Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Lior's Album

Lior is a very special young man who is very into cars. Fast cars. Other hobbies include biking, his iPod and Bono the dog, but basically he loves cars. The colour scheme of Lior's Bar Mitzvah celebration was red, black and white and his Mum was keen for me to tie the album in with that. I also suggested showing Lior in his tefillin (a pair of black leather boxes containing Hebrew parchment scrolls) to keep with the Bar Mitzvah theme.
I have shown Lior with Bono. He is wearing his tefillin on his left arm and on his head. (If you are right-handed you should wear tefillin on the bicep of your left arm as the mitzvah, or commandment, to wear tefillin is meant to strengthen you.) If you look closely you can see Lior's iPod tucked into his t-shirt pocket. In the background there is a red Porsche and his bike.
Lior's parents were keen for me to include the car design from his Bar Mitzvah invitation somewhere in the album. I decided to use it on each decorated page, along with a few more paper illustrations of his various interests and hobbies. The first page (top) once again shows his black and gold bike and his red helmet. Then, clockwise from top left, a shiny red Porsche, Bono the dog, a kippa and a tallit, which some Jewish men begin to wear from the age of Bar Mitzvah. And finally, a closer look at the tefillin.
The Hebrew wording on the cover says "Bar Mitzvah" and the Hebrew month and year of the ceremony. (The Hebrew lunar calendar is set differently than the solar calendar and is used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances.)
Don't forget, if you would like to order a customised album / guest book for your own celebration, you can do so right here.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Dig for a Day

As my boys get older it is getting harder and harder to find activities which keep everyone in the family happy. Some things are deemed "too babyish", whilst others are "boring." Not long ago we did a Dig for a Day at Beit Guvrin and we all had a terrific time!
Beit Guvrin - Maresha National Park is a vast archaeological site in central Israel encompassing the ruins of Maresha, one of the important towns of Judah during the time of the First Temple, and Beit Guvrin, an important town in the Roman era, when it was known as Eleutheropolis. The park is full of impressive caves and complex underground mazes. Some of the caves are natural, the result of water eroding the soft limestone surface, whilst others are thought to be the result of quarrying. The chalk quarried out of the caves was cut into building materials, whilst the hollow space left behind was used for water cisterns, warehouses and as burial caves. Archaeological artifacts unearthed at Beit Guvrin include a large Jewish cemetery, a Roman-Byzantine amphitheatre, a Byzantine church, public baths, mosaics and burial caves.
Our "dig" was at Tel Maresha, just one part of the national park. The tel was first excavated by British archaeologists on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1900. The majority of the artifacts they discovered there are to be found today in the Museum of Archaeology in Istanbul. Our group didn't discover any museum quality pieces the day we dug, but we enjoyed our experience all the same!
We climbed down a wooden staircase into our allocated cave and, after a short explanation about the area and the caves, we were given tools. It was time to get to work! Soon we started finding animal bones, bits of pottery and charcoal. The youngest son was excited to find a large tooth. These caves were the homes of residents of the area over 2000 years ago and we were discovering the remains of their meals, their kitchenware and parts of their home.
Afterwards, the stronger among us carried the rubble we had unearthed back up the stairs for sifting. We found a few more small pieces of pottery.
The next part of our archaeological experience was an exciting crawl through an unexcavated cave system. This isn't for the claustrophobic or physically challenged, but the kids had a blast climbing through the low openings and into the candlelit caves, and yes, I found it pretty exciting too!
Our Dig for a Day experience ended with stories about the artifacts and other incredible items found at the National Park. All the pieces we had discovered during our dig were of course handed over to be analysed by the Israel Antiquities Authority but as a cute touch the kids (and Mum!) were allowed to take pieces of pottery from a huge pile that had already been looked over.
Our dig had been a rewarding and fun experience for the whole family and one that I am sure we will talk about for some time to come. The youngest son in particular was fascinated and wants to go back to dig some more!

Monday, 20 January 2014


This year is the year of the Nerf Gun. I can't say that I love my youngest son's fascination with weapons but, hey, that's what he's currently into, so that's what went on his birthday card! He was supposed to get the said gun from his lovely Aunts and Uncles in the UK but some not-so-lovely person has seemingly stolen it in the mail. That caused a certain amount of disappointment, no less on my part, but... back to the birthday card! 
I have shown my now eleven year old with his new Nerf in hand. The little blue and orange darts, above, are scattered around him and there is a big pile of books, also scattered around, in the background. My son is still a huge reader (see his previous cards here, here and here) and I am very grateful for it. I am not so grateful for the way he treats his books. Unfortunately he does leave them in great piles all around our home, just like I have shown them on his card.
My creative son is also wonderful at drawing. A favourite recent picture was of a Komondor dog - or as he calls it, "The Mop" - whose long, corded coat he drew in great detail. A little Photoshop editing meant that I could add his actual drawing to the card. It is placed on top of the pile of paper in the foreground. A couple of pencils are lying around too.
Have I made it clear that my boy is quite untidy? He is really smart, creative, a little crazy and, yes, chaotic, but we love him all the more for it!
The birthday cake is an integral part of our birthday celebrations. I'd seen the Kit Kat and Smarties cake all over Pinterest. Unfortunately that quantity of imported Kit Kats and Smarties would require me to take out a new mortgage on our home, so I had to get creative. Ladyfingers and Adashim, Israel's not-so-tasty version of the Smarties, provided a good solution and the cake was a great, if very sweet, success!
It's just a pity about that Nerf gun...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Three Birthdays and a Funeral

A customer asked me for a card for her soon-to-be 17 year old niece. She was starting driving lessons, so a car with an L-plate was requested. The cute little red car was my choice.
This young man was celebrating his 6th birthday. His Great-Aunt didn't have any special requests but I have enough experience with boys to know that they like monsters and all things silly! I popped a little party hat on the monster's head and added a few balloons to give the card a birthday theme.
This card was a request for a lady who is a big letter writer and was soon going to be celebrating her 80th birthday. I love that she still writes letters. We all know how exciting it is to find a letter in our mailboxes, to open the envelope and read what's inside. I decorated her card with some writing paper and envelopes, and added some tiny Israeli stamps too.
Sadly not all cards are for happy occasions. I was recently asked to prepare a sympathy card for a customer who needed to send her commiserations to friends abroad. I opted for a simple design with a white Calla Lily on it. My dear Mum was a florist and I learnt from her that the Calla Lily, as well as being used in wedding bouquets as a sign of purity, is also often used at funerals as a symbol of peace. Interestingly I also read that they are used at funerals because they are long lasting. Back in the Victorian era and the early 1900's, funerals were often held in the deceased's home, or a relatives home. Warm weather meant that flowers wouldn't last long but, since Calla Lilies are tropical flowers and don't need the cold to survive as cut flowers, they were a good choice.
I hope that the card brought some comfort in the mourners time of need.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Ro'i's Album

Happy New Year! I hope that your 2014 is starting out well.
Ro'i celebrated his Bar Mitzvah last month and his Mum, a regular customer and a dear friend of mine, wanted an album for him. If you look closely you will see that I squeezed his album into my "Best of 2013", even though I had not yet written about it. It was definitely one of my favourite albums of last year.
Ro'i's Bar Mitzvah celebration was held on Shabbat (the Sabbath), straight after the ceremony in the synagogue, and according to Jewish law writing is forbidden on that day. Therefore his Mum filled the album with emailed messages from all his family and friends beforehand and it was laid out on a table for all to see at the celebration.
Ro'i's main hobby is camping. I have shown him with his backpack and sleeping bag on his back. He has tefillin (phylacteries) on his left arm and on his head, and he is wearing a kippah (skullcap) too. His new LG2 phone is in his other hand. Though Ro'i usually sleeps under the stars when he goes off with his youth group, the family's tent is grey. You can see it in the background, surrounded by a few trees.
The album opens the Hebrew way, from right to left, and on the first page I added a green Egged bus (Egged is one of the largest bus companies in Israel) because apparently he loves riding the buses and knows all the schedules well! He usually takes the number 14 bus and if you look closely enough you will see that I added the correct number to this teeny tiny bus. I am not going to admit how long it took me to create it!
Ro'i also loves riding his bike. His Mum sent me a photo of it so that I could match it as accurately as possible. I added a grey helmet as well. Another page shows a little basketball and basket, and the next has his laptop with his Facebook page loaded on it, along with his new phone. Since he was a very young boy Ro'i has been interested in space, so the last page was devoted to the planets and stars. A little telescope can be seen in the foreground.
On each page I added a blue and gold striped tallit (the Jewish prayer shawl) and two were added to the cover too. Traditionally some boys begin wearing the tallit for the daily prayers from the age of Bar Mitzvah, whilst others wait till after marriage.
The tallit is a garment Jewish men wear during prayer. Tallit is an Aramaic word from the root tll / טלל meaning 'to cover over'. By wrapping yourself in the tallit, or by covering your head with it, it is believed that the intention and direction of your prayers can be enhanced.
Roi's Mum was thrilled when she received the album and has told me many times since how much she loves it. "I'm speechless!" she wrote. "It's so special and clever. I feel so lucky that I ordered this! I love every detail! I want to look at it again and again!".
One happy customer and one very happy designer.