Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A Package and a Pin Cushion

Back in January I was happy to announce the winner of my surprise blog giveaway, Maribeth of Lovely World. A couple of days later I popped a package into the mail to Maribeth and patiently waited for her to let me know that it had arrived. I am now happy to show you what I sent and am pleased to say that Maribeth seemed excited with the goodies she received. Since neither she nor anyone in her family has ever visited Israel, they were all interested to see what was inside the package. Here it is!
I of course included some 'Handmade in Israel' greetings cards and popped in a couple of new baby tags too - one of each so that Maribeth has both ready next time she is wrapping up a baby gift. I also wanted to send her a little taste of Israel. I included some Elite chocolate - a popular and tasty brand over here - along with a pretty magnetic note pad and matching book mark illustrated by the Israeli artist Yair Emanuel. Maribeth now has an 'Israel' magnet for her fridge door, something, I am guessing, not found in so many homes in Western Massachusetts!
You know the saying "What goes around comes around"? Well, it rang so true the day that I announced the winner of my giveaway. Amazingly enough, that afternoon I received an e-mail from Sam at Sams Shenanigans. She too had picked out the winner of her giveaway that very same day and it was me! I had won a gorgeous Union Jack pin cushion - perfect for the ex Brit in me! Sam and I are both on the Etsy Expats Team, so it was extra nice to win something that a teammate had made. I think of her every time I use it.
Thank you once again to all of you who regularly leave comments and therefore unintentionally entered my giveaway! I am delighted that it seems to have been a success and look forward to running another one. In the meantime, please keep commenting. I am always very happy to hear from you, and,  if anyone would like their own 'Handmade in Israel' cards, please pop over here for a look around.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Spring is here, Passover is coming!

After a few days of rain last week, we have enjoyed beautiful weather here over the last few days. It seems that Spring may well be here and, as the popular Hebrew holiday song, Simcha Raba, goes, "Spring is here, Passover is coming!". Passover is a festival that requires a lot of preparation and we are already well on our way with all the cleaning and organising in our home.
Passover is a popular holiday for gift giving and for sending greetings to your family and friends at home and abroad. This year I have reworked my cards for the holiday and I hope that you like their fresh, clean look.
The new design, which comes in various colourways, shows a Dove of Peace with an olive branch in its beak, hovering near a Star of David. The festival of Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew,  is a celebration of freedom. The holiday commemorates the Jews' exodus from Egypt more than 3,000 years ago  and the Jewish people’s freedom and independence. I hope that the dove and star, all sitting on a Matza (unleavened bread) textured background, represents this in some way.
The cards are available in Hebrew and/or English in packs of three or more. For further information and to make an order, please visit my online shop and prepare to get these cards in the mail to your family and friends soon!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Celebrating Purim

We have been celebrating Purim over the last few days. Technically the holiday falls only on one day, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, but between a full week of dressing up at school, preparing Mishloach Manot and my eldest son marching with his class in the city parade on Friday, it seems to have lasted quite a few days. And it's been a great few days too! The holiday is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar and for the young man featured on the card below it was even more special because he was going to be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah.
This Bar Mitzvah boy completed 12 hikes all around Israel over the course of the year before his big day and is going on a trek in Nepal very soon. I have shown the freckled young man hiking with his backpack and have added the Nepalese flag and landscape. Above the flag you can see a Megillat Esther (Book of Esther) scroll from which we read the Purim story and, since the Bar Mitzvah boy was celebrating on Purim itself, I have added some triangular-shaped Hamantashen, or Oznei Haman. I have also illustrated a gragger, or ra'ashan (from the Hebrew ra-ash, meaning "noise"), which is used to blot out the name of Haman, the culprit in the Purim story, when it is read out during the public chanting of the Megillah in the synagogue.
Whilst I was creating my Purim themed card, my youngest son was making his own holiday artwork. I thought that his drawing of a clown was so delightful that I decided to scan it and use it to make gift tags. The clown's body is made from Hamantashen and he is holding his own rattle and can of snow spray (one of the less wonderful items popular with the kids on this holiday).
On Purim it is customary to prepare Mishloach Manot (food baskets) and to deliver them to your neighbours, friends and local charities, to ensure that everyone has enough food for a Purim feast later in the day. I baked and baked and baked some more to put together these baskets of cupcakes and other sweet items for our friends, and then tied them all up with my son's beautifully illustrated tag.
Finally, there is one more Purim custom that I would like to mention. It is traditional to dress up in fancy dress and wear masks over the festival and in fact throughout the whole month. There seems to be several reasons given for this custom, the most common being that on Purim we recognize that God saved us in a hidden fashion and we dress up to show that we understand sometimes that God's ways are hidden from us and we need to look further into things to see his presence.
My boys wanted costumes just like all their friends, though my eldest son doesn't like to wear anything that might make him look silly! After some thought I asked him whether he would like to dress up as a football. My suggestion went down well and my paper crafting skills were put to work.
The big day came and my sandwich board footballs were well received. "Mum", my son exclaimed at the end of the day, "There were lots and lots of footballers at school today but I was the only one in the whole school dressed as a football!".

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Who is this man?

This card was made for a local guy who recently celebrated his birthday and I was pretty pleased with the likeness that I achieved. I really do think that it looks quite a lot like the birthday boy himself! That being the case, I've decided that it's time for a bit of fun! If any of my local readers can guess who this card was made for, leave a comment and we'll see how many of you are right! (If you're not local, please do leave a comment anyway - I'm always very happy to hear from you!). In the meantime, I'll give you a few clues and tell you a bit about our mystery person.
This fellow loves to run and has just finished his first marathon. He sings (thus the microphone in his hands whilst running!) and is a fan of The Boston Redsox baseball team. He writes for a profession, has black and grey curly hair and wears a kippah. His wife also mentioned to me that he is very thin. Her words not mine!
Can you guess who he is?
This past week my boys have been celebrating the upcoming festival of Purim at school and the annual Purim parade will pass through our city streets tomorrow. I took on the responsibility of decorating my youngest son's classroom in honour of the festival and, after a meeting with my small committee, it was decided that we would go with a seaside theme.  We hung buckets and spades, beach balls and surfboards from the classroom ceiling and I decided to add my own little personal touch and crafted some paper seagulls too (below).
They were based on a beautiful wooden mobile that my eldest son received when he was born, which still hangs in his room, and I reworked the design a little to make my gulls a little simpler but, I hope, equally effective.
One of my favourite cards was recently featured on the EtsyGreetings blog. Team members were asked to submit a photo of their current favourite card and I was happy to see my chosen design appear on the blog a few days later. Some lovely comments were made about it too, which made it even better! The card, Step into Spring, is currently available in my shop.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Definite signs of Spring

This last weekend was cold and damp and the news both here in Israel and in Japan did not improve matters, yet there are definite signs of spring around here. Before the rain came we managed a quick trip to a local beauty spot and archaeological site, Titura Hill, which I have previously blogged about here.
The Cyclamen or Rakefet carpeted the hillside. The Shaked (Almond trees) have blossomed again and the Anemones or Kalaniot and Palestine Iris are in full bloom. It was simply a beautiful sight. With so many terrible things happening in the world, isn't it wonderful when nature reminds us of the good things in life as well?
With the warmer weather clearly on my mind, I designed a card with a definite Spring-like feel. A customer wanted a "pretty" card for her sister, with a personal message on it describing how much she cares about her. Though my flowers are obviously more stylised than the ones we saw on the hill,  I incorporated nature's beautiful pink and orange hues into my design (below). A little bird hopped into the picture too and a bright orange bow finished off the card nicely.
The 'special sister' apparently loved her card and I'm loving the sight of so many wildflowers blooming in Israel right now.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

On Cannabis, Cooking and Cakes

I guess it's okay to show you this particular birthday card only because the receiver is anonymous! The greeting on the card simply says 'Happy Birthday Brother and Uncle' and since only my customer and I know who the 'brother/uncle' is, I can comfortably still show you a card with some illegal substances depicted on it! It was certainly a move away from the usual themes that I work with, but a request for a cannabis leaf and a bottle of beer seemed easy enough to do, even if the leaf details were a little fiddly to create.
The same customer wanted a chef style card for a "fabulous friend" (below). I went for some simple cooking icons - a chef's hat of course, with some utensils, stripey red and white oven gloves and a big cooking pot. I used a colour scheme of mainly red and white for the card because it seemed fresh, clean, cheerful and  somehow suitable for a kitchen.
Whilst we're on the subject of cooking and kitchens, I made some 'Marvelous Marble Cake' last weekend . It was perfect for a sweet treat after a big Friday night Shabbat meal. (I keep a kosher home and do not serve dairy after meat.)  I used a recipe from Food.com that does not contain any butter and the end result was delicious and disappeared very quickly! I have posted the recipe below.
Marvelous Marble Cake - Parve

Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 cup margarine
5 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup water
3 Toblerone chocolate bars (or equivalent), melted

Directions
Cream sugar and margarine.
Mix in eggs and vanilla.
Mix flour and baking powder.
Add flour mixture and water, alternately in small amounts.
Pour 2/3 of mixture into a 9x13 inch pan, pour on melted chocolate, pour on remaining batter.
Swirl with a knife.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

God's Eyes

My youngest son and I recently hosted a Bayit Cham (literally 'a warm house') afternoon activity in our home. 'Bayit Cham' sessions are popular in many Israeli schools. Basically your child's class is divided into small groups and each child who has offered to host some classmates at home receives a list of five or six kids to invite, the important thing being that they are not necessarily their good friends. This gives all the kids an opportunity to mix with some other children and have a little fun outside of their normal circle.
After a number of e-mails and phone calls to the parents of the kids on our list (goodness me, these kids have busy social lives!) we finally fixed a date that suited everyone and my son and I sat down to think about what we would do with his 'new' friends.
Decorating cupcakes was high on the list, as well as the obligatory game of Bingo (we always play Bingo at our get-togethers!) and then my son remembered something that we had made on a Kibbutz outing two summers ago that he really wanted to do again. Something that even my eldest, and let's just say rather artistically challenged, son had fun with. God's Eyes. A yarn weaving craft from the Huichol tribe of Mexico!
No, we didn't know the name of the craft activity until I did a little Internet research,  and, yes, it was a rather strange choice considering some of our visitors are religiously observant. But, I figured if the girls on the religious kibbutz we visited could do it, then we could too! So, God's Eyes it was and all the kids - boys and girls alike - seemed to enjoy it!
The collection you see here were the examples that my son and I made... and continue to make. Our visitors took theirs home with them of course. I want to work out a way of hanging all of these in my son's bedroom - I think they will make a gorgeous mobile - but in the meantime look how perfectly they go with this beautiful bunch of Kalaniot (anemones). The fields here in Israel, from the north to the northern Negev, are currently carpeted with these vibrant red flowers and, though these ones were shop bought, I love their amazing colour all the same!
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