Felt Crafts for Chanukah Part II, Dreidel Gelt Bag

This craft is borrowed directly from my mother. I can honestly say that I don't think she has any sort of crafty bone in her body, a statement I don't think she'd disagree with, so I can only assume that one of her crafty teacher friends lent her this go to Chaunkah gem sometime back in the 70's.

Our home was never heavy on the decorations but Chanukah did mean getting out our collection of Dreidels and these bags.

I've frequently used this project for classes of 3rd and 4th graders with much success and prepared these for a whole class of preschoolers with equally rave reviews. The key here is to paint everyone's name on their bag. It makes it individual and special.

In essence, the Dreidel Gelt Bag is quick and festive and can be completed by kids or by an adult as an afternoon activity or something to keep student's hands busy with crafting before going on holiday break.

2 Sheets of felt squares, blue is kind of holiday-ish but I say go wild.
Glitter fabric paint or glue, any color you like
Embroidery thread and needle

1. Make single Dreidel template by folding felt in half. Calculate roughly half way down the open side and cut at an angle to bottom fold.

2. Next measure an inch or two from top center fold outward and cut a 2 inch vertical line, Cut from the bottom of this line straight out towards the open ends.

3. Trace onto the second piece to get two matching halves of your Driedel.

4. *Sew closed the bottom four ends.

5. Use glitter paint or glitter glue to add the Hebrew name of the recipient. Let dry.

6. Present finished bag to child filled with Chanukah goodies (Chocolate Gelt, Chanukah Crayons, etc...) and enjoy!

*Note:For a classroom activity for students to sew themselves, skip step 4 but continue to write the names of each student before presenting them with their project. I usually get the dull craft needles and pre-cut thread for each student to save time and aggravation in-class. Be ready to help younger students and often older ones who have never sewn before.

(This is my husband's Gelt bag, twice the of the kid's bags, but often worn as a hat for photos)

Chanukah Craft Part 1: Color Fun Menorah

22:07 by SarainAkko 2 comments

Although this is a quick holiday craft it began as last year's holiday craft, only to resurface now to be finished and shared.

To be fair, the children in our household have never set their eyes on this little Chanukah treasure. Therefore, it must be new.

Things I like about this project:
It is relatively quick (if you're the sort who finishes projects)
You can use virtually any scraps you have around the house
You don't need to sew if it isn't your cup of tea (Hurray for felt and glue)
I see this as the kind of decoration that's timeless, year after year, for celebrating.
but without further ado...

Craft your own Color and Counting Menorah Play Mat

One large square of canvas or solid colored quilt weight fabric (at least 18"x18")
One large square of blue or contrasting felt or other heavy fabric
9 different colored pieces of usable scraps of felt
One square of yellow felt (for flames
Sew-on Hook-and-loop tape (you won't need much)
Basics (needle, thread, scissors, pencil etc...)

General Guidelines:
Prepare the base canvas by pressing and sewing the edges. Cut a rough Menorah shape out of your large piece of felt and sew the menorah flush to the bottom of your canvas. When completely secured, set entire piece aside, go get your felt scraps. Decided on a rough candle size you like, cut doubles for each of your 9 scrap colors, straight stitched around and stuffed each candle. Then cut out 18 tiny flame shapes to be doubled and make one flame per candle.

Take your Hook-and-loop tape and either sew or adhere to your canvas base where you would like your candles spaced.

Stick the play mat in your holiday box with your Dreidels and other Chanukah fixings and move on to your next holiday project. Enjoy!

Hobby Horse Tutorial, or How I Get Rid of My Plastic Bag Shame

Meet Philbert, our pony.

My oldest is at about that age where she wants a pony. She hasn't got a TV to teach her to constantly pester her parents till they buy her a pony. And while we try not to bring so much extra stuff into the house, one day the thought struck me...

Child: Mama, can we have a pony
Me: No, we live in a little tiny apartment and ponies are big and need lots of space and poop.
Child: He can use the potty.
Me: What if we make a pony?
Child: Like a *miracle?
Me: No, like we'll figure out how to make it.
Child: Ohhhhh.

*Sidenote: My child has no concept of magic. Everything wondrous in her mind springs from a single idea about Moses, a stick, and then boom a miracle... I like the way she see the world.

So I embarked the great hunt for pictures of handmade Hobby Horses online. After looking over a few I saw that there are two basic philosophies on the way to go about this project.

I went with the one that had no real sewing and was made of things I already have lying around my house.

1 Spare sock in the color of your child's dream horse
Matching scrap felt for ears (or use second sock)
Spare broom stick
Yarn for hair
Buttons for eyes
1 Heavy rubber band
1 length of ribbon or string
All the *plastic bags that you've accumulated under your sink to you're own horror

* Note: You can use some cotton or poly-fill if you'd like, I like getting rid of the plastic bags they give weight and shape. I usually am not the culprit of the magically appearing plastic bags, but I am not the only adult in the household.

Instructions: Seems like an overstatement for this quick project so just trust me, this is Eeeeeasy.

1. Although some tutorials may tell you otherwise, I started off scrunching plastic bags inside my sock until I saw what was clearly a horse head. It even has nice rounded cheeks.

2. Cut out some leafy shapes for ears from your felt (I made mine double ply) and sew them on equally spaced from the heel of the sock (eyeball it, the measurement depends on your sock)

3. Move from the ears towards the toe of the sock sew your button eyes.

4. Wrap yarn around the palm of your hand a few dozen times to create large loops. Securely tie off the loops, and cut through the sides to create a patch of the mane. Sew this first tuft on the top of the horse's head just behind the eyes. Continue making these tufts and sewing them down the back of the horses head and neck until he has a full mane.

5. Get your broomstick. Navigate the broomstick into the horse head (sock) until it reaches the top of the head. The broomstick should be solidly placed inside if you've used enough plastic bags or other stuffing.

6. Insert rubber band inside the bottom of sock and roll the sock several times upward inside the sock. This will close the end of the sock giving it a nice finished look.

7. Securely tie your ribbon or string around the base of your horse. You're done!

You may want to add string/felt/fabric reigns around your horse at this point but we're more of a wild mustang, free-range pony sort of family. Hand it over to the kids and enjoy.

Our horse, Philbert is generally a noble steed for princess travel and train bandit get away horse. Maybe next we'll need a unicorn or a whole pony ranch.

Etsy Finds are my Best Friends

10:44 by SarainAkko 0 comments

No, seriously. I relate better to others through the amazing things they create than I do sitting and talking for hours.

Not convinced? Search your favorite color, spice, or scent in the whole world. Chances are you will come up with knitwear, and handmade accessories, and some vintage dress in a color that sounds like a food, a handmade lip balm or pure goat milk soap and more.

Malls make me nervous, Etsy makes me blissful.

I've just updated my store to include a few pieces of Jewelry that I've been tinkering with for the past few late nights. Have a look, let me know if there is something you want, I'll cut you a good deal if you mention this blog.

And as soon as someone can explain to me how to add my Etsy Mini widget, you'll be able to visit the storefront from any post or my homepage.

Comments on this dilemma welcome.

Handmade Baby Gift in 30 mins. How To

Scenario: You're in the supermarket when old friends from out of town call and say they'll be passing through with new baby in about an hour...

Do you....

A). Drop the groceries, run around looking for something adorable only to show up late, with spoiled groceries and empty handed?
B). Drop your groceries, run to your 4 year old child's closet and pull out something. Wrap it up and explain to the confused new parents that their kid will grow into it?
C). Finish your shopping calmly, adding formula and a pack of diapers to be gift-wrapped?
D). Finish your grocery shopping and go home to make this... in 30 mins.

Alright, not the normal amount of effort I would exert on a new-baby gift but with moments warning, this is the best you get. Lesson? Call ahead if you want something really cool, otherwise get a modified one-sie.

30 Minute Handmade Baby Gift How To:

1 Plain Onesie, any size or color you like
1 stained but salvageable or outgrown child t-shirt in bright color, you will cut around the stains, no worry
1 circular pen cap or flat pencil eraser you won't mind painting
Silver fabric paint

Cut paper template of simple flower shape, whatever you like
The Basics: (scissors, needle, thread, glue gun)
....and 30 minutes from start to finish, including dry time.

1). Dig out your plain Onesie or Baby T-Shirt from crafting storage ( I usually stock up before the crafting inspiration strikes me).

2). Mark with a pencil a drooping curve under the neckline of your onesie.
Hint: If you fold the shirt in half and mark the center, your loop will be even and symetrical

3). Dip your round, flat pen cap in silver fabric paint and follow your pencil lines with individual circle stamps. Reapply your paint frequently to maintain consistent bead-like circles. (I've stuck a piece of cardboard between the layers to avoid paint bleeding through)

4). Lay Onesie in sun to dry. Go grab old stained child's shirt in bright color.

5). Trace a bunch of symmetric floral blob shapes from a template you've pre-cut and cut away (avoid spots that are actually stained if you like your friends and want them to continue to like you)

6). Stack 2 flower shapes bellow two smaller ones
(cut away1/8 - 1/4 inch of the large flowers following the overall shape as a guide)

7). Whip-stitch entire stack straight onto now dried Onesie

8). Create another flower stack, whip-stitch the layers to one another.
Hot-glue the stack to a barrette base and allow to cool.

9). Stick the set in a little bag, shove a bow on it and drag your kids out the door to go present this lovely little gift set to your surprise guests.


If you've got 30 minutes, you've got a pretty darn simple baby gift set that is good for those out- of-the-blue visitors.

Try it out, let me know if your friends are as impressed by your craft-ability as mine were.

Crafting for Chanukah Already?

11:59 by SarainAkko 0 comments

The nice thing about living in Israel is that there are constant reminders of what holiday will sneak up on you next. The Fall is totally ruled by High Holidays and their endless strings of Holiday sandwiched between Shabbat and then another and another....

And although we've just taken down our Sukkah, my husband returned from the market the other day with the season's first sufganiot (Israel's best attempt at the doughnut). I was nearing distress over this sneak attack by Chanuka and it's greasy host of accompanying side dishes, but then I glanced at the calendar and noticed that it really is just a short six weeks until our next major holiday.

Here's my agenda for this holiday season, a rough outline that would be a miraculous Maccabian victory if I get through half.

Chanukah To Craft List
Colors and Counting Chanukiah (Menorah)
Dreidel Gelt Bags
Homemade Sufganiot (dare I try anything deep fried?)
Chanukah Crayons (Less dangerous than using a fryer)
Something of Juda Maccabi action hero variety
Something with a lion
Something New?

Oh and crafty gifts for all... oy, I really should think about some gifts.

Super. I'll start crafting now. I'll share projects as I go.

Show and Tell Saturday

I was not quite aware how many exceptional bloggers/crafters have been getting together regularly to share their projects and peek around other blogs. So I'm glad to say I'm throwing in with the best of them and will be sharing at Show and Tell Saturday at Be Different... Act Normal.

For anyone who might notice, we don't work on Saturdays around here so I will be sending my post in early Friday to be included in the weekly display.

Big thank you to Lorie for helping me out and hosting such a great place to come together and ogle each others' projects.

Princess Theme Gift Bags? Quick Princess Crafts for Princess Goody Bags.

*Note: All tutorials mentioned will be listed in the new "Tutorials" section, coming this week

What do preschoolers really want in their princess themed goody bags? Bags that will entertain 30 boys and girls at least until they get out the doors of the classroom.

Here's what I came up with

Finger Puppets in disguise as Pencil Toppers, Unicorns

or Dragons (Tutorials to come)

Sparkle flower hair clips (Another easy Tutorial, stay tuned)

Plus a special Headband for the birthday girl
Sorry boys, you'll have to settle for harmonicas.

Slap Bracelets (banned from schools decades ago, but now covered and safe)

Butterfly Straws (paper punch and sticky dots, I can't this is stress how simple)
Princess SillyBandz (a new and rare commodity here)

All in these nifty little baggies (do you really want another Tutorial? By end of the week I swear.)
(Yes you can buy organza bags even here in Akko, but who doesn't want to use up a 5 year old stash of scratchy pink tulle).

You can see that I've drifted from the all princess theme a bit but crafting supplies can be limited and sometimes it's simpler to just throw some cool looking projects in a sack and call it a day.

Fake Your Own Chinese Take Out, Recipe and How To

Or "How to Throw together a Speedy Chinese Take-Out Dinner with What You've Already Got"

Again the sudden urge for something that does not exist in my immediate area, the illusive Chinese Take-out in Israel. Sure, there are some imitations in larger cities that mostly showcase the local perversion of classic Chinese flavor, Akko is not a large city and I'd like something not doused in Thai Chili sauce and passed off as "Szechuan Beef."

On tonight's menu:

Egg Rolls: Rolled with mushrooms and bean sprouts (I don't like cabbage in my rolls)

Pot Stickers: Luckily there is a Russian dish, sold in the freezer section which is a dead-ringer for it's Chinese counterpart. In the past I have modified my great-grandmother's Kreplach recipes with green onion to get the right flavor as well.

Vegan Hot and Sour Soup:Mushroom and "Chicken" base (Recipe Below)

& Chicken LoMein for the husband and kids

The only ingredient that was not already on hand was the quintessential white pepper. Easily remedied with a trip to the market and a worthwhile staple for the spice rack.

As is absolutely required by this sort of visual feast of food, we ate off the "fancy china" with our "nice" chopsticks (decorated wooden and not disposable).

But, I promised one very simple recipe to make Hot and Sour Soup when the delivery guy just won't deliver to your neck of the woods.

Vegan (or not)Hot and Sour Soup Recipe, Makes 4 Servings

1 cup of Chicken Flavored Broth, or stock of your choice (I used 2 instant soup packets)
Assortment of dried mushrooms, whatever you have on hand works
1 cup of fresh or canned mushrooms of your choice
6 cups water
1/8 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 Tablespoon vinegar (white, wine, red, rice... anything that is vinegar)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoona fresh or ground ginger
Handful of bean sprouts

Additions: If you have access to canned water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, cooked tofu or other trademarks of Hot and Sour Soup use them in proportion. To create the egg drop effect (clearly for a non-vegan version) scramble one egg and pour slowly into the already boiling soup, making sure to continue stirring the soup as the egg becomes stringed but cooked. If you've chosen meat stock, you may want to add either cut chicken or beef.

Directions: Add all ingredients to medium sized soup pot, boil and allow to cook down. Salt and pepper to taste. *If there isn't enough "hot" try a bit more white pepper, and if the "sour" isn't quite right think of adding a bit more vinegar. Too thick add another cup or two of water as soup cooks down. Cook between 30-40 mins. Serve hot.


*Note: I don't believe soup is an exact science and although it might be infuriating to get a recipe with so much give and take variable to the ingredients, this is how I work in the kitchen.

Let me know if you try it out at home.

Crochet Bangles and Ugly Jewelry Rehab

11:08 by SarainAkko 0 comments

I've been holding on to a special skein of wool for some time now. I take it out to look longingly at it every now and then, but haven't quite put my finger on it's real purpose. It wasn't so expensive that I can't part with it but the colors are really so deep and lovely that I can't think what to do with it.

At least I couldn't until I saw a recent post by CreativeJewishMom. Why not crochet around some dollar store bangles?

Well, not these bangles I soon found out. The bendy nature of their shape makes for a wonky final product which, when translated to crochet, makes the bracelets look a bit sloppy.

But wait, don't I have some big wooden bangle that I have never used, hiding in a crafting drawer, waiting to be crocheted?

Why yes, I believe I do.

I'm happier with this round, clean looking final product. Also the large band of the bangle shows off all the colors in such a bold way that I'll be happy to pass this along as a gift. As an added bonus, the wool makes this bracelet really very warm to wear. After all, I like the idea of gifting something that is not only beautiful but practical as a multi-tasking accessory.

"Why not just wrap the yarn?" you may ask yourself as I did when I started on this project. Wouldn't the effect be the same and take less time in figuring out how to get the slipknot around that bangle. My personal answer is two-fold.

1. I like the finished look of the crochet which gives the piece an edge to the design but also...

2. If you start with a large skein you will either have to unravel and approximate how much yarn will be needed to wrap the entire surface or continually cut huge lengths to accommodate the wrapping (the ball of yarn just wouldn't fit through the hole).

Try it out as a quick project for yourself or someone else.

Aunt Annie's Pretzels at Home DIY, a first attempt

Finished Pretzel rolled by 4 year old with help from mom.

There are some things that just don't exist where we live. Most days this isn't a problem, I cook with what I've got on hand and make it up as I go. We don't eat outside of the house and as a consequence of all of these tiny factors, meals can start to run together as a general cloud of chicken and potatoes.

But then there are those days when I think, "Why can't we make Arby's Curly Fries at home?" Or "How hard could it be to make Salsa Verde?"

The fries aren't actually very difficult to replicate with some simple spices we keep in the house, but as luck would have it the tomatillo is entirely inaccessible in the Middle East. *Tomatillo is a husked, sour, green, tomato like vegetable and it is the base for Salsa Verde.

When my 4 year old was hinting for a baking project the other day, I knew it was time to try something different. The impostor recipe for Aunt Annie's pretzels that I had come across seemed too promising to pass up.

The recipes can be found all over the web but they more or less all seem about the same. Here's what I used.

After I threw the yeast and sugar to proof in a bowl I walked away for a minute and by the time I returned to the kitchen, I knew this recipe was absolute gold. The brown sugar must be the secret because my entire kitchen smelled like Aunt Annie's Pretzels.

Not that I want my kitchen to smell like a mall foodcourt, but in this case it was a good sign.

Although the recipe I followed was rated a 4 out of 5 in difficulty, it seemed pretty straight forward and the soda/water bath before baking really made the difference in the pretzel texture.

My kids like Za'atar, lots of it on everything. So while the kids and spouse devoured their homemade mall style pretzels with a distinctly Israeli twist, I quietly made mine cinnamon and sugar and enjoyed the few minutes of peace in my kitchen.

This is a Curly Fry impostor recipe that I've used on everything from tiny potato wedges to sweet potato slices... it may not be exactly like those greasy deep-fried calorie explosions, but does make for a great quick way to spice up the nightly side-dish. If it just isn't the same without the long potato curls... here's the thingy that curls fries for you.

Autumn Leaves Tutorial

I'm working on a wedding present for someone with a slight "Autumn in the Country" bend.

The invitations came decorated with miniature maple leaf embellishments so in keeping with the theme, I'm thinking of Fall foliage.

The biggest problem with that line of thinking is that while the Midwest abounds with colorful leaves and the warm hues of the season, the Mediterranean is nearly without seasons and doesn't have those nice North American maples, oaks, pines and so on. So how do I get my hands on some genuine Fall efflorescence.

Here's the process.

Gather up the Autumn toned papers from the extensive paper stash

Get out the mica powder luster, ink pads and stamps that look equinoctial

Make some templates

Start cutting

Ink, chalk, luster and emboss till something looks right

Align Left
Arrange into a beautiful leafy array.

I'm not sure what the final outcome of this arrangement will be but I would prefer something that doesn't bare a wreath-like resemblance. Any ideas? I'm fresh out.

Dumpster Diving is not Alternative Culture

Not so long ago my life was not comprised of a husband, children, family business or blog.

At one point I lived in a large house in the city that housed a collection of eco-do-gooders. Conscious communists of the French variety (born into commune life, not self-declared), bicycle messengers, and the other city-dweller sorts of earthy young adults who drove bio-diesel burners or never drove at all. We had the kind of transient roommates that are best described as couch surfers who seemed to drift effortlessly through life without a mailing address.

Everyone held stable-ish jobs for 20-somethings. One was even the head of a large corporation's programing department. His paycheck certainly wasn't the reason he lived in a communal house.

Some of these roommates and transients belonged to the local bike gang. Not quite Hell's Angels. The gang's activities included rehabbing bicycles to become load bearing and be sent to Developing Nations, creating environmental awareness through the city with their rides that closed down major thoroughfares, creating found-art of everything and anything and....

Dumpster Diving... for food. Also known as Dumpster Dining.

Our home often hosted large dinners of coworkers from an environmental watch group that could reach up to 20+ people on any given weeknight. Rent plus utilities and normal groceries rarely accommodate feeding that many others in your home regularly. I won't describe the incredible amount of food large grocery networks are forced by law or policy to throw away daily or the steps they take to ensure that their food isn't accessible once tossed to the dumpster, but you can imagine that every item that does not sell from your local Whole Foods will eventually end up in their dumpsters out back.

If that food is fortunate, and willing hands are fortunate enough to reach it in time the food may end up on someone's plate as a perfectly good meal. This photo of the found food is taken from an interview with a few college-freegans in MN who seem to express the same sort of attitude as my former roommates.

I never ate a veggie gone bad, there was nothing on anyone's plate that had turned or soured. This was nourishment with intrinsic value both nutritionally and monetarily to our huge dinner tables. In fact, you'd be surprised at the way organic produce looks when finally given the heave ho from the aisles; wrapped, labeled, dated, edible. Most grocers even dispose of their expired items in a re-user friendly way quite naturally as each section takes care of their own clean-up, they bag and separate food items by department.

My life is long since removed from these re-purposed dinner tables. Here in Akko, there are not any alternative bike gangs running around screaming for the environment, or groups of youths jumping into dumpsters to rescue high quality organic produce that has sat for it's one day in the sun. There are no locks on our dumpsters to keep these alt-kids out.

But Akko is a terribly poor city. Our citizens are on average old and many live well under the poverty line even on government assistance. Many elderly collect bottles and cans from the receptacles for the tiny refund they can receive in the supermarkets. There are also quite a few salvagers who look for scrap out of the 40 year old electronics that are thrown to the curb. Although there are assistance organizations that take second-hand clothing for redistribution it is often most common for clothes to be left folded neatly in large bags and placed next to the dumpsters so someone in need might take these items quietly in the night without the shame of visiting an aid organization.

My home is directly behind the supermarket which, for comparisons, is roughly the size of a large American 7-11 with just 4 aisles. Our market opens at 7AM and by 8AM all of the cleaning of the produce aisle and the shipments for the new day have taken place. The old produce, often visibly rotten (high heat and high humidity are not the friends of such products) is brought out to the dumpster. By 8AM when I walk my daughter to preschool the entire back end of the market is covered with elderly waiting for this food to be disposed of so that they can toss it into their market carts to be taken home.

Today was the first day my 4 year old gave any serious notice to this matter. Although she is generally a very thoughtful and caring child she has learned from well intentioned adults that something unclean is labeled "foo dirty."

And so she began with her questioning, "Mama, isn't that a bad man? He is playing in the garbage. Foo. That's not nice."

My heart breaks a little every time I see someone's grandmother digging through our trash or someone's grandfather jumping in after the spoiled tomatoes but I had no idea how to explain in a Jewish and civilly responsible way to my child what she was witnessing.

Jewish law goes very far to explain that you are obligated to provide charity to others in need, even when you yourself are in need. Throughout Israel you will even notice that people do not throw out bread, it is left in the open for the poor to take. And overall, that while you are to provide for others in need, you must grant people their self respect which sometimes means allowing them to do what is necessary to survive. Slipping someone a few bucks to go into the market and buy food might seem like a reasonable action to the untrained bystander, but that very action might take away the person's dignity in accepting charity.

And so today I have to prepare myself for a talk with a four year old about the facts of life, that people in her city do go hungry and that people who look like her grandparents often wait for food to be thrown in a dumpster so they can feed their families. I know that this is true of other major cities, even in the lucrative suburbs of my youth, but here our poverty is apparent and should be confronted head on. Even if that means starting with my own children.

This is a short documentary called Meet the Freegans
Britain has become serious about reducing food waste in the home, great for conservation ideas