Thursday, 28 July 2011

Monday at Mahane Yehuda

The summer holidays have been pretty good so far. The kids and I have been on a number of outings together, some good and some less so. Occasionally we stumble across something that is just wonderful. Something that make us all wake up the following morning with big smiles on our faces, as we relive the events of the previous day. The  Ba LaBasta happening at the Mahane Yehuda open-air market in Jerusalem was one of those things!
Balabusta is Yiddish for a “good housewife.” In this case Ba LaBasta (Basta is Arabic - and Hebrew slang - for a stall in the market, so the name was a play on the similarly sounding Yiddish-Arabic-Hebrew expressions "come to the stall") was the name chosen by the Jerusalem's Department of Culture and Arts for a street party in the shuk (as the market is also known). And what a street party it was! The party had something different on almost every corner and on the roofs too. We heard klezmer and jazz, bagpipes and rock and everything in between. In one corner of the crammed market we saw a bench and the surrounding pillars being decorated in coloured wool and had our family photo taken for free in a small studio setup. In another Prime Minister Golda Meir's portrait had been created out of beans and sunflower seeds. Frida Kahlo got similar treatment, this time with kosher gelatin-free jelly beans. The kids had their cartoon portraits done. Dinner was fish and chips, eaten the authentic English way, dipped in batter and deep fried to perfection. A real treat for my family!
We had such a great time, as did the many thousands of people who filled the narrow walkways of the shuk. It got a little too much at times but we took a breather with a free tour of the area. Vered, the sweetest and most knowledgeable guide I have ever come across, explained to us the history of nearby Nachlaot and told us stories of its residents. She related the history of buildings on the Jaffa Road, which we have passed many times without knowing, and we ended up back at the shuk to hear her recommendations as to what to take home with us.
After five hours we were tired and it was time to head home but not before we had purchased fresh figs and plums, along with some wonderful cheeses. It seems that Mahane Yehuda has become quite gentrified over the past few years, with upscale cafes and restaurants interspersed with gourmet cheese and nut stands. We will definitely be going back.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Sound of Silence

My best friend back in the UK recently celebrated her 40th birthday. She and I were at art school together, a number of years ago now. We have always shared a smile over a fabric design I once created there called 'Little Bird' (original title, huh?), long before it was fashionable to put a bird on every single thing you created. My friend was very keen on one particular bird from the design and so, when crafting a birthday card for her special day, a little bird had to be included. I hope she liked it.
A customer recently asked me for a birthday card for a man who is into vintage cars. I have made cards for this particular gentleman several times before, all along the same theme. This is the card I made for him last year. This years card was more simplified than the previous one, yet I liked the shape and overall design. Happy Birthday Harold.
The card above was a request for a tennis and football playing nephew who is also a keen keyboard player. The card was one of my 10.5cm x 15cm ones, rather than the more usual larger, customised card, but I was quite pleased with the way the simple shapes filled the area. Congratulations on your 12th birthday, Jack!
Last year I was lucky enough to see Sir Elton John in concert right here in Israel. Last Thursday it was Paul Simon's turn to visit and the hubby and I grabbed tickets as our anniversary treat to each other this year. What a treat it was! Paul might be a little thinner on top, and a little rounder, but his voice has aged well and boy, can he still play. The concert was a perfect combination of new and old songs and, before he ended over two hours of nonstop singing with ‘The Boxer”, he didn’t forget to add a few words:
"I’m not much of a praying man, but tonight I’d like to say a prayer. A prayer for peace. Shalom Aleichem, Malachei Hashalom. Peace for Israel and for its neighbors. Salam Aleykum”.
You all ready for “The Sound of Silence”? This song was the one that sent me home with a smile on my face.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Redheads and Punks

The friend who ordered this card when her brother got married recently came back to me for another wedding card. This time it was friends who were getting married and the key thing she told me about them was that they are both redheads, or gingies as we call them here in Israel. Easy and fun to work with!
Amit, the groom, is a photographer, so I placed a camera in his hand. Jo, the bride, is from Australia and is a sciency gal. Upon clarification I learnt that she writes science papers, so I added a 'science' paper to her bridal bouquet. She is also holding an Australian flag.
Grooms in Israel tend to wear a white shirt and dark trousers at best and I have seen them stroll up to their own wedding in a pair of jeans but, after checking, I gave this guy a suit and tie. Apparently Jo is 'adjusting' him to western ways! Lastly, the couple met in Vietnam so, as a tribute, the Vietnamese flag can be seen blowing in the wind behind them.
My boys finish summer camp today so everything I create from now on till the end of the summer holiday will be done with a teeny tiny amount of interruption! Eldest son has been swimming and playing one sport or another most days and the youngest has been על גלגלים ('On Wheels'), visiting all kinds of kid-friendly places in the region. The other day he came back from the A Land and it's Dolls exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv where all the  kids had done a paper crafting activity. I loved his paper version of a punk rocker (below), especially the pierced nipples! The funny thing is, I don't think he has ever seen a punk in his whole life.
The kids are on holiday from school and so, in a way, I feel like I am too. I've definitely been taking life a little easier and it is so nice not having to take them to all their ex-curricular activities each day. There's even been a little time for some cooking and baking. Another batch of the best cupcakes in the world were made and consumed and I practised my sushi making too. We all LOVE sushi in our home. It's healthy and fun to make but I spend so long making it, only to see it disappear in the blink of an eye! I guess there are worse problems in life.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Nurses Collection

A customer who is unfortunately going through some pretty rough medical treatment at the moment asked me to make some thank you cards for her nurses. She seems to be happy with the care that she is receiving because there are a whole series of cards! I'll start with the first two that I created.
The nurse illustrated above was described to me as slim, with short dark hair. She wears a white nurses jacket and trousers and often puts her dark green square glasses on the top of her head. My customer asked me to add needles, drips, bandages, tape, pills etc. to the background.
Obviously I have never met this particular nurse yet it seems that my little portrait of her was pretty accurate. My customer e-mailed to tell me that "Chavi looks exactly like the real Chavi!". A good guess on my part.
A similar card was requested for another nurse. This time I was told that she should be wearing a beige sleeveless vest, flared trousers and high platform clogs. This nurse has long blonde hair, which she wears in a pony tail, and blue eyes. Once again I added needles, tape and blood samples to illustrate her profession.
I made three more cards for this wonderfully keen customer who seems to be my biggest fan at the moment! I am not sure that they have all been delivered yet so will give you just a little taste of them for now. Intrigued? Pop back at a later date to see the full picture!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

On less happy occasions

Sadly not all cards are for happy occasions. I was recently asked to prepare a sympathy card for a customer who needed to send their commiserations to a relative abroad. I opted for a delicate arrangement of flowers in pastel shades.
I hope that the card brought some comfort in the mourners time of need.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Bar Mitzvah Boy

This young man, who lives in London, celebrated his Bar Mitzvah last month and I was asked to make one of my Customised Guest Books for him. Though I do not know the Bar Mitzvah boy personally, I learnt a lot about him along the way! I now know that he likes tennis, reading and swimming, is proud of his Jewish identity, his family, oh and he collects old atlases as well!  How to portray all of that on the cover of one album?
Well, a few more e-mails and it became clear to me that tennis and reading are his main hobbies, whilst the Jewish theme could be dealt with quite easily by showing him wearing his kippa (skullcap) and tefillin (phylacteries, or boxes containing Biblical verses). My customer also thought that the Bar Mitzvah boy would like his Hebrew name on the cover. I added the words בר מצוה (Bar Mitzvah) directly below.
I am told that he usually wears a colourful Bukharan kippa, traditionally worn by Bukharian Jews, whose name comes from the ancient emirate of Bokhara. His tefillin are being worn on the 'weaker' arm (since he is right handed, then that is his left arm) and are placed on his head, above the forehead, as well as on the arm.
The tefillin are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah and are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. Putting on tefillin is the first mitzvah assumed by a Jewish male upon his Bar Mitzvah. Usually boys are trained to start wearing them one to two months before their thirteenth birthday. During this period they put on tefillin but do not recite a blessing. Subsequent to the Bar Mitzvah, a specific blessing, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to put on tefillin," is recited whenever they are worn.
The Bar Mitzvah boy is holding a blue book in his left hand (above). This book is a tikkun,  a study guide used when preparing to chant the Torah reading in the synagogue. I illustrated his overall love of reading by adding the small pile of books by his side and he is seen playing tennis, with the yellow tennis ball flying through the air nearby.
Whilst tennis, reading and his Jewish faith were portrayed on the album cover, his other hobbies and interests were included inside. Above, clockwise from the top right, you can see how I illustrated his collection of old atlases, his love of reading, swimming, Judaism and finally, below, playing tennis. Each page also shows a Tallit (Prayer Shawl), worn by Jewish men after they have reached Bar Mitzvah.
Last but not least, I sprayed the album cover with an acrylic sealer to protect it and then it was ready to go! I package my guest books up in a matching presentation box and they are wrapped in tissue for safekeeping. 
This order arrived at it's destination well in time for the celebration and my customer wrote to tell me that she loved it and was very excited about giving it to the Bar Mitzvah boy. I do hope that he liked it.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Giveaway and a Gift

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones. I love working in detail and getting into all the nitty gritty stuff on my customised cards - you know, the correct hair colour and nail polish, the ring on the finger, the right team badge on the sports cap etc. Nevertheless, the other day I needed something a little more straightforward. This little bird card (you already know I enjoy crafting birds) came together quickly and I love it! I have since reproduced it in several colourways. Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best ones.
The design above is also a new, uncomplicated one and something that I think is suitable for many occasions. I have already used it myself as a birthday card and an anniversary card. I purchased the lace patterned punch some time ago but had hardly put it to use. I now intend to give it a good workout!
You may well recognise this floral design. I mentioned a few blog posts back that I had created it in similar colours as my contribution to the Etsy Greetings Team 'Great Greetings Giveaway'. What does that mean? That means that if you buy from participating shops from July 1-31st, you'll be in the running to win a collection of stunning greeting cards, including one of mine! The big winner will receive one of each of the cards contributed by members of the team (over $75 value!) and will be selected at random on August 1. For more information drop by the Etsy Greetings blog and then get shopping! The more you buy, the greater your chances at winning this fabulous prize!
Ever since I started this blog I learnt what an amazing world the crafty blog world is and a recent package that I received in the mail only confirmed it for me. The very lovely Sudha of the blog Crazy Crafter often leaves me some very encouraging comments on my own blog. Recently I visited her little space and told her that I thought the card she was displaying was particularly gorgeous. Well, guess what? She immediately wrote to me and said that she was going to send it to me. And that is what she did! All the way from Delhi.
Sudha's card arrived a short time later, above, and she had written a beautiful message inside thanking me for inspiring her to use papercuts on her card. She had never tried it before.
I am going to treasure the card and use it as a reminder of the wonderfully kind people there are in this world. A very big thank you, Sudha!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Collecting Berries and Crafting Spaghetti

The summer activities already started a few weeks ago, even before school was finished. The Chavaya b'Kramim (Fun in the Vineyard) team at nearby Kibbutz Sha'alvim opened up their fields for berry picking. The grapes and passion fruits looked enticing but not yet ripe for picking. We were there for the berries and what a variety there was to choose from! Our absolute favourites by far were the gorgeous dark and juicy blackberries, which we picked in abundance.
Later we enjoyed them served with a little sugar and a lot of cream and there were more left over for a rather luxurious breakfast the following morning.  Perhaps with the next crop I get my juice-stained hands on I might make a delicious hot pie or even freeze a few. On this occasion the berries disappeared far too quickly to even attempt that!
Whilst we are on the subject of food, a customer recently put in an unusual request for a 12th birthday card, one which I can honestly say I have never received before! Apparently her niece is mad about pasta and in particular spaghetti. Could I make her a spaghetti card? You bet I could!
The card was actually very easy to create. I simply cut out wiggly pieces of spaghetti until I felt that they fitted together nicely on the plate. You can't have spaghetti without thinking 'Italy', so the card took on an Italian feel, with a blue and white gingham tablecloth, big red number 12 and a silver fork ready to hook that spaghetti with.
In the end it was such fun to make that I hope someone else will ask me to create another one some day. I suspect that I might have to wait a while though.
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