Thursday, 23 March 2017

Mazal Tov Max and Good Luck Ben

A customer asked me to make a special card for her nephew's Bar Mitzvah. She specifically asked me to show him wearing his new tallit (prayer shawl), purchased specially for the occasion, and wanted me to include pictures of the Kotel (the Western Wall), Masada and the Dead Sea, all places he had visited on a recent trip to Israel. She also requested a Sefer Torah (a handwritten copy of the Torah, the holiest book in Judaism), with a reference to Parashat Terumah, the weekly Torah portion that the Bar Mitzvah boy was to read on his big day.
Each week in synagogue, we read (or, more accurately, chant, because it is sung) a passage from the Torah. This passage is referred to as a parshah. The first parshah, for example, is Parshat Bereishit, which covers from the beginning of Genesis to the story of Noah. There are 54 parshahs, and in the course of a year we read the entire Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy) in our services.
The Bar Mitzvah boy's cousin has recently joined the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), so the same customer wanted a good luck card for her son. He has gone into the home front search and rescue unit, so she requested the symbol of the unit on the card. I added the flag of Israel and some black military boots. The Hebrew greeting on the card says giyus cal, an easy recruitment.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

Daniel turned 11. His Mum told me that he's really into riding his bicycle at the moment and sent me a photograph of the bike so that I could copy it. She also mentioned that he often wears a particular jacket when he's out on his bicycle, so I copied that too. I added his helmet, the badge of his favourite football team, Manchester City, and a big red number 11 to mark his age.
Mum was delighted and messaged me to say that the card was "another success".
Daniel, and his brothers, receive birthday cards made by me every year. Their Mum says that it has become part of the family's birthday celebrations. Some months ago she sent me this wonderful photo to show me how Daniel was decorating his bedroom. He had lined up all the cards I have made for him over the years, and they were on the wall next to his Manchester City poster. A great honour indeed!
Mum also celebrated her birthday some time ago. Even though she orders the cards for her sons', I always do my best to remember her big day too. This year I decided to make her a papercut card, cutting out her name by hand from white stock then lining the card with a bright pink paper inlay. She was very happy to receive it.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Pura Nature Reserve

The Pura Nature Reserve in the northern Negev, a semidesert region of southern Israel, is best known for its flowers in February and March. Mister Handmade in Israel and I decided to visit back in February, on what turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. I had a lovely time photographing the many colourful flowers found in the reserve, whilst he strolled along next to me, carrying the picnic and asking me "What are these ones again?". We make a great team!
The Pura Reserve, or "Shmurat Pura" in Hebrew, is named after the ruins of an ancient village named Pura on the western edge of the reserve. It is called Hirbat al-Fura in Arabic. The reserve has plants of Mediterranean and desert origin, including the Anemone coronaria, or kalanit as it is known in Hebrew, a flower which grows wild all over Israel during the winter months. The annual "Darom Adom" or "The Red South" festival celebrates this spectacle of Israel’s national flower being in full bloom, as well as Israel’s agricultural achievements more generally. Other flowers found in the reserve include buttercups, poppies, large asphodels, Anchusasmandrakes and others.
In its peak season, the rolling hills and green fields around the reserve looked incredible covered in spring flowers. This wonder lasts for a very short time and we were not really surprised to see a long queue of cars at the entrance to the reserve on the day we visited. However, once parked, there was plenty of space for everyone. Flowers were covering the green meadows, though with the unseasonably warm weather, the anemone were clearly beginning to fade and were being replaced with tall Asphodelus ramosus (large asphodels). This flower was said to have filled the plains of Hades, the mythological Greek underworld. As it was considered the favourite food of the dead, the ancient Greeks would often plant it near graves!
A half hour walk westward took us further into the reserve and towards a demolished bridge, above, the remains of a Turkish railway track that was paved during World War I. The track once connected Be'ersheva with Lod, continuing in the direction of Sinai and the Suez Canal, which was under British control. The bridge, which was once a great feat of engineering, was in use until 1927 and was destroyed by floods in the 1970s. Looters of building stones have not left much of it. 
Farther west there is a climb to Tel Nagila, a settlement that was established in the Chalcolithic period, though we didn't make it quite that far on the day we visited. At the top of the tel, or mound, there is a lone tamarisk tree, which can be seen from far away, and the views, including other ancient mounds - Hasi and Keshet to the north, and Malha to the west - are supposed to be wonderful. 
Remains of a community more than five thousand years old were discovered at Tel Nagila, as well as an inn from the Middle Ages and remnants of a Bedouin community. According to a Bedouin legend, the Turkish army buried a treasure of coins at the foot of the mound.
Large sections of the area around the Pura Reserve are agricultural areas, and have not been marked or declared a nature reserve. The farmers who live in the region have at present agreed to conserve the landscape and refrain from inappropriate development that could mar it. I very much hope it stays that way.
After a few hours of walking and picnicking (and watching the spectacle of a 4x4 being pulled out of the muddy waters below the Turkish railway bridge by another vehicle) it was time to move on. We planned to stop by Noam's Artichokes at Moshav Nir Banim to pick up a box of the delicious edible thistles. The artichokes, just harvested, are fresh and crispy and nothing like the artichokes you find elsewhere. Boiled until tender and then cooled in a little cold water and drained, we ate them dipped in butter and lemon juice that night. Delicious!
Finally, no connection to the Pura Nature Reserve but Israel-related all the same, 2017 marks 50 years of Kibbutz volunteering. The Kibbutz Volunteers Program Center are in the midst of planning anniversary events, but are also attempting to reach an ambitious goal for this year: They want to see at least 950 Kibbutz volunteers throughout 2017. Why? Because they set a goal of additional 300 volunteers to the 650 volunteers they had in 2016.
They have asked people to spread the word and, since I live in Israel and often write about many of the wonderful places I have visited here, I am happy to do my bit to help.

"We absorb individuals, couples, and groups (18-35) to Israel to experience the land, culture, and people. The program is for a period of 2-12 months.
You already know that volunteering on a Kibbutz is one of the most cost effective and fun ways to visit Israel. Volunteers have the opportunity to choose a Kibbutz and work directly alongside locals. Great opportunities are awaiting our volunteers: practical skills, travel Israel, make new friends from all around the world, tons of fun and work in a diverse multicultural context.
Our volunteers become goodwill ambassadors of Israel upon returning to their home country. They are able to provide an accurate view of Israel to their social group back home. Volunteers are both crucial in helping to tell the story of Israel, as well as present and educate locals and fellow volunteers about their own countries."

Monday, 6 March 2017

שלום Shalom

I was recently asked if I had a "Shalom" papercut in my etsy shop but unfortunately at the time I didn't have anything. I decided to put it right and created this circular design with the word "Shalom" in both Hebrew and English.
"Shalom", like many Hebrew words, has more than one meaning. Shalom means peace. However, "peace" is only one small part of the meaning. "Shalom" is also used to both greet people and to say goodbye, but it means much more than "peace, hello or goodbye"...
Shalom is rooted in the word שלם (shaleim) which means wholeness, completion, wellness, perfection. When we are "at peace" we feel a sense of "wholeness."
My design is embellished with a dove of peace and flowers, and measures 16.5x16.5cm. It fits perfectly into an IKEA RIBBA frame.
Should you be interested in purchasing this hand cut papercut, framed or unframed, just pop me a message or look for the listing in my Etsy shop.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Adiela's Album

Adiela recently celebrated her Batmitzvah. In Judaism, a girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah, "daughter of the commandment," upon turning 12-years old. Adiela marked her Batmitzvah on Tu B'Shvat, a holiday also known as the New Year for Trees, and so I was asked to include the invitation to her celebration, which had a mulberry tree on it, on the cover of her Batmitzvah album. Her colour scheme was wine and pink.
Apparently Adiela's favourite place is her bedroom. Her Mum said that she could literally chill all day lying on her bed, playing on her iPod. She loves to sing and dance, and likes anything pretty and pink. She paints her nails, is always busy with her hair and with different lotions and potions, and enjoys nice clothes. For her birthday she received a Pandora bracelet and she always wears her Hodaya silver heart necklace. She loves reading and baking too. According to her Mum she is a very happy go lucky girl and relaxed about life!
I decided to show Adiela lying against a pillow decorated with pink hearts. She is holding her iPod in one hand and has a cupcake, also encrusted with hearts, in her other hand. To her left is the badge of the Ezra Youth Movement, and to her right a shelf brimming with lotions. Adiela is wearing her favourite navy Juicy hoodie with a silver j on the zip (this album cover was a quick lesson for me about the hottest teen clothing brands!), her much-loved necklace and her new bracelet. In front of her is her Batmitzvah invitation, a book with her school badge on it and a second book to illustrate her love of reading. She is also surrounded by music notes (oops, I took the photo before I applied them!).
Adiela's album opens the English way (Hebrew books open from right to left), and I added her name and the word Batmitzvah in English. The date of her Batmitzvah celebration is in Hebrew. Finally, I placed a Magen David (Shield of David, or as it is more commonly known, the Star of David) in two corners of the album cover.
Mum kindly messaged me to tell me that the album had arrived safely in the UK and that she thought it was beautiful. "Thank you for making it happen!" she wrote.

* This post has been shared on Our World TuesdayWednesday Around The World, Wow Us WednesdaysWordless WednesdayShare Your Cup ThursdayLittle Things Thursday and Thursday Favorite Things.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

100 Years

A customer asked me for a 100th birthday card. I have made a handful of them before, and even one for a lady who reached the grand old age of 102, but they are always very special to make. I mean, what an age to reach!
My birthday is in May. Each year my Dad kindly tells me to treat myself to something nice. I have often used it as an opportunity to splash out on something arty that I wouldn't necessarily just buy for myself. This year it took me quite some time to choose that special something, but when this incredible "Beating heart love machine" popped up on my Facebook feed, I knew I'd found my birthday present!
Jane Ryan, who works under the name 'OPI', studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art and moved to West Cornwall in 1988. Her studio is in a disused cowshed which she describes as "heaven in the summer and bleak in the winter". Jane's mechanical toys for grown-ups use a lot of reclaimed wood, and all the pieces are one-off, no two are the same. Recurrent themes over the years reflect her seaside home, gardening and food.
I am absolutely thrilled with my whimsical piece. It is beautifully carved and painted, and a real pleasure to hold and play with. Thanks Jane, and of course, thanks Dad!
Mister Handmade in Israel and I were recently doing some tidying up in our back garden when this little European robin flew down to watch us. The male and female bear similar plumage, so I am not too sure if this is a he or a she robin. Apparently a small minority, usually female, migrate south during the winter, and some decide that Israel has enough to offer them to stay here, so my guess is that it's a "she"! I think she's lovely!
Lastly, it really has been a long time since I posted pictures of my cooking here but not long ago I took part in an Indian cooking workshop which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was inspired to make samosas the following day. They were filled with potato, peas, green chili and delicious, tangy spices, and though they took me positively ages to make, the flaky, freshly fried samosas were wolfed down by my family. I was rather proud of my efforts.

* This post has been shared on Saturday's Critters, I'd Rather B Birdin', Saturday Shuffle at Strawberry Butterscotch, Saturday Sparks @Pieced PastimesMy Sunday Photo, Sweet Inspiration, Sunday Pleasure, Sundays at HomeSeasonsHappiness is Homemade, Inspiration Monday, The Art of Home-Making MondaysAmaze Me Monday, Monday's Musings, Monday Morning Blog ClubThe Good. The Random. The Fun.Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) and Make it Pretty Monday.
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