Sunday, 26 February 2017

100 Years

A customer asked me for a 100th birthday card. I have made a handful of them before, and even one for a lady who reached the grand old age of 102, but they are always very special to make. I mean, what an age to reach!
My birthday is in May. Each year my Dad kindly tells me to treat myself to something nice. I have often used it as an opportunity to splash out on something arty that I wouldn't necessarily just buy for myself. This year it took me quite some time to choose that special something, but when this incredible "Beating heart love machine" popped up on my Facebook feed, I knew I'd found my birthday present!
Jane Ryan, who works under the name 'OPI', studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art and moved to West Cornwall in 1988. Her studio is in a disused cowshed which she describes as "heaven in the summer and bleak in the winter". Jane's mechanical toys for grown-ups use a lot of reclaimed wood, and all the pieces are one-off, no two are the same. Recurrent themes over the years reflect her seaside home, gardening and food.
I am absolutely thrilled with my whimsical piece. It is beautifully carved and painted, and a real pleasure to hold and play with. Thanks Jane, and of course, thanks Dad!
Mister Handmade in Israel and I were recently doing some tidying up in our back garden when this little European robin flew down to watch us. The male and female bear similar plumage, so I am not too sure if this is a he or a she robin. Apparently a small minority, usually female, migrate south during the winter, and some decide that Israel has enough to offer them to stay here, so my guess is that it's a "she"! I think she's lovely!
Lastly, it really has been a long time since I posted pictures of my cooking here but not long ago I took part in an Indian cooking workshop which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was inspired to make samosas the following day. They were filled with potato, peas, green chili and delicious, tangy spices, and though they took me positively ages to make, the flaky, freshly fried samosas were wolfed down by my family. I was rather proud of my efforts.

* This post has been shared on Saturday's Critters, I'd Rather B Birdin', Saturday Shuffle at Strawberry Butterscotch, Saturday Sparks @Pieced Pastimes, Sweet Inspiration, Sunday Pleasure, Sundays at HomeSeasonsHappiness is Homemade, Inspiration Monday, The Art of Home-Making MondaysAmaze Me Monday, Monday's Musings, Monday Morning Blog ClubThe Good. The Random. The Fun.Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) and Make it Pretty Monday.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Givat Barfilia

We had heavy rain last week, but today the skies are almost as blue as they appear in these photos. I actually took them a few months ago when I visited a local beauty spot, but never got round to blogging about this interesting place. Time to put it right!
Givat Barfilia, or the Barfilia Hill, is located between developed neighbourhoods and land zoned for construction in the city of Modi'in. It is a point of attraction for people interested in wildlife and plant life, in nature hikes close to home, and is also a great place to learn about Israel's history, from ancient times to the War of Independence.
The hill is located northwest of Modi'in and rises to an elevation of some 230 metres, offering impressive 360 degree views of the landscape. In the past, there was an Arab village on the hill also named Barfilia. The hill contains remains of ancient settlements – agricultural facilities, cisterns, wine presses, burial caves, stone fences, and more. However, archaeological excavations have yet to be carried out on the hill, leaving much to be discovered.
According to Crusader-era maps, the ancient name of the hill was Porphyria. The name derives from the Latin word "purpura" meaning "purple". In ancient times, the nearby city of Lod and the area surrounding it was a centre of fabric dyeing. It is possible that the various forms of the hill's name preserve a memory of this ancient industry in the area.
Barfilia Hill was settled during the Crusader period, and apparently even beforehand. An ancient road passed north of the hill and is marked on a number of ancient maps under various names.
By 1948, the Arab village of Barfilia numbered 850 people. During the War of Independence, the ancient road mentioned above was used by armoured vehicles of the Jordanian Arab Legion on their way to attack the forces of the Yiftach Brigade at nearby Gimzo. During "Operation Danny", an Israeli military offensive launched to relieve Jerusalem and remove the threat to Tel Aviv, Barfilia was subsequently captured by the Yiftach Brigade.
Ziva Arbel was the brigade's communications officer who stayed at the command post in Barfilia during the war. Arbel had made aliyah (the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel) from Turkey on her own as Ziva Halevi, joined the Palmach elite fighting forces and became a communications officer in the third battalion of the Yiftach Brigade. In 1948 she was famously photographed leaning on a pine tree, lost in thought. She was wearing short khaki shorts, her head wrapped in an Arab keffiyeh, with a pistol on her belt, and a white bandage on her forehead. A few days later Arbel was photographed again, this time while she was sipping water from a clay jug while resting in the village of Barfilia. The photograph became the inspiration for the Israeli poet Avraham Halfi's Hakad ("The Jug"), sung by Shoshana Damari, who was known as the "Queen of Hebrew Music", and later by Shlomo Artzi.
In her book, "The Girl with the Gun", Ziva Arbel wrote about Barfilia Hill: "... and on the outskirts of the city there was a deep cistern with wonderful water, cool and clear. And this was the cistern that provided our drinking water..."
Photo credit: Wikiwand
Barfilia Hill is home to many species including mountain gazelles, foxes, jackals, and porcupines. Various species of snakes, lizards such as chameleons and bridled skink can be found there, as well as dozens of bird species including kestrel and a large array of songbirds.
In the past, there was extensive European bee-eater (shrakrakim) activity at the foot of the hill, on one of its walls currently facing the road. This wall - a low limestone cliff - was named the "Bee-eaters' Wall" because it was full of holes where this migratory bird nested. The wall was sadly abandoned by the birds due to the construction of a road and the placement of streetlights, but their places have been taken by other bird species that use the holes for nesting and shelter, such the little owl (kos hachorvot).
Plant life on the hill includes asparagus, Silver nailroot, wild carrot, Carmel bee-orchid, Blush centaury-thistle, Coolatai grass, and more. The hill also features beautiful orchard trees that attest to past settlement on the hill. These include carob, pomegranate, fig, almond, olive, sabra (prickly pear), Christ’s thorn jujube, Mediterranean medlar, and Mediterranean buckthorn

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


Mister Handmade in Israel likes my papercuts. For Valentine's Day I created this hand cut card with lots of curves on it. I decided to test myself and move away from my more usual block lettering (though aesthetically I do rather prefer block). I also decided to use an orange paper inlay instead of the more predictable red. It made the red heart stand out a little more.
He loved the card. Oh, and the Cadbury chocolate I gave him too.
Now, Mister Handmade in Israel didn't forget Valentine's Day. Oh no! Apparently he searched high and low for a suitable card but couldn't find one (to be fair to him, he does work in a particularly Orthodox Jewish area of Jerusalem where, I am pretty sure, they are not big on marking Saint Valentine). He decided to make his own card.
Whilst the kids decided that he had indeed got our hairstyles down to a tee, I honestly think that he had better stick to his day job. He got it just right with the flowers though...

Sunday, 12 February 2017

A Scientist Turns 70

This gentleman, a scientist, recently celebrated his 70th birthday. He is always travelling for his work in prenatal diagnosis, his wife told me, but otherwise he can be found sitting at his computer all day, calculator in hand. His hobby is genealogy.
After great discussion with his wife about the colour of his beard (light brownish with grey), I created a card showing the birthday boy sitting at his computer, which has a foetus showing on the screen. I was careful not to show a cute baby - his wife pointed out that he is not at all interested in babies! He has his calculator in his hand. A small family tree illustrates his interest in genealogy (the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history), and above that, a plane represents his constant travel.
The gentleman's wife seemed thrilled with the card and couldn't wait to tell me his reaction to it. "[He] loved it !!!!!!" she wrote on the day of his birthday. "Thanks so much."
Roey is a Manchester United supporter. For his birthday card I cut out a red shirt and added his name in Hebrew letters. The number 12 shows his age. This was a small card, so I finished it off simply with the Manchester United club crest and a football. The club crest shows a ship in full sail and a red devil, which stems from the club's nickname "The Red Devils".
The Hebrew greeting on the card says "To Our Dear Son Roey, Happy Birthday".
This card, below, was made for a special niece who was turning 20. Her auntie requested a card with the themes of Amsterdam and the religious satire musical, The Book of Mormon. I prettified the card with a few hand cut "Tulips from Amsterdam".

Monday, 6 February 2017


Eden's Mum asked me to make a card for her daughter's birthday. She sent me a list of all the themes for this year's card. Driving lessons, hoop earrings, eye makeup by Urban Decay and fancy makeup brushes were mentioned, and Eden's hair should be shown worn in ponytail she said. Eden was turning 17, so I was asked to show her age too.
For those of you who may not know what the blue box is on the card, it is an Israeli L-plate. The plate shares the general design of Israeli information signs in its square form and blue background. On the blue background is a white triangle pointing upwards, with the black Hebrew letter "ל" in it, from the Hebrew למידה‎ - "Learning".
Another customer asked me for some smaller cards. The one for Skye, above, should have a makeup theme, her Grandma said, whilst for the others I was simply asked to create "something pretty". The tulip design, below, is an old favourite that I still enjoy making from time to time.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Field of Narcissus Flowers

Sadeh HaNarkisim, the Field of Narcissus Flowers, is a field north of Tel Aviv, in the Glilot Junction area, one of Israel's busiest traffic arteries. It is one of Israel's largest wild narcissus, or daffodil, fields, and attracts local nature lovers, especially in early winter, when the plants begin to bloom. I first heard about this particular field a couple of years ago but it was not the right time of the year to visit. Recently Mister Handmade in Israel and I ventured out to see the blooming daffodils, though my partner in crime wasn't wearing the right shoes (early winter is also the start of the rainy season and therefore it was quite muddy!) and he ended up staying in the car whilst I went off to explore!
The daffodil field is in an agricultural area, one of the last remaining ones in urban Gush Dan. Besides daffodils, the field contains another 220 species of flora and fauna. Between February and April you can see anemones, Iris palaestina, purple irises, gladioli and other spring flowers. If you are lucky you might also see a hare rushing to a hiding place, or a porcupine, the largest rodent in Asia. Chrozophora tinctoriaa plant species native to the Mediterranean that is in endanger of extinction, also grows there. It produced the blue-purple colourant turnsole used in medieval illuminated manuscripts and was also used as a food colourant.
Daffodils have special cultural significance in many cultures. In Greek mythology the flower is seen as a symbol of vanity, while in China it is considered a symbol of wealth and good fortune.
According to mythology, Narcissus was a hunter who was known for his beauty. He was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was conceited and despised those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behaviour and one day drew Narcissus to a lake, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was only an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died. In that place the narcissus flower grew.
Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and ones physical appearance.
Now imagine that this field of narcissus flowers has vanished. The area is designated for construction, though a detailed plan has not yet been approved. The Israel Antiquities Authority has excavated in the area in order to ensure construction does not destroy any archaeological sites there. However, instead of green fields, daffodils, and animals, how terrible would it be to see only concrete, cars, soot and buildings?
"The area in Glilot, where a new neighbourhood is designated to be built, contains relics of the old Tel Baruch Samaritan burial site," the Antiquities Authority said. "Past digs revealed burial systems, mosaics and agricultural facilities."
The daffodil population in Israel has suffered in the past from drought and also from over-picking. Today it is a protected flower, one of the nicest and most common in Israel. It would be so sad to see this field, Israel's second largest wild daffodil field, disappear.

* This post has been shared on Creative Mondays, The Good. The Random. The Fun., Monday Mellow Yellows, Our World TuesdayPictorial Tuesday, Tuesdays with a Twist, Travel TuesdayWow Us Wednesdays, Wednesday around the WorldOutdoor Wednesday, Wanderful Wednesday and Floral Bliss