Thursday, 25 February 2021

Cheers for 50 years

A customer contacted me with a request for an anniversary card for her parents. They were soon to be celebrating their Golden Wedding (50th) anniversary. She wanted an extra large card that the couple's children could all sign. She sent me a photo of her parents on their wedding day, noting that dad's tie was silver and mum's flowers were pink. I set to work recreating it out of paper.
The 50th wedding anniversary is known as the "golden anniversary". The historic origins of wedding anniversaries date back to the Holy Roman Empire, when husbands crowned their wives with a silver wreath, garland or necklace on their 25th anniversary, and a gold wreath on the 50th.
I created a card with a big gold 50 on it and added a golden background as well. The couple apparently met at UCL (University College London), so I added the university's logo to the card.
My customer told me that she and her siblings loved it!
Around the same time another customer contacted me with a similar request. Her parents were also celebrating 50 years of marriage. She asked me to create a card showing her parents as they are today. They live in Bournemouth, a coastal resort town on the south coast of England, so she wanted a seaside background for the card and sent me the photo she thought I could use.
I created her blonde haired mum and bespectacled dad, adding a big gold number 50 to the card and some gold hearts.
"My parents LOVED their card! Thanks so so much!" their daughter wrote to me, forwarding her mum's delighted message; "I'm overwhelmed at how she captured us so perfectly".


Monday, 22 February 2021

Jane and Mizzie

Jane has been a loyal customer of mine for years, ordering birthday cards for many members of her family. This year I was delighted to receive a request from her daughter for a special card for mum! Her daughter asked me to show her mum working out (Jane is a fitness instructor at 1FitLife) and also wanted me to include a television screen on the card, since a lot of her mum's work is done by Zoom these days. We discussed what other equipment she uses and her daughter mentioned weights, a skipping rope and blue, orange and green kettlebells.
I have shown Jane in the plank position. She is in full gym gear and, as her daughter requested, has her hair in a ponytail. Behind her a big television screen shows one of Jane's actual Zoom classes, whilst the same screen can also be seen on the laptop next to her. I added a green kettlebell and a dumbbell. Finally, we decided to include her age on the card to date it.
Mizzie receives one of my cards on her birthday every year. Last year she had just been on a fabulous holiday to Brazil and I showed her at the Iguaçu Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina. This year her husband asked me to create a card showing her scootering in Tel Aviv.
Electric scooters are the latest mode of transportation to hit the city and are used by locals and tourists alike to get around. There are a variety of electric scooter rental services. Apparently Mizzie likes the yellow Wind scooters. You can pick one up anywhere in the city and ride it as long as needed, calculating the price per minute.

I have shown Mizzie on a Wind scooter. She has her helmet on for safety and of course, during these times of Covid-19, her face mask too. I made sure to copy the outfit she was wearing in the clip her husband sent me. Behind her is the Tel Aviv tayelet (Beach Promenade) where Mizzie was having fun.

JENerally Informed

Thursday, 18 February 2021

I Love You ❤

Valentine's Day in Israel is not the same kind of celebration as it is in other places in the world, though it has gained popularity in recent years. In Israel there is another day, called Tu B'Av, that celebrates love. The holiday takes place in the summer months, this year on the 23rd July.
According to the Mishna (the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the Oral Torah), Tu B'Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of the grape harvest. Unmarried girls dressed in white garments and went out to dance in the vineyards. In modern times it is celebrated as a holiday of love and is said to be a great day for weddings, commitment ceremonies or proposing.
Despite the fact that Israelis don't commemorate Valentine's Day, Mister Handmade in Israel and I both grew up in the UK and we enjoy keeping some British traditions. We exchanged Valentine's cards and  this week I made pancakes for Shrove Tuesday as well!
Ever since I created this papercut for his 50th birthday, Mister Handmade in Israel has been a big fan of that style of art. For Valentine's Day I made him this papercut card with a heart and the message 'I Love You' on it. I cut the card out of white stock and added a red paper inlay.
The shops here are not usually full of Valentine's Day goodies and cards as I remember they were in the UK and anyway they are all still closed, but Mister Handmade in Israel did send me these gorgeous tulips and I received this wonderful package of English chocolates too! I mentioned in a recent post that our supply of English chocolate had long dried up, but some food shops here seem to have cottoned on to the fact that we British immigrants want a taste of the homeland. I was delighted to receive these Flakes, Twirl Bites, a Galaxy Bar and a Cadbury Creme Egg! Mister Handmade in Israel got a giant bag of Maltesers Teasers.
Valentine's Day or Tu B'Av, it is never a bad a idea to bring flowers and chocolate to your loved one 😏

Monday, 15 February 2021

Nahal Sorek

Our hike above Nahal Sorek, one of the largest and most important drainage basins in the Judean Hills, was one of the hardest hikes Mister Handmade in Israel and I have done in the last few months, though it was also an extremely beautiful one. The circular hike overlooks the Sorek Stream and passes by the ruins of Tur Shimon, a Hasmonean fortress, above. Throughout the hike the views of the Sorek Valley and the surrounding hills were spectacular and, though we were tired by the end of it, I was so glad we did it.
Nahal Sorek is a deep valley that begins close to Ramalla and winds its way through the Judean Hills and the Shfela (lowlands) to the coastal plain. In ancient times it was a thoroughfare to Jerusalem and there were agricultural settlements along its path. The name sorek comes from the root שרק, "red grapes" and refers to the vines that grew along the valley. Over the years this area was known for its grapes and today there are a number of fine boutique wineries in the district.
Nahal Sorek was the place where Delilah lived, and Samson came to meet her for the first time. It was also the place she enticed him to tell her the secret of his strength, and where he was eventually captured by the Philistines:
And Samson went to Gaza… And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the brook/valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and said to her: "Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lies, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him…"
Judges Chapter 16:4
Nahal Sorek is known in Arabic as Wadi es-Sarār.
We started our hike on a blue-marked jeep trail from which there were amazing views of the Sorek Valley, soon turning onto a black-marked footpath which runs alongside the valley. Climbing ever downwards the landscape around us began to change. From a rocky footpath and gorgeous views of the valley, we entered a wooded area with many Katlav trees. Katlav is the Hebrew name of a striking, red-barked evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region, also known as the Greek Strawberry tree or Arbutus Andrachne. The bark is smooth and sheds during the summer, leaving a pistachio green colour, which changes gradually to a beautiful orange brown. The small red berries of the Katlav tree apparently taste like tart strawberries and ripen in November, though I was too scared to try them.
Walking along the black-marked footpath we had a continuous view of the old Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway which runs through this valley, above. In the 19th century, Nahal Sorek served as an important connection between the two major cities in the area, Jaffa and Jerusalem. Because railways at the time were reliant on water sources, several surveyors who planned the first railway in the Middle East, the Jaffa–Jerusalem line, decided to use Nahal Sorek as the main route for the line. It was inaugurated under Ottoman rule in 1892 and connects Tel Aviv with the Jerusalem Malha station via Beit Shemesh. The scenic winding ride takes 1 hour 40 minutes.
A new high-speed railway line connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem avoids Nahal Sorek and its curves, instead using bridges and tunnels to bypass the hills and valleys, but the older railway along Nahal Sorek has been refurbished and remains in use. There used to be an ancient road here, but it was dug up when the railway was established. 
We finally spotted Tur Shimon or Horvat Tura, in the distance, below. These are the ruins of a royal fortress from the Hasmonean period. The Arabic names of the site - Khirbet Sammunieh and Khirbet Tantura - preserve the ancient name of the fortress "Tur Shimon", or the Mountain of Shimon. The fortress may have been built by Shimon, the son of the Hasmonean ruler Matityahu, or by Shimon's son, in memory of his father. Naming fortresses after other rulers, family or friends was common in the Hellenistic and Roman world. In maps of the British Mandate period the ruin is also named Khirbet et-Tantura ("Ruin of the Point"), so-called after the shape of the hill.
Tur Shimon overlooks the Sorek Valley and had strategic significance in protecting the approach to Jerusalem. Six large underground cisterns provided water. It continued to be inhabited until the Bar Kokhba revolt, when it was destroyed. During the Crusader period, a fortress or fortified farmhouse was built on the ruins of the Hasmonean fortress.
A trough beneath Tur Shimon
Tur Shimon, which rises 595 metres (1,952 ft) above sea level, has not been excavated. Mister Handmade in Israel and I got halfway up but struggled without a pathway. The hill is covered with brushwood and wild growth, ashlars and partially standing walls of stones. The grounds are apparently strewn with fragments of ancient pottery from the Hellenistic period, the early Roman period, the Iron Age and from the Byzantine era. I'll try again another time!
Returning to the blue trail, it was a steep climb up the side of the valley and there was some rock climbing required. After about 45 minutes we reached the top where a jeep trail on the top of the ridge returned us to our starting point. We had enjoyed wonderful views of the surrounding hills, including a glimpse of Jerusalem and of the zawiya (an Islamic religious school or monastery) at Dayr al-Shaykh, above, a Palestinian Arab village which was depopulated during the 1948 War of Independence. It had been an exhausting but wonderful hike!