Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fourteen

Remember this card? Well, that 8 year old recently turned 14! He's bigger now (taller than Mum!), but many things remain the same. He is still passionate about football, we still get up very early on birthdays to open presents and eat cake before school, and of course he still eagerly awaits his special card!
This year I showed him doing exercises on his pull up bar. He's pretty serious about getting some muscles at the moment. I was kind and didn't show the red face and beads of sweat though. He's also keen on dark chocolate (he needs the sugar for energy you see!), is very good at maths and spends hours working on the material from his special advanced maths class. But there is still time for football. Plenty of football. He never misses an Arsenal game if it is shown on the television, and frankly, he rarely misses any other games either! Did I say he was keen on football? Just a little...
My youngest son made a card for the birthday boy too, and of course it was football themed. I've already told you how artistic my youngest is, but this year he really excelled himself. I don't know how he had the patience to draw all those people in the football stadium crowd, but he quietly got on with it (he's not normally so quiet!) and came up with an amazing card, full of detail. Each flag mentions his brother's birthday and age, and they're all red and white for Arsenal too!
Of course we had cake as well, decorated with lots of buttercream icing and chocolate rocks, just as my son likes it. There was another surprise from me, which I am giving you a sneak peek at below. I am going to save the piece for another blog post.
Happy Birthday to my sports mad yet studious 14 year old. As I wrote in your card, we are very proud of you and the way you work so hard. Keep it up - and try to work hard at being nice to your brother too!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Benjamin and Gilad

Look at this photo! Isn't it great? It makes me so happy to see this little boy holding up his birthday card, obviously so happy to have received it. I want to see lots more photos of people receiving their Handmade in Israel birthday cards please!
Benjamin turned 3 in October. His Mum told me that he likes wearing a grey cap, and that his favourite things include his cuddly Winnie the Pooh, which is almost the same size as him, and that he's really good at puzzles. 
Gilad is slightly younger. He recently marked his first birthday and my customer, who requested this card last year, decided that he should have one of my cards every year. Although he is only little, his Mum says that he already has his favourite things. He loves playing with balls, and of course has a much loved blankie and dummy. He may well become a bookworm too. Apparently he loves listening to Dr. Seuss' Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Stalactites and Springs

Some time has passed since we celebrated the seven day holiday of Sukkot. We enjoyed a busy Chol Hamoed ("weekdays [of] the festival"), visiting some lovely places around the country and, even though my pictures were taken several weeks ago, it's never too late to show them here, right?
The kids are growing up and are already quite busy with their own lives. Once upon a time we would spend every day of the holiday together, but now they both go on an overnight tiyul (a hike, journey or trip) with their youth group, and they also had homework to do. There was still opportunity to find some fun things to do though, starting with a visit to the beautiful Soreq Stalactite Cave on Mount Yaela, in the Judean Hills.
We in fact weren't heading for the cave on the day we visited. We had planned to visit a nearby goat farm, which I had been told had great cheese, but when we got there we found it practically abandoned, though a return visit did allow us a glimpse of the goats and the not-so-friendly farmers. Luckily the stalactite and stalagmite cave was nearby and, though busy, we enjoyed a stroll through the 82 metre long cave, which was discovered quite by accident in 1968 by workers blasting at a nearby quarry. Though relatively small, the cave includes a vast number of stalactites and stalagmites of different types. Some of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave are up to four metres long, and in some cases they fuse with stalagmites growing from the floor. Though we had all visited the cave before, it still delighted us.
The Green Gallery in the fields of Arsuf Kedem is open 24 hours a day, all year round. I had spotted the artistic creations quite by chance on a previous visit to the area, but we did not have time to look on that occasion. This time Mister Handmade in Israel and I had time to wander between the large collection of environmental artworks made from natural materials and set in a wide area of open landscape. The materials used vary from earth, wood, bamboo, plants and tree branches, and agricultural waste, and speak about the human connection to natureThe Green Gallery hope their work will bring people closer to nature and provide them with spiritual oxygen.
Our hike to Ein Lavan, meaning "White Spring", was somewhat disappointing. We were ready to dip our toes into one of the two pools used for swimming at the nature reserve, and the kids were curious to experience the little critters living in the water nipping at their toes, but, when we got there, everything was as dry as a bone!
Ein Lavan is a spring located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in the Judean Hills. It is named after the mountain range from which it emanates - the Lavan Range (which is called this due to its bright limestone). Ein Lavan is, supposedly, one of the largest springs in the area. Water flows, ahem, year-round, out of a cave with an arched stone entrance, and the site has significant religious and historical importance due to archaeological findings of Roman and Byzantine ruins.
Even though we were disappointed by the lack of water at the spring, our short hike there was lovely. From the road we could see many ancient burial caves and agricultural terraces and we enjoyed the view of  the Judean Hills and the lush green hills of the Gilo Forest.
Now, if anyone can tell me what time of the year there is water in the pools, we might even be willing to do the hike again...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

80, 90, 100!

Birthday cards are most certainly not just for the youngsters.
First I was asked for a card for an 80th birthday.
Then a customer had a friend who was turning 90... and another who was soon to reach 100!
I've only made a few of these very special cards before.
I hope Shirley received her congratulatory message from The Queen.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Playing the cello and learning to drive

No, you're not seeing double. I made these cards for twin boys who were turning 8 and who have the same hobbies. Last year gymnastics was their thing. This year it seems that they have moved on to judo - they both have their yellow and white belts - and playing the cello. Quite a combination! 
Their 17 year old brother also celebrated his birthday recently. He is learning to drive, so on his card I showed him holding an Israeli L-plate. The plate shares the general design of Israeli information signs in its square form and blue background. On the blue background is a white triangle pointing upwards, with the black Hebrew letter "ל" in it, from the Hebrew למידה‎ - "Learning". Ori is holding a re:bar drink, from the juice and yoghurt bar where he currently works, in his other hand. He's a clever chap too. Mum tells me that he is a whizz at maths and science, so I added some potions and some mathematical symbols. I can draw them, but I certainly don't know how to use them myself!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Kaylee's Album

Kaylee loves to sing. She is passionate about music, plays the guitar and piano, and loves to perform. Animals, swimming and watching films are also on her list of favourite things. But mainly she loves to sing.
Kaylee celebrated her Bat Mitzvah earlier in the year. My customer ordered an album as a keepsake book. The Bat Mitzvah girl's Mum said that her daughter is really into 'albums' - for writing, music and expression - and that they had many pictures from the celebration. An album was deemed a great idea!
I decided to show blue-eyed Kaylee singing, microphone in hand, on the cover. The pink, silver and creme colour scheme were the colours of her Bat Mitzvah celebration. Kaylee likes black too.
The album opens the English way (Hebrew books open from right to left) but I showed Kaylee's name in both English and Hebrew on the cover. Several pages were decorated inside the book as well. The first page illustrated her love of films and watching the television, then I created a paper guitar, hopefully just like the one she has. Kaylee loves animals. Puppies, kittens, dolphins, horses are her favourites. I put a picture of the family's dog on one page, and then a pair of frolicking dolphins on another. Finally, the last decorated page shows Kaylee swimming and having fun splashing in the water.
Kaylee's Mum loved the idea of the keepsake book and wrote that she thought it "a creative and special idea." I do love working on these albums.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Love, Brotherhood, Peace and Companionship

My family and I belong to a wonderful synagogue called Achva. (Achva is a Hebrew word which means friendship, brotherhood and unity.) Truth be told, my husband is the regular synagogue-goer. I prefer to spend the occasional Shabbat morning in my pyjamas and not rush out of the house, but I am very fond of the people in our synagogue community and we have made some good friends there. One of these friends, Michal, recently stepped down from her position as synagogue "chairperson". I use the inverted commas because she was never comfortable with that title, even though that's what she was! I digress. The members of the synagogue wanted to present her with a special gift at a recent get-together, as a way of thanking her for all her hard work over the years, and I was approached with a request to create a papercut with a particular pasuk, or verse, on it. 
The verse requested was "אהבה ואחווה ושלום ורעות", "Love and brotherhood and peace and companionship." This verse, or blessing, comes from the Sheva Brachot, "the Seven Blessings". The wedding blessings in Jewish law are blessings that are recited for a bride and groom under the chuppah, the canopy beneath which Jewish marriage ceremonies are performed. This blessing is part of the seventh blessing and wishes the bride and groom a life of perfect happiness. 
Those of you who read Hebrew will notice that the word אחווה, or Achva, the name of our synagogue, appears in this verse. In fact I made it a little bigger than the rest of the lettering to make it stand out. In addition, Michal is a landscape gardener by profession, so I embellished the piece with flowers to symbolise her work, and pomegranates, a fruit valued in Jewish culture. (Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness because it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of the Torah.) My signature little bird made it on to the papercut too.
Michal seemed delighted with the gift and I was thrilled to see it in pride of place on her lounge wall when we visited her home recently.
This papercut would make a great wedding, anniversary or birthday gift. It is cut entirely by hand from a single sheet of white watercolour paper and is 16x25cm in size. If you would like to order one, unframed, please click here.
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