Sunday, 27 May 2012

May we only meet on birthdays!

I have had a whole load of album orders recently but don't want to show any of them here till the dates of the various Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations have passed. Look out for them in June and July! I am able to show you a bunch of birthday and anniversary cards I have made though, since all these special occasions have already been and gone. I was asked to create, from the top, a pretty card for a sister's 60th birthday; a golf themed card for a passionate player; balloons for a 40th birthday; and a bouquet of flowers for a friend's anniversary.
It is customary amongst Jewish people when saying goodbye to each other after a happy event to say Rak B'smachot (Only on joyous occasions). It refers to our wish to be able to see our family and friends only at celebrations. That saying seems an appropriate way to close this post. May we only meet on birthdays!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Secret Cactus Garden

We went to some amazing places over Passover and saw some wonderful sights, yet sometimes the simplest things are the ones that stick in your mind. We had tickets for the Dialogue in the Dark exhibition at The Israel Children's Museum in Holon, an activity which proved to be a very meaningful and enlightening experience, but we had some time to spare before our allotted entry time. I had taken the kids to the city of Holon some time before and remembered that there was a cactus garden which we had all fancied looking at which had been closed at the time. There was just enough time for us to stop by and try again, and this time we were lucky. It was open.
The garden proved to be a real gem, and a place that no one seems to know about! When we visited there were very few people there, yet it contained some beautiful plants, a few interesting sculptures by Israeli artists, and even a large birdcage filled with beautiful Lovebirds and Budgerigars. Something about this garden really stood out for us all. Even the kids loved it!
We  found hundreds of cacti and other desert plants of every shape, size and shade, in a beautifully landscaped setting. Apparently the collection includes over 4,500 species brought in from all over the world. The garden’s paths are decorated with sculptures and there were plenty of places to sit. The whole place is small enough to not be overwhelming, while at the same time being big enough to find plenty to do for up to an hour. Frankly, had we known, we would happily have brought books and left the kids to explore for even longer.
The Cactus Garden is open weekdays only during the summer months, from June until mid October, and it is worth checking the opening hours before setting off since, from experience, I know it is not open all day. However, for those of you in Israel, it's well worth a look if you enjoy a little bit of greenery, but, shhh, don't tell anyone about it. Let's keep this special little garden to ourselves, okay?

Monday, 21 May 2012

Mad about Harry

Whilst I was working on a recent Bat Mitzvah album I posted this image on my facebook page and asked if anyone could guess what the theme of the album was. One clever lady got it in a matter of minutes. Do you know what it is? Want to know? Okay...
Yes, it was a Harry Potter album and the photo above showed the beginnings of a Hogwarts school tie!
A customer in the US read the article I wrote about my albums here. She contacted me through the lovely Tali at Your Jewish Speech and told me that her daughter was having a Harry Potter magical themed Bat Mitzvah on May 19th. She really wanted me to make her a guest sign in book but the problem was that it was really short notice. I mean really short. I hate to say no to any customer and this lady seemed so keen, so I decided to let her jump the queue of current orders and make the album immediately. All I can say is thank goodness for DHL!
My customer answered the questions I had very quickly. She told me that her daughter is 12 and has a summer birthday. She always celebrates it at the beach in New Jersey and absolutely loves the beach and the ocean. She plays softball recreationally and loves to read, thus the Bat Mitzvah party's Harry Potter theme. The Bat Mitzvah girl also likes to listen to music and hanging out with her friends. She has long light brown hair and large green eyes. Even in a rush, her Mum managed to send me a photo of the young lady too.
The cover of the album shows the Bat Mitzvah girl in a Hogwarts robe and wearing the stripy school tie. She has a softball bat in one hand - instead of a wand - and is at the beach, her very favourite place to be. I added a couple of the Harry Potter book covers to the design too, since her Mum was keen to point out that she favours the books over the films.
Inside the album I embellished several pages. The young lady's favourite colours are orange and purple and I gave each page a theme of, yes, you guessed it, Harry Potter (above), and clockwise, the beach, music, reading, and softball (below).
My customer was kind enough to tell me that she thought my work looked amazing and she couldn't wait to see it in a couple of weeks. She really did receive it in that time and there were even a few days to spare before the Bat Mitzvah celebration! I hope that they all had fun and that it was a magical night, in every sense of the word! Mazal Tov Brooke, and Mazal Tov to me too because I just celebrated a birthday as well!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Twin Cards for Twin Boys

I am trying to ignore the fact that one of my large customised cards has gone missing in the mail between Israel and the UK and that neither postal service wants to help me look for it. Along with that, yesterday I discovered quite by chance that the hotel we had booked for Venice back in March is actually closed when we are due to stay there, even though they had actually confirmed the reservation! I figure it is better for me to just show you some nice cards. They're more fun to read about, right?
A customer ordered two Bar Mitzvah cards for twin boys in the USA. She didn't have any particular ideas about what had to be on the cards except that one should be in red and the other green. She then mentioned that the boys were in fact born in Israel, so it was decided that I somehow feature that in the design. She was also keen that their names appeared prominently and, since they both have names with only three Hebrew letters in them (four in English!) I was happy to incorporate them.
Both cards, though differing a little, feature a Torah scroll, a tallit prayer shawl and a kippa (skullcap), along with a big, bold Israeli flag. The Bar Mitzvah ceremony usually includes reading from the Torah, a scroll containing the first five books of the Old Testament, during synagogue service.
The tallit, or prayer shawl, is a rectangular-shaped piece of linen, wool, or silk with special fringes called tzitzit on each of the four corners. Worn during prayer as a reminder of God's commandments, Eastern European Jewish men traditionally begin wearing a tallit for the daily prayers after marriage, whilst Western European Jewish boys begin wearing the tallit from the age of Bar Mitzvah.
Finally, the skullcap, known in Hebrew as a kippa or in Yiddish as a yarmulke, is seen as a sign of devoutness. Orthodox Jewish men always cover their heads by wearing a kippa and most Jews will cover their heads when praying, attending the synagogue or at a religious event or festival. The most common reason for covering the head is a sign of respect and fear of God. It is also felt that this separates God and human, by wearing a hat you are recognising that God is above all mankind. Many Jews feel that by wearing a skullcap they are proudly announcing to the world that they are Jewish.
As an aside and to bring you back down to earth with a bump, I cannot tell you how many kippot have been lost from our home over the years. I especially won't mention the very favourite one, worn for years by my eldest son, which we think was flushed down the school toilets...

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Shall We Dance?

Some customers go in to great detail when they order their customised card or album, whilst others keep it simple and just leave me to come up with something good. A recent card order for a young lady called Shiri came under the second category. Shiri's Grandma called me and asked me for a big card for her Granddaughter's birthday with a ballet dancer and some music notes on it. A couple of questions from me and I gathered that the ballet dancer should be wearing a tutu, but really that was it. I was left to my own devices. Happily the resulting card was a big success with Grandma. I hope that the birthday girl liked it too!
As well as taking ballet classes, Shiri learns Hip hop. My customer said that every time she orders a special card from me, her daughter bemoans the fact that she hasn't got herself organised and ordered one too. Grandma kindly preempted this and put in a request for a second card covering this second dance activity. This card was to be in Hebrew - the family, much like my own, speaks both languages - and Grandma wanted to make the cards quite different. The greeting on the Hip hop card reads "Happy Birthday to Shiri, our dear daughter".

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

All Things Paper

Some time ago I discovered, quite by chance, the blog All Things Paper. Well, I'm passionate about "all things paper" and soon became a regular visitor. Ann Martin, the quilling enthusiast behind the blog, covers some amazing paper related topics and I often feel compelled to comment on the beautiful pieces she displays. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Ann wrote to me and told me that she'd been thinking that my work would make a great feature post one day! I  was blown away by this. The artists she writes about are, well, artists! I couldn't believe that she considered me worthy of a write-up, but she did!
Ann wanted to know how I got started making personalized cards and about my favourite tools. She wanted to confirm that she was correct in thinking that all of my cutting is by hand (it is). "People will be amazed, as your work is so perfect!" she added. I think I was blushing at this point.
The feature post all about my creative work, and a little bit about me, appeared on 'All Things Paper' last week. Ann covered pretty much everything - my albums, cards and papercut pictures - and I was delighted to learn that she reads my blog regularly too. In addition to my latest paper cutting projects, Ann mentioned my blogging about the Jewish holidays, my occasional cooking antics, and our many day trips around Israel. It was a very flattering piece and some even more wonderful comments were left!
A big thank you for writing about me Ann. And for those of you who may not have seen the feature yet, do pop by and "read all about it" here.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Climbing the Walls

The Passover holiday was a long one and we were literally climbing the walls. They were pretty good walls to climb though, and it made for a fascinating morning! We did the Ramparts Walk along the walls of Jerusalem's Old City you see and our wall climbing proved to be exciting, fun and full of breathtaking views of Jerusalem.
The Ramparts Walk was closed for several years for security reasons, but they are open once again and are an amazing way to see Jerusalem. An estimated 3.5 million tourists visit Jerusalem annually and most visit the inside of the Old City. Our stroll on top of the ramparts gave us a totally different perspective. Not only do you get a spectacular view of the city beyond the walls, you also get a unique look, especially in the Muslim Quarter, at how people live inside the maze-like city.
Our walk took us along the northern section of the walls, around past the New Gate to the Damascus Gate and then all the way to the Lion's Gate and the start of the Via Dolorosa, past the Christian and Muslim quarters. For security reasons, the Ramparts Walk does not cross directly over the Temple Mount but finishes close by. Without rushing, were up there for a little over two hours. The steps are uneven and many are quite high, so there is some effort involved, however it all felt completely safe. We saw minarets, the Dome of the Rock and the bustle of the Arab market, but also saw into the back streets and sometimes the back yards of regular folk living in the old city. I love this photo of the Dome of the Rock, with some laundry hanging out to dry in the morning sunshine nearby (above), and who knew that there are not one but two synthetic football pitches in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City (below)?
Making our way toward the Temple Mount from Damascus Gate, we saw the Rockefeller Museum, which houses antiquities found from archaeological excavations and other exhibits.We got a wonderful view of Mount Scopus, the Hebrew University, the ancient graveyard on the Mount of Olives and various churches. Turning to look inside the city, we got to see iconic structures that have been written about for thousands of years.
All in all it was a fantastic way to spend a morning. As a family we have visited Jerusalem's Old City many, many times. On this occasion we enjoyed it from a totally different perspective. The Ramparts Walk seems to be one of the best kept secrets in all of Jerusalem. For some reason tourists and locals alike do not often make it onto the ramparts. After having done the walk, I have to say that it's a great shame for those who have missed out on it.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

It's All in the Details

I have a customer to whom I have given the title 'The Queen of Detail'. Whilst most people come to me and ask me to make a thank you card for their driving instructor and I am left to come up with something good, this lovely lady briefs me in detail. And I mean DETAIL!
On this occasion my customer wanted a thank you card for her driving teacher.  She asked for a side picture of a brown car, with the oval sign on the side of the car advertising her teacher's name and number. The sign also needed to show a handicapped sign as he teaches both abled and non-abled people. The triangular learner driver sign used here in Israel had to be on the car roof too.  At the front window she asked me to show her teacher sitting, smiling and looking at us, with an arm leaning on the window ledge.  Apparently he has blue eyes, a pepper grey beard and hair, and wears his sunglasses perched on top of his head.  And, oh yes, he has a small diamond stud in his ear!
The greeting on the front of the card says, in Hebrew, 'Thank you from all of my heart'. Simple!
My customer ended her e-mail by asking me to let her know if I needed other details!
So, what do you think? Did I get it right? Did I remember everything? Funnily enough, even though my customer had essentially designed the card in her head, I still think that the end result has a touch of 'Handmade in Israel' about it. She was very happy with it. "I love the card!" she wrote, "Another great production!". Her teacher loved it too.