Sunday, 19 June 2016

18th Anniversary

Mister Handmade in Israel and I recently celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. He is a big fan of my papercut cards, so for our anniversary this year I made him this card, cutting out our names, the number of years we were celebrating and some hearts, from white stock. I then lined it with a blue paper inlay because the 18th anniversary colour is (apparently) blue.
Our anniversary day started off well when these beautiful roses arrived from Mister Handmade in Israel. It was a good job that they arrived early though because I had a fun day out planned! I recently celebrated my birthday and it was, ahem, a rather disappointing day. I decided that I was going to make up for it on our anniversary.
Our first stop was lunch at Haroeh BaCafe in Kfar Haroeh, a religious moshav in the Central District of Israel. The moshav was founded in 1933 and was named after Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Mandate Palestine. The restaurant is located at the far end of the moshav, within the beautifully landscaped gardens of a family property. We chose seating in the pretty outdoor area and were soon enjoying a delicious lunch of hummus, eggplant, pasta and, though we were already quite full, a light and creamy tiramisu. Yum!
Our next stop was at Gesher Hatzabim, or Turtle Bridge, in the the Nahal Alexander National Park. Turtle Bridge is one of the only places in Israel where a population of giant soft-shelled turtle can be observed. The turtle, which incredibly swam to this region all the way from Central Africa, is a carnivore that feeds on a diet of worms, fish and other small water animals. It can grow to a length of one metre and weigh as much as fifty kilos.
In 1991 Nahal Alexander overflowed as a result of heavy rainfall and most of its soft-shelled turtle population drifted into the Mediterranean Sea and died. The river was polluted as well, so the eggs that were left did not hatch. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority collected and incubated the eggs and, when the youngsters grew, returned the turtles to the water.
Today Turtle Bridge is now a delightful spot, with play facilities for children and a wooden walkway from which the turtles can be observed both in the river and as they emerge from the water on to the river bank.
It would have been possible to spend hours on the walkway or on the bridge watching the turtles, but it was soon time to move on to our next port of call. As a surprise I had arranged a "Romantic Ride" along the beach for Mister Handmade in Israel, starting at The Cactus Ranch in Michmoret ("fishing net" in Hebrew), known as one of most beautiful beaches in Israel.
Arriving at The Cactus Ranch we waited and waited (this is Israel, everything happens all in good time!) for our guide to saddle up and explain some of the basic rules of riding. Eventually we set off, riding from the ranch, through the dunes, to the beautiful Michmoret beach. We of course had a guide with us given that we are not experienced riders, so whilst it was a lovely experience riding a horse on a wide open beach near the lapping fringe of the sea, it was not really so "romantic", especially since he was on his phone for part of the ride!
We dismounted on the beach and enjoyed a picnic of fresh fruit and a glass of wine to toast our anniversary. With such wonderful scenery around us, we soon felt quite relaxed. Half an hour later our guide returned with the horses and our ride continued through the countryside and back to the ranch.
What a way to make lasting memories!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Birthday Card for a Boss

A customer asked me to create a 60th birthday card for her boss. She had some very specific requests. She wanted me to create a paper version of her boss wearing a dark suit and silver coloured tie, and with a black knitted kippa (skullcap) on his head. He should be seated, with lots of papers on his desk, she said. As an additional request she then asked if I could add the law firm's logo on to some of the papers. Of course I could!
Her boss is always losing his pen or the lid, she told me, so a pen lid was put on his desk - just the lid with the relevant logo showing, as she requested. He should also be talking into his dictation machine, I was told.
A lot of time and effort went it to this card but my customer seemed thrilled with it, and the card is now in a silver frame on her boss' desk! I created a card for this gentleman's 50th birthday as well. I am happy to know that this card, with a big 60 on it, has been added to the collection.
The brief for the card below was much simpler. An 80th birthday card with a golfing theme was requested. A golf ball perched on a tee, with a flag marking the hole on the golf course, fitted the bill.
Some other "guy" cards have been created recently as well, a guitar and a fast car being among the requests.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

"Cornflakes of Champions"

Last year I created a birthday card for Jonny showing him sitting at his desk in his new role as Marketing Director at Unilever Israel. Telma kosher food products is owned by Unilever Israel and the Israeli professional basketball player Omri Casspi endorses Telma cornflakes, dubbed the "Cornflakes of Champions". Jonny recently met Omri and so his wife asked me to create a birthday card for him showing the two of them together. Jonny is not a particularity short guy, but Omri is tall. 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) tall. I was kind to Jonny on his card though - after all, it was his birthday - and only hinted at their, ahem, height difference! Both guys are holding a box of Telma cornflakes between them.
Maor likes basketball. I have created many birthday cards for him along that theme over the years. For this year's card I focused on the hoop. Slam dunk!
Finally, Nadav likes Manchester United Football Club. Once again, I have made him several Man U. cards over the years. His Grandma is a regular customer of mine. This time I crafted a red and black striped scarf and put the team crest in the centre. The Hebrew letters on the card spell out his name and the greeting says "Happy Birthday to Nadav my dear grandson".

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Nahal Taninim

One of our most successful days out during the Passover break was to Nahal Taninim Nature Reserve. Nahal Taninim, or the Taninim Stream, is a small river, about 15 miles long, which runs from the southern Carmel Ridge into the Mediterranean Sea. It's name means Crocodile River in Hebrew, whilst the Arabic name, Wadi Zarka, means bridge over blue river. Crocodiles could be found in the stream until the 20th century; the last sighting was in 1912. Where the crocodiles arrived from is unknown - did they get there through the sea? Or maybe they were brought by the Romans? Today Nahal Taninim is the last naturally unpolluted river in the whole coastal area. Caspian turtles, fish, toads, frogs and a variety of birds including heron, cormorants and storks can be found in the nature reserve, as well as the yellow water lily.
The area of Nahal Taninim was settled from Persian times to the times of the Crusaders in the Middle Ages. It was the Romans who realised the benefits of plentiful fresh water and built a dam to collect water from Nahal Taninim and the nearby Ada Stream. In fact several types of well-preserved Roman era aqueducts can be found within the area of Nahal Taninim and, before our visit to the nature reserve, we made a quick visit to Moshav Bet Hanania. Right at the entrance to the moshav is a beautifully preserved high aqueduct, above, with three separate channels that over different periods of time took drinking water to nearby Caesarea, which had no reliable source of fresh water when construction on the city began around 22 BC.
Two inscriptions from the Roman era can be seen on the walls of the aqueduct, below. The first is a high relief of the Roman Empire’s 10th Legion with an eagle perched over a wreath, and there under, a Nike standing on a crouching Atlas. The adjacent stone plaque names Emperor Hadrian, through a detachment of the 10th Legion, as the builder of the aqueduct.
From Bet Hanania we could have followed the arches of the aqueduct through the fields of the moshav towards the sea, but instead hopped back into our car and drove to Nahal Taninim Nature Reserve. In the winter of 1991-92 heavy rains flooded the area causing great damage. The municipality came to improve the blocked drainage and, during the archaeological excavation which followed, an entire dam wall was exposed, along with new pieces of the two existing aqueducts and a third conduit which had been covered with silt.
Just a short walk from the entrance to the reserve we found the Roman dam and the lake it created, which covers 6000 dunams. The dam utilised three wooden floodgates to elevate the water and control its flow through the ground level aqueducts, which were chiseled out of stone by Roman slaves and soldiers. But even the Romans made mistakes! An aqueduct that leads to nowhere can be found near the dam, probably because the Roman engineers realised they had made a mistake in judging the height.
Another artifact found nearby is a vertical paddle wheel from the Byzantine period, rare in Israel because they require a great deal of water. The plentiful water in the area was also used to operate flour mills during the later Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The Turks, who ruled Palestine from the 16th to the 20th centuries, built steep slides that began at the top of the dam and dropped several stories down to the mill: the resulting water pressure turned a horizontal water wheel that, in turn, moved the grindstones. Several of the slides have been cleaned and restored, and are found next to the walls of the dam.
Near to the dam are several ancient gravel quarries, above. These quarries were used to produce building materials for the entire area. In the early part of the 20th century, Edmund de Rothschild purchased much of the surrounding land and constructed a pipe factory in one of the quarries. The purpose of the project was to lay thousands of pipes to drain the nearby Kebara swamp, which was infested with mosquitoes, though the effort failed. During the archaeological excavations many clay pipes were discovered in the quarry. 
There are four trails to follow in the nature reserve. We took the red circular trail which passed by the dam, the ancient water system, took us across a floating bridge, past the Ottoman flour mills and through dense stream vegetation. Children from the nearby Israeli-Arab village Jusr a- Zarka sometimes splash in the stream, or boys ride their horses, fish and graze their livestock, though we only saw goats on the day we visited. The origin of people in the village is a Bedouin tribe Al-Awarna from northern Africa. The village was established in 1920.
We ended our visit by walking along the system of aqueducts, ignoring the one that that leads to nowhere! One aqueduct was used to transport water to Caesarea, whilst other channels took water to the water wheels.
Though we saw no crocodiles, we left the reserve with a better understanding of ancient infrastructure, and we enjoyed seeing some lush vegetation, catfish and quite a few frogs too! 
From Nahal Taninim it was a short drive to Caesarea, to view another portion of the high level aqueduct visited at Moshav Bet Hanania, below. The aqueduct, which was built in several phases, starting from King Herod, can be seen on the beach of Caesarea, north of the ancient city. It is an imposing structure which can be explored by walking its length until it becomes buried in the sand. Mister Handmade in Israel didn't fancy the walk though and the youngest son much preferred to jump from the top of the aqueduct into the sand dunes below. Although it seems that the aqueduct ends here, it once continued on south into the city, but that section was damaged by the sea.
Finally it was time to head to the Caesarea National Park for ice cream. Always the best way to end a day out!
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