Thursday, 29 April 2010

Mauled by The Tigers

Putting aside the fact that they are about to be relegated from the English Premier League, my Dad is a huge Hull City fan and today he is celebrating his birthday. What other card to make for him but a Hull City AFC card?
Dad's team traditionally plays in black and amber, often with a striped shirt design, hence their nickname The Tigers. The club's mascot is Roary the Tiger and, though my tiger looks nothing like Roary - a fact kindly pointed out to me by my youngest son - a tiger was chosen to go on his card. Last year Dad was with us just before his birthday and I was able to bake and ice a cake for him, decorated of course with a replica Hull City shirt, whilst he was in the lounge watching television, oblivious to all the action going on in the kitchen! I am sorry that I can't make you a cake this year, Dad, but in any case, we all wish you a very happy birthday. I hope you have a good day, and I hope that you see your team through The Championship and back again into The Premier League next year!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Follically-challenged

I have been quite busy creating lately and am excited to show you several pieces that I have completed. However, I don't like to reveal my creations until the big day has passed - be it a birthday, wedding or Bar Mitzvah - so that the person who is on the receiving end of the 'Handmade in Israel' goodies sees it first. Therefore a few pieces are 'on hold' for the time being, though I promise to show them to you once the time comes. In the meantime, I can now show you several cards that were delivered some time ago.Back in January of this year I showed you a card for the soccer-loving son of a good friend of mine. At the time I mentioned that I had also created cards for the rest of the family and am now able to show you two more of them since their respective birthdays have gone by.
Above you can see the card that I made for Dad. I was told that he goes to the gym a lot and has been doing some serious bodybuilding, so that was the theme to go with. It was also requested that I add something Indian in the background, since the family are currently living there. I know that 'Dad' is somewhat 'follically-challenged' and did check first before I illustrated him with a bald head, just in case it was going to insult him. Fortunately it seems that he laughed when he received the card and was amused at his big, bold figure!
I am told that their youngest son's card, below, was "an amazing success". My friend assures me that it looks just like him and he was thrilled with it. For this card I was informed that the birthday boy is always painting and cutting and glueing (a boy after my own heart!), thus I have shown him sitting at a table, brush in hand and paint pot at the ready.
There is one more birthday to go. I hope that 'middle son' appreciates his specially commissioned birthday card as much as his brothers and Dad seem to have done.
Finally, just before Passover, whilst I was busy with my holiday preparations, I received an e-mail request to make a 70th birthday card for a gentleman who is a pharmacist and likes playing bridge. With little time for crafting, I came up with a simple yet, I hope, effective card, below. I illustrated a pharmacy bottle and pill pot, along with a winning hand. Once again, I am pleased to say that it seems to have been well received.
Congratulations and many happy returns to all the 'boys' of various ages!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Yom Ha'atzmaut

Today we celebrated Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. Our young country turned 62 and I wouldn't be far off if I said that the whole of Israel's Jewish population celebrated with a barbecue or picnic and hike! After the sadness of yesterday's Yom HaZikaron memorial day, the day when we remember Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, today was the day to celebrate the Jewish state and our ability to live here in safety and security.
For several years now we have met with the same group of friends - British friends, several of whom now have Israeli spouses - who all moved to Israel at roughly the same time, after meeting in London with the very same desire to move to the Jewish State. We are scattered throughout the country but meet up on this special day for a day of good food, good chat and even a good hike.
Today was no exception and, after our sausages and steaks, and a veggie burger for me, we took a short hike in Wadi Dolev, in the Jerusalem mountains, to Mearat Hateomim, or the "Bat Cave". This large natural cave, nearly 100 meters in length, is home to a large fruit-bat population. Once inside, the humidity, the sounds of dripping water and the stalactites offer quite a magical atmosphere, though the fact that my kids ran ahead with our torches meant that my husband and I had great difficulty seeing where we were going!
Happy Birthday Israel! Once again we have enjoyed your beauty and discovered what a special little country you are.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Surfin' ... Israel

Not long ago one of my most loyal customers called and asked me for a customised Bar Mitzvah card for a young man who is crazy about surfing. She also wanted cards to commemorate the occasion for his parents and grandparents, and then told me that her daughter wanted another whole set too! Because I knew that the cards were all going to be sent to the same people, I could not repeat any designs, so I really had to put on my 'Bar Mitzvah' thinking cap this time!
The large customised cards were easy. My client described how the boy in question has long blond hair which is always tied back in a ponytail. Therefore it was easy to come up with a humorous design showing a blond haired boy on his surfboard, of course wearing the requisite kippah, or skullcap, because it was his Bar Mitzvah! A highly unlikely combination of clothing I know, but fun to illustrate all the same. The second card showed a silhouette of a person on a board, riding the waves, with the sun setting on the horizon. This time I added the number 13 to make the card applicable for a Bar Mitzvah celebration.
The photo below shows all the cards that the various members of the family received. For the grandparents I came up with traditional designs with Stars of David on them, a generally recognized symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism. The parents received a card once again showing their blond ponytailed son, this time holding a Torah scroll, and another card, a design which I have shown on my blog previously, showing a Torah scroll, a Tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl, which a boy is obligated to wear in the synagogue from the day of his Bar Mitzvah and onwards, and a kippah.
My wonderful client has just called me for yet more cards and reported back that the whole family "loved the cards".Many, many thanks to everyone who voted for my Easter cards in the Etsy Easter item voter. Unfortunately they didn't quite make it to that elusive Etsy front page, but I did receive quite a substantial number of votes. Thank you all for the encouragement you gave me and the vote of confidence in my cards.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Family Favourites

The Jewish festivals and days of remembrance come quickly at this time of year. Tomorrow is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah, when we will remember the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and next week sees us memorializing Israel's Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism, followed by Yom Ha'atzmaut, Independence Day. However, in this post I have a couple more things still to show you from our last holiday, Passover.
As I have explained before, preparations for Passover require us to rid our homes of chametz, or leavened bread, to remind us that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise. Over the years Jewish cooks worldwide have looked for ways to create food for Passover that is tasty, despite the extra kosher restrictions placed on food during the week-long holiday.
There are a handful of Passover recipes that everyone makes every year. Like matza itself, without these dishes, it just wouldn't be Passover! In our home the favourites are Picnic Slice (seen above) and a more recent addition, Cottage Cheese Pancakes (below), discovered a few years ago in ModiInfo, my city's English language magazine.
My dear Mum made a large batch of Picnic Slice every Passover and these biscuits had to be rationed because otherwise we would eat them all on the first day! Though she is no longer with us, I always think of Mum when I open my Passover recipe book and see the recipe for these delicious treats with the added note 'Lisa's favourite!' written in her handwriting. I thought I would share the recipe with you.

Picnic Slice

225g / 8 oz. chocolate
110g / 4 oz. caster sugar
110g / 4 oz. dessicated coconut
50g / 2 oz. butter
1 egg, beaten
110g / 4 oz. raisins

Melt chocolate over pan of boiling water. Spread it onto silicone paper in square cake tin. Leave to set in the fridge.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the coconut, egg and raisins and mix well. Spread this mixture over the chocolate.
Bake 325 F, 170 C, Gas No. 3 for 35-45 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven, leave for 5 minutes, then mark out squares with a sharp knife.
Leave until fully cold to remove from paper. Store in the fridge.

Bon appétit, or b'tayavon as we say in Hebrew!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

A Wonderful Week Exploring

So I stayed away from here for a little longer than expected but have some great photos from my Passover travels to compensate for my lack of blogging! The Passover holiday ended last night, yet we have had a wonderful week exploring, visiting friends and generally having fun.
Our week started in a field near Rechovot, next to Kibbutz Shiller. We were there, under the supervision of Leket Israel, Israel's National Food Bank, to pick fruit and vegetables for the needy. We started with potatoes and soon moved into the orchards to pick juicy clementines from the trees. I admit to tasting one or two, and it was a terrific way for the kids to use up their excess energy and learn a little about charitable work at the same time. We look forward to doing it again someday.
The next day we travelled north to the picturesque town of Zikhron Ya'akov. There was a music festival going on and it was awfully crowded, but we enjoyed strolling down the main street, called Derekh HaYayin ("Path of the Wine"), listening to the various musicians and in my case, enjoying the boutique shops selling locally-made crafts. Afterwards we visited the formal gardens of Ramat Hanadiv, the final resting place of Baron Edmond de Rothschild and his wife Adelaide, the philanthropists who enabled the first Jewish communities of the Zionist Movement to survive and flourish. The gardens, established in 1954, boast manicured lawns, beautiful trees and flowers that were in full bloom and are surrounded by a forest-park of over 1,000 acres where the Rothschild Foundation supports research on flora, fauna and archaeology. We were pleased to have seen the park in all its glory, but with two active boys, I think that in future we will stick to parks which allow you to roll on the grass and kick a football!
The photos above give you a little taste of the some of the flowers and plants we saw there, as well as some terrific hand-pressed mulberry paper seen at the Tut Neyar Paper Mill in Zikhron.
Our next day out, aside from our first trip of the year to the beach, was to Apollonia National Park, just a 15 minute drive from Tel Aviv and less than five minutes from Herzeliya Pituach, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. People settled in this area 2,500 years ago, and in 1191 the Crusaders triumphant win at the spot established their reign in the Holy Land for another 100 years. The cliff-top park contains the remains of the Crusader city, with a well preserved moat and fortress. The boys enjoyed the fortress, yet for me the best thing about Apollonia was the spectacular view of the coast from its hovering cliffs. Looking down into the aqua coloured sea where a small natural harbour is still visible, I could have stayed for hours but the promise of a Kosher for Passover ice cream was pulling the kids away.
Today we are home, finishing off homework before school tomorrow and packing away the Passover pots and pans. We all feel refreshed after the break and I am ready to begin crafting again at my very tidy desk. I wonder how long it will stay that way?
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