Counting Down to Hanukkah (with a new twist)

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There is a Yiddish proverb that says “Man plans and G-d laughs.”  This sort of sums up life over the last several months as our family has dealt with some unexpected health challenges and stress.  But we are hanging in there and our kids still want to countdown to Hanukkah (and some of you who haven’t given up on me have emailed and do too).  So, without further ado, this year’s Made by Mamaleh Hanukkah Countdown Calendar.

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Happy Heart Day!

Handmade Crayon Valentine

I have been missing in action for quite a while now and thankfully many of you have not given up on me.  In fact, some have even written to ask when I might be posting again.  Well, here I am!  There’s been a lot going on around here!  I just finished chairing our big synagogue gala/auction this past Sunday which was a smashing success but which has been consuming much of my free time over the last several months.  I can’t wait to share some of the décor elements with you but that will have to wait for a future post when I have pics back (I was too busy working to take any pics myself!)

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Counting Down the Days until…Hanukkah!

Printable Hanukkah Countdown Calendar

I have been missing in action and I do apologize.  Things have been insanely busy and that has meant blogging and crafting have had to take a backseat.  But with Thanksgiving almost here, it’s time to start thinking about Hanukkah.  Some of you have emailed to ask if I’d be doing the yearly printable countdown calendar so of course I had to oblige.  Without Thanksgivukkah to spur on this year’s calendar design, I  joined the Frozen-craze still going strong in my son’s world and made this year’s calendar a bit frosty, complete with star of David snowflakes.

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Popping by to say Happy Purim!

Printable labels for Purim treats

It’s been WAAAAYYYY too long and I do apologize!  Life has simply happened and I have been busy trying to keep up.  I’m still here just not crafting as much as I’d like at the moment.  But with Purim almost here (it starts Saturday night), it’s time to think about some Purim goodies!  You might recall that last year after my son got lots of Valentine’s treats, I opted to make some fun mini mishloach manot instead.  So, I decided to do the same thing again this year and since his pre-K class is on the smaller side, I decided to treat the kids to one of my favorite (and quite novel) Israeli sweets: Elite Milk Chocolate with Popping Candies, or in other words a chocolate bar with pop rocks!  If you’ve never tried these, you are missing out!  I must confess to you that when my husband (who back then was my boyfriend) and I did Birthright back in 2005, we came back with so many of these in our suitcase, I’m pretty sure the El Al agents had a good laugh at our expense.  There are several places you can order these online but the prices are definitely higher than what you’d find in Israel or even locally.  I was so excited when I discovered our local Safeway started carrying them, especially in Seattle!

Mini Mishloach Manot for Purim

So, in order to put together these cute mini mishloach manot, I designed some simple label wraps in Publisher and printed them on vellum for a fun look (my son was very intrigued that you could see through the paper). But really any paper or light-weight cardstock would work equally well.  Each is 2.5 inches wide so you’ll get 4 per standard 8.5×11 sheet of paper – there are no cut lines just start from the left and cut every 2.5 inches.  Once they are printed and cut, address them (as you can see my son is working on writing all of his letters) and use some cute washi tape to secure them in back and you have some adorable Purim treats.  You can download the label wraps for yourself for some last-minute Purim printables.

These would also work well used as an addition to a traditional Purim basket of goodies.  If you are looking for ideas in that department, two of my favorite Jewish blogs, Chai & Home and Design Megillah each have some darling ideas!  What about you?  Are you putting together any purim goodies?

Happy Purim!

Countdown to Hanukkah 2013

Hanukkah Countdown Calendar

Ever since Halloween finally came and went last week, my four-year-old has asked me numerous times, “When is it time for Hanukkah?”  So, since last year’s printable Hanukkah countdown calendar was such a hit, I decided to make a new version for this year.  Since this year Hanukkah overlaps with Thanksgiving, I decided to embrace the fall colors to help your little ones count down the anticipation in the days leading up to Hanukkah (or Thanksgivukkah as so many are calling it).  Unlike last year, I couldn’t make chai (18) to Hanukkah work thanks to the calendar configuration but it’s designed for you to start counting down on Sunday, November 10th.

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A Very Jewish Summer Day 3: Camp Care Packages With Love

Welcome to Day 3 of A Very Jewish Summer! I know for many people summer evokes memories of Jewish summer camp and specifically sleep-away camp, your first adventure away from home.  Growing up in Southern Oregon, I never got to experience Jewish summer camp but having gone to college 3,000 miles from home, I know firsthand how much care packages from home mean.  My little one has a way to go before he heads off to camp by himself (though I am very excited we’ll be heading to Jewish family camp at the end of the summer!).  So, since I have several close friends whose kids will be at camp this year I decided to put together a combo of DIY and store-bought goodies to send them a little love from Mamaleh.

Personalized Camp Stationery

First, a little something to send some love back home (and maybe a thank you note to yours truly) : personalized stationery.  I realize we live in the era of email and text but I think there is nothing better than an old-fashioned letter or card.  I decided to give this a Jewish twist by including both English and Hebrew names on the cards.  Using Microsoft Publisher, I created my own custom A2 size (4.25″x5.5″) template and then created a text block at the top, inserting a little symbol in between the English and Hebrew.  (If you need help using hebrew fonts on your computer, or are looking for some stylish ones, check out my earlier post on the subject.) Then I printed these out on a variety of nice cardstock and cut the cards (by making them A2 size, you get 4 cards per 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of cardstock).  I even rounded the corners on some for a little something extra.

DIY Personalized Stationery

To finish off these sets, I paired them with basic A2 envelopes, cute kid-friendly stamps and matching little folders cut from this folder template using Silhouette Chipboard, layered with cardstock and then stamped and embellished with a little glitter glue.  A tip for the folders – be sure to let the glue set after gluing down the tabs on the sides by putting some pressure on it – I used binder clips which worked really well to hold it in place until it dried.  Last, I punched holes and tied them shut with a little piece of ribbon.

Personalized Stationery Set

Besides personalized stationery, I had visions of glow-in-the-dark kippahs for Shabbat and Havdallah under the night sky. This proved a bit trickier than I’d envisioned.  I started with some grey suede kippahs from bestkippah.com (I found this was one of the few places that allowed me to order a single dozen versus the several dozen often ordered for weddings and other mitzvahs).  My original plan was to try some glow-in-the-dark heat transfer vinyl  but it wouldn’t stick to the suede so using my Silhouette  for something more intricate was out.

DIY kippah

Next, I tried a glow in the dark fabric marker – it worked on my first test kippah (above) but when I went to try it again the next day, it didn’t want to write on the suede, not exactly sure why, it was almost as if the nap of the suede prevented it from writing properly.  Besides, it didn’t have the same glow factor as my third choice: glow-in-the-dark dimensional fabric paint.  This is a bit tricky to apply because you may get a few bubbles or globs as you are squeezing it but if you go slow, it’s not too bad.  Here are the kippahs I came up with (and yes, one is for a girl, gotta be egalitarian):

DIY glow-in-the-dark kippahs

The result isn’t exactly what I was hoping for but I think it’s still fun and I am planning to go back over some areas to fill them in a bit more.  I know from experience that putting too thick a layer of dimensional paint can prevent it from properly drying so going back over it after it’s completely dry is definitely the way to go.  I also may keep my eye out for other colors of glow-paint to add a touch of color before I send these off.  Most importantly though, they definitely glow in the dark (I tried to get a photo of this but it proved way too difficult), so hopefully they will be a hit with these kiddos!

Finally, I did a lot of searching for just the right store-bought additions to these care packages, a little bit of something for everyone:

Camp Care Packages Mini Camp Bunk Box of Questions for some late night chit-chat fun; Girls World of Doodles – I must admit that I kinda wish I could keep this for myself just to spur my own creativity; Mr. Sketch Markers to use for doodling; Finger flashlights for late night reading or silliness, enough to share with the whole cabin; Mad Libs – these were one of my faves on long car trips so I figured they’d be great for camp as well: Lego Star Wars Mad Libs and Summer Fun Mad Libs Junior and finally the yiddish-named build-a-bagel card game Schmear which looks like a lot of fun!

Hope I’ve inspired you to be crafty and creative with your summer camp care packages this year.  If you aren’t feeling crafty or if you’re short on time, you can always opt to send one from somewhere that specializes in camp care packages like The Wrinkled Egg or Sealed With a Kiss.  One final thought, be sure to check what your camp’s care package policies are before sending – most don’t allow food and as a result will open things that are not obvious, hence I am not doing any sort of wrapping.  I can’t wait to pack up all of these goodies and send them off!  What about you? Are you planning on sending any care packages this summer?  What are you including?

That wraps up Day 3 of a A Very Jewish Summer, hope you are enjoying the party so far!  If you are just joining us for this blogging party, be sure to check out what you’ve missed so far –  we started out with the lovely dinosaur cookies by Yenta Mamas for a prehistoric Shabbat treat followed by a lovely Shabbat Alfresco tablescape by Chai & Home and tomorrow we’ll be treated to a yummy recipe from Busy in Brooklyn.  So stay tuned as a Very Jewish Summer continues!

Kid-Friendly Tu B’Shevat Mini Art

Tu B'Shevat Mini Canvas Art

Tu B’Shevat is one of those Jewish holidays that many of us probably don’t even realize is happening unless we are looking at our Jewish calendar or have kids in religious school.  A minor holiday, literally the 15th of the month of Shevat, Tu B’Shevat celebrates the New Year of the Trees.  (And, just a little known fact, it’s actually one of four new years observed on the Jewish calendar.  In Israel, Tu B’Shevat is much like Arbor Day in the U.S. and is marked by the planting of trees and ecological awareness.  In Jewish tradition, Tu B’Shevat is often marked with a seder (or ritual meal) where fruits and nuts symbolic of Israel are eaten.

For the first time in my life, we’re actually talking about Tu B’Shevat in our house:  My son’s Sammy Spider calendar has a nice recipe for trail mix and a picture of a tree.  His preschool class is having a seder.  We’ve been reading our PJ Library books about the holiday.  Our temple’s Young Families’ group (of which I’m co-chair) is having a special brunch.  So, with all of that going on, I felt like we needed to make a little something since what’s a holiday without a little a decoration.  I wanted something kid-friendly to make yet also polished enough to sit out on my mantel and look sharp.

A while back, during one of my craft store runs (probably Michael’s), I came across these cute mini canvases and got a couple of sizes as well as a mini easel, thinking that they’d be great for changing holidays/seasons.  So, I decided to take the 4×4 canvas and create a little mini Tu B’Shevat art with my son’s help of course.

Tu B'Shevat Kid-Friendly Art

First step was to find just the right tree in the Silhouette Online Store to cut out with my Cameo.  Now, if you don’t have a die-cutter, don’t worry, I am sure you could easily find a pre-cut tree at the craft store or you could freehand one with scissors or an exacto.   I chose this tree branch lace and then using Silhouette Studio I erased the edges and size it to fit my canvas. Next, I cut it out of Paper Trey Ink Dark Chocolate cardstock.  I then coated the mini canvas with Matte Mod Podge using a foam brush and applied the tree, trimming the edges as necessary.  Once it was all lined up, I painted more Mod Podge on top completely covering the tree and allowed it to dry.  The application of the Mod Podge is a totally kid friendly activity since there is no precision required, just make sure the canvas is covered.

TU B'Shevat Art Canvas

Shades of Green (from left to right): Martha Stewart Mint Chip Pearl, Martha Stewart Scottish Highlands High Gloss, Martha Stewart Putting Green Pearl & Folk Art Citrus Green

For the next step, I selected four different shades and finishes of acrylic paint since I wanted depth of color and texture.  To apply the leaves, rather than have my son dip his finger in the paint (and get too much on), I applied it to his finger using a foam brush and then let him fingerprint the leaves.  No special order, just mix up how often you print each color. We both took turns doing this and going all over the top of the tree as well as the top and sides of the canvas.

Kid-Friendly Tu B'Shevat Mini Canvas

Once the tree was filled in, I left this to dry for a bit as I worked on the final piece, a die-cut banner that said “Happy Tu B’Shevat!” which I created using the print and cut feature in Silhouette Studio on kraft cardstock.  I then positioned this where I wanted it using the Mod Podge and gave the whole piece a couple more coats to finish it off and ta-da: kid-friendly, yet simple and chic mini-canvas decor for Tu B’Shevat for year’s to come!

Kid-Friendly Tu B'Shevat Canvas

Dreidel Spin Art Thank You Notes

Dreidel Spin Art by Kiwi Crate

Ack!  Where has the time gone?  It’s already January 13th and we still haven’t finished our holiday thank yous (and Hanukkah was so early, it’s even worse)!  Oh well, I figure as long as they get ’em before Valentine’s Day, we’re in good shape and better late than never, right?  I was taught from a young age the importance of writing a nice note of thanks for a gift and I am trying to install the same in my son, Avi, even at age 3 1/2. One thing that I think helps make the process a bit more fun is to make the cards yourselves.  If you recall, we had a lot of fun doing the dreidel spin art from our Hanukkah Kiwi Crate back in December.  I saved all of those little paintings thinking they’d come in handy for something like thank you notes and sure enough they did.

Hanukkah thank you note

The process was simple and kid-friendly.  Starting with some nice colored A2 notecards from Memory Box (I get all mine at Impress in Seattle), Avi and I used a glue stick to glue down the paintings.  After gluing them we put them under a stack of books to help them lay flat.  Meanwhile we stamped “thank you” on some scrap white cardstock in turquoise and trimmed it up into cute little squares -I realized just how great my mini guillotine  paper cutter is for little hands (with adult help of course!)  Then we attached these using my favorite adhesive and finished off the look with some scattered star sequins glued on.  And to explain the art like any good artist’s print, I put a little handwritten “Dreidel Spin Art by Avi” under each of the paintings.  Absolutely perfect kid thank yous!

Hanukkah thank you notes from dreidel spin art

The last lights of Hanukkah 2012

As Hanukkah 2012 draws to a close, I want to share one final Hanukkah project with you.   As you are probably painfully aware, finding a Christmas T-shirt or pajamas (or anything) for kids is so easy but Hanukkah-wise, you’ll be lucky to find anything.  Last year, I lucked out and found a “Dreidel Champion” T-shirt by Carter’s.  This year, armed with my trusty Silhouette, I decided to make my own using simple Ts from Old Navy and a variety of vinyl.

First up is my own version of the “Dreidel Champion” for a friend’s son:

Dreidel Champion 2012 t-shirt

Now, love or hate the whole princess thing, we all know it’s popular with preschool girls.  So, I decided why not embrace it and give it a new twist by creating a Dreidel Princess!  For this shirt I used a combo of plain, glitter and flocked heat transfer vinyl as well as rhinestones of course.  Next year I may need an adult version…

DIY Hanukkah shirt for girl

I had bought some purple foil star of david ribbon on one of my 1-800-Dreidel shopping trips and couldn’t resist the chance to use it for a matching bow.  A little hot glue and a pony tail holder and I was in business.

DIY Star of David hair bow

Finally, for my own mini-mensch, I’d planned to do a collage of numbers since counting is rather popular in our house at the moment but he informed me that he wanted a menorah so a menorah he got.  Using gold glitter vinyl and several shades of blue in plain and flocked, I created this “8 Crazy Nights” shirt.

8 Crazy Nights t-shirt

He absolutely loved it (he wore it more than once!).  I just can’t resist the chance to show off his Hanukkah (and all around) cuteness.  Hope your Hanukkah was as full of sheer joy as mine!

8 Crazy Nights Hanukkah t-shirt

As Hanukkah reminds us of the miracle of light,  there are so many positive ways that we can channel our collective feelings of  sorrow surrounding the Newtown tragedy.  My heart aches for the families and I wanted to share one outlet that speaks to my creative side.  One of my favorite crafty blogs, Damask Love  has created a very special project to inspire healing through creativity.  Check it out if you are looking for a non-traditional way to help.

Hanukkah crafting from Kiwi Crate! Ima Design winner!

I have to admit – I’m generally not one to purchase pre-fab crafting kits; I have hoards of craft supplies so if I want to make something, I generally only need to get a couple items.  But when Kiwi Crate contacted me and asked if I’d like to try out their Handmade Hanukkah kit, I figured why not.  I’m always open to try something new.

Kiwi Crate is a children’s creativity company, targeted for kids ages 3-7.  They offer monthly subscription activity boxes as well as special projects like the Hanukkah box.  Each crate is filled with enriching & engaging kid-tested projects which cover a range of developmental areas and subjects, including art, science, and imaginative play.

The box arrived nicely wrapped in brown packing paper with a big Kiwi Crate logo and addressed directly to my son (which was a big hit of course).  This was a nice touch in the age of elaborate, difficult to open packaging; no box cutters were needed, so my son could open it himself.

When my son managed to rip the paper off, we found the darling little Kiwi Crate Box filled directions and the makings for two Hanukkah projects: a tissue paper covered menorah (battery operated) and dreidel spin art.

Speaking of the directions, they are fantastic!  Being a crafty mamaleh, I probably could have gotten by without them. But for those less craftily inclined, the details and pictures make the projects easy.  I imagine that they’d be great for kids of reading-age too.

We decided to start with the menorah.  The materials included candle holder, tissue paper, glittery Mod Podge with tray, foam brush, shamash holder,  foam for the shamash, and LED flicker candles.  The process itself was simple albeit a little messy.  It was my first time using glitter Mod Podge and I found myself daydreaming about what grown-up projects I might be able to use it for as it was just pure sparkly goodness.  I will say though that my three-year old’s attention span waned after about 2 candle holders so I was left to finish the rest on my own.  I do think that makes for a project which could easily be shared by multiple kids – I sort of wished we’d invited friends to do it with us.  It wasn’t until the menorah was all dry, that my son regained interest when it came time to “light” the “candles.” I must say, it’s pretty cute and fun and will be a nice, non-fire hazard menorah to use for the holiday.

Tissue Paper Battery Menorah from Kiwi Crate

Next up was the dreidel spin art and I gotta say this was super fun for both of us! But oy, was it messy!  Be sure to put on smocks and do it on a drop cloth of some sort (we used a coated tablecloth on the floor).  You use the included plain wood dreidel and pre-cut pieces of paper to do spin art in the Kiwi Crate box.  I loved how many pieces of paper were included – ample enough for 2 or 3 kids to do a bunch.  And when you’re done, there are Hebrew letter stickers included for the dreidel to restore its traditional Hanukkah role. My only wish was that the box had been a bit taller since the paint splatter definitely went over the sides (to its credit, it did wash off pretty easily).

The resulting art is really fun and unique.  Perhaps we’ll use them to create Hanukkah gift thank you notes by putting them on a notecard and adding some stamped cardstock on top to cover the hole.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the Kiwi Crate.  As an avid crafter who generally likes to do my own thing, it was sort of nice to be given direction.  Along those same lines, it was nice to not have to worry about my son destroying my own supplies to do his project. Everything we needed was included in the box which I think is excellent way to help people who feel intimidated when they go to a store like Michael’s or Joann. Even I get overwhelmed at those stores with the variety of supplies and tools available. I think Kiwi Crates are creative and fun gift ideas; I may have to order a few for friends.

Oh and I almost forgot, the winner of the Ima Design contest is #1, Jamie.  Look for an email with details!

Note: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a Hanukkah Kiwi Crate free for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my and my son’s experience.