Thursday, 29 March 2012

Portions

There is a yearly cycle in synagogues across the world in which the whole Torah (Hebrew Bible) is read out loud, with one major portion read each week during the Shabbat morning service. These portions are called a Parasha. The literal translation of parasha is a 'portion' or 'section', but the closest meaning in English would be a chapter. The cycle begins and ends on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah.
The Torah is broken up into five books within which there is an average of ten parashot. The names of the books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and the Hebrew names for each of the parashot are taken from the first important word of the parasha.
The parasha this Shabbat is Parashat Tzav. Tzav means to command, and at the start of the parasha God tells Moses to command Aaron and his sons about how to do their job with the korbanot (offerings or sacrifices). The parasha then tells how Moses ordained Aaron and his sons to become Kohanim (the men responsible for  performing the rituals of the Temple in Jerusalem, including sacrificial offerings of animals, fruits, grains and wine.)
Several young people that I know of have been learning to read Parashat Tzav very well. A friend asked me to make two Bar Mitzvah cards for boys celebrating their coming of age this weekend. We are also happily going to Jerusalem to hear the daughter of good friends - a young lady whom we have known since birth - read from the Torah in the synagogue. Whilst a pretty Bat Mitzvah card with a big 12 on it is winging its way in the mail to her, the two young men celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs will receive these brightly coloured cards showing the Sefer Torah (Torah scrolls) boldly displaying the name of their parasha, along with a black and white Tallit (prayer shawl) and a kippa (skullcap).
Mazal Tov! Congratulations! I hope they all enjoy their very special weekends.

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Bumble Bee for Grandma B

I am always very happy to hear that people enjoy reading my blog. There's a little joke amongst some of my friends that I don't need to tell them what I've been up to because they have already read everything right here!
Last month I received a lovely Etsy convo from an American follower of my blog. She wrote to tell me that she has been reading my blog for a while and that she thinks my work is beautiful! Her Grandmother's 90th birthday was approaching and she finally had the occasion to order from me. Because she already knew how I work, her e-mail detailed all the information I needed to know about Grandma. I was asked to include a bumble bee, something representing sewing, some flowers and a heart. She thought that a '90' would be good too and suggested a colour scheme of yellow, green and orange.
It was a sweet and simple card to put together and I hope that Grandma B liked it. My customer wrote to tell me that she had received the card and that she thought it was perfect! "What a treat to see your handiwork up close" she wrote. "It's lovely." If any more of my blog readers would like to come out of the woodwork (meant in the nicest possible way, of course!), I'd love to hear from you.
Moving on from someone following my blog, to a blog that I follow. Some time ago Lucy from the blog 'Attic 24' posted her mother-in-law's recipe for a sweet and easy curry. She said it was quick and simple to pull together, and the list of ingredients was refreshingly small for a homemade curry.  I love Indian food so I had a go. And she was right. It was delicious. And the fact that it had just a teeny tiny bit of sweetness meant that the kids loved it too. Check out this post on Lucy's blog for the full recipe and some gorgeous photos too.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Gabi's Bat Mitzvah Album

I'm sorry that I haven't posted here for a few days. We're really excited to have booked a summer holiday to Italy you see and I have spent hours and hours trawling the net looking for accommodation. There was no time for blogging! We now have somewhere to rest our weary heads when we are in Rome, Tuscany and Venice in August, so if any of my Italian readers want to share tidbits about what we should be doing whilst we are there, I'd love to hear from you!
Anyway, back to the crafting. Last month a friend e-mailed me to tell me that she was going to London at the end of February for a friend's daughters Bat Mitzvah. She thought that she might commission an album for the Bat Mitzvah girl and a customized card too. A regular purchaser of my cards, she knew to attach a recent picture of the Bat Mitzvah girl and sent me all the information I needed about her as well!
Gabi, the Bat Mitzvah girls current favourite colours are purple and turquoise. A link to her Bat Mitzvah invitation showed me exactly which shade of purple to use. Her favourite musicians are Taio Cruz, Train, Rihanna and others. Gabi loves reading, has a skateboard, bike and likes arts and crafts. Further investigation by my friend, who was ordering this album as a surprise, revealed that she loves peace signs and that her Mum had recently put one on a converse sneaker cake she made for her birthday. Finally I learnt that the family has a ginger cat called Tobi who has been with them for a long time. There was plenty to work with!
I managed to incorporate both favoured colours on the cover by dressing Gabi is turquoise and making the background box purple. I have shown her cuddling Tobi the cat and a few arts and crafts materials, books and the favoured peace sign surround her. Inside the album, above, I allowed a page for each of her favourite activities. The musicians got their own page - admittedly after I'd looked a few of them up on Google - as did her love of reading, arts and crafts once again, her skateboard and that peace sign.
My friend surprised Gabi with the album and her own special card too, and was kind enough to send me an e-mail from England to tell me just how well they had been received. "The card and album are major hits!!!" she wrote. "They love them and Gabi is over the moon with the album. She wanted her Dad to take a picture of it straight away so she could post it to facebook. Words like amazing and awesome were to be heard. Thanks as always. Your work sure makes a lot of people happy. The givers and receivers!".
It doesn't get better than that, does it?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Calaniot (Wild Anemone)

Remember this post? The post when I mentioned that the season of the beautiful wild anemone, called Calanit in Hebrew, was approaching. Well, I couldn't wait to see them and I'm happy to say that the opportunity arose when my sister-in-law and brother-in-law were recently visiting from the UK. This is the time of the year when the anemones carpet the fields in bright red, with the odd white, purple and pink head scattered between them. Our family's visit provided us with a great reason to go and search for these gorgeous flowers.
The Calaniot appear mainly in the south of Israel but a splash of red pops up in the fields further north too. We set out to see what we could find, driving east towards Bet Shemesh and Churvat Madras, the Madras ruins, in the Adulam Park, and stopping when we saw others looking for the very same thing!
Calaniot have a symbolic place in Israeli culture as well as a natural one. During the time of the British Mandate, the term was attached as a nickname to the British soldiers, due to the bright red colour of their berets. A song written by Nathan Altermann in 1945 and made famous by Shoshana Damari about the flowers then became used as a protest song against the British. The song, about the life of a young girl and about anemones which are always blooming all her life long, is one of the most played, performed, loved and cherished songs in Israel today.
Whilst looking at the Calaniot and the beautiful pink Rakefot (Persian Cyclamen) which are also currently in season, below, we stumbled upon this cave, above, known as the Columbarian Cave. The shape of the many concaved holes carved in its wall explains the name of the cave: columba in Greek is pigeon, and columbarium is dovecote. Researchers are unsure about the genuine use of the holes but it seems that one of the uses was for collecting dove-dung for organic fertiliser as well as using the meat for food.
The one and only problem with the Calaniot is their short season. Ongoing rain has mean that these beautiful flowers are beginning to look windswept and ragged, but as I said, the season is anyway short and in a couple of weeks they will disappear altogether. Next winter I will really try to head south and find an even larger carpet of red anemone flowers than I did this year.
* Enjoy this video-clip of the beautiful Israeli countryside, filmed on 'Bible Hill' in Jerusalem, overlooking the Old City. It was created in memory of the singer Shoshana Damari and uploaded by Yael Ashkenazi on You Tube on 3 February 2007.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Everything's Coming Up... Purple

I seem to have been working with a lot of purple recently. I guess I must like the colour a lot! The card above was created for a granddaughter's sixteenth birthday. Her grandma told me that she is 'into' everything to do with fashion and make-up and was delighted when I showed up with the card and had included a pair of shiny black high heeled shoes. Apparently that is exactly what grandma had bought the birthday girl as a gift. I wish her luck walking in them!
A good friend of mine recently turned 40 and a group of us girls went out to celebrate. As is often the case, I was asked to bring a special card along from us all (above and below). Such is the life of a card maker! I was very happy to make it of course and my friends all loved the little bird sitting on top of the shiny number 40. Actually, one particular friend liked it so much that she requested two more of the exact same card for some other special birthdays! The Hebrew greeting simply says 'Happy Birthday Ayelet'.
Many of the girls in my eldest son's class have recently been celebrating their Bat Mitzvahs. My own son has a year to go still since Jewish boys become Bar Mitzvah at age 13 when they supposedly become responsible for their actions! The age for girls is 12. The words Bat Mitzvah mean "daughter of mitzvah," that is, a woman who becomes obligated in the performance of mitzvot (commandment of the Jewish law). The age for obligation was based on physical maturity, i.e. puberty. We all know that girls mature before boys, so 12 for girls and 13 for boys became the age at which adult obligations would begin.
Anyway, back to the Bat Mitzvah parties! My son has been bringing home numerous invitations to discos and dinners and I of course enjoy looking at them much more than him! One particular invitation stood out, below, and knowing that the young lady's Mum loves all things crafty, I decided to copy the beautiful purple and pink printed flowers and make my own paper version of the design. The eldest son couldn't have cared less and simply wrote a nice greeting inside but I am sure that the young lady - and her Mum - liked the card and recognized its origins.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Chag Purim Sameach!

Right now we are bang in the middle of the festival of Purim. Well, today is actually a minor fast day which commemorates Esther's three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king (I have previously written a little of the history of the holiday both here and here) but tonight we will go to the synagogue to hear the reading of the Book of Esther and the festivities will really begin!
Purim is one of the most entertaining Jewish holidays. When else can you dress up like a penguin or Angry Bird, or in my own kids' cases, as a punk rocker and a fried egg, and eat chocolate and other sweet goodies for several days without feeling too much guilt?
The  festival pays tribute to the time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination by the courage of a young Jewish woman called Esther. The story of Purim is told in the Book of Esther, known as the Megillah, which means 'scroll'. Esther was a Jewish girl who became Queen to King Xerxes of Persia 2000 years ago, and through her bravery was able to thwart an attempt to slaughter all the Jews living in Persia. Purim commemorates Esther's courage in saving the Jewish people and the reading of the Megillah is usually an entertaining and rowdy occasion when everyone in the synagogue boos and hisses whenever the name of Haman, the favourite nobleman of King Xerxes and the villain of the Purim story, is mentioned during the service.
On Purim Jews are also commanded to send gifts of food and drink, referred to as the 'sending out portions' or in Hebrew, Mishloach Manot. A common treat to be included in these food baskets are 'Haman's pockets', sometimes called Hamantashen or Oznei Haman. These triangular fruit-filled cookies supposedly represent either Haman's three-cornered hat or his ears! My own Purim gifts include some giant chocolate chip cookies, above, which you can find the recipe for here.
It is also customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim and yesterday my city held their own parade. The sun duly came out after the parade had been postponed last week because of heavy rain. My eldest son was walking in the parade with his youth group and the youngest and I waited for quite some time to see him pass. We were ready to come home by the end but, after a good night's sleep the Purim costumes and hair gel came out again, and we are ready for the fun to begin again this evening. Chag Purim Sameach! Happy Purim to you all!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Chasing Animals, Pikachu and Bart

I've had a wonderfully busy few weeks with lots of lovely orders for customised cards and albums coming in. Amongst all the e-mails I received a request from my good friend in India who wanted a customised card for her 6 year old's birthday. "I'm so happy I order your cards" she told me, "it's now one of our birthday traditions. We can't have a birthday without your card. The boys expect it and look forward to it".
Last year her son was busy being 'Mr Maker'. This year he enjoys playing the piano and has been working on a book of his own called 'Chase Animals'. It was a sweet and simple card to illustrate. I gave the book a plain blue cover but look forward to seeing the final thing it when it is published!
It was the birthday boy's big day yesterday. His Mum told me that the family started early in the morning with their traditional morning party with 'my' card on the table, and that her son loved it! Apparently he couldn't believe that I knew about the piano and his book.
This 11 year old is into Pokemon - thus the little yellow Pikachu character - and has recently taken up American football. He is also a keen piano player. How to tie all those things together? Well, I decided to show the young man playing the piano keyboard, whilst Pikachu is busy playing American football! His Mum also told me that he really needs a haircut, so I went for that long haired, floppy fringe look. It made his Mum laugh anyway!
The final card for now shows Bart Simpson, the main character in the animated television series The Simpsons (below). Bart is the eldest child and only son of Homer and Marge Simpson and apparently his name is an anagram of the word brat. Nice. 'Max', according to his Auntie, loves Bart, so I crafted a paper version of him leaning against a big blue number eight. I hope he had a happy birthday and liked his card. If he didn't, well, as Bart says, "Eat my shorts"!
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