Thursday, 30 April 2015

Ben & Perry's

A new customer requested a birthday card for "Grampa Ben". He is an architect and, I am told, a bit narcoleptic. He can apparently fix anything that needs doing around the house, and also travels a great deal, from Toronto to his grandchildren in New Jersey and Palo Alto in the United States, and Ra'anana, Israel.
I have shown Grampa Ben with some architectural drawings rolled up in his arms. He has a hammer in his other hand, and yellow hard hat and some nails and tools nearby. The flags of Canada, the United States and Israel, along with an aeroplane, represent his busy travel schedule. Grampa Ben always wears a small black kippa, oh, and he might just be about to have a little snooze too... 
Savta Perry (Savta is the Hebrew word for Grandma) loves skiing and is a patron of the ballet. She was due to travel to Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) for her birthday.
I have shown her in a red snowsuit (the photo I was sent of Savta Perry showed her in an elegant red dress, so I figured she likes the colour red!), against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. In her hands she holds a pair of skis and also some pink ballet shoes. Once again an aeroplane appears on the card, along with the flags of the two countries she was visiting.
I am delighted to say that my customer, a first-time buyer, left me some wonderful feedback in my Etsy shop. "Absolutely uncanny resemblance!!!" she wrote. "Thanks for such super personalised cards and very quick service."

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The First Lego League

A bunch of kids in my city recently took part in a FIRST LEGO League national robotics competition. They finished in third place, earning themselves an invitation to represent Israel in a world tournament in South Africa in May. Before the competition one of the parents asked me to make a thank you card for the team's mentors. On the front of the card she wanted me to include a yellow LEGO trophy, the logo of the Kipa Bots 992 team, as well as their school's logo, Amit Modi'in Boys. I created paper portraits of the team's mentors, and used an overall colour scheme of blue and white, matching the colours of the team t-shirt. The Hebrew greeting says "Yossi and Sigal, you are first place."
The team's research project focused on ways to make the physical classroom environment more suitable for learning with the use of new technology and layout of the classroom. The classroom they designed will be built next year in their own school here in Modi'in. They spent countless hours working on their project, all this time learning about technology, science, conducting research, and team management. I wish them lots of luck in the world tournament next month.
Another customer asked me to create a 60th birthday card for, ahem, an "old bugger". In this case she was using the humorous or affectionate British slang term for a man or child: a silly old bugger; a friendly little bugger. The gentleman who was celebrating his birthday is a doctor. He plays the saxophone, clarinet and guitar, and also enjoys walking and cycling. I have shown him in his white lab coat, with a stethoscope around his neck. He is playing his saxophone, whilst the guitar and clarinet are nearby. His bike is in the background too. What a multitalented chap he seems to be... even if he is an old bugger!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hof Habonim

Our favourite day out over Passover was the day we drove north to the Hof Habonim Nature Reserve, just south of Haifa. Israel's coastline is generally straight, without many bays or coves. The exception is Habonim Beach, or Hof Habonim, where the eolianite rocks ("kurkar" in Hebrew and Arabic) have created an indented, rugged coastline characterised by circular bays, sandstone ridges (Hof Habonim is one of the last places along the coast of Israel where you can get a view of these sandstone ridges, which are fast disappearing), and soft white sand. The reserve includes a 4.5 km long stretch of coastline, from Tel Dor in the south to Moshav Habonim in the north, and is now one of my favourite Israeli Mediterranean coast beaches.
The reserve has two main routes that are marked in the leaflets given out at the entrance. The beginning point of the route is marked in red. After passing through various places, the path splits into a red and green route. Since we only had one car with us on the day we visited, we had to take the circular route, the green route, which led us back to the car park, while continuing along the red route would have taken us south to Tel Dor. This route is around 4.5 km in length and takes about 4 hours of slow walking. As it happens, our shorter route took us about 2.5 hours, with many stops to collect shells, colourful sea glass and paddle in the shallow waters.
The trail first climbs the rocks overlooking the coast, and goes in and out of little coves. Our first stop was at a cove literally covered in seashells and surrounded by kurkar rock jutting into the sea. We really didn't know what to look at first - the mountains of seashells, the beautiful blue sea, or the unusual kurkar rocky plates, which have been abraded over the years by the waves until they became levelled down and flat. A few of the abrasion plates form "islands" near the shore. The view of the waves endlessly covering and uncovering these rocky plates was mesmerising.
After a short distance we got to an old kurkar quarry, below, which once supplied "kurkar" stone (an amalgamation of sandstone and seashells) to neighbouring villages. The rock was taken out in an ingenious way: dry wooden planks were hammered into the rock, then they used to wet it with water, causing the wood to expand and push the kurkar rock apart. Further along, from the top of the ridge, we saw ruins of a ship that was shipwrecked.
Along the route we saw some beautiful flowers, which were more abundant as we moved inland from the coastline swept by the salty wind. The bright red poppies and the vivid yellow Spring Groundsel reminded us that summer is on its way. Towards the end of the route we stopped by a well and were delighted to see a family of turtles sunbathing on a rock and happily swimming in the murky water.
We had seen everything on our hike that our family enjoys -  the sea, soft white sand, shells, flowers and some wildlife too! Hof Habonim is one of the most unique beaches along the coast of Israel and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful. Hiking along the nature reserve was particularly enjoyable and a wonderful way to spend a Passover holiday day.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Cooking Ladies

I was so flattered when Bren's daughter-in-law, herself a talented artist and a friend of mine, asked me to create a special birthday card for her mother-in-law. Bren, she told me, loves baking cakes. She also enjoys watching the television and using the computer, oh, and she drinks a lot of tea! I learnt that her favourite kind is South Africa's top-selling tea Five Roses, so popped a box of the aforementioned brand on to the card, next to the teapot.
Bren was absolutely delighted to receive her special birthday card. I am fortunate enough to often receive wonderful messages of thanks from my customers - which I also did in this case - but in addition I received the following email from the birthday girl herself, all the way from South Africa:
"Dear Lisa,
What a wonderful surprise I got when I opened my letterbox on Friday to find the card from S. and B.
I could not believe how accurate your interpretation of myself was.  I was thrilled with the card and have shown it to my family and friends here in Cape Town.  There were happy smiles all over.
Best wishes,
12 year old Talya also loves to bake. She recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah and my customer requested a card on the themes of arts and crafts, and baking.  Talya also loves the colours purple and pink, so I made sure that there was plenty of those colours on her card.
I know that Talya loved the card because, once again, not only did my customer tell me how thrilled she was when she saw it, but Talya and her Mum - whom I met for the first time at a recent celebration of our mutual friend - let me know too!
Now I probably don't bake or cook to the level of either of these ladies, but I want to share with you a yummy recipe that I made recently which I think others should try. Spicy eggplant in garlic sauce popped up on my Facebook feed recently and so I hopped over to the "From The Grapevine" website to check out the recipe. Described as a "Chinese-inspired dish [that] will wow your guests" this recipe was a little more fiddly than the ones I usually try, but was so worth it! The eggplant dish was sweet and sour, chili-hot and full of garlic. It was perfect served warm over a bed of white rice and so, so delicious. If Oriental recipes are your thing, give it a go.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Jordy and Daniel

We had a lovely Passover break. We went hiking, met with friends visiting from the UK, and went to see the absolutely delightful "Paddington" at the cinema. We definitely did less than previous years, but the boys are getting older and have their own plans. Our one family day out together, hiking along the coast in northern Israel, was just wonderful. I will organise the photos to show you in another post. In the meantime, here are a couple more customised cards made for some recent birthdays.
Sweet little Jordy was turning two. Her auntie told me that she loves wearing fairy dresses and in fact sent me a photo of the birthday girl wearing this pink and green dress that had once belonged to her big sister. Jordy also enjoys playing with building blocks, and loves the Australian television show Playschool and the Australian children's music group The Wiggles. A few flowers to match the fairy dress, and a big red number 2 finished the card off nicely. 

Daniel was celebrating his ninth birthday. Last year I showed him as a young scientist, with a white coat and test tubes in his pockets. This year Mum revealed that he enjoys basketball, playing the piano, and creating shapes and figures from origami, some of which I integrated into the design of his birthday card. Mum also asked me to show him wearing his favourite grey cap. She later told me that Daniel "loved his card".

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Doves and Daffodils

Chag HaMatzot, the "Festival of Unleavened Bread" in English, or simply Passover, begins on Friday. I have slowly been preparing for the festival, which probably requires more work than any other festival in the Jewish calendar. Preparations for Passover require us to rid our homes of chametz (the Hebrew term for "leavened bread"), to remind us that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise. Some time in the next couple of days I will pack away all our kitchen utensils and bring out ones that we only use during Passover. It is an exhausting job preparing for this particular festival but soon it will all be done and I will be able to relax and enjoy the seven day holiday and all the activity that comes with it. The fun really begins on the intermediate days of the holiday, Chol HaMoed (the non-holy part of the festival when we are permitted to do many activities but should still try to avoid work), and I look forward to showing you photos of some of the fabulous places that we plan to visit during this enjoyable week.
My Passover cards show a Dove of Peace with an olive branch in its beak, hovering near a Star of David placed on a background of Matza (unleavened bread). The festival of Passover commemorates the Jews' exodus from Egypt more than 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people’s freedom and independence. The Torah (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—the first five books of the Bible) describes a story in which a dove was released by Noah after the Great Flood in order to find land. The dove came back carrying an olive branch in its beak, telling Noah that the Great Flood had receded and there was land once again for Man (Genesis 8:11). This story has led to the dove and the olive branch becoming symbols of peace or a peace offering from one man to another, as in the phrase "extend an olive branch". The white dove on my card thus symbolises peace and freedom.
Whilst Jewish people here in Israel and worldwide are busy preparing for Passover, Easter is also approaching. It wouldn't be Easter without some "daffs" (as my flower arranger Mum used to call the sunny, yellow daffodil), and I enjoyed cutting these lovely flowers for my Easter cards.
I would like to wish those of you celebrating Easter a bright and happy holiday, and a "Chag kasher v'same'ach" (חג כשר ושמח) (a happy and kosher Passover) to my Jewish family and friends.

* This post has been shared on Exploring World Religions Linkup.