Saturday, 31 May 2014

Ashdod Dunes

It is almost Shavuot, a Jewish holiday which has direct links to Passover. We count 49 days from the second day of Passover and on the 50th day we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. (This period is called the Omer.) So before Shavuot arrives, I think it is probably time for me to finish showing you pictures of our Passover days out. Our visit to the Ashdod sand dunes was not a full day's activity but it was a fun way to end a day which had involved flower picking at Kedma and ice cream consumption at the Ben and Jerry's factory shop in Beer Tuvia.
Sand dunes once made up most of the coastal stretch from Gaza to Caesarea  but most of them are now under apartment blocks, car parks and shopping centres. Big Dune Park on the southeast side of Ashdod is one of Israel's last remaining dunes, reaching 35 metres high and stretching about 250 metres long. The fine sand of the dune made its way to Israel from the Ethiopian mountains via the Nile and the Mediterranean, and accumulated in the park. Sea wind causes the sand to shift in an eastern direction, creating a crescent shaped dune perfect for rolling and climbing, sliding and jumping! Though frankly a little dirty due to the number of visitors to the park, the deep, soft sand was warm under our feet and the adults and kids in our little group enjoyed climbing to the top and launching ourselves down the slope until gravity stopped us at the base. It was almost as fun to watch the ATV's and four-wheel drive vehicles cruise along the ridges and valleys, though it's questionable how good they are for the environment.
Sycamore trees are dotted throughout Big Dune Park, offering shade from the hot sun. The park is also the habitat of native Israeli deer, porcupine, gerbil, jackal, weasel, fox, reptiles, birds and insects, though we didn't catch sight of any on the day we visited. The variegated vegetation of the park - acacia, sycamores, shrubs and flowers - protect and sustain the animals. You can also find fig and pomegranate trees, strawberry, raspberry and palm growing wild in the sandy valleys.
Because of the importance and uniqueness of Big Dune Park and its potential for study, hiking and recreation, Israeli green organisations are working hard to preserve this important piece of Israeli landscape. Local municipalities, as well as the Ministry of Tourism, have all had plans to build on the area - it was even designated for a nuclear power plant until the 1980's - and in addition the remaining sand is being depleted rapidly for use in construction.  Progress has been made to heighten appreciation of the area and today Big Dune Park is firmly established in the public mind and in local and regional plans, though sadly it has yet to receive National Park status.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Hey Girl!

Rebecca's aunt asked me to make her a birthday card with a make-up theme. Apparently her favourite brands are Mac, Bobby Brown and Urban Decay. Now, I am not very into creating "branded" cards (nor am I very knowledgeable about make-up, but that's another story!) so I decided to make some paper lipstick and nail polishes, and then I embellished the card with just a touch of those specific brands. I think it worked.
Shiri was celebrating her Bat Mitzvah and her birthday just a week apart. Her family asked me to make no less that five cards for the occasion! One from Mum and Dad, one from her siblings, one from her Grandma, and then birthday cards from two of them as well! I do hope that Shiri likes my cards! This was my favourite from the collection. The Hebrew reads "To Our Dear Sister Shiri, Best Wishes on the occasion of your Bat Mitzvah."
Aimee Leigh was turning 9. Her Grandma said that she is into dancing. I added a dancer to the card - she looks like a ballerina - and popped on some butterflies and flowers too. It made for a nice girly card.
Not only were these girls all celebrating their birthdays but I was as well! My husband treated me to a beautiful blackbird made by The Cotton Potter, along with an FA Cup runners-up medal, since my football team, Hull City, were playing his team, Arsenal, on my big day. Hull City lost, thus the medal.
Well, he almost got it 100% right.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

A Good Healthy Meal

In this post I am featuring the work of my youngest son because it's paper related and, well, because it's great! My son, who is 11, had a school science project where had to create the menu and then a model of a healthy meal. He took the project very seriously and wrote a great menu with some very sophisticated choices! Most of the kids, as far as I could see, opted for cottage cheese and chopped Israeli salad. All good but not nearly as delicious as my youngest's choices.
He made wholewheat bread with butter and olive oil all from polystyrene and paper. The main course was St. Peters Fish with onions, oregano, almonds and carrots, along with side dishes of brown rice and new potatoes. Dessert was fruit salad and a yoghurt drink. I think he did an amazing job!
Now, of course I helped a little bit. How could I not? But he's a hard taskmaster! Everything had to "look real" and be in proportion. I tried to get him to use the plastic sliced bread from the toy kitchen which we still have in a box somewhere but, no, he wanted to make everything. Okay, so the meal is a little heavy on the bread. I wouldn't suggest eating that much or there wouldn't be any room left for the fish and those beautifully sculpted Plasticine potatoes. But it all looks delicious and is very healthy too.
Fruit salad anyone?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Happy Anniversary x2

Friends of mine both ordered cards for their wedding anniversary, just as they did last year. Fortunately they once again had very different requests and I was able to make them two very different cutomised cards.
The top card was from the husband to his wife. He is a keen Reading Football Club supporter and decided, somewhat cautiously, that is would be fun to show his lovely wife, who is not so interested in football, in his beloved team's shirt. The greeting "To My Champion On Our Anniversary" finished it off beautifully.
I believe his wife humoured him. But only because it was their wedding anniversary.
The wife was somewhat kinder. She asked me to show her husband with a Strauss Bubble Bar, a water bar that dispenses purified water. That was definitely the first time I have received such a request but, given that her husband works for Strauss Water, it kind of made sense. His favourite football team made an appearance once again in the form of a blue and white "Reading" cap. One mustn't forget about the football!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Trash People

One of the most enjoyable things we saw over the Passover holiday was the "Trash People" exhibition at Ariel Sharon Park, just outside Tel Aviv. The exhibition was the work of the German artist H.A. Schult and featured hundreds of human-size figures in what looked like a modern-day take on China’s terracotta warriors. Made from 20 tons of recycled materials, including iron, glass, computer parts, cans and more, the figures were brought to Israel to raise environmental and recycling awareness.
Ariel Sharon Park is built on the Hiriya, what was Israel’s largest landfill site, which has since been transformed into an ecological oasis. After accumulating 25 million tons of waste, the facility was shut down in 1998. Three recycling facilities have been established at the foot of the mountain: a waste separation centre, a green waste facility that produces mulch and a building materials recycling plant.
The name Hiriya, derived from the Arabic word "Kheir", meaning "good," was the name of an Arab village that stood on the site until it was destroyed in the war of 1948. The landfill was established soon after, in 1952.
"Trash People" has been on tour for 18 years and has appeared at some of the world’s most beautiful and significant places including the Alps, the Great Wall of China, Moscow's Red Square, the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt, People’s Square in Shanghai, Rome and more. This was the first time the exhibit had been featured in Israel.
Schult is a controversial artist who uses sustainable materials for all his sculptures. He is apparently best known for dropping tons of trash in Munich's streets in 1969 as part of an art exhibit, and creating a paper river in downtown New York using old issues of the New York Times in 1983.
“We live in the era of trash and we are running the risk of becoming trash ourselves,” he said of the exhibit in a 2011 interview.
While 500 of the figures remain on tour, the other half of the original 1,000 sculptures have been put up for sale. I am very glad I managed to see this incredible exhibition when it was here.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Happy Birthday Balloons

A customer asked me for a 21st birthday card for her nephew. No specific hobbies were mentioned so I decided to recreate this card since I had really enjoyed making it. My customer was very happy with it.
Cards for the guys are always hard when there isn't a theme to work with. For these cards I just went with a general birthday theme. You can't go far wrong with balloons and presents! 
I don't often make the same large card twice but in this case a new customer contacted me after browsing the blog and asked whether I could make this pretty pastel coloured card once again. My cards are never exactly the same but I made sure to add the right number of balloons, in a similar shade, and to pop in a striped party hat and a slice of cake, just like the first time. I hope that the birthday girl liked it.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Tiger, Tiger

I've mentioned my Dad's passion obsession for Hull City A.F.C before. It's his local football team and they've done rather well this season. So well, in fact, that they will soon be meeting Arsenal for their first FA Cup final match at Wembley. Exciting stuff, except for the fact that my husband is a die-hard Arsenal fan and the kids, well they are divided. It's going to be fun in our house on match day!
Dad celebrated his birthday last week and his card simply had to be a Hull City one. Dad's team traditionally plays in black and amber, often with a striped shirt design, hence their nickname The Tigers. I made a tiny striped scarf for his card and added a football and "Dad" in amber letters. He was very pleased with it, though unsurprisingly I wasn't the only person to send him a football themed card. 
Come on you 'Ull!
Another "Dad" also celebrated his birthday recently. This gentleman was turning 70 and his daughter wanted a special card showing him wearing his favourite black baseball cap and with a camera in his hands. George the Whippet had to be shown too and, yes, I was asked to make him a grey/blue colour.
I'm told that "Dad" loved the card. Not sure what George thought of it.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Carmel Caves

We could have stayed longer at Tel Dor but the Carmel caves in the Nahal Me'arot Nature Reserve, just a 15 minute drive up the road, were calling us. I had read about the prehistoric caves, recognized in 2012 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the Love Love Israel Facebook group and, since caves and boys go well together, I decided that it was probably a good place to take my family.
The three excavated caves in the reserve are up a steep flight of stairs, on a fossil reef that was covered by the sea 100 million years ago. The first discoveries of prehistoric remains were made when this area was being scoured for stones to build the Haifa port. In the late 1920's Dorothy Garrod, a British archaeologist, headed the first archaeological expedition, receiving assistance from a British feminist group on the condition that exclusively women carry out the dig. Way to go Dorothy!
In Me’arat HaTanur (the Oven Cave), the first on our route, the strata Garrod's team excavated are clearly marked, spanning about 150,000 years in the life of early humans. Early man used this large natural cave as a shelter, campfire and housing. The cave has no roof and is open to the west side. It resembles a chimney, and was therefore called "Tanur" (Tabun in Arabic). Both Homo sapiens and Neanderthal skeletons have been found in the area, raising the question as to whether they lived side by side.  It is also interesting to note that the soil in the ancient layers of the cave is composed of sand which indicates that the beach line reached to the entrance of the cave in ancient times.Today it is 3.5 kilometres to the west. This was a result of global warming in those years (250,000-150,000 years ago), when the sea level increased significantly following the melting of the icebergs.
A display on the daily life of early man as hunter and food gatherer occupies the bell-shaped Me’arat HaGamal (the Camel Cave).
The last cave we visited, Me’arat HaNahal (the Stream Cave), the largest at 90 metres deep, was actually the first discovered. An audiovisual presentation inside the cave told us a little about the early humans living there. A burial place with 84 skeletons was found just inside the mouth of the cave. A model skeleton outside illustrates burial customs of the Natufian culture, 10,000 years ago (above). The skull is decorated with shells - a common Natufian burial practice. A wall was built as part of the cemetery, an important phase of human construction. The bone artifacts and stone tools discovered in the Nahal cave suggest that people who settled here, about 12,000 years ago, were the forebears of early farmers, with a social structure more developed than that of hunters and gatherers. There is also evidence that the Crusaders once used the cave to guard the coastal road.
Marked trails beginning at the car park lead to some beautiful areas of Mount Carmel. After our visit to the caves we decided on a short trail and crossed the dry stream bed after which the park is named to climb the opposite cliff wall - the "Finger" Cliff. The cliff is made up of fossilized reefs formed some 100 million years ago from carbonate skeletons of marine organisms. The kids skipped up to the top and back down again, well short of the 45 minutes we had been told it would take to climb the "Finger". Mister Handmade in Israel and I were, ahem, somewhat slower, but then I was the one armed with the camera and I of course had to stop and take some shots of the beautiful views. Grandpa, quite sensibly, had opted out completely and was waiting for us at the bottom, ready to buy some Kosher for Passover ice creams to revive us! It was a good idea and a terrific way to end a really lovely day.