Monday, 27 October 2014

Love, Brotherhood, Peace and Companionship

My family and I belong to a wonderful synagogue called Achva. (Achva is a Hebrew word which means friendship, brotherhood and unity.) Truth be told, my husband is the regular synagogue-goer. I prefer to spend the occasional Shabbat morning in my pyjamas and not rush out of the house, but I am very fond of the people in our synagogue community and we have made some good friends there. One of these friends, Michal, recently stepped down from her position as synagogue "chairperson". I use the inverted commas because she was never comfortable with that title, even though that's what she was! I digress. The members of the synagogue wanted to present her with a special gift at a recent get-together, as a way of thanking her for all her hard work over the years, and I was approached with a request to create a papercut with a particular pasuk, or verse, on it. 
The verse requested was "אהבה ואחווה ושלום ורעות", "Love and brotherhood and peace and companionship." This verse, or blessing, comes from the Sheva Brachot, "the Seven Blessings". The wedding blessings in Jewish law are blessings that are recited for a bride and groom under the chuppah, the canopy beneath which Jewish marriage ceremonies are performed. This blessing is part of the seventh blessing and wishes the bride and groom a life of perfect happiness. 
Those of you who read Hebrew will notice that the word אחווה, or Achva, the name of our synagogue, appears in this verse. In fact I made it a little bigger than the rest of the lettering to make it stand out. In addition, Michal is a landscape gardener by profession, so I embellished the piece with flowers to symbolise her work, and pomegranates, a fruit valued in Jewish culture. (Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness because it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of the Torah.) My signature little bird made it on to the papercut too.
Michal seemed delighted with the gift and I was thrilled to see it in pride of place on her lounge wall when we visited her home recently.
This papercut would make a great wedding, anniversary or birthday gift. It is cut entirely by hand from a single sheet of white watercolour paper and is 16x25cm in size. If you would like to order one, unframed, please click here.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Adi and Gabi

Adi and Gabi receive birthday cards made by me every year. Their Mum says that my cards have become an essential part of the family's birthday celebrations. Their sister gets them too, and Mum and Dad order for each other! Each year Mum's requests get more and more complicated, but I like the challenge. This year was no different.
Both young men recently finished school. They will soon be busy with university studies and army conscription (from the age of 18 every Israeli male and female is required to serve three and two years, respectively, of compulsory military service) but in the meantime they have been well occupied.
Adi has become involved with voluntary activities at our local council. His Mum asked me to show him standing outside our local City Hall, along with the Deputy Mayor and the Councillor who holds the volunteers portfolio. I pass this building every day on my way to collecting my kids from school, so am quite familiar with it, but still it took me quite some time to cut out all those little doors and windows and get the shape of the building just right. You can see the real building below.
Image: Modi'in City Hall via ModiinWebSite. 

Gabi has been busy working as a waiter in a fancy new events hall. He has been waiting on tables most evenings and, according to Mum, keeps a sharp eye on the tips that he receives. I have shown him in the black waistcoat and white Grandad collar shirt that he is required to wear on the job. In one hand he is holding aloft a tray with a silver cloche and a bottle of wine on it, and in the other he has a glass with TIPS written on it in Hebrew.
Happy 18th birthday to both young men. They have a very exciting future ahead of them. I wonder what will be going on their birthday cards next year.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Bar BaKfar

We stayed at Bar BaKfar, a delightful B&B in the heart of the beautiful Lower Galilee, back in July, but we went off to the UK not long afterwards and I didn't get round to showing you the pictures here. It was such a gorgeous place, and a wonderful spot to mark Mister Handmade in Israel's 50th birthday, so I still want to show them to you.
Now let me explain. The kids had gone off to their youth group's summer camp, so this was a relaxed, child-free weekend. Always a good thing! For a change I was looking for something really special and perfect for couples (though, having been there, I'd happily take the kids too) and Bar BaKfar was just perfect. The B&B or zimmer, as it is known here in Israel, is located within Moshav Sharona, a moshav with 130 families, some of whom make a living growing livestock or various agricultural crops, and others who work as professionals or in the fields of tourism. The area has long been known as Israel’s "Little Tuscany" due to its green landscape, a number of boutique wineries, and the magnificent views of Mount Tavor.
Arriving at Bar BaKfar we immediately noticed how much care and attention has been given to the place. It has been beautifully planned and decorated, down to the smallest detail, and it was truly a treat to stay there. Our cabin, while not large, was very nice, with an amazing private deck and jacuzzi. The setting was beautiful, green and relaxing. Breakfast was divine and plentiful, with a variety of home baked breads, delicious cheeses and labneh, and a freshly made omelette, cooked each morning according to our wishes. It was as good, if not better, as being in a fancy Tel Aviv restaurant! The swimming pool was utter heaven and we found it very difficult to tear ourselves away from the place to go touring. As an added treat, a small bottle of Bar BaKfar's own "Sarona" wine was waiting for us in our room, along with some tasty tahini biscuits. Bar BaKfar have their own vineyard, producing a first-class Merlot, as well as Limoncello and Pomegranate liqueur and, upon request, we were even given a short tour and explanation of the winery, including a little tasting. Yum!
Now, hard as it was to tear ourselves away, we did indeed explore the area. That first evening we enjoyed a good meal out at the historical Makom B'Sejera (A Place in Sejera), a restaurant which is housed in an old stone building dating back to 1899. It was originally built as an inn for workers and travellers before there were motor vehicles. You can see reminders of that era in the restaurant - wooden cart wheels, farming tools and old photos - including one of David Ben-Gurion, who lived and worked on the settlement for a while in the days before he became prime minister!
The following morning we drove to one of the observation points in the Switzerland Forest, between the village of Poriya and the city of Tiberias, to enjoy the views. The primary purpose of planting the Switzerland Forest was one of rescue. The steep, bare slope was forever a source of trouble for the city of Tiberias – landslides, avalanches and soil erosion harmed the city, and sometimes even cost lives. The blue landscape of the Sea of Galilee and the mountains around it are an added bonus to the forest and the views were simply breathtaking.
Next we stopped off at the Ein Gev promenade. Fishing has been widespread in the Ein Gev Kibbutz almost from the day it was founded, and a leisurely walk along the kibbutz's promenade saw us pass the pier and several tourist boats. Unfortunately there was no sign of any real fishing in sight.
Dinner that evening was Italian-Mediterranean cuisine at the 1910 restaurant in Kibbutz Degania Alef, Israel's first kibbutz. "Degan" is the Hebrew word for grain, which was emblematic of the several grains that the kibbutz cultivated. The restaurant is located in the old courtyard of the kibbutz. The Degania founders learnt from the experience of other agricultural endeavours to build separate dwellings for people and animals, and to construct their buildings in a fort-like configuration for security. The original kibbutz buildings are constructed around a courtyard of local basalt stone, with implements and equipment dating back to the early years scattered around the area. Dinner was excellent!
The owners of Bar BaKfar were happy to give us ideas about what to do in the area and, upon their suggestion, the next day we set off for Mitzpe Shalom, also known as  the "Peace Lookout" or "Peace Vista" in the Southern Golan. The views from the lookout were simply spectacular. We could see the coastline of the entire Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the city of Tiberias, and up in the hills, the city of SafedMount Meron, Kibbutz Kinneret, the Jordan Valley and Mount Tavor were all visible from the panoramic lookout. It was quite a comprehensive view!
We couldn't resist taking the short nature hike down from the lookout point, through bamboo reeds, fig trees and Sabras (Prickly Pears). Steps with railings have been installed to make the short but steep walk downhill a bit easier. We stopped at several springs and a small, square, man-made pool which was originally built by the Syrian army so their sergeants would have a place to refresh themselves. The views were out of this world and though we had planned a weekend of rest, we were very happy to do the short hike.
The drive back saw us pass an interesting sculpture named for Eli Cohen, above, the Israeli spy master who was instrumental in providing intelligence to Israel about Syrian positions in the Golan.
Then it was back to Bar BaKfar for a quick dip in the large swimming pool, with its great views of Mount Tavor and the B&B's own vineyards, before it was time to leave for home.
Mister Handmade in Israel has a few years to go before planning my 50th birthday getaway. I do hope we'll be back at Bar BaKfar before then!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Dear Daughter

A customer had a simple request - something pretty for her daughter. I remembered this card, made for a 'special sister' back in 2011, and decided to come up with something similar. That little bird still makes me smile.
Ma'ayan loves playing netball. Her Mum asked me to make a card for her 12th birthday showing her blonde-haired daughter wearing a red netball bib, with the letters showing her best position (Goal Attack) emblazoned on it.
My niece recently celebrated her 15th birthday. Now, as I have mentioned previously, I always pay great care and attention to custom orders, and can spend a lot of time researching particular subject matters and hobbies, but when it comes to my own family, the card often comes out of my stock! On this occasion I did spend some time on a card. 15-year-olds do like cupcakes, nail polish and lipstick, right?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Noah and Adi

Noah, who lives in Australia, celebrated his Bar Mitzvah back in August. My customer told me that he is a techie and has a Mac computer and an HTC Android phone. Okay, I didn't actually know what the phone description meant, but hey, I'm most definitely not a techie. Noah loves Asian food, and has also travelled several times to China and Hong Kong. Lucky kid! I think I got all of his interests on the card.
Adi is a big Manchester United fan. For his birthday card his Mum asked me to show him wearing the team's latest shirt. The young man wears delightful blue glasses so, between the shirt and those glasses, this card was most definitely made for him.
Adi's Mum also ordered a birthday card from his sisters and brother. Sport was the theme - as well as football, he also likes basketball and cricket - so all of those activities went on to his card.
Don't forget, if you too would like to order a customised card, you can do so right here.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Daphna's Album

Daphna celebrated her Bat Mitzvah back in the summer. Her Mum told me that she loves reading, swimming, bike riding and listening to music on her iPhone. She also enjoys drawing, playing games on her Google nexus 7 tablet, and all the subjects in school. Phew! There was a lot to include on her album.
I decided to show her wearing her pink headphones, listening to music. She has a book in one hand and her iPhone, in its pink case, in the other. There seems to be a lot of pink in Daphna's life! Behind her is a swimming towel and goggles, and her metallic blue bicycle, and in the front, some drawing materials and her tablet.
The colours Daphna chose for her Bat Mitzvah celebration were pink and black. I included those colours on her book as much as possible. Several pages were decorated inside the book as well. From the top you can see the drawing-themed page, then a page with books piled high. A page showing Daphna swimming came next, then you can see the metallic blue bike again and, finally, Daphna's nexus 7 and the iPhone which she likes to listen to music on. 
Daphna's Mum emailed to say that she loved the book and that she was very happy with it!
Don't forget, if you would like to order a customised album / guest book for your own celebration, you can do so right here.