Archive for March, 2010

The Kleptomaniac

There’s something a little strange going on at Furtwänglerstrasse 97. Things are going missing. A teaspoon here, a tissue there. It seems we have a plunderer in our midst. And here’s my hunch: the culprit gets about on two chubby legs and wears a pair of red shoes. I don’t know where she gets it from, but it seems our Rosebud is a hoarder. You can see it all over her little pink face. When the light creeps in through her bedroom window in the morning, her first thought  is “Where are my red shoes?” This is closely followed by “Where did I park my trolley?” Rose and her trolley are then inseparable for the rest of the day. Her finds are picked up, turned over and inspected, appraised and then carefully deposited in her four-wheeled vessel, which is then maneuvered to pastures new. This process occurs continuously, until at the end of the day when she’s sound asleep, we are left with a wagon full of booty and wondering where did the keys go? Among Rose’s most highly prized possessions are flash-drives, wooden blocks and stacking rings, items of junk mail, fridge magnets, books, items of Tupperware, sticks of lip balm and puzzle pieces. Anything that happens to fall from the clothes line and anything left on the bathroom floor are quickly snaffled up. I’ve seen her reach for the stars with the TV remote, and even the ball of mineral pellets I use in the washing machine, all the while looking surreptitiously over her shoulder. So now that the mystery of absconding items has been solved, its been amusing and a little intriguing to see the pilferer at work. The most interesting part is how she makes a treasure out of each little item, taking them out to savor and admire, and placing them strategically around the house. I’ll be keeping an eye on the silver!

Jonathan Jo
Has a mouth like an “O”
And a wheelbarrow full of surprises;
If you ask for a bat,
Or for something like that,
He has got it, whatever the size is.

A. A. Milne


Ode to my Mother-in-law

There is something about people and their mother-in-law. The relationship seems universally doomed. Just before leaving Australia I saw a bumper sticker saying, “If mother-in-laws were flowers, I’d spray them with Round-up!” This afternoon we said goodbye to Tony’s mum Lesley after a month of having her live with us in Germany. As I write she’s somewhere over the Atlantic feeling uncomfortable, sleep deprived and bored. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to thank her for being such a rare flower.

Most people meet their MIL as an adult, ready to settle down. I met Lesley when I was immature, hormonal, and hopelessly in love with her teenage son. But from the very first day that Tony brought me home on the school bus, Lesley treated me like her own flesh and blood. Since she arrived a month ago, she has washed, folded, cooked, shopped, vacuumed and changed countless dirty nappies. She got up early with Rose every morning, and generously propped up our domestic economy. While I was feeling dazed and too frightened to venture out, she was finding out when and where the bottle recycling occurred, how to work the washing machine and which local doctors spoke English. On dark days when I could barely manage a grimace (let alone a smile) she made cups of tea, played patiently with Rose and tried gently to coax me out of the house for some fresh air.

Notwithstanding all these things, it’s her love of the Lord I admire the most. Everyone who knows her will know exactly what I mean. So Lesley, thankyou. I’ll never forget this special time, and I know Rose won’t either. I’ll treasure the days of running for the U-bahn, having coffee at the bäckerie, shopping at Lidl and dreaming up new ways with pork chops. If MILs were flowers, I’m sure we’d grow together like daffodils and roses.

NB An honourable mention must go to those who made it possible for Lesley to come, most especially my sisters-in-law Rebecca and Kate, who cooked meals, minded children, and filled in on church rosters. But the grand prize must go to Richard. From what I hear he’s found quite a rich and full life as a single man. Still, if he has tried to disguise how much he’s missed her, I can only say that he’s failed abysmally. A man needs his wife. Thankyou all very much.

A pot of gold

This week I missed my little sister graduating with a Physiotherapy degree from Sydney University. Only Physio students and their families know how high that particular bar is. Anyone who clears it is, in my view, a star. So next time you visit your physio, give them a pat on the back from me. And this one’s for you Skell, I’m so proud.

To mark the occasion, I thought I’d share these photos taken today from our window.

Wren Handmade

For those down in the Gong (my lovely former home by the sea), I want to draw your attention to the grand opening of Wren Handmade this Saturday. The genius behind this intriguing new store is the very talented Sal Harris, my one-time stall-sharing buddy and partner in handmade crime. Sal is an extremely talented girl, I have no doubt her brilliance and creativity (not to mention her integrity and warmth) will make this a big success.  Wren Handmade is a new shop space featuring the work of Australian designers, crafters and artists. Many of you are familiar with her gorgeous hand printed kids clothes (an Aussie baby can’t have too many singlets!) which adorn the children of Wollongong. Expect to see more of her flair coming through with a new line of organic screen-printed clothing for men, women and children, as well as a range of handmade children’s clothing. I was lucky enough to get a preview before I left. First thing I could utter was “Where do I buy one?” Goodies available at Wren Handmade include:

  • Ruby Victoria Lino Prints and Letterpress Printed Stationary
  • Jewellery by That Vintage, The Little Button, Flamboyant Jo and more
  • Original handmade bags by Silk & Purple
  • Japanese linen purses
  • Homewares from Sydney designer Cushiontree and artist Rose Colbeck
  • A small range of loveable softies
  • Eco Journals

The official opening will he held this Saturday 27th March at 9.30am, with an organic tea tasting and morning tea from the Illawarra’s organic specialists. The shop is located upstairs inside Manic Organic, Princes Highway, Woonona.

Being a girl with apparently boundless energy, Sal will also be hosting Wren Creative Evenings, regular meetings for crafty people to drink tea and work on their latest project. They’re free and casual, I only wish I was there to join in! If you’re interested, send her an email at Every now and then someone comes into your life and you just know they’re a bright spark welling up to brilliance. Sal is one such spark. She’s also a special friend (sniff), and I wish her the very best for Wren Handmade.

Italian for Beginners

The Great Italian Adventure started early on Thursday morning. As we stopped to buy a toll pass at the border, the man asked us “Do you want a ticket for all of Europe or just Austria?” Austria? Imagine discovering you’re in Austria without knowing it. Our drive through the Swiss Alps was nothing short of breathtaking. All was going smoothly until Tom Tom took us on a suspicious detour from the highway. We raised our eyebrows, but followed obediently. The road became narrower and narrower, and then petered out completely. Suddenly, a man skied past us. We looked around to realise Tom Tom had lead us into the heart of a Swiss ski resort, and now wanted us to drive straight onto the slope. Am I the only one who wonders whether Tom Tom is actually controlled by an unseen evil genius?

I arrived in Italy hoping to experience something of quintessential Italian life. The tiny town of Varenna could not have more perfectly met my expectations. Tiny cobbled streets, beautiful stone buildings with colourful shutters, steep hillsides with olive and citrus trees, and a sensational view over the lake and Alps. By the end of four days, we were on first name terms with Pietro, the shopkeeper (he makes his own bresaola and a very intersting donkey salami) and had tried three of his wine recommendations.  Rose was a huge hit with the locals (I think it was the blonde hair) and received countless exclamations of “bellisima!” and “mia bella bambina!” By the way, she heard her first real ducks quacking. Incredible how close hers was to the real thing.

But the stand out experience came courtesy of my beloved.  In a moment of sheer magnificence, Tony had organised for Lesley and I to take an Italian cooking lesson with a local restauranteur. We were picked up from the ferry dock by Mareno’s daughter Francesca, and driven high into the hillside. As the hairpin bends got sharper, Francesca tooted her horn around each hair-raising corner to warn anyone else crazy enough to be on the road. Moreno’s only other pupil for the day had cancelled, so Lesley and I were treated to a six-hour, one-on-two lesson in fresh pasta, creamy gnocchi and Milanese risotto. Heavenly. Its hard to imagine how Moreno makes a living, given the daring location and the fact that Gittana has just 150 residents (his family have lived there for 1000 years). But his humour and hospitality make it easy to see. Asking anxiously whether my pasta was rolled thinly enough, he declared (heavy Italian accent necessary) “Ally, if it was any thinner it would be a newspaper!”

Just in case I’ve started to gush, I feel bound to tell you that the view was shrouded by fog for almost our whole stay, and that the day trip we made to Milan was an unmitigated disaster culminating in the revelation that reservations must be made months in advance to view The Last Supper. Lessons learned:

1. Flea markets are just as seedy in Europe as they are in Dapto

2. Italian ticket machines don’t give change for notes

3. Seeing Italy does not make you Italian and therefore more interesting/glamorous

I’ll leave you with this piece of encouragement given by Moreno on the subject of language learning:

“English is for singing a song, French is for talking about love, Italian is for praying to God, and German is for talking to a dog.”


To Liberty, at last

Two exciting things happened for MavisandFrank this week. Firstly, the lovely Emily from Timeless Paper featured me on her beautiful blog. And secondly, a bracelet was featured here in an Etsy treasury. Bring on Spring, I say! Florals are back in at last. I’ve often wondered why I am so attracted to Liberty fabrics. The answer, I feel, is their connection with childhood. My mother was part of an industrious patchwork quilting group (the hand quilting kind). Squares and scraps of Liberty’s classic florals were highly prized treasures. My sister and I grew up wearing handmade party dresses with smocking and peter pan collars, made with Tana Lawn. In fact, for a while in the late 80s it was fashionable in my mother’s set to wear drop-waisted dresses in Liberty florals. How I wish she’d kept them. I think its for this reason that I find so much nostalgia in the fabrics I use for my jewellery. It would be hard to pull off the drop-waisted floral look in these days of clean lines, muted colours and high waists. But maybe, just maybe, a necklace or a bracelet in the brilliant green of ‘Betsy’ or the cranberry-pink of ‘Wiltshire’ is enough to add a splash of colour, even nostalgia, to the most demure ensemble.

At this point I can go no longer without telling you of my recent visit to the Liberty store in London.  As a seller of items inspired by and made from the timeless fabrics, it felt like a pilgrimage I must make for my own creative integrity. After all, it was educational! A research trip, a staff development day, for the self-employed crafter. I was not disappointed. We  met Keren at the Great Marlborough Street entrance. While the rain began to fall and Tony pushed Rose back and fourth, I made my way through shelves of teapots, cushions and notebooks. I needed a treasure, a souvenir. But what? The answer was of course, a scarf! A Liberty scarf is the ultimate accessory. At a cost of around a hundred a twenty-five pounds, however, a scarf was not an option. Enter, my clever and stylish friend Keren. There, in a small corner of the third floor, she found a box of Liberty handkerchiefs. At seven pounds, these were (almost) affordable. Shaped into an elegant strip and tried around the neck, a handkerchief was indistinguishable from a scarf. Buoyed by our thriftiness and nonconformity, we headed for the mock-Tudor staircase and the rain outside,  just as Rose gave one last exasperated outburst.

Tony enjoying the cream tea with rose petal jam

Please don’t be worried if you don’t hear from us for a few days. We’re hitting the autobahn in our new VW and heading south to Lake Como, Italy. In appreciation for her travelling half way round the world to be with us, we asked Lesley if there was a part of Europe she’d especially like to see. Italy was her choice, and thither we must go. The things you do for you Mother-in-law. Viva Italia!

Shipping News


Yesterday, at long last , a large truck pulled up outside number 97 Furtwänglerstrasse. A few minutes later it drove away again, leaving me standing four floors beneath our apartment with eleven cardboard boxes. Thankyou Lord for the elevator. As Lesley and I dragged each box up the stairs to the landing and breathlessly cut open the seals, I was a little dismayed by the musty, misshapen contents. Anyone walking past our door would have heard cries of “Why did we bring this?” and “Oh no, look what’s happened to that!” Rose, however, had the confused yet gratified look of a baby on Christmas morning. Out came beloved animals and books, singing pigs and wooden puzzles. As for me, I feel complete now that my sewing machine has arrived. MavisandFrank Germany is open for business!








About Me

A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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I Make…

Handmade Baby Shorts in Liberty's 'Cordelia'

Handmade Necklace in 'Fairford' $21

Handmade Bead Necklace in 'Wiltshire' $21

Handmade Bracelet in 'Fairford' $15

I Took The Handmade Pledge!