Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Best of 2015

1. Yonatan  2. 51  3. Jonny  4. A Second Bar Mitzvah  5. Savta  6. Brendan  7. Happy 17th Anniversary  8. Jordy  9. Something to Treasure  10. Leaving on a Jet Plane

Whilst the Jewish people worldwide have already celebrated Chanukah (you can read more about the festival here) and have returned to normal routine, tomorrow many of you will be celebrating Christmas. Happy holidays to you all and best wishes from Israel! Thank you for all the support you have given me and my blogging adventure through another year. I hope you will continue to visit in 2016 as I share the coming year's papercut designs and a few of my adventures in Israel.
As is common at this time of the year, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of my favourite creations of 2015. I have made customised cards, albums and pictures for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, new babies and more. Have you spotted your card or album amongst this collection? I have also visited some pretty interesting places too, which I have shared with you as an occasional travel post. I have enjoyed composing each and every one of my posts, and appreciate every comment and email that I receive. Please do keep visiting!

1. Ore's Album  2. Ashira  3. Libi's Album  4. Zara's Album  5. Calum's Album  6. Miriam Alice 7. Eliana's Album  8. Ariel  9. Aron's Album 10. Micah's Album

Don't forget that you can subscribe to my blog, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Oh, and please pop by my shop now and then to see what is new there.
Wishing you a wonderful, happy and colourful Christmas and New Year, and an exciting start to 2016!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Zara's Album

Zara celebrated her Batmitzvah last month. Her auntie asked me to create an album for her celebration. Zara's interests, she told me, include cooking - especially sushi, guacamole and pancakes, though obviously not all together - shopping, Sami the cat and animals in general. She likes drawing, decorating lockers at her school, her iPhone, and doing things to make others happy. Cooking, her auntie agreed, could be the main focus of the album cover. 
I decided to show Zara sitting at a table with some chopsticks and sushi in one hand. There is sushi, guacamole, and a plate of pancakes on the table, along with some pencils and her yellow iPhone 5c. Sami the cat is next to her, whilst behind her are some shopping bags. The colour scheme for her Batmitzvah party was hot pink and white, so I included those colours as much as I could on the cover of the album too. A Magen David (Star of David) in two corners added a Jewish element to the design.
I decorated several of the pages inside the album too. Sami the cat made an appearance once again, followed by some shopping bags, then a plate of sushi. Yum! I included her iPhone again, then devoted a page to her passion for locker decorating. Apparently she uses glitter paper, duct tape, felt and mirrors on her locker designs. Plastic bins, hooks and pen holders are added too. It was a little hard to illustrate her hobby. I hope that Zara realised what the grey locker door and the green shiny mirror represented! Some pots of pencils and spotted tape completed the "locker design" page.
My customer, Zara's auntie, wrote to tell me that the album was very well received by Zara and was put to use immediately. They used it at the party to stick in the photos from the photo booth.
What a great way to use one of my albums!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Itri Ruins

I have often been asked over the years why I do so much running around with the kids. Why do I use each school holiday to take them to places of interest, museums and on hikes? Why not just stay home and relax? Well, apart from the fact that I learnt from my Mum that all the running around is only a good thing and is eventually acknowledged as worthwhile, this Chanukah break taught me that the window of opportunity is only short. The kids have gone back to school today after almost a week at home and we have done very little this holiday. My eldest, now in his mid-teens, had homework and revision to do. The youngest came out with us one day, but turned his nose up when I suggested a biking trip to Hurvat Itri, also known as the Itri ruins, because apparently we are too slow! Mister Handmade in Israel and I went anyway. We probably were quite slow, but we had a lovely time!
We hired bikes from TrailHead in Moshav Tzafririm, near Bet Shemesh and, acknowledging that we are indeed beginners and yes, pretty slow, we looked at a map of the area and chose an easy route to the Itri ruins and back. It was perfect.
The Itri ruins are the remains of a Second Temple village which was inhabited by Jews for about 800 years. The site is located within the Adulam Park, in the Judean Hills, and derives its name from the ancient Jewish village of Kfar Atra. The Judean Hills were first settled by the Israelite tribe of Judah during the 12th century B.C.E., and then became densely populated by the Jewish people between the 1st century B.C.E. to the 1st century C.E. The village of Atra was a rural Jewish settlement and was at its largest just before it was destroyed by the Romans in 69 C.E. The Jewish people returned and rebuilt their village but then came a second revolt, also known as the Bar Kochba Revolt, which lasted from 132-135 C.E. In the end the Jewish population was beaten and their villages and towns were destroyed.
The Itri ruins, located on a hilltop, were excavated in 2000-2001 by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. The site was recognized as Kfar Atra when an ostracon was found with the inscription 'Atra'. This was probably used as a sort of agricultural receipt. Pottery and coins from the time period of the big rebellion were also found at the site, as well as earthenware candles with Jewish designs and much more. The ruins include embossed burial caves, mikvaot or Jewish ritual baths, a large public building which may have functioned as a synagogue or as a meeting place, a wine press and an oil press. It has been documented that bone remains of 15 people which were buried together with their belongings were found in these ruins. At least one of them was headless because of a sword swing.
We left our bikes at the bottom of the hill and walked up to the ruins, where we walked around between the rocky walls, and enjoyed the view overlooking the valley and hills. The route to the ruins, all on covered roads, had proved ideal for us. It was relatively easy cycling, winding between some gentle hills and fields, but mainly on the flat. After a packed lunch and a walk around, we returned to the main path and literally whizzed down the hill, back to Moshav Tzafririm. That bit was really fun!
We ended our visit at the nearby Adulam Farm, which we had spotted en route. There we treated ourselves to delicious sachlav (sahlab in Arabic), a thick milk-based drink traditionally made with orchid tubers, which is the quintessential warm winter drink of the region. Sitting in the winter sunshine, we enjoyed our drinks sprinkled with cinnamon, crushed walnuts and dried coconut.
The kids missed out big time!

Sunday, 6 December 2015


These two young ladies both celebrated their 18th birthday on the same date, albeit on different sides of the world! Both of their Mums asked me to create a special birthday card for their big day. For the first card, Ella's, her Mum told me that their dogs Benjie and Rolo are at the are top of her list of interests and simply had to feature on the card. Her other interests include cake baking and decorating (I have seen some of her cakes and they are fab!), the English Premier League football club West Ham United, Facebook, and frogs. Ella is also passionate about the IDF (Israel Defence Forces), so I added their emblem to the card too, along with a big red number 18.
"Ella was thrilled with her card." Mum told me. "Her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she  saw her[self] with Benjie and Rolo."

Tali is very interested in Buddhism, so a little Golden Buddha was added to her card. She loves Brandy Melville and Top Shop clothing, and wears lots of jewellery, especially necklaces and rings. She enjoys photography and filmmaking, has a blue Fiat car, loves sushi, oh and the family has a tabby cat too.
I added a big gold 18 to her card, which showed wavy-haired Tali wearing lots of jewellery, surrounded by all of her favourite things in life. Her Mum wrote on my Facebook page that Tali loved her card.
Finally, Galia was turning 21. Her Mum requested a card with a huge 21 in the middle. She also wanted it to be birthday themed, so a big cake, balloons, and a wine glass fitted the bill.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Cowboys and Teapots

A new customer in the USA wrote and told me about some friends of hers who were planning to renew their vows after raising three wonderful children, successful careers and grandchildren. She was looking for a special card to mark the occasion.
The renewal was to follow Orthodox Jewish tradition, but my customer wondered whether the "groom" could be shown wearing a black cowboy hat (his trademark when not formal) rather than a kippa (skullcap), and the "bride" could have flowers in her hair. She attached recent photos of the couple for accuracy. I suggested adding a chuppah, the canopy beneath which Jewish marriage ceremonies are performed, to carry on the wedding theme and, when I heard that the couple's daughter had lived and gone to school in Israel for a time, suggested that the card open the Hebrew way too. "Might as well be authentic" my customer said, so I wrote the greeting in Hebrew as well!
The "renewal" turned out to be an actual Orthodox wedding, so it was definitely worth adding all the extra details. I showed the groom with his black cowboy hat and a brown cowboy vest. The bride has flowers in her hair and a simple white dress. I was careful to get the shape of the groom's moustache right and to add his wired rim glasses.
"It is darling. I know they will love it!" my customer wrote. "Thank you for getting it off to me so quickly."

This couple, good friends of ours, were celebrating 20 years of marriage. My friend asked me to create a special card for her husband. The 20th anniversary is the "china" anniversary and emeralds are the gemstone gift for that year. I doubt very much that the couple exchanged emeralds on their big day (I could be wrong!), but I did manage to include the colour on their anniversary card, along with a "china" teapot, cups and saucers. The flags on the card represent the countries where they were born and the country where they now live. I added a couple of hearts for good measure.
"I forgot to tell you how beautiful the anniversary card you made [is]" the husband wrote. "Thank you... [We have] another work of art to add to our collection."

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Ilanot National Arboretum

The Ilanot National Arboretum (Ilanot is the Hebrew word for trees) was founded in 1950 by the newly established State of Israel to study which species of trees would flourish here. The information was later applied in afforestation projects all over Israel. Major studies were done at Ilanot, among others in seed collection and tree pests. The arboretum occupied the site for over thirty years but was closed by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1986. It fell into neglect, becoming overgrown with weeds, and some of the trees died because they did not suit the climate and soil conditions, or withered from lack of care.
Fortunately, in 2013 the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) decided to restore this little forest, transforming it into a spot where tree buffs could spend days, but also as a park for the general public as well. Trees have been planted, including some of the original species that died, and explanatory signs, many with a QR Code that leads you to a webpage with information about the tree, have been prepared. Today you can find more than 750 species of trees here, local and exotic, among them over 100 different eucalyptus species.
The trees are arranged in a grove with twenty-five sections, in accordance with the geographical regions from which they were collected. We saw the Japanese Sago Palm, a relic of the ancient plant world, a variety of eucalyptus trees, an Australian conifer, a Chilean Mesquite tree, an American cypress and others. A labyrinth is a new attraction in the arboretum, formed with concentric circles of two kinds of shrubs, Blue Kuni-rhus and Crepe Myrtle. Both of these species are easy to shape and therefore suitable for labyrinths. Across from the labyrinth is the Casuarina Circle, very tall She-oak trees creating a circle and a very special atmosphere eight metres high. A little further along the paved trail, across a wooden bridge over a dried-up stream, are two beautiful specimens of cork oak, below. The oak's wonderful bark is the source for corks that are used in bottling wine.
The 130-dunam area has wheelchair-accessible pathways running through it, picnic tables, and benches where visitors can rest and enjoy the trees. A tour through the arboretum is a fabulous experience for nature lovers and a great place to get to know exotic and amazing-looking trees from foreign lands.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A History Buff and a Bottle of Beer

This gentleman recently turned 40. His wife told me that he is a great Zionist, enjoys going to the gym, and is a bit of a World War II buff as well. On his birthday card I have shown him working out with hand weights. A blue and white Israeli flag, and the badge of Tzahal, the Israeli Defence Forces, are proudly displayed on both sides of him. I also added a history book, with the cover showing the Normandy landings, apparently his area of expertise. A big '40' completes the design.
Below, Mike's favourite beer is Hobgoblin, a brown ale brewed in Oxfordshire, England. His wife asked me to show him holding the aforementioned bottle of beer on his birthday card. She also requested a birthday theme, so balloons, bunting, and of course cake were added.

Friday, 13 November 2015


I've always made birthday cards for my kids. One day, when I get round to it, I intend to line them up and photograph them all together. The first birthday card for my eldest son, that was shown here on my blog, was made for his 8th birthday. Back then he was mad about football, but couldn't decide where his allegiance lay. These days he knows for sure. Arsenal are always his first concern, though he is keen for me to shout out the results from the latest Hull City A.F.C. game when I know them. Arsenal's crest had to appear on his 15th birthday card. He's also very involved in the NOAM youth movement at the moment. (NOAM is an acronym for No'ar Masorti, Masorti Youth, a Zionist youth movement.) He is a madrich (youth-group leader) for the local group. On his birthday card I have shown him in his green club shirt, with the movement's tree logo on the pocket and the white cord which displays his rank.
Of course with birthdays comes cake, and this one was quickly polished off. 15 year old boys can sure eat a lot of cake.

This young lady also turned 15. Both she and her Mum are keen netball players.  I have previously illustrated her Mum in a netball bib and I decided to show the birthday girl wearing the same red bib, this time with the letters GA (Goal Attack) on it. She has a white netball in her hand. She is also, like my son, a youth-group leader at NOAM, so I popped the aforementioned movement's logo onto the card, along with a little photo of the cast of Grey's Anatomy, the American medical drama which is one of her current favourites.