We do not work here" they said. By this they meant, that they worked for a subcontractor to load the bags and knew no more than that. Sure, this is a way of saving money for IKEA, but what impression does it give to customers?

Another ways IKEA cuts costs is to move production of items like napkins to a country that produces them in the cheapest possible way. That is how IKEA keep prices low and we benefit from it. Napkins and candles, that is what people often load up on at IKEA, and so do I. But the six packages of white napkins I bought two months ago emitted a sharp chemical smell. And it did not go away after the package had been opened. I looked at the country of manufacturing and noted that they were no longer made in Sweden. I wondered why no one had discovered that the napkins had a chemical smell ? Was their quality control at fault? Maybe this was a glitch, but what I discovered when I complained about this, was not very nice.

When I visited the kitchen department at IKEA, I told two young women who worked there about it and they quickly told me that it was no use telling them, they had no influence with the company as what they said did not matter much. It was much better to make the complaint in  a computer on the floor. This is a sad state of affairs, if people working at IKEA feel that way and cannot get their voices heard. I  decided to write to IKEA via their "contact" on their website. I got an immediate response on April 18, confirming receipt of the complaint and that they would respond no later that April 24 at 18.30 (6 PM). That seemed like a long time but hoped for an early reply.

On April 24 at !8.29, I got an email saying that their handling of claims took longer than usual and that they would when they had "dealt with my case". Oh, I thought, IKEA is contacting the factory and investigating the matter so they can give me a good reply with an explanation why the napkins had a strong smell of chemicals. That is maybe better than just offering compensation.

The days went and i heard nothing. On May, 10 I finally heard from IKEA again. This was 22 days later, more than three weeks!  I was eager to hear what their investigation had resulted in. With such a delay I expected an interesting response.

What had they done? Nothing. 
Did they apologize for the 22 day delay in responding?  No. 
Did they offer any compensation for the smelly napkins? No. 
Had they investigated my problem No.
So what did they say? 

They wondered if I still had the wrappers. They wanted a code of the wrapper indicating the time of production. That question could of course have been asked 22 days ago.
When i pointed out the lack of an apology for the three week delay and no offer of compensation, they offered me compensation for the price of four packages of napkins instead of the six I had bought. I suppose that saved them the value of two packages. Still cost-cutting, apparently. Considering the extremely bad handling of the complaint, and that they had a chance of making a larger gesture, they missed out big. Customer service at its absolute worst!

I still have a warm place in my heart for IKEA, but i do not like what I have experienced lately. They are on probation now. The napkin story and its many phases may seem small but raise a serious question about customer service. IKEA and its misplaced cost-cutting policies are not serving IKEA or it's customers well. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013


 I think there is a certain functional beauty to this funny looking contraption. It enables you to squeeze a lemon at the dinner table with elegance.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Saro Church outside Gothenburg, is a very a small wooden church built in 1922. The wealthy residents of Saro wanted a church nearer to where they lived and built thee church from private funds. The architect, Allan Berglund was a local resident of Saro.
It is built in a national romantic and neoclassical style with a myriad of almost medieval ornaments (the painter is Brocke Blückert)  in earthy colors.
It is a small and wonderfully intimate church situated up on a rock with many granite steps leading up to it.
Many people from Gothenburg visit Saro to go for long walks along the rocky water front, but very few have ever seen the inside of this church. Picture credit for the image above.

The exterior style is neoclassical

The interior design is in the National Romantic style with a myriad of almost medieval ornaments (the painter is Brocke Blückert)  in earthy colors.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


When nature calls at either door
do not intend to bluff her
but haste away
night or day
or health is sure to suffer.

The old saying puts an emphasis on speed, but inventive Swedes don't want you to hurry quite so fast.

The company Jernhusen, that manages Swedish railway stations, have long been fed up with vandalized coin-operated toilets. They have introduced new locks on public toilets that slow you down considerably, or don't let you in at all. In order to get into the toilet, you have to pay via your mobile phone. You pay by  sending a (SMS) text-message which debits your phone bill and then, click, the toilet door opens for you. 

But what if you do not have a mobile phone, and what if you cannot read the instructions, or what if your battery is low or out? Or if you just can't wait another second? Imagining having the runnies, what better  thing  could you wish for than having to read the instructions on the toilet door and fiddle with your phone. And wait for the door to open up. Then good luck to you! Be sure to have a very strong sphincter muscle. Or health is sure to suffer.

Maybe this idiotic and dangerous system opens up new business opportunities reminiscent of what existed in London around 1700 when there were no sewers and there were entrepreneurs such as the "human lavatory" who provided toilet services for the well-to-do. A man with a big cape and a bucket would offer you to sit on the bucket (in the street) and do your business in the street whilst covered with his cape. Charming!

Count yourself lucky to find a coin operated toilet.