Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Teenage Kicks

A regular customer of mine asked me to make a birthday card for her son. I have made cards for his special day for several years now and Mum was keen that I somehow show that her 16 year old has grown and looks older. I steered away from my more usual round face on this occasion and gave him an 'older' look. Mum loved it!
I showed the young man in his NOAM youth movement shirt since he is one of our local group's leaders. (NOAM is an acronym for No'ar Masorti, Masorti Youth, a Zionist youth movement.) He is holding up a board with the youth movement's logo on it and the local branch's badge is above his shoulder.
The card above was the result of a request for something 'girly'. Apparently the birthday girl loves nail polish, jewellery and all things pretty, so I popped those things in there, being careful once again to give the card a 'teenage' look. I hope she liked it.
Finally, her brother was also celebrating a birthday around the same time. Their Mum felt that he was too old to have his hobbies illustrated on the card (hey, you're never too old!) and preferred some kind of funky design instead. I must admit that the pattern I chose was heavily influenced by a design I saw online, but I adapted it to suit my own style and was really happy with the result. The young man has a nice short name which fitted nicely into the layout, and I loved how my coloured circles became the dot on the letter 'i' too.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Seventy

My customer wanted two cards for her Mum's special birthday. On the first one, from the grandchildren, she wanted to show Grandma's various hobbies and interests. Apparently she loves playing Scrabble, filling in crossword puzzles, and is an avid reader too. If my memory serves me correctly, I think I was told that she was a librarian.
The second request was for something pretty. You can't beat a pale pink background and flowers for prettiness.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Weekdays of the Festival

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which we celebrated recently, commemorates the years that the Jews spent in the desert on their way to the Promised Land. Sukkot is also known as the 'Feast of Tabernacles' or the 'Feast of Booths', because we literally build a booth, or Sukkah, in our gardens or on our balconies to celebrate the festival and to commemorate the Sukkahs in which our forefathers sat when they came out of slavery in Egypt.
The essential thing about the booth is that it should have a roof of branches and leaves through which you can see the sky, and that it should be a temporary thing. Below you can see what our Sukkah looked like this year. I have collected the decorations that the boys have made over the years and, whilst they cringe when they see them, I love seeing their different creations and how their crafting has changed over time.
The six days between the festivals of Sukkot and Simchat Torah are referred to as Chol HaMoed, or "weekdays [of] the festival". Many activities which are forbidden on the festival days are permitted on the days of Chol HaMoed (except if it is also Shabbat) such as using electricity or driving a car. Hard work is ruled out and so the days become a time to have fun and relax. We made sure that we did!
Our first stop was at The Olympic Experience in Tel Aviv. This relatively new museum is sectioned into five parts to correspond with the five interlocking Olympic rings. We took a guided, one-hour tour which included a bit of historical background, the Israeli experience and highlights of sporting achievements. We all had a great time.
Afterwards we took a picnic into the nearby Yarkon Park. It seemed that the wildlife was out in force that day and the youngest son and I enjoyed a little duck-spotting and a coypu, an animal we have only previously seen up north at the Hula Lake, graced us with his, or her, presence too.
The next day we joined friends on a short hike in the area of Mount Horesha and the Talmon Spring (the name Talmon comes from the family name of the family of gatekeepers of the Temple in Jerusalem). We crawled through a series of underground caves and the youngest son splashed in the spring. The olives trees were heavy with fruit and the sun was shining. Our hike was a little too short for my liking but we were in good company. Another lovely day.
That same evening we went to the circus! The city where I live, Modi'in, hosted an International Circus Festival with loads of free performances. We watched acrobats and clowns, and a tightrope act from Switzerland and Finland dancing on thin steel rope. The Dream Engine aerial show, below, had an acrobat suspended beneath a helium balloon, spiralling and spinning and generally thrilling the audience. Our favourite? The 'Salta Mortale' flea circus where the somersaulting fleas were shot from miniature cannons and performed circus acts. Who wants to discuss with my boy whether the fleas really existed or not? 
The eldest son came back from his youth group camp two days into the holiday and together we went back to Tel Aviv to visit The Israeli Museum at The Yitzhak Rabin Centre. The museum presents two parallel stories: the history of the State and Israeli society, and the biography of Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's fifth Prime Minister who served two terms in office, from 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995.
The high-tech museum is built on a downward spiral, with exhibition halls connected to the main corridor. We spent a good couple of hours watching documentary films and examining photographs and memorabilia. It really required a lot of patience and concentration but was an important history lesson for all the members of my family, young and old alike.
Below, you can see a great view of Tel Aviv's skyline, taken from the balcony of The Israeli Museum, and below that, the sun setting at the end of the day at Tel Aviv Port, where we went after our museum visit, to consume delicious Max Brenner chocolate desserts. Yum!
A round of applause to those of you who got to the end of this post! Believe it or not, I have another delightful place to tell you about but I am going to keep it for another time. We really did have a busy, but very enjoyable, few days. Bring on the next Chol HaMoed on Passover.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Sataf

We are now acharei haChagim (after the holidays), after a very busy period celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, then Chol Hamoed and finally Simchat Torah, the holiday which marks the completion of the yearly cycle of weekly of Torah readings and the beginning of a new cycle. During this time we found the opportunity to go on several family outings together, starting with a short hike at Sataf, in the hills just beyond Hadassah Hospital and Ein Kerem village near Jerusalem.
Sataf, on the terraced slopes of the Judean Hills, has several hiking trails and two springs, Ein Sataf and Ein Bikura, which flow into the Sorek riverbed below. The remains of a 4,000 BCE Chalcolithic village, as well as the remains of a pre-1948 Arab village, are clearly visible at the site.
We parked in the upper parking area and enjoyed the panoramic view of the surrounding hills, pointing out Hadassah Hospital where my boys were born (top photo), before walking slowly downhill towards the two springs. At Ein Sataf the boys and I entered the cave from which the spring emerges and crawled through a narrow passageway to the outside world, where the hubby was waiting with our shoes and socks.
The 250-acre site of Sataf is maintained by the Jewish National Fund, a charitable organisation specialising in the development of Israeli land and infrastructure. The land is farmed using ancient methods of terrace farming, as it was by the Israelites thousands of years ago, and uses water from the springs. All the work is done by hand, or with the help of farm animals, without any machinery or use of pesticides.
The primary crops in the Judean Hills in ancient times included vineyards, olives, figs and pomegranates. Now, by involving themselves in a project called the 'Bustanof' (a little like the UK's allotments) residents of Jerusalem and its neighbouring areas can also work plots of the land and grow vegetables, flowers and more, using modern technology including irrigation systems with timers if they so choose!
It took a little over an hour to walk down the hill to the springs. We picnicked at the bottom then hiked back up to the top (it was a little strenuous on the way back up!). All in all it was a really nice afternoon out and a great way to start the holidays. I think we'll go back when the weather is cooler and the almond trees start to blossom. I'm told it's beautiful.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Fifty, Flowers and Fairy cakes

When my Dad was here in the summer he asked me to make a special card for his neighbour who was going to be celebrating her 50th birthday. His kind neighbour often helps him with his home computer - getting him out of fixes when it all becomes a bit too much for him - so a computer had to appear somewhere on the card! A few balloons and flowers made it look a little more festive, and I popped a big silver 50 on there too, to mark the important birthday.
This card request was for a young lady who was turning 18. I had no special brief so chose to add one of my little birds to the card and a heart and flowers too. I like the colour combination on this one.
Finally, not long ago I met a fellow crafter in my hometown who has a little shop bursting with gorgeous supplies in her basement. I bought a large scalloped and circular punch from her and was excited to try it out on my cards. I added the  fairy cake design, which I have used on other cards, and thought it turned out quite nicely.
What do you think?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Finn McMissile and the Princess

I have a friend who is a very loyal customer and orders birthday cards for her young nephew and niece in Australia every year. You can see some of the cards I have made for them in previous years here, here and here. She recently wrote to me with this years requests, attaching up-to-date photos of the kids too.
Coby was turning 5 and apparently loves the animated adventure film Cars. His favourite character in the film is the British spy car Finn McMissile but he also loves cars in general, lining them up in one big line. I'm not terribly keen on creating papercuts of animated characters but had a go for my friend - and Coby - hopefully adding a touch of my own personal style to it in the process.
Orly turned 4, loves the colours pink and purple, and princesses. Her auntie says that she is a "girly girl". Last year I made her a birthday card showing a little girl wearing a tutu and feathered wings. Apparently Orly and her Mum really loved it and so my friend asked if I could include some tulle on her skirt this time, to get the same textured effect. She likes me to include a picture of the children each time too. I showed Coby with his favourite Cars character, whilst Orly became a fairy in a pink and purple dress and wearing a gold crown.
I wonder what their most favourite things will be next year?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ein Prat

With the holiday of Sukkot in full swing, we are spending time out and about with friends. However, before I show you the great places we have already visited this week, I thought I'd post some photos of a wonderful hike we did in the summer. My Italy pictures sort of took over and I never managed to show you this gorgeous place we visited back in July. 
Nahal Prat is a canyon created by a riverbed running from North of Jerusalem to the Jordan River. It is located in the Judean desert. Nahal Prat, also referred to as Wadi Kelt, has three main springs. Ein Prat, where we hiked, is the upper spring.
The entrance to the Ein Prat Nature Reserve is through the settlement of Anatot, a 15-20 minute drive from Jerusalem. We entered the reserve by car and followed the winding road downhill to the car park.  By the time we got there the pools and park area were already quite busy with picnickers but, after my youngest son had swum in the pool, with fish nibbling at his toes, we hiked a little way along a well-marked trail and quickly reached areas without crowds.
The trail led us past flowing springs, the remnants of ancient structures, and caves which have become hiding places throughout history.  We passed the Faran monastery, a monastery built over Byzantine ruins by the Russian Orthodox Church. The original monastery was built by a hermit-monk called Haritoun in the 4th century. The rebuild was abandoned in the 1980's, but a monk named Anaopheri came from Belarus and slowly restored the site and now monks have taken up residence once again.
Haritoun’s tomb is inside the restored monastery. The monks live modestly; they do not use electricity or eat meat. At night they read by the light of oil lamps. They bake their own bread and draw water from rain-water cisterns. The monastery has orchards as well as remains of buildings which originally housed pilgrims.
Ein Prat offers some of the most fantastic desert scenery in Israel, as well as some incredible flora and fauna, but it was hot on the day we visited. After climbing up to see the monastery, only to find that visits are only permitted by calling ahead, we decided to turn back and enjoy a little more time in the pools.  On our way we passed the old pumping station, from the days when the Ein Prat spring provided water to Jerusalem. It has since been restored and is now a visitors centre housing the nature reserves offices.
There are a number of hiking routes available in the area so we will definitely go back to enjoy the wonderful views again one day.
Ein Prat is open daily from 8 to 5 pm in the summer and from 8 to 4 pm in the winter. The office phone is 057 893 6708.
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