Sunday, 15 April 2018

Return to Lupin Hill

That title sounds rather like a Famous Five book, doesn't it? I've blogged about Lupin Hill (Givat Haturmusim in Hebrew) before you see, but it's such a gorgeous spot that we try to go back there each spring, when the beautiful purple lupin are blooming. Even my youngest son - the one who declares everything booooring at the moment - jumped at the chance of another visit. So, back to Lupin Hill we went.
Lupin Hill, or Tel Socho, as it is also known, is in The Valley of Elah (Elah being the Hebrew word for Terebinth – a tree found throughout the valley). In early spring, Israelis from all over the country flock to the hill to see the flowers it is named after. The entire hill is covered with wild blue lupin (Lupinus pilosus), as well as a supporting cast of cyclamen, anemone and asphodelus. Caves and grottoes dot the landscape, and cisterns are carved deep into the rock. Oak trees, fig trees and Terebinths grow on the hillside and piles of large ashlar boulders, covered with lichen, are evidence of the presence of a defensive wall around the city of Socho in ancient times.
The city of Socho was strategically located overlooking the Elah Valley. It is mentioned in the Book of Joshua as one of the Canaanite cities conquered by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 15, 35). This entire area was allocated to the tribe of Judah.
The carpet of colourful wildflowers that cover the hill these days gives no hint to the battle that once occurred on Lupin Hill. The Valley of Elah is where the battle between David and Goliath took place. Tel Socho was the camping ground for Goliath and the Philistines. Goliath stood in the Valley of Elah for forty consecutive days, challenging someone to fight him. Eventually young David declared that he had fought lions and bears to protect his father's sheep. G-d had kept him safe then and he would help keep him safe now. He went to a stream nearby and found five smooth stones, put them in a pouch around his waist, and with his sling he went to Goliath. Reaching into his pouch he pulled out a stone, put it into his slingshot and shot it at Goliath. The stone hit Goliath right between his eyes, he lost balance and fell to the ground. David had done it, he had beaten the giant Philistine! When the rest of the Philistines saw this they ran away and David became a hero to all the people of Israel.
Later on, Nebuchadnezer, the king of Babylonia, passed through Socho on his way to conquer Jerusalem, and the Romans paved a road along what is today Route 375, the road which passes right by Lupin Hill. It is possible that the Second Temple era scholar Antigonus Ish Socho also came from here.
Excavations at the foot of the northern slope of Lupin Hill exposed a Byzantine building from the 5th-6th centuries. Remains from the Iron Age II were uncovered in another dig at the foot of the same slope, and walls dating to the Middle Bronze Age were discovered in probe trenches. Potsherds dating to the Late Bronze Age and later periods were gathered, along with a terracotta figurine of reddish brown clay depicting a naked woman.
While there is undoubtedly plenty of history surrounding Lupin Hill, it is now the flowers that draw people to the area. Our short hike there gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the purple turmusim (lupin) and red calaniyot (anemone), while hiking the same land that our ancestors had lived on. It was a great afternoon out.

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Monday, 9 April 2018

Elinor's Album

Elinor celebrated her Bat Mitzvah back in March and I was asked to make an album for her celebration, just as I had done for her sister and her brother. Elinor likes swimming, gymnastics, baking and cake decoration, her Mum told me. She has just finished reading all of The Famous Five and The Secret Seven books by the English children's writer Enid Blyton, and she plays the violin. Mum also added that her daughter has a slight obsession with tornadoes and hurricanes​ (her words, not mine!) and that she also likes unicorns, salt and vinegar crisps, and cucumbers sliced in lemon​.
I have shown Elinor doing the splits on the cover of her album. She is wearing her black calf-length gym pants and the leotard she wears for her gym class. She has some swimming goggles on her head and is playing her violin! To her right is a tornado under a cloud, a unicorn and her favourite salt and vinegar crisps. To her left are two Enid Blyton book covers and a plate of iced cupcakes.
Elinor's name is displayed at the top, along with the words Bat Mitzvah. The date of her Bat Mitzvah celebration is below. The colour scheme for the celebration was going to be pink and silver, so the silver lettering and pink background box matched it perfectly. Two silver Magen David's (Star of David) appear in two corners of the cover, surrounded by shades of pink and purple to match the colour scheme as well.
I also decorated five pages inside the album. After much discussion we decided to feature Elinor's violin, her love of baking, tornadoes, books and some food. I asked Mum which of Elinor's favourite foods I should feature. "Can you do a filet mignon, slices of cucumber, a wedge of lemon and ptitim?" she replied. (Ptitim is a type of toasted pasta shaped like rice grains or little balls developed in Israel in the 1950s when rice was scarce. Outside Israel, it is typically marketed as Israeli couscous, Jerusalem couscous, or pearl couscous.)
Elinor seemed very happy with her album, and Mum wrote to me earlier in the planning and said "You have outdone yourself on the sketch. Incredible!". "Lisa Isaacs albums are a MUST" she later posted on Facebook. Very nice of her.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Perfect Likeness

My lovely new customer who ordered this card for her friend also asked me to make cards for her mum and for her granddaughter. "Mum needs a comb in her hand" she said, "she is always faffing with her hair!". She also asked me to add some anemones somewhere on the card. I had a lot of fun creating them in bright red and purple.
The other card was for her granddaughter. She plays the ukulele, likes art and making things. My customer sent me a picture of the little girl, so I was able to create her paper portrait, right down to the white braid in her hair. I showed her playing her ukulele. Some paper, pencils and a little pot with scissors and another pencil are next to her. A big yellow number seven marks her age.
The Hebrew greeting says "Happy Birthday to my Dear Granddaughter Noya".
My customer seemed very happy with the cards and posted a lovely review of my work. "I just received personalised birthday cards which I ordered from Lisa Isaacs. I can't get over the likeness to my mum! Just fabulous. Thank you Lisa. [The card is] a really special touch for a special 91st birthday. Looking forward to my next order."

Friday, 30 March 2018

A March Wedding

This wedding was the reason for my recent visit to London. My friend Jude got married to her lovely partner Rich and I wasn't going to miss their big day for the world! Mister Handmade in Israel and I popped over for a long weekend and had a wonderful time celebrating with them. Of course I took a special card with me.
The 'Beast from the East' cleared up just in time for their wedding day and we all had a fabulous time. We ate well, we drank a lot, we were entertained by some great singers, and we danced the night away. This is the bride and me looking our very best!
* This evening marks the start of Pesach, or Passover, and my family and I will celebrate the Passover Seder. You can read more about it in two of my previous posts here and here. 'Chag Pesach Sameach', a happy Passover festival, to all celebrating.

** This post has been shared on Little Things ThursdayThursday Favorite Things, Share Your Cup Thursday, Anything Blue FridayWelcome To The Weekend, All Seasons and Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday).

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Churchill War Rooms and Winnie-the-Pooh

Remember the lovely spring flowers I showed you at Tel Bet Shemesh? Well, shortly after my visit there I made a quick trip to London. There were most definitely no spring flowers blooming whilst we were there. It was freezing!
Our trips to London are usually jam-packed but our plans went awry because of the weather and it actually ended up to our benefit. We had a whole day in London with no car and thus no errands to run or people to visit. A museum day was called for!
Mister Handmade in Israel and I saw the Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, which covers Sir Winston Churchill’s uncertain first few weeks in the role of prime minister of a country poised on the brink of the second world war. We were inspired to visit the Churchill War Rooms, beneath the streets of Westminster, to see where Churchill and his inner circle directed the war. It was the perfect solution for a very cold March day, and the 90 minutes recommended for our visit soon turned into 3.5 hours! The place was fascinating.
The Churchill War Rooms is one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. The museum comprises the Cabinet War Rooms, a historic underground complex that housed a British government command centre throughout the Second World War, and the Churchill Museum, a biographical museum exploring the life of Winston Churchill.
Construction of the Cabinet War Rooms, located beneath the Treasury building in the Whitehall area of Westminster, began in 1938. They became operational in August 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war in Europe. They remained in operation throughout the Second World War, before being abandoned in August 1945 after the surrender of Japan.
After the war, the historic value of the Cabinet War Rooms was recognised. Their preservation became the responsibility of the Ministry of Works and later the Department for the Environment, during which time very limited numbers of the public were able to visit by appointment. In the early 1980s the Imperial War Museum was asked to take over the administration of the site, and the Cabinet War Rooms were opened to the public in April 1984. The museum was reopened in 2005 following a major redevelopment as the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, but in 2010 this title was shortened to the Churchill War Rooms.
During our visit we viewed the cabinet room where the wartime cabinet was held, and the map room where pins were used to mark the progress of fleets across the ocean. Some sections of the map were so badly damaged by pinpricks that they had to be covered over with new material. These patch jobs can clearly be seen to this day. We saw the suite of rooms used as accommodation by Churchill, his wife and close associates, and Churchill's own bedroom, which he only slept in for three nights altogether, though he did use this room for many afternoon siestas and was famous for holding meetings there in various states of undress! A 'lavatory' with an engaged sign actually contained a secure transatlantic line for the American and British heads of state to communicate.
All the rooms are presented and furnished as they were. We got a real feeling of how busy it must have been, especially when you consider that hundreds of people lived here at any given time throughout the war. In the Churchill Museum I learnt so much about the successes, failures, trials and triumphs that made the man. The audio guides, which were included in the ticket price, allowed us to walk through at our own pace and truly enhanced our visit. Mister Handmade in Israel is not really a museum person, but he enjoyed the place as much as I did. Maybe we'll go back with the boys one day.
Our next stop was at the Victoria and Albert Museum, or the V&A as it is affectionately known. Whilst I didn't have time to explore the whole museum, or even just part of it, I did have just about enough time to go to the wonderful exhibition Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. Now Mister Handmade in Israel did opt out of this one, but that was fine. It gave me more time to wander through the delightful exhibition at my own speed, all the time with a big smile on my face.
The exhibition celebrates the iconic little bear and his chums, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest, as well as of course, Christopher Robin. It features close to a century’s worth of Winnie-the-Pooh merchandise, including toys, books, clothes, and a hand-painted Christopher Robin and Friends china tea set presented to the baby Princess Elizabeth in 1926. The walls of the exhibition are lined with scores of ink and pencil drawings by E.H. Shepard, the English artist and book illustrator who worked with A.A. Milne on the books. The drawings show the care Shepard took, producing vivid sketches of real trees in Ashdown Forest, where the Milne had bought an old farmhouse, to get the setting absolutely right. The originals are from the V&A collection and are so fragile they were last displayed almost 40 years ago.
I absolutely loved the exhibition. It was good to see so many of the original drawings which brought back memories of all the Pooh stories, and it was lovely to hear people of all ages chatting, laughing and remembering their favourite books. A replica of Posingford bridge, the bridge on which Milne and his son first played the game Poohsticks, stands in the centre of the exhibition, while trees from Ashdown Forest and Winnie-the-Pooh quotes adorn the walls. Small visitors can climb a narrow flight of steps leading to a slide, and enter Owl’s tiny door with the brass bell labelled "RNIG ALSO".
The exhibition was designed by RFK Architects and the theatre designer Tom Piper. Piper created the installation of thousands of ceramic poppies made by the artist Paul Cummins, which filled the moat of the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war. It left me with a warm fuzzy glow of nostalgia. Even with all the snow on the ground outside.
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