Wednesday, 28 January 2015


The Anemone coronaria is a flower native to the Mediterranean region which grows wild all over Israel during the winter months. They look like poppies but are actually related to buttercups. Mister Handmade in Israel and I were planning a weekend away with our boys and I quickly realised that it was the perfect time to see these anemones, or Kalaniyot as they are known in Hebrew, in bloom. We could stop and enjoy them on our way down south. Though we have visited "The Red South" before, none of us had been to the Shokeda Forest, the place to see Israel's national flower at its best.
The Shokeda Forest is a eucalyptus forest located east of Moshav Shokeda in the Western Negev region (the southern part of Israel, near the Gaza strip). Every year, during the winter months, it becomes completely covered with magnificent anemone blossom, creating an amazing and colourful bright red carpet, reminiscent of the tulip fields of Holland. Though Kalaniyot can be found across Israel, the flowers in the north are red and white, but in the South, the Kalaniyot are only red. This is thought to be because the southern Kalaniyot are "less spoilt" and can survive the harsher desert climate.
"The Red South" has not always been red. More than a decade ago, The Jewish National Fund realised that the introduction of sheep herds throughout the Western Negev could clear the grounds of underbrush, which dries out in the summer and becomes dangerous kindling for wildfires. The newly introduced grazing sheep had an unintended side effect: by removing the underbrush, the Kalaniyot bloomed with force, transforming the desert fields into a carpet of brilliant red, stretching as far as the eye can see. Sheep, apparently, don’t like Kalaniyot, leaving them alone to multiply with force.
The word Kalanit comes from the Hebrew word "Kala" which means "bride". The Kalanit earned its name because of its beauty and majesty, much like a bride on her wedding day. During the British Mandate period, British soldiers were nicknamed "Kalaniyot" due to the bright red colour of their berets. The Arabic name is "Shaqa'iq An-Nu'man", which translates literally as the wounds, or "pieces", of Nu'man. There is likely an ancient linguistic connection between the words "Nu'man" and "Nummo" (mythological ancestral spirits).
This year is the tenth year of the traditional "Darom Adom" ("Southern Red") festival. This special festival, which celebrates the beauty of the anemones and the changing Israeli seasons, will be held over 4 weekends, from 29th January to 21st February 2015. Visitors are invited to participate in tours of the flowering areas, as well as many other family-orientated activities. There are some really great things to see and do, especially if the weather holds out (it typically does, but it is February, so there is a reasonable chance of rain). It does get busy though! Having seen the crowds last year at Be'eri, I am rather glad that we got to see the stunning red anemones before the rush!

Sunday, 25 January 2015


The very first blog post that I wrote about my youngest son was when he was celebrating his sixth birthday. Back then he was into all things scary, and was dressed as Dracula on his birthday card. Now he's twelve and he really wants a dog. His interests - and my style - have evolved over the years, but also much remains the same. He was once into Tae Kwon Do, now he practises Krav Maga. He's always been a voracious reader and books have featured on almost all of his birthday cards, along with pencils and drawing materials, and recently Nerf bullets too. This year's card also featured many of those items.
I have shown my son hugging a cute dog. We don't actually have a dog, so this one was not modelled on any dog that we know. It's just a dog. He doesn't care anymore what type of dog we get. HE JUST WANTS A DOG! Behind him is his new MGP Pro Scooter. This scooter is going to enable him to do all kinds of acrobatic scooters moves. Apparently. A pile of books had to feature on the card, as did the obligatory pencils and Nerf bullets as well. Gadi is dressed in his blue Krav Maga trousers and white t-shirt. He is barefoot, as he is when he practises Krav Maga, but then he is almost always barefoot anyway. Brrrr!
Some time ago I developed an interest in papercutting and my creative son enjoys it too. We often look at papercutting websites together and he once spotted this Watership Down papercut and asked whether I could make him one. Now, I know that there are huge copyright issues here, but this is a cut I made just for him, for his bedroom wall, okay? He was very pleased with it. It seems that not only do I now make all the members of my family a special card and cake for their birthdays, but they also want a papercut picture to add to their collection too!
Happy Birthday to my crazy, creative, stubborn, lovable and scary six twelve year old! I am pleased that you enjoyed the trifle and cupcakes I made for your big day. In fact, I think it is fair to say that the rest of the family enjoyed them too!
We got up to something really exciting to mark my son's special day. Just wait till you read about it in a future blog post...

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


The customer who commissioned these papercut pictures as Bat Mitzvah gifts came back to me for another one, this time in Hebrew. The list of the young lady's favourite things on this occasion included dogs, dolphins (she has been swimming with them), the British pop boy band One Direction, and Playmobil. She is also a fan of multicoloured sprinkles (or Hundreds and Thousands, as I knew them back in the UK) on top of cupcakes and ice cream, and she likes Zumba and drama. Busy girl!
I have shown Ashira Miryam, her name in English, doing Zumba. She is wearing a yellow shirt, since my customer told me that her favourite colours are yellow and orange, and has her hair tied up in a ponytail, her usual style. Ashira is surrounded by all of her favourite things. A dog is there, as well as a dolphin, a sprinkle-covered cupcake and the One Direction logo. The two masks represent her love of drama, and the teeny tiny Playmobil person, well I am not going to tell you how long it took me to cut that out!
This papercut picture was made to fit an IKEA RIBBA frame If you too would like to order one, unframed, as a very personalised and unique gift, please click here.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Tilly and Maisie

Before Christmas I received an enquiry at my Etsy shop about my Kids Treasure Boxes. The prospective customer wondered if I could customise two boxes for her little girls, Tilly and Maisie. Now I haven't made any of these boxes for quite some time, for no other reason than I got out of the habit, but I knew that there was room for some customisation. My customer wanted me to make the little girl on each box look like her daughters, and also asked if I could add their names to the boxes too.
Of course I could!
I soon learnt that one of my customer's young daughters has dark hair and the other is blond. I asked if the girls have a favourite colour and was told that Tilly's should not to be pink - purple, red and orange were preferred - whilst Maisie's could be more girlie.
The boxes were a delight to make and they reminded how my papercut art can be applied to an object to great effect. I sprayed the boxes with an acrylic sealer to ensure that everything remains in position for a long time, though I already know that the boxes that I made for my boys when they were very young are still in perfect condition.
If you know a young person who would like their very own treasure box, take a look here. I have boxes in various shapes and sizes, and they can be customised to suit both boys and girls.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Proudly Serving in the IDF

The events of last summer reminded those of us here in Israel how much our army is needed. To maintain that army, from the age of 18 every Israeli male and female is required to serve three and two years, respectively, of compulsory military service. Many of our friends' children whom we have watched grow up are now proudly serving in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), and these last few weeks saw two more of them enter national service.
Gabi's parents asked me to create a Good Luck card for him, showing him in his olive green uniform and with a gun in his hands. The Hebrew letters צ.ה.ל, which stand for Tzva Hahagana LeYisra'el (literally "the Army of Defence for Israel") can be seen behind him. His black leather boots, which most IDF soldiers are issued (some units issue reddish-brown leather boots for historical reasons) are next to him. Each corps in the Israel Defence Forces has a beret of a different colour. The soldiers only wear them on their heads on formal occasions, such as ceremonies and roll calls. Usually the beret is placed beneath the left shoulder strap while wearing the service uniform, though it is not worn while wearing the combat/work uniform in the field. Gabi's green beret can be seen on his left shoulder.
Karin, below, also recently went in to the army. Israel is the one of only a few countries in the world, along with Norway and Eritrea, with a mandatory military service requirement for women. Women have taken part in Israel’s military before and since the founding of the state in 1948, and Karin's Grandma told me that Karin too was keen to play her part. I have shown her with a pale green beret on her card - Grandma thought that was the colour she was going to wear - and with some boots and her army military dog tag next to her. The badge of the Israel Defence Forces is to her left, whilst the flag of Israel is flying on her right. The Tzahal (צה״ל) Hebrew letters appear below her.
This large card was going to be signed by all of her extended family, but Grandma also wanted a second card just from her. For this smaller card I carefully cut out the words "Good Luck" and popped them on to a background of camouflage, a fabric often used in the military.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Painting Placemats

During the Chanukah break the youngest son and I went to a workshop at Kakadu. It's something that I have wanted to do for some time and it just worked out that the two of us were home and looking for a fun activity to do together.
I have written about Kakadu before. Founded in 1990 by Aharon and Reut Shahar, Kakadu is an Israeli company which creates handmade wooden art accessories for the home. Each Kakadu creation is painted by hand with a distinctive art motif and coated with a protective lacquer. The Kakadu gallery, in Moshav Tzafririm in the Elah Valley, contains a selection of Kakadu products including wooden wall hangings, art-based fashion, jewellery, and furniture. The gallery also hosts changing exhibits, music seminars, classes on nature and Jewish heritage, and workshops, like the one my son and I attended.
Reut Shahar runs the Kakadu workshops. After introducing herself and telling our group all about Kakadu and how she got started, Reut explained how she believes that everyone is a born artist and has the ability to produce a unique piece without any great expertise. She encouraged us to just enjoy the experience of painting and have fun!
It was time to enter the workshop and create a Kakadu masterpiece of our own. We could choose from placemats, door plaques, coasters, Hamsas and even large table runners. My son and I decided to start with placemats. Maybe we'll go back and create a big table runner now that we have some experience!
Now, my son and I draw in very different ways. I always like to plan out my work and make a preliminary sketch. He jumps right in and is less afraid of making mistakes. (Granted he is also quick to throw something away if it isn't "working".) Well, Reut was keen for us to just pick up a marker and simply start drawing. It didn't come naturally to me, but soon I was drawing leaves, flowers and a couple of little birds.
My son did a rather brilliant job of his mat. He explained to me that the four boxes in the top left corner depict the four seasons:  the butterfly represents Spring, the flash of lightning Winter, the red and white fire represents Summer, and the swirling leaves are for Autumn. I particularly like the two faces on his placemat too. They are so full of character. Kakadu is known for its bright colours and whimsical imagery. I think my son picked up on that and created his own unique piece in the most perfect way.
Once we had finished drawing and painting, Reut and her son were on hand, ready to “finish off” any pieces that people wanted help with. Neither my son or I wanted that. We had completed our work and were able to walk away with a beautiful piece of art in the Kakadu style, with a little bit of "Handmade in Israel" and "Master Handmade in Israel" mixed in.
I just know that we'll be going back.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Bat Mitzvah Beauties

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fun time. New Year's Eve is not a big holiday here in Israel, specifically because the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) actually falls in autumn, a few months previously. However, as a family we didn't let it go unnoticed. The youngest son invited friends over to watch a film and eat popcorn. The eldest went out. Mister Handmade in Israel read a book, and I watched the Downton Abbey Christmas Special Rock 'n' roll, heh?
For my first post of 2015 I have some papercut pictures to show you. Two young ladies recently celebrated their Bat Mitzvah and I was commissioned to create a papercut picture for each of them. The pictures were then framed and given as a very personalised and unique gift.
My customer told me that the first young lady, Miriam Alice, likes teddies and elephants (her own toy elephant is faded pink in colour and rather old). She loves shopping and plays netball. Her favourite colour is purple.
Carmelle, below, likes fashion and makeup. She is a keen baker, and also loves art, and playing the video game series, The Sims. Her current favourite colour is bright pink. I have shown her with a tray of chocolate chip cookies in one hand, and some pencils and a paintbrush in the other. Some cool clothes and makeup surround her, as well as a copy of her favourite Sims game.
My customer sent me an email saying that "the girls loved the gifts."
These papercut pictures make a great Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah or birthday gift. If you too would like to order one, unframed, please click here.