Sunday, 31 March 2019

60th Wedding Anniversary

A photographer friend of mine sent me a beautiful shot of her parents hiking in the Austrian Alps in August 2018, above. It was soon to be their 60th wedding anniversary, the diamond anniversary, she told me. She wanted to know if I could create a special card based on the photo.
I recreated the picture out of paper, taking great care over the tiny details of their backpacks, hats and sunglasses.
My friend told me that her parents loved the card.
Friends of ours were celebrating their silver wedding anniversary, 25 years. I cut out a large silver number 25 and placed it on a scalloped circle, then decorated the card with flowers and a bow.
We recently celebrated the holiday of Purim. Purim, which literally means "lots", is a holiday commemorating the rescue of Jews living in the ancient Persian Empire from certain destruction at the hands of Haman, an evil nobleman. I have previously written about the history of the holiday here and here.
On Purim Jews are also commanded to send gifts of food and drink, referred to as the 'sending out portions' or in Hebrew, Mishloach Manot. A common treat to be included in these food baskets are 'Haman's pockets', sometimes called Hamantashen or Oznei Haman. These triangular chocolate or fruit-filled cookies supposedly represent either Haman's three-cornered hat or his ears. Their formation varies from hard pastry to soft doughy casings. Mine were soft, crumbly and, if I may say so, rather delicious!
If you would like to bake some yourself, the recipe is here.

Sunday, 24 March 2019


I've posted photos of spring flowers here many times before. I love this time of the year and often head outside with my camera. You can read more about the various places  where I have taken  photos here and here. But this post isn't actually about flowers (my photos of flowers are far prettier than what I am going to write about). This post is a rather personal post about my life over the last few months. I haven't mentioned it here till now, but the last few months have been rather tough ones. You see, apart from making my handmade cards and albums, I have also been dealing with breast cancer.
Towards the end of October last year I went for my annual mammogram. Official Israeli policy for early detection of breast cancer recommends that every woman between the ages of 50 and 74 be tested at least once every two years. I am not yet 50 but was already going for regular check ups, having chosen to do so a number of years earlier. My grannie had breast cancer at the age of 44, though she lived to a grand old age, so I was cautious but never particularly worried about the test.
I wasn't even that worried when my doctor suggested I go back a week later for a biopsy. She thought she might have seen something during the ultrasound, but not to worry about it. I was so unconcerned that I met a friend for coffee after my Jerusalem based appointment and we chatted about everything but what the doctor had just told me!
One week later I was back there again for a very uncomfortable hour-long biopsy. And one week after that, on my eldest son's 18th birthday, they called me back in once again, this time to tell me that I had breast cancer.
I went home and baked him a birthday cake.
I have discovered that the Israeli medical system provides wonderful care. A date was set just three weeks later for a lumpectomy. However, arranging all the appointments and filling in the paperwork in the meantime was a nightmare! We visited so many different hospitals for the various tests and scans I needed to do pre-op, made so many phone calls, and answered so many questions over and over again. I am grateful that Mister Handmade in Israel and I can both speak Hebrew, can navigate the web and can drive. I cannot imagine what those few weeks would have been like without those skills.
At the end of November I had a lumpectomy. I recovered very quickly and very soon went back to photographing flowers and creating. I even managed to fit in a couple of wonderful exhibitions, including the marvelous David Rubinger one at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, though I do acknowledge that most people wouldn't have pushed themselves quite as hard as I did to get there! The weeks that followed involved physiotherapy on my arm, needed because I had a lymph node removed, and still more phone calls to arrange the next stage of treatment, radiotherapy.

I finished radiotherapy a couple of weeks ago. There isn't a hospital in the relatively new city where I live, so that meant I needed to go to Tel Aviv every day for quite some weeks. It wasn't a fun time! Whilst my friends were amazing and arranged a timetable so that most days someone was able to drive me and keep me company, I found the treatment itself very cold and impersonal. Of course I was fortunate that my cancer had been found early, had not spread and therefore, for those and other reasons, I did not need chemotherapy. However, as horrible as chemotherapy is, I gather that great care is taken of you and someone is with you all of the time.
My radiation experience was quite different. I was given a time to arrive, waited, often for quite some time, in a large waiting room until my number was called, then it was in and out. No time for any small talk, no time to see how I felt, no time to check I was comfortable. The staff just wanted to keep things moving.
I was very glad when it was over.

And that's where I am today. I dealt with some rather horrible radiation burns and was sore, but I am cancer-free and hope to stay that way! I am grateful that I was organised enough to go for regular check ups, and appreciate the early detection and the overall good medical care that I received.
We recently marked the first day of spring and will soon put the clocks ahead one hour and watch as nature comes out of hibernation. During the cold, wet winter, I often find it hard to believe that trees will ever get their leaves back or that flowers will ever bloom again, but sure enough, every year they do and, as you have seen from my photos, they do it in a magnificent way! Spring is also a time for personal change, rejuvenation and new ideas. For my part I am looking forward to a few nice days out that don't involve hospital appointments, some new creative projects and some interesting orders. Can't wait to hear from you soon!

Monday, 18 March 2019

Daniel's Album

My Bar Mitzvah albums have become a tradition with this young man's family. I have made albums for his older brothers, Ro'i and Yonatan, and hope that I will also one day make them for his younger brothers as well (yes, that's five boys in the family!).
Daniel chose what he wanted on the cover of his album. He wanted to see himself playing the ukulele, with a bonfire in the background. Mum added that he always wears camouflage patterned short sleeve T-shirts. She liked the tefillin (phylacteries) that I had given his brothers, and wanted me to show Daniel wearing them as well (Jewish men start wearing tefillin just before their Bar Mitzvah).
So I showed spiky-haired Daniel playing the ukulele. There is a small campfire behind him. Daniel is wearing a camouflage T-shirt and he is wearing tefillin on his head, on his left arm, and the straps are hanging down over his shirt. (Tefillin consist of two leather boxes with parchment with biblical passages inside. The first one goes on your arm, the second on your head. A right-handed person, which Daniel is, places tefillin on the left arm).
The navy blue background box matched the colour scheme of the Bar Mitzvah celebration. Daniel's name appears in Hebrew in gold lettering at the top, the words Bar Mitzvah and the date of the Bar Mitzvah celebration are written below.
Black and white tallitim also appear in two corners of the album cover. The tallit is the large sheet-like fringed prayer shawl worn during the morning prayers. Tallit is an Aramaic word from the root tll / טלל meaning 'to cover over'. By wrapping yourself in the tallit, or by covering your head with it, it is believed that the intention and direction of your prayers can be enhanced.
The album opens the Hebrew way, from right to left, and on each page I once again added a black and white striped tallit. Then, on the first page I added a paper version of all the musical instruments Daniel plays - a piano, a guitar, a harmonica and a melodica. I won't let on how long it took me to create those teeny-tiny instruments! Next came his beloved camouflage hat and, yup, his camouflage tefillin carry case. A page dedicated to Daniel's favourite Avengers superheroes followed. Once again, the list was a long one. I included Spiderman, the Hulk, Superman, Captain America and Iron Man. The Avengers logo features prominently in the centre.
Daniel likes to cook with a wok. I created a little paper wok for another page of his album and added curly noodles, chopped vegetables and some chopsticks.
Finally, on the last page, I showed Daniel's sleeping bag and walking shoes that he takes with him on Sayarut, or "Green Horizons", as it is known in English. Sayarut offers hiking, navigation, camping and nature activities for youth aged 10-18 in Israel. The organization was founded in 1974 by friends of Uri Maimon, a passionate hiker and charismatic leader of youth projects who fell in the Yom Kippur War.
It seems that Daniel and his mum were both delighted with the album. "We are speechless!" she wrote to me. "It's everything we talked about! It looks just like him! You nailed it! We all LOVE it! Daniel loves it!"
I also made Daniel a card to congratulate him on his Bar Mitzvah. It shows a tallit prayer shawl, a kippa (skullcap) and a Sefer Torah (a long scroll containing the entire text of the Five Books of Moses: the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). I made sure to include the camouflage pattern that he is so fond of as well.