Friday, December 30, 2011

Mitzvah Chart

Here's a project I did for my grandchildren—a Mitzvah Chart. Not Jewish?  You can easily change this to a Chore Chart or a Motivational Chart!  This chart lists the mitzvahs that the children are expected to do each day of the week. In what has become a nightly ritual that the children look forward to with excitement, my daughter Ariel reviews with them the mitzvahs they did that day. If they did the mitzvah, they get to put a magnetic button on the spot for that particular mitzvah. 

They love it when they fill an entire day with buttons, and of course, children LOVE magnets!

I designed this chart for young pre-schoolers who don’t know how to read, but if you have older kids you can replace the pictures with words. Add more or less for your needs.

Here are the supplies I purchased:
 1. Colored scrapbooking paper (Michaels Crafts)
2. Package of colorful buttons (Michaels Crafts)
3. Magnetic Board (Michaels Crafts)
4. Both round and strip style magnets (Staples)
5. Large letter stickers (BoBunny Supersized Alphabet Stickers)
6. Press-On 1” white vinyl letters—Helvetica (Staples)
7. Martha Stewart Crafts 1 ½” circle craft punch (Michaels Crafts)
8. Decorative ribbon (Michael’s crafts) (optional)
9. Magnets and Sharpie marker (Staples)
Before sticking on the large letters that read “Mitzvah Chart” I taped a piece of green painters tape to use for a guide and get a nice straight line. If you don’t have painters tape you can use masking tape or you can draw a light pencil line with a ruler.
Next, I cut out my circles for the days of the week using my circle craft punch. Again, if you don’t have a circle punch you can cut squares out of the colored paper with scissors.
After I decided out how much space I needed for each day, I drew vertical lines with a sharpie marker.
 The painters tape helped to keep the tops of the lines straight.
Click here for the icons I used on my chart.  You can add your own, or add words instead for older children.
After mounting the icons on colored paper, I cut the magnet tape and applied to the back of the icons. This way, they can be changed as needed. I also added the white vinyl letters to the colored circles for the days of the week.
The buttons got a drop of glue from a glue gun to stick onto the round magnets. If you don’t have a glue gun, I suggest using goop glue, found at most hardware stores.
 As a finishing touch, I glued a decorative ribbon around the board to create a bit of a frame.
This post also appeared on LadyMama & One Tough Mother
Today's Creative Blog

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day in NYC

I ♥ New York. I moved to Manhattan the minute I graduated from college. I lived there for ten years, worked as an art director in the magazine industry, and met my husband coming back from LaGuardia Airport. Even though we have long since traded in our Upper-East-Side apartment for a house in the suburbs, New York will always have my heart. Even thought it's only a train ride away, I never seem to find the time to get into the city as often as I'd like. So when my BFF (from the fourth grade!) e-mailed and said she has the day off from work, I marked my calender and made a day of it.

Although I had a long list of places I wanted to hit, I had to narrow it down to just a few since I only had one day to explore. My train arrived into Grand Central—it's a treat just wandering around and taking in the splendor of Grand Central station. As an added bonus, the Holiday Art Fair is held there every December. (Imagine Etsy stores in real life times 100!) Every shop contains jaw-dropping, gorgeous hand crafted items.

I loved all the shops—especially the hand thrown pottery and hammered silver candlesticks and bowls.

Next we headed downtown to Union Square, which was a bit calmer than midtown. The white urns are actually sinks in the washroom where we stopped for lunch. (This is why I love NY—even the bathrooms are so cool.) The ceiling of the restaurant was decorated with gift packages suspended from the ceiling.
I couldn't leave the area without popping into ABC carpet and home—it's like a candy store for designers. Even though all the goods contained within are luxurious to the max, ABC Carpet & Home's six-floor (!) Manhattan flagship retains a certain warehouse aesthetic:  worn hardwood floors creak under your feet, glittering chandeliers and gigantic antique carpets adorn the high ceilings, and furniture vignettes—often more piles than displays—stand everywhere.
Across the street from ABC is Fishs Eddy. It is packed to the max with millions of edgy, unique and incredibly fun dishes and glasses. Most items are pretty affordable so it's a fun place to shop.
It gets dark so early this time of year, so our last stop in this neighborhood was West Elm. I'm always pouring over their catalogs, but I don't often get a chance to walk around the store and see things up close since we don't have any stores in Connecticut. I bought this small bowl as an inspiration piece—there might be some redecorating in my future and I love the colors and patterns on this bowl!
We walked up to 34th street since we both took trains home from Penn station. The sidewalks were crowded with tourists peeking into the holiday windows at Macy's and I looked up to get a shot of the Empire State building all lit up. Great day and we agreed to do this more often!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

This has been around for a while, but it makes me laugh every time I see it...enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanukah Drip Tray

Chanukah begins tonight at sundown. If you use candles to light your menorah, you already know how after eight nights of burning candles, the wax drips are all over your tabletop. Here is an easy, inexpensive solution that not only works well but is also pretty.
I bought a piece of glass at my hardware store for $1.50. It was already cut to 7 x 16 inches so I saw that the size would work. I added a sheet of scrapbook paper and cut it to fit under the glass. You can also use wrapping paper. The entire project cost me less than $3.00!
Happy Chanukah!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oil Menorah

There are two ways to fulfill the mitzvah of lighting a Chanukah menorah. The first way is what most of us grew up with—candles. Your second option is what the whole holiday is really about: how the Chanukah miracle happened, and what we fry all our Chanukah treats in: olive oil!
Using olive oil for Chanukah candles is considered a ‘hiddur mitzvah.’ It’s going the extra step to beautify the mitzvah.  For more information about the spiritual significance of olive oil, check out what has to say about it here.

Here is an easy, oil menorah you can put together with most items you might already have.
Here's what you'll need:
  • Glass votives
  • watercolor paints or food coloring
  • olive oil
  • floating wicks (I found mine at our local Judaica store) or order online, here.
The first step is to pour water in each of the glass cups so they all have equal amounts of water. 
Next, I added a few drops of paint to each one.

After each cup has colored water add the olive oil. Don't buy special candle oil--olive oil from your kitchen is perfect. 
Pour about 1/8 of an inch in each to burn for thirty minutes. The oil will rise to the top.

The floating wicks float right on top of the oil. Make sure the cork side is facing down.

I thought it would be fun to add snow--I found this at Pier One Imports.

It's crazy stuff--inside the can is a small envelope that looks like salt. After adding water it expands, and in a few minutes and turns into "snow"! You can even reuse it.
The shamash candle is a regular Chanukah candle sitting in a shot glass filled with kosher salt.
So, let there be light!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Botanical Menorah

Over the years we have collected many menorahs, some more attractive than others. Now that the kids are grown we only light one and the rest stay in storage. It's still hard to hold myself back from adding to our collection, though. Especially with so many talented artisans coming up with more and more beautiful menorah designs.

I tend to gravitate towards botanical-themed menorahs:
Clockwise from top left: Tree of Life menorah, by Karen Rossi; Botanical Leaf menorah, by Michael Aram; Bronze Vine menorah, Crate and Barrel; Birds in Pomegranate Tree, by Yair Emanuel;  Chrome plated menorah, New York Botanical Garden.

Recently, I stumbled across this fascinating article about ancient menorahs--it explains where the G-dly inspiration for the first menorah came from.

A sage plant! It really does look like a candelabra. Check out this picture, above.

This menorah has been with us for years.
It's perfectly fine but not very exciting. I thought that since I'm always transforming furniture and rooms why not try and turn this into a botanical menorah?
I bought some sheet moss and floral wire from Michael's and some used some live ivy.
After cutting the moss with scissors, I wrapped it around the base using the floral wire.
I continued doing this until the entire menorah was covered in moss.
I didn't bring the moss up too close to where the candles would be burning for safety reasons.
Next I snipped a few stems of ivy and wrapped them around the body of the menorah. I added a few tiny blue silk flowers for a bit of color against all the green.
Editorial note: The ivy stays fresh for a few days--I would recommend either snipping new pieces every few days or substituting silk ivy. Also, since this is not fire proof, please don't leave the candles while they are burning!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chanukah Lollipops

Here is a fun idea for your next Chanukah party--lollipops made from candy melts. They make a nice addition to the traditional offering of Chanukah cookies and can be found at most craft and party stores. Not only are they easy to make, you can set up a lollipop station at your Chanukah party and have the kids (and adults)!  decorate their pop.  
You'll need:
3  cups melted chocolate candy melts (your choice of colors)
12 lollipop sticks
Colored sprinkles, cookie icing, piping gel
After lining a baking sheet with parchment paper, trace 2-inch circles with a glass. Then flip the paper over so you don't get pencil marks on your lollipops.
After melting the candy, spoon about 2 tablespoons of candy melts onto each circle. Press the stick into each pop then gently pat the chocolate candy into a circle. Don't worry that the top side is bumpy...the bottom will be nice and flat. When they are hard (in about 10  minutes) gently lift them off the parchment paper.
Now for the fun part...decorate with piping gel, sprinkles...whatever you'd like.
I displayed mine in a clear container filled with colorful candy I found at the dollar store, wrapped a silky violet ribbon around it and finished it off with a computer printed label.
This post was linked to: Today's Creative Blog

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chanukah Gift Wrap

One of my favorite things about Chanukah are the endless possibilities of giftwrap.
A few years ago, I decided to start giving my nieces and nephews gift cards instead of presents. After all, they were teenagers, and I thought they would rather choose their own present. I placed the gift card in an envelope along with a card and mailed it.  When my niece Mia opened the card, instead of being happy, she was terribly disappointed--she always looked forward to seeing my beautiful wrapping and now all she had was a Hallmark envelope!
Ever since that Chanukah, I place the gift cards in small boxes and wrap them just like I would regular gifts.  I like to have a theme for gift wrapping--this year, I decided to go with jewel tones. I think they capture the richness of Chanukah and they're much more interesting than the classic blue and white.

Here are eight easy gift wrap ideas for the eight nights of Chanukah. 
: Cut a simple dreidel shape out of gold card stock, then punch a hole in the top with a paper punch--tie it with some glittery purple ribbon. A silver letter sticker with the recipients initial makes it personal.  Right: Another option: use a real dreidel and tie it on the gift with blue and silver cording.
Chocolate candy "gelt" coins are soft enough to poke a hole through with a wood skewer and are easy to incorporate into gift packages.  Colorful yarn is wrapped around the package and looped through the holes in the coins. The yarn is a nice surprise from the usual ribbon. Right:
A large chocolate "gelt" coin is adhered onto a simple gold-on-gold package with double sided tape. 
Wrap ribbons halfway around a package to create "candles" for your menorah. (neatly tape the bottom to hold in place). Colored gems from the craft store glued to the tops give the illusion of a flame. Right: Gold metallic paper is wrapped around the box, then layered with a silk purple ribbon. For the seal, print out "Happy Chanukah" on colored paper, then cut out in any shape you'd like using sewing pinking shears.

Left: The chipboard letter was left over from another project, but you can find these at most craft stores. I painted mine gold and weaved it through a purple velvet ribbon. Right: If you ever made woven potholders as a child you will find this wrapping technique isn't that different. Just weave your horizontal ribbons in and out of the vertical until you are happy with your design.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Paper Dreidels

I've been making these paper dreidels for years and they never fail to add a fun, festive note to the holiday.  Not only can you can display the dreidels in many different ways but by changing the color of the paper you can achieve many different looks. Below they range from a playful to chic look.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          PHOTO: SHAFFER/SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY
This photo appeared in my book, Jewish Holiday Style.  These dreidels were made with richly colored paper and hung from the ceiling. This works great in a doorway or hanging in clusters above the dining table.

Another way to display them is in a garland. Here I used softer, pastel colored paper that echoed the colors in my home and strung the dreidels on string.
Years ago, Better Homes and Gardens magazine came to our home to do a story on Chanukah for their holiday issue. It was their idea to string the dreidels I created as a garland across our mantle. The "OY" was originally hanging in the kitchen, but when the style director saw it he insisted on adding it to the shot for a whimsical touch!
Above, is a page from the Better Homes and Gardens spread with our son Ben stringing some dreidels. (He's now in his last year of college)!
Paper dreidels also work well for an elegant place setting (left) or as Martha Stewart shows you (right) they can be filled with candy or nuts and used as favors at a Chanukah celebration.

Here is a template for the dreidels...just print and take to a copy shop to enlarge to whatever size you'd like.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Eight Nights of Chanukah

The essence of the holiday of Chanukah is lighting the menorah. We start out lighting one candle the first night, and add another each night until finally, all eight candles are lit. 
If you have children, start a new tradition at your house—small gifts bags to receive each night after candle lighting. These small bags have a label on the front showing how many candles were lit that night.  The child gets a festive bag containing a small trinket or candy.  I strung these on a decorative cord, but you can also line them up on a window sill or a bookcase. 
 After buying my supplies, I made the labels for each bag.
I had some white and yellow cardstock leftover from another project. The white labels were cut to 2 x 3 inches and the yellow labels a bit larger to get a nice frame of yellow.
The fun part for me was buying little inexpensive gifts to slip into the bags. I found puzzles, mini art supplies, kosher candy, stickers, old fashioned finger traps…anything goes that is age appropriate. 
 Does your family have any Chanukah traditions?
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