Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Avigayil's Album

I am happy to often receive wonderful feedback from my customers and sometimes the comments I am given really give me a boost and make me smile for the rest of the day! The comments I received from the family who ordered this guest book - yes, the Bat Mitzvah girl herself, Mum AND Dad - made me positively beam! "It is stunning and I love it!" the young lady wrote in a note to me. It doesn't get better than that, does it?
I have know Avigayil since she was a little girl, and have watched her grow in to a beautiful young lady. I am of course always happy to receive orders for my Bar and Bat Mitzvah books, but they are extra nice to create when I know the young people so well.
Avigayil's Mum told me that gymnastics plays a big part in her daughter's life at the moment. She is an avid reader and is also very into arts and crafts. She has just got her own cellphone too and it was asked that I include that in my cover design.
Since the family are friends of mine, I was delighted to receive an invitation to the Bat Mitzvah celebrations. Avigayil's invitation had a funky design of purple, lilac and turquoise dots and swirls on it, so I picked up on that and added a few of the same coloured dots to the book's cover.
Inside the book I embellished five of the pages with yet more of my designs. The first page, above, showed Avigayil wearing her fancy blue gymnastics top - as she is on the cover - and the black leggings that are part of her gym wear. The air mattress and springboard that she uses are nearby.
Below, clockwise from top right, you can see the page devoted to her passion for arts and crafts, and the page which featured her favourite Harry Potter book, along with a wand and the Harry Potter logo. Next I showed her very own Facebook page open on the computer and popped her Motorola phone in there too, and finally, I added yet more books - Avigayil really is a serious reader. All the pages are decorated with the same coloured dots picked up from the invitation.
The Hebrew writing on the cover says Avigayil's name, the words 'Bat Mitzvah' and the date of her celebration. She had already pasted some lovely photos in to the book by the time it was taken to her party, and I was happy to see many of her friends writing lovely messages in it too.
I hope she continues to be thrilled with her Bat Mitzvah book and that it will remind her of a very happy occasion for many years to come!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Collection of Cacti

Quite some time ago I read about the Regev Cactus Nursery at Moshav Beit Elazari, a moshav in central Israel located three miles south of the city of Rehovot. My Dad is pretty green-fingered and keeps quite a collection of cacti in his home, so I knew that it was a place that I simply had to take him to on his next visit.
The Regev Nursery houses a collection of some 5,000 different types of cacti, plus many different kinds of trees, shrubs, roses, indoor and outdoor plants. The fish ponds, a beautiful Japanese garden, and a menagerie of birds and some sweet little jumping squirrels kept the kids entertained and happy.
According to the owner of  the nursery, the cactus collection is 50 years old and is the biggest in Israel. This seems entirely believable when you walk into the vast space of the nursery and see row after row of new plants, older, established ones and the nursery's private collection of positively ancient cacti which are there for us to see and enjoy, but not to purchase.
My Dad closely studied practically every plant, whilst the kids enjoyed the overall picture. They were keen to purchase their own cacti to keep on their desks and I can report that, one month later, they are still doing okay. I guess it's hard to kill a cactus!
The nursery recommends a visit in March, April and May, to see the cacti flowering in full swing. The visitors centre is open 7 days a week and you can arrange guided tours for a small fee, including explanations of the cacti, bonsai trees and the Japanese garden. We had our own expert with us in Dad and he did a fine job as our own personal guide.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Double Digits

We're done with the single digits in our house. Our youngest son turned 10 a few days ago and what a day he had! It started early with presents and cake, and of course a special card from Mum. He's always been a big reader. You can see here, here and here that books have often appeared on his birthday cards. Well, this year I decided to show him surrounded by his books. He leaves them all around the house you see and will often simply start reading a book if there happens to be one near to where he is sitting. It drives me a little crazy!
He has paper and pencils in front of him too. He loves drawing and, like the books, often has a few pictures on the go at the same time. Yes, it all gets a bit chaotic, and yes, he's very untidy, but I guess that's the, ahem, creative part of him showing through!
My youngest is always dressed for the summer. He is one of those people who is always warm, even when I am freezing cold. He insists on wearing a t-shirt when it is pouring with rain and he removes his socks the minute he gets home, to walk barefooted on our cold tiled floors. Brrr!
His other main interest at the moment is maps. The National Geographic map I have shown on his card is on the wall above his bed. He lies in bed at night, memorising the names and places of all the different countries in the world. Maybe he'll be a great explorer one day?
So, the day started with presents and cake, but the big surprise was yet to come! A couple of years ago we spotted some paragliders when visiting friends in the coastal city of Netanya. My daredevil son wanted to have a go and so I knew exactly what to plan for his big day! The sea air currents were, apparently, not blowing in the right direction and so the paragliding became powered paragliding on a 2-seater ATV (all-terrain vehicle). It didn't matter at all. My adventurous 10 year old was simply thrilled to be flying with his instructor, below. What an exciting birthday he had!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

These are a few of their favourite things

I am delighted to have one order after another coming in at the moment - long may it last - which means that I have a bunch of cards from birthdays passed to show you in this post.
The young man featured above turned 16. His Mum asked me to include the much-loved family dog on the card and she had to be wearing a red collar. Liav, the birthday boy, plays the drums and the electric guitar - I wonder if his dog likes that - and is a big fan of all the Apple products too.
I was asked to give this card a sushi theme as the birthday girl was having a sushi making demonstration with friends for her birthday celebration. Her favourite sushi is from a place called Yo Sushi, so I popped their logo on to the card along with some yummy maki rolls and a spot of spicy wasabi.
Roi, above, is really into hiking and the great outdoors at the moment. His Mum asked me if I could make a card showing him with his backpack -  or rucksack as I know it - and with a sleeping bag and blue mat rolled up and attached to it. I have made birthday cards for Roi for several years now and try and pay attention to the length of his hair. It has gone from short to long, and back again, and at the moment it seems to be something in between. I hope I got it about right!
His Mum, my dear friend, was sweet enough to write and tell me that my cards have become a very important part of her boys' morning parties and that this one was another great success. She even sent me a photo of the birthday boy holding up his card. It makes me very happy to see my cards being enjoyed and appreciated so much.
Since I'm showing you the teenage cards today, here are some Bar and Bat Mitzvah cards I made recently for a customer whose son has a few parties coming up. A Jewish boy becomes Bar Mitzvah upon reaching the age of 13, whilst the girls, who we all know are far more mature, celebrate their Bat Mitzvah at 12. My customer did not want anything overtly religious on the cards but I couldn't resist adding a small Torah scroll to the Bar Mitzvah cards to mark the occasion. During Shabbat services on a Saturday shortly after the Bar Mitzvah boy's 13th birthday, the celebrant is called up to the Torah to recite a blessing over the weekly Torah reading. The scroll seemed the perfect thing to put on the cards.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Opa and Savta

A fellow blogger, whom I met on the Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt, recently wrote and asked me to make a special card for her parents-in-law's 40th wedding anniversary. I explained what information I would need from her to make the customised card and, goodness me, did she send me a lot to work with!
The couple are originally from New York but now live in Jerusalem. Their daughter-in-law told me that Israel is very important to them. Her father-in-law studies Jewish texts and has had a Sefer Torah written in his name. They love to host people in their Jerusalem home, especially on Shabbat and Sukkot, and they have a very big Sukkah for that reason, after years of living in an apartment, and thus no room for a Sukkah, in New York. Lastly, they like to play cards, and games such as Scrabble and Rummikub.
So how did I incorporate all that on the card? Well I crafted a little picture of the couple, Mum wearing a head covering (some Orthodox married women cover their hair) and Dad with a black kippa. A road sign points to New York and Jerusalem, and below that, a little papercut illustration, above, depicts their new hometown of Jerusalem.

and Savta (Grandmother in Hebrew). It seems that they appreciated the card. My customer told me that it was "a hit!"

Friday, 11 January 2013

Herzl House

The sun is not shining today, as it is in these pictures, and because of our current grisly weather we will most certainly not be going out to explore new places for a little while. The good thing about it is that I can play catch-up a bit and show you these pictures of Herzl House in the Hulda Forest which we visited just a few short weeks ago.
Theodor Herzl, the man who envisaged the establishment of a Jewish State, never actually inhabited the delightful stone house from the 1920's found in the forest next to Kibbutz Hulda, even though it bears his name. He was, in fact, never even there!
There is, however, a connection.
In 1909 an agricultural farm named Hulda was established on the plot of land which would soon become known as the Herzl Forest. The forest was planted to commemorate Herzl, who died in 1904. Herzl House, with its two floors, colourful decorated tiles, large windows and green iron shutters, served as the residence for the manager of the farm and later for members of Hulda. Olive trees, fruit trees and shrubs were planted on the farm, and there was a chicken coop, a cowshed and grain fields, making it quite a diversified place.
In 1929 the farm was attacked by Arabs and destroyed. The fighting was fierce but the Jewish settlers defended the settlement from within Herzl House. Eventually a contingent of British forces arrived on the scene to evacuate the settlers. Hulda was resettled again in 1931 but was again attacked several times during the years 1936-1939. The last group of settlers left in 1937 and went on to establish Kibbutz Hulda on a nearby hill, where the land was more suitable for farming.
In the 1948 War of Independence Hulda was the last stop, and a base for supplies, for the convoys of Jewish soldiers on their way to Jerusalem. The large round pool made of concrete opposite the house, below, stored the water that was so desperately needed in Jerusalem after its main water supply was cut off. Water was conducted to the pool from the pipeline that was installed along the Burma Road. There is a remnant of the original pipeline near the pool.
Herzl House was renovated in 1996 and the small museum about the history of Hulda and the Jewish National Fund is run by members of Kibbutz Hulda. The house is surrounded by pine trees, china berry, cypress and pepper trees, sycamores, plums, carobs and dates, and is a delightful place for a picnic... though not on a day like today!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Year, New Babies

Happy New Year! My first post of 2013 and what better way is there to start the year than a post about some new babies! Please excuse the fact that this photo is a little grainy. It is just so dark here at the moment. To say that it is currently ever so grey and wet outside would be an understatement!
Anyway, a good friend of mine had a baby girl in the summer. I knew that she was going to receive lots of girl clothes because she has two boys already so guessed that everyone would go for clothes. I wanted to do something different, so I decided to make my friend one of my customised pictures.
I have shown Tia Shoshana - such pretty names - surrounded by her parents and her two big brothers. Everything is pink - she is going to be really into pink - and I added a couple of little girl items too - a teddy bear, a teeny tiny pink onesie and some butterflies. I included her name in Hebrew in bold pink letters and, as a final touch, had the picture framed in a matching pink frame.
Do you think I've used enough pink?
A customer asked me to make a new baby card for her brother's newborn twin boys. Mum is Scottish and the family is living in Scotland, so my customer wanted to highlight the babies Scottish roots on the card. She suggested the thistle, perhaps the most identifiable symbols of all things Scottish, and then I added the Scottie dog and the tartan stars. Some baby items completed the picture. After all, it was a new baby card!
This little girl was turning 2 and her grandparents wanted to give her a very special birthday card. Being 2 she obviously doesn't have any special hobbies just yet, but her Grandma told me that she loves books, so I made a little pile of them on the front of the card. I added some balloons, flowers, a sparkly wand and a teddy bear. What else do little girls love?