Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Pint in The Queen Vic

When I lived in the UK, watching the Christmas Day edition of the soap opera Eastenders was a big thing. From what I hear, the program is still pretty popular - I was more of a Brookside girl myself -  and therefore I am sure that this lady, who recently celebrated her birthday, was eagerly awaiting the Christmas Day program. Her husband asked me to make a special card for her birthday and said that this year's theme HAD to be Eastenders. I get the impression that she's pretty keen on the soap opera and the residents of Albert Square!
I have shown the birthday girl - who is indeed as slim as I have shown her - with a celebratory glass of wine in hand, in front of the Eastenders map and signs for The Queen Vic Pub and Albert Square. There are a couple of pints nearby. Whenever I have seen the soap opera, the main characters always seem to be in the Queen Vic, supping a pint or two! I took a guess that our birthday girl probably prefers a nice glass of red to a pint.
A regular customer of mine required a card for a 50th birthday (above). I was asked to show a lady with short black hair and blue eyes, surrounded by her four children. She is a caterer, so a peeler, knives, pots and pans were the order of the day. My customer sent me a photo of the family and I was able to try and match their various 'looks'. I am not sure that I have created exact portraits but hope that the birthday girl enjoyed the card all the same!
This card was an order from a new customer. She was looking for a special card for her daughter's forthcoming 40th birthday and had been told by a friend that I could make a customised one for her. She wanted a card that would illustrate her daughter's interest in make-up artistry. With such a straightforward brief it was simple to come up with an image showing various types of make-up: brushes, lipsticks, eyeshadow and a couple bottles of nail varnish too.
In a few days time we will be celebrating the start of a new year. Once again, many, many thanks to those of you who have visited my blog this the year. I have enjoyed composing each and every one of my posts, and am always delighted with the encouraging comments and support that I receive. I wish you all a very Happy New Year and a safe and exciting start to 2012.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Holidays

Chanukah is turning out pretty well. The hubby is at work (it's not a holiday which requires time off) but the kids are home from school and we don't have too much planned for a change. Aside from lighting the candles each evening and dealing out small gifts to the kids, we've been eating well - Chanukah is the best holiday for food - sleeping quite late and I have a couple of interesting activities lined up for next week, but not too many!
Chanukah celebrates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when a small group of Jews called Maccabees rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after their victory over the Greek Syrians. Fried foods like latkes (potato pancakes) and jam-filled doughnuts are traditional treats because they are cooked in oil and remind us of the miracle of the holiday. Thus, the first night of the holiday saw me making some of the aforementioned latkes. They were a great success!
We celebrate the holiday for eight days altogether. This year Chanukah overlaps with Christmas so, all that remains is for me to wish you Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Best wishes from Israel,
Lisa x
Sufganiyot (doughnuts) for sale at my local shopping mall (above).

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Jade's Bat Mitzvah

The reason we were in London just now - two weeks before the kids broke up from school for the Chanukah holidays, and not actually during the school holidays - was to celebrate our niece's Bat Mitzvah. December 10th was the date that had been chosen to celebrate it on, so that was the date we were there! I hinted in a previous post that there was another creation to show you, aside from the artwork I made for her invitations and here it is. A customised album of course!
After a little discussion, it was decided that the cover of the album should show the same image as her invitations, which I have already blogged about here. I rarely repeat a design in this way, so it was a little strange for me to be re-drawing everything again, using the very same papers and colours. I changed the wording slightly on the album to include the date of her Bat Mitzvah ceremony in the synagogue, her name and the words Bat Mitzvah in Hebrew.
My sister-in-law gave me a few more themes to work with for the inside pages. I had already included my niece's love of reading, fashion design, drawing and facebooking on her iPod Touch on the cover. Along with these interests, I learnt that she loves sushi (don't we all?), drinking hot chocolate and reading a particular style magazine. I added her High School badge too.
When we arrived in London I was thrilled to discover that my sister and brother in law had used my artwork on several things. I was shown the postcard sized thank you cards and the benchers. (Bencher is the most common word used for the Jewish book of Grace after Meals. The word Bencher originates from the Yiddish language. Literally translated the word bencher means "Blesser".)
The Bat Mitzvah party had a purple theme - purple had been suggested for my niece's t-shirt when I had asked what her favourite colour was - and my design blended in beautifully! You can see the postcards being used as table decorations, below, and the Grace after Meals booklets in the background.
My brother in law thanked me for my artwork in his short speech and I am happy to say that I received many, many compliments throughout the evening.
* Tonight we light the first candle on our Chanukiah, the nine-branched candelabra which is used during the festival of Chanukah, and the eight-day holiday, the Festival of Lights, will begin. I recently wrote all about the holiday here. Please hop on over and learn a little bit about Chanukah and the reasons why the Jewish people celebrate it.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

London Bound

So our whirlwind five day trip to the UK has been and gone. The kids are back in school for a few more days until the Chanukah break begins and everything is pretty much back to normal. We have lots of great memories though - we squeezed a lot into those precious few days!
After a little shopping for us, a theatre trip for the kids and the obligatory fish and chips meal out, one of our first stops was at Wembley National Stadium. My oldest son is a huge football fan and, while his younger brother and Dad hopped off to visit The Doctor Who Experience at Olympia (such is life when you have two boys!), we toured that special stadium and viewed some sacred shirts in the changing rooms.
The hubby and I treated ourselves to a show and saw the very wonderful Backbeat, the story of how the Beatles ‘became’ the Beatles – when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe embarked on their journey from the docks of Liverpool to search for success in the seedy red light district of Hamburg. It was one of the most incredible two hours of West End theatre I have ever sat (and danced) through, helped somewhat by the cocktails we had treated ourselves to before the performance began. The kids were at home having fun with their cousins. It's nice to be grown-up once in a while!
We toured 'Eccentric London' on a delightful walking tour, spotting some odd things and quite unexpected delights along the way. Our guide showed us the alleyway now made famous as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films. We learned the mystery of the lions' paws in Trafalgar Square and heard the rather gory history of a bookshop near Leicester Square. I am not a native Londoner myself but the hubby is and he declared that he had learnt a great deal in those two hours about places he had passed many, many times in his life.
The kids were complaining about the cold - it was very cold - but we had yet more to show them. Christmas completely passes us by here in Israel, and especially in the Jewish city that we live in, so we wanted to show them a little bit of what all the excitement is about. Crossing the Hungerford Bridge to the South Bank, we spent some time wandering around a traditional Christmas market along the side of the River Thames. Listening to the carols and eyeing up all the beautiful decorations in the German style wooden chalets was so much fun. We even purchased a small packet of hot roasted chestnuts which the hubby remembered his Dad roasting on a fire when he was a child. They were wonderful!
The weekend was spent celebrating my niece's Bat Mitzvah. I will show you her album in my next post. She performed brilliantly in the synagogue on the Sabbath and we all had a blast at the celebratory party on Sunday evening. And then it was time to come home. We were up early on Monday morning, ready for that flight back to Israel, all a little bleary eyed and sad to leave. It was such a great trip though and maybe, just maybe, everything worked out so well because we had to squeeze so much into a very short time. Even the rain held off until the very last evening. Did I tell you how cold it was though? Brrrrr!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Flying Visit

This time next week we will be in England. Well, actually this time next week we will be preparing for our journey back to Israel! We are going for a somewhat 'flying visit' you see, to celebrate my niece's Bat Mitzvah. The kids are in school and there is always plenty going on, but it was important for us all to go and mark the occasion with the young lady and all our family.
Of course, the forthcoming celebration required some invitations and other items and I was delighted when my niece decided that she wanted me to design them for her. She requested one of my 'portraits' and, after a short discussion, I was able to put together some artwork for her. Obviously I know my niece pretty well but still wanted to check with her what she wanted me to feature on her invitation. I remember how quickly the interests can change when you're 12 years old! I was told she likes reading, fashion design, drawing and facebooking on her iPod Touch. When deciding on colour, a green - or jade - background - was the obvious choice because of her name.
Several weeks passed and I was thrilled to see the invitations when they landed in our letterbox. My brother-in-law - a creative guy himself - had my artwork and lettering skilfully scanned so that the figure and surrounding artwork 'popped' almost as if each one had been hand cut, as is my usual way of working. Most importantly, I heard that my niece "loves it" and, since I know that the image will be used on other items over the course of the weekend celebrations, I am very happy to have played my part!
Of course there was another important item needed and so the scalpel and scissors came out again. The above picture is just a sneak peek though. I am going to save the rest for another post, after we have been on our travels and my niece has seen what I created. See you in a week or so!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Golden Rule

Winter has definitely arrived here now, though when all is said and done, Israeli winters are pretty mild. To warm us all up a little bit, I've got a post full of 'golden' images, starting with these Golden Wedding Anniversary cards I recently made for a customer to send to family in the UK. 
I am big fan of the Attic 24 blog. Though I do not crochet, I adore the colours and designs she works with and definitely love her cheerful attitude to life. Added to this, she happens to live in the north east of England, where I hail from, so all in all, her blog is a regular stop-off point for me. Quite some time ago Lucy posted a recipe for Cheesy Nibbles, an after school 'snackette', as she called them, for her kids. They sounded delicious and really simple to make, so I too threw the ingredients together, adding some corn kernels into the mix as one commenter suggested, and Lucy's totally right, they were good!
Just as in previous years the orange tree in our front garden is doing great! Without too much care and attention the tree has produced a lot of beautiful, juicy fruit for us this year. My eldest son is taking an orange to school with him almost every day and they're proving to be great desserts too. Anyone else got kids who insist on 'dessert' after nearly everything they eat?
The leaves are coming down too. Well, truthfully these leaves came down ages ago. My youngest son made this mobile at school and it is now hanging in the back garden, drying out even more but also getting a little bit wet along the way! I love the colours and appreciate most things collected and hand made in his teva (the Hebrew word for nature) class. Wish I'd had a nature class when I was at school! 

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Weekend in Tel Aviv

My Dad came for a visit not long ago and took us all for a weekend stay in Tel Aviv, Israel's second largest city (after Jerusalem). Tel Aviv is the country's business and cultural centre. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the Diamond Exchange are based in the city and, for the arts, the Habima National Theatre is excellent and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is world-class. The city also boasts several impressive museums. Arguably, Tel Aviv is where the action is. Tel Aviv can be proud of some great beaches and promenades, nightclubs, plentiful shopping and appetising restaurants and outdoor cafes. On this occasion though we  were accompanied by older family members and friends and, with the kids in tow, we were really just looking for some quality time with Grandpa.
We strolled through the open-air market off Rehov HaCarmel, purchasing delicious baklava for our afternoon tea. It had been raining earlier in the day and the market was close to closing. Things were being sold off cheaply and the vendors were in full voice, attempting to clear their stalls before the Sabbath.
After a delicious but rather large evening meal, I took time to myself the following morning to explore one of Tel Aviv's prettiest districts, Neve Tzedek. The first Jewish neighbourhood to be built outside the walls of the ancient port of Jaffa, Neve Tzedek (meaning Oasis of Justice) is the perfect place to stroll around on a lazy afternoon - or in my case, morning - to escape the hustle and bustle of uptown Tel Aviv.
Neve Tzedek's narrow streets are home to some beautiful and original houses, many restored to full glory. The original buildings display features that can be traced to the Bauhaus architecture of pre-Nazi Germany and the Art Nouveau movement. The Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre, Israel's premier dance centre, located in the heart of Neve Tzedek, is a prime example of a beautifully restored building constructed in the Bauhaus style.
One cannot visit Tel Aviv without going to the beach... that's what my kids say! Technically the beach season is over but that didn't stop them! Grandpa deemed it too cold to sit there for long but the hubby and I endured several hours in the breeze, watching the boys build the most fantastic structure, which received many admiring glances from passers-by. On reflection, I do wonder if they were admiring - or mocking - our ability to sit out in the cool air for so long, rather than the sand castle building that was going on. Well, at  least it wasn't raining...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Four Sons

A good friend of mine recently had a baby - her FOURTH boy!!! I knew that she already had plenty of boy clothing and toys but anyway wanted to send her something really special as a gift. My friend always orders birthday cards for her family and so I already knew that she was quite keen on my work. It's always a little scary giving someone something you have made just in case they don't really like or appreciate your work, but I felt confident that my friend would be happy with my choices and so set to work on a papercut picture for her baby son's room.
The customised picture, measuring 20cm x 20cm, shows the new baby in all his glory! He is surrounded by his three brothers and Mum and Dad too. I added a few little boy items to the artwork as well - a ball, baby onesie, teddy bear and a little red and yellow sailboat - and included his name in bold red letters. As a final touch, I had the picture framed in a matching blue frame and carefully wrapped it up for the journey abroad.
My friend received the package in the mail yesterday and sent me the most fabulous e-mail.
"We got the most wonderful package today!" she said, "I love your art... So touched by the picture."
I was absolutely thrilled by her reaction and so happy that I took the chance and made her gift. Handmade rocks!

Monday, 21 November 2011

A Little Something Sweet

This young lady, illustrated above, is the same age as my eldest son and celebrates her birthday just a few days before him. Her Mum asks me to make her a card every year and this year proved no exception. In the past I have shown her reading and doing gymnastics. Mum told me that gymnastics was definitely still an important thing in her life but  asked whether this time I could also add her younger brother, sister and the family cat into the picture.
The birthday girl has long dark hair and wears a white sparkly leotard when taking part in competitions. I was specifically asked to give her big white round hoop earrings. I know the younger brother and sister well, so it was easy to create their paper portraits, and the cat - described as short haired and grey, black and white - well, he wasn't quite right, but I hope his inclusion was appreciated all the same!
Another 11 year old recently received a card of mine too. The brief for this card was simpler. I was asked for something "girly" and figured that I couldn't go far wrong with nail polish, lipstick, hearts and flowers.
This request was for someone a little older than 11! The lady in question is apparently a keen golfer, so a golf club and ball fit the bill nicely. I prettified it a little with a few flowers and popped a bright yellow sun into the sky. I hope it helped to make 'Maureen's' day.
And whilst we're on the subject of sweet things for 11 year olds, I thought I'd show you the birthday cake I made for my son's recent sleepover celebration. He asked me for an '11' cake with green icing, a football theme and lots of sweets! Do you think I got it right? He also loves my chocolate chip muffins and wanted his friends to taste them too.  A sugar-filled night was had by all!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Book of Ruth

I've just created a listing for my Customized Guest Book/Photo Album at a new online wedding marketplace called Shop Hatunot (Hatunot is the Hebrew word for Weddings). Uploading the photo of one of my wedding albums, it reminded me that I haven't yet shown you this album, made last month for a Bat Mitzvah girl called Ruth.
Ruth has beautiful dark curly hair, so that was my starting point for her 'portrait'. I think I may have gone a little overboard with the curls actually, but my customer seemed to like it! Like most teenagers, Ruth is a music fan and enjoys listening to her iPod, chatting on Facebook and reading Mizz magazine. Like my own son, she goes to NOAM (an acronym for No'ar Masorti, Masorti Youth), a Zionist youth movement. Fortunately I checked which shirt the kids wear when they meet and discovered that the shirts in the UK are blue, whilst here in Israel they wear green. Good job I asked!
I have shown the Bat Mitzvah girl busy with all her favourite activities. She is dancing along to the music she can hear on her iPod, whilst the laptop, with Facebook open, is not too far away. Along with the date of her Bat Mitzvah celebration and her name, I added the words בת מצוה, Bat Mitzvah in Hebrew.
Inside the album I decorated a number of pages along the same lines.The first page shows Ruth's favoured iPod again, along with a Star of David (known in Hebrew as the Shield of David or Magen David) to add a little Jewish content. I also created a Facebook page, a page showing her Youth movement badge, the preferred Mizz magazine and finally, a little portrait of the Bat Mitzvah girl once again. She obviously liked all the curls I gave her because it was reported back to me that Ruth loved her album!
If anyone is interested in ordering their very own guest book/album, there is a listing for one in my shop.
* The title of this post, The Book of Ruth, developed from my original title 'Ruth's Book'. The Book of Ruth (in Biblical Hebrew Megilath Ruth, "The Scroll of Ruth") is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. The name Ruth means friend or companion.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Playing Dreidel

Welcome to the Etsy Greetings Team Holiday Traditions Blog Hop! The hop starts at the team blog, where you'll find a complete list of participating blogs. Start there or jump right in here! You'll find poignant stories, yummy recipes and great holiday printables. There's no time limit so feel free to browse our blogs - maybe you'll find a new tradition to start with your family!
Come December, whilst a large number of people the world over are preparing for the forthcoming Christmas holidays, those of us of the Jewish faith will be thinking about Chanukah. The eight day holiday, known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history when Antiochus, a Syrian king, tried to make the Jewish people worship Greek gods. A statue of Antiochus was erected in the Jewish temple and the Jews were ordered to bow down before him. The Ten Commandments forbid Jews to worship statues or idols and so they refused.
A small group of Jews called Maccabees rebelled, and after a three year war they recaptured Jerusalem from the Greek Syrians. But the temple was all but destroyed.
The Jews had to clean and repair the Temple, and when they were finished they rededicated it to God. They did this by lighting the lamp (Menorah) - which was a symbol of God's presence. Only one small jar of oil was found, enough for one day, but miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days.
Today Chanukah is celebrated by lighting one candle on the Chanukiah (an eight-stemmed candelabrum). Each day an additional candle is lit. After lighting the candles it is traditional to give gifts. These handmade tags, used for illustrative purposes here, are perfect for popping on those Chanukah presents.
Because Chanukah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is also traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jam-filled doughnuts) during the holiday. However, the firm favourite in our home is the traditional game called dreidel (a Yiddish word that comes from the German word "drehen," which means “to turn.” In Hebrew the dreidel is called a sevivon).
The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. The four letters allude to the miracle of Chanukah. They spell out: Nes (נ-miracle), Gadol (ג-great), Haya (ה-happened) and Po (פ-here, meaning in Israel). Outside of Israel the letter ש-there, replaces the פ.
The Chanukah tradition of playing dreidel is not new. When the Jews were under the authority of the Greek Syrians, they were treated cruelly and were even prohibited to follow their own beliefs and customs. The study of Jewish Holy script - the Torah - was banned so they were forced to study in secret. The Rabbis used to take classes underground, posting some children outside to watch. To avoid the attention of the Greek Syrian soldiers, the children were told to play with the dreidel. Content that the Jews were following their orders and not studying the Torah, the Greek Syrians would go away.
In this game, an equal number of foil wrapped chocolate coins, sweets, nuts or raisins are distributed amongst the players and a small amount is put into a kitty. Each player is asked to spin the dreidel, which falls on one of the 4 letters. If it falls on the נ, it means ‘no win and no loss’. If you are lucky to have the dreidel fall on ג, you take away everything from the kitty. If your dreidel falls on ה, you can take half of the kitty. For those whose dreidel falls on פ or ש, they lose everything! The game ends when someone has won all of the tokens in the kitty.
My tags, used to illustrate this blog post, show the four sided spinning top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. I have added a Dove of Peace, a Chanukah candle, some Jerusalem buildings and a Magen David (Star of David) as decoration.
My kids often made their own dreidels when they were at nursery school, though I can't say that they spun so well! When the real game of dreidel is played, a spinning top made of plastic or wood is normally used, though there are silver or glass 'designer' dreidels available and even a platinum and diamond dreidel, priced at $1,800, is up for grabs. Perhaps you shouldn't let your kids play with that particular one!
Thanks for joining the Etsy Greetings Team Holiday Traditions blog hop. For more handmade holiday traditions, please click on the arrows below!