The Olive Branch: May

Well, it’s almost the end of June so I guess it’s about time we looked back at May! And, my goodness, May was a month crammed full of national holidays for us here at the Olive Branch…

Israeli salads

Independence Day bbq

First off it was Israeli Independence Day, otherwise known as Yom HaAtzmaut. For Israelis, this is essentially a day of barbecues and fireworks. We had a fun and relaxed day with friends and, although a barbecue did feature, it should be noted that the amount of meat consumed was minimal. Not only is Mr Olive vegetarian but Israeli barbecues generally include a selection of beautiful salads just impressive as whatever’s on the grill! Tom, however, mainly enjoyed the ketchup 🙂

Wonder girl

Running wild at Lag B'Omer

Then, a couple of weeks later, it was Lag B’Omer. This holiday has a pretty interesting history in that it signifies different things for religious Jews (and Jews outside of Israel) compared to the Israeli secular population. Without going into it too much, this traditionally religious holiday was reinterpreted by secular Israel as a commemoration of the Jewish rebel Bar Kokhva’s revolt against the Roman Empire in the 2nd Century and is now used as kind of a Zionist allegory. In practice, though, it’s mainly a children’s festival: a day of bonfires and toasted marshmallows. We went to a bonfire organized by the parents of Tom’s kindergarten, which was loads of fun. There is a verb in Hebrew, ‘lehishtolel’, which doesn’t have a direct translation into English. Roughly, it means to ‘go wild’, ‘raise a rumpus’ or ‘make mischief. ‘Lehishtolel’ is what Sophie and Tom did on Lag B’Omer!

Graphic tank + midi skirt

Midi skirt + baseball boots

Also in May, Olives and Peaches published our first outfit post with photography by Ronit Inon. I’ve been really inspired by reading Anuschka Rees’s The Curated Closet (and posted about it here) and now that I’ve explored and thoroughly defined my personal style (which I’ve called ‘Alternative Nineties with a Side of Vintage’ :)) I’m feeling a lot more confident about posing for outfit photos!

Gan Daniel swag

Sophie’s kindergarten moved house and had a big clear-out, selling off loads of things from their considerable stash. Since her kindergarten is inspired by Waldorf educational practices and philosophy, they place great emphasis on aesthetic beauty, natural materials, and arts and crafts. It was no surprise, then, that I picked up some beautiful treasures in their sale.

Doily table runner

I’d been dreaming of a doily table runner for some time (yes, these are the sorts of things I dream about) so I was especially happy to find one in the sale. Here it is decorating probably the most romantic corner of our apartment 🙂

How to make a flower crown

The third and final holiday to fall in May was Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. Like many holidays celebrated in Israel it has both a religious and a secular interpretation. On the one hand, it’s the holiday which commemorates the biblical event in which God gave the Torah to the Nation of Israel. On the other hand, Shavuot is also the celebration of the wheat harvest and also, somewhat inexplicably, the holiday on which everybody eats vast quantities of cheese. Which is definitely alright with me. In fact, when people ask me what is celebrated on Shavuot, I usually just say it’s the Cheese Holiday.

Sophie’s kindergarten, which excels in its celebration of festivals, prepared their annual Shavuot performance. Dressed as various characters from biblical and folk lore, the children acted out a scene in which, like the farmers of ancient Israel, they made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem to bring offerings of the first fruits of the harvest, accompanied my music, song and dance. All the kids were required to wear, not only a home-made costume, but also a flower crown. (Side note: I kind of love the fact that Waldorf kindergartens more or less demand that the parents be crafty!) I made Sophie’s crown out of fresh flowers and we shared a tutorial on the blog for how to make your own. The top image in this post shows Sophie acting out her role as a dancer and wearing the crown!

In other excitement, I got to be in the same room as – and even exchange a few words with – my celebrity crush, took my first few steps towards starting my own cake business (more about this to come), and opened our door to a slew of potential buyers as our flat went on the market!

What have you been up to recently?

Love Em xx

 

 

 

 

The Olive Branch: February and March

Golly gosh, where is the year going? My aim was to write an Olive Branch update at the end of every month but somehow February got away from me and now it’s already the first week of April! Time for a bumper edition!

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Back in February, we took an overnight trip to the one place in Israel where you can count on seeing snow in the winter: Mt Hermon. As you can see, we weren’t alone there. Yup, Israelis get pretty excited about snow…

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We shared a DIY for a Kids’ Art Wall Collage. Also a great way to spruce up and repurpose an old picture frame! Mmmm, look at the nice tidily-arranged toys and books (it never really looks like that).

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Sophie performed in her ballet show and I was so proud I could burst! I guess ballet love must be hereditary…

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We went on a spring almond-blossom hunt. Every year we take a trip to the Sataf, an agricultural site in the Jerusalem Hills, where they experiment with growing vegetables and orchard trees as they were grown in biblical times. So pretty!

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Yup, still working on that scarf! Pretty slow going, but it is my first knitting project after all. Hope to finish it by next winter! I’ve joined a knitting group and we meet every Thursday. Wouldn’t even have managed one row without those lovely girls…

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I finally dug out my pasta machine, which had been languishing decadently in its box for the last four years, and proceeded to make tortellini, which didn’t take very long at all. I lie, it took A WHOLE DAY! Avoid making all my newbie mistakes by checking out our post: How to Use a Pasta Machine: 10 Top Tips!

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Was it worth spending a whole day learning how to use a pasta machine! Absolutely it was! Especially when the result was Chard, Pistachio and Cranberry Tortellini with Shiitake and Lemongrass-Sage Butter. Check out our recipe and I defy not to lick the bowl at the end!

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I made a wig. Not a very realistic-looking hairpiece, I admit, but one that was befitting of a little mermaid all dressed up for Purim. For anyone unfamiliar with Purim, it’s often described as the Jewish Halloween: kid-centered, fancy dress costumed, too many sweets… you get the idea. I gave Sophie a deadline for deciding what costume she wanted and then held her to it. Although I did somewhat modify her initial request to dress up as an ‘evil mermaid’. What the heck?

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Purim was an insane week of costume making, egg decoration (not just for Easter, apparently), goodie basket prep and multiple parties. Super fun and rather knackering! Here are Sophie the Mermaid and Tom the Pirate just before we headed off to Mr Olive’s office Purim party.

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Current obsession: The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees. This is a book which is basically a step by step system for discovering your own personal style and curating the perfect wardrobe of clothes to meet your style and lifestyle needs. I’ve worked through most of the exercises and am now on the section about working with outfit formulas. Doing the exercises in this book is basically what I would prefer to be doing over almost anything else at the moment and I’m already feeling so much more confident in how I dress. Did I mention I’m obsessed?

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Last but not least, my parents and brother came from the U.K. to visit for a week so I went all quiet on social media so I could focus on really being with them. It was so wonderful having them here and getting to share my Levantine life with them! We did beach walks, hummus lunches, extended family gatherings, road trips… ah, missing them  so much already…

All that plus a baby shower, a Mums’ karaoke night, closing on a kindergarten for Tom for September, and house hunting. LOTS of house hunting.

Sometimes it feels like time is moving so swiftly without much being achieved so it’s fun to look back and see how much we really did in these months! How is spring treating you so far?

Love Em xx

 

Kids’ Art Collage DIY

This was a DIY I came up with to solve two problems. We had a large piece of wall art centre stage in our living room and, although I didn’t hate it, I just wasn’t feeling the love for it anymore. We picked it out when we first moved to Tel Aviv but, seven years later, the style didn’t feel right and the colours were definitely all wrong for our space. This is it (please avert your eyes from the clutter of toys on the shelf beneath – or don’t and feel relieved that yours is not the only family that struggles with toy-narchy):

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In addition, our little Sophie (age 4) has turned into quite a fabulous artist in the past few months. I love her drawings (mainly figures in profile with crazy hair flying out behind them, which I’ve just realized also describes the picture I replaced – spooky!) but it was getting hard to know what to do with them all. I found this article super helpful as it provides a system for sorting through and storing your kids’ artwork. I now have a file folder AND a rotating display in the kids’ bedroom AND a few months ago I also chose some of Sophie’s best pieces and mailed them to her grandparents and some other family members. Win-win-win, right? I know. I surprised myself. The rest get (not too guiltily) recycled.

And then I came across this picture and I became weirdly obsessed with the piece of artwork on the left-hand wall. A very simple framed collage of kids’ artwork, but look how pretty and sweet it is. I decided to make my own!

This DIY involved both spray-painting the picture frame and making the collage to go inside it. In the past I’ve often bought cheap frames or already-framed pictures at the flea market and I’ve found that painting the frames can really give the artwork a new lease of life. It’s also a way to create harmony between a group of pictures or between the art and the rest of your decor. If you’ve never spray-painted picture frames before you can use steps 1 and 2 of this tutorial, regardless of whether you intend to make the collage or not. 🙂

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Supplies:

  1. Scrap paper – newspaper is fine, or you can do what I did and cut up used grocery bags.
  2. Masking tape
  3. Scissors
  4. Spray paint in the colour of your choice. I used Rustoleum Ultra Cover Paint + Primer. If your spray paint does not have a built-in primer you will need a separate primer.
  5. Paper to form the backing of your collage – I used brown craft paper.
  6. Glue stick
  7. White card stock to make a picture mat.
  8. Watercolour paints and paintbrush (optional)
  9. Cutting mat (not pictured)
  10. X-acto knife (not pictured)
  11. Ruler (not pictured)
  12. An old picture frame (not pictured)
  13. A selection of your kid’s beautiful artwork!

Note: working with spray paint is rather messy and the fumes can be dangerous. If you have the option, I would recommend doing the painting part of this project outside. We live in an apartment so I just did it on the floor of my laundry room with all the windows open. Take anything you don’t want to get covered in paint dust out of your work area and cover your surface with a sheet – I used an old shower curtain.

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Step 1: Measure the glass front of your picture frame so you know how big your collage needs to be, then go ahead and cover the glass with scrap paper and tape down carefully. Make sure there are no gaps where the glass peeks through.

Step 2: Follow the instructions on your spray paint and spray the picture frame with as many coats as is needed to get a smooth and even finish. Don’t forget to spray the sides of the frame and the thin strip where the frame meets the glass. The Rustoleum Ultra Cover paint I used includes a primer but I still needed to do about 6 coats, with a few minutes drying time between each coat. I then waited an hour until the frame was dry enough to handle and did one final coat.

Step 3: While the frame is drying you can make your collage. Measure and cut out a piece of paper the same size as the glass part of the frame. If your frame is large you may need to tape several pieces of paper together, as I did. Don’t worry about how it looks: this is just going to be the backing for the collage and won’t be visible. Select your favourite pieces of kid’s artwork – I chose pieces in colours that match our living room decor. Take some time to arrange the drawings on the backing paper, bearing in mind that the edges closest to the frame will be covered by your picture mat. Then take a phone photo so you don’t forget where you put the drawings! (True story). Carefully glue them in their places using the glue stick.

Step 4: Create a mat for your collage using white card stock. This will be a nice border for the picture and creates a more professional-looking finish. I made my mat 5cm wide on each side but you could make yours wider or narrower depending on the overall dimensions of your piece. I cut mine out using a cutting mat and an X-acto knife to get a good straight line. Use the glue stick to glue the mat around the edge of the collage.

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Sophie admiring her work 🙂

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Step 5: This step is optional but I found that the white frame, together with the white mat and the collage, which itself contains a lot of white space, combined to create a piece that looked, to use Mr Olive’s phrasing, “a bit anemic”! I created some added contrast and interest by painting watercolour dots on the mat and I think they did the trick! Also, they’re pink, so… (#ihavethisthingwithpink). All you have to do now is put your collage in its frame and hang it in pride of place on your wall!

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So there you have it! You’ve replaced a piece of art you felt kind of ‘meh’ about with one that you love, and you’ve found a great solution for what to do with (at least a small proportion of) that tsunami of kids’ drawings you were drowning in. But, really, the best part of this project is the fact that for years to come, your kid will be able to see her or his artwork displayed prominently on your wall and know that their creativity is valued and loved. Awwww!

The Olive Branch: January

So the first month of 2017 has come and gone and if the photos I’ve taken this month are anything to go by, it seems like our January was mainly filled with baking sweet treats, eating aforementioned treats and then hiking in the countryside to make our bodies think the sweet treats never happened.

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At the beginning of the month I shared my go-to cookie recipe: Chocolate Chip Raisin Oat Cookies. Yummy, simple to make and not even really all that bad for you (ignore the butter, ignore the butter… what? Of course I wasn’t trying to send you a subliminal message). Bake up a batch and then you won’t have to offer your guests your kids’ Pez sweets as refreshment.

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Also, I tidied up Sophie and Tom’s shared bedroom so I could share this Kids’ Room Tour and it stayed tidy from the exact moment I finished tidying it until the exact moment the kids entered it. Sisyphus, I feel ya.

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We took a couple of lovely trips out of the city. This one was our hike at Yaqum Lake in the centre of Israel. It’s a lake that only exists in the winter, after the rains begin. Tom enjoyed scanning the wide skies for airplanes.

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I bought a new plant! Such an indulgence, I know. It’s a Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sanseviera) and here it is peeking out from behind the lamp. Apparently it’s one of those ones that’s impossible to kill. We’ll see. Already this month we had some crazy strong winds which literally dislodged our window boxes and smashed them onto the ground below (we live on the fourth floor). Only the lemon geranium survived… sniff sniff.

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We did another trip up to the Carmel region to Ramat Hanadiv, a nature park with formal gardens and a separate wilder section with hiking trails. We loved the rose garden, which was in full bloom – it’s always funny for me to see flowers and plants that I associate with summer thriving in the Mediterranean winter! By the way, the pink roses smelled the sweetest. No surprise there then. #ihavethisthingwithpink

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In important family news, Mr Olive’s sister gave birth to their first baby and I’m so looking forward to all the cuddles! I baked this Vegan Chilled Chocolate Torte with Toasted Hazlenut Crust to celebrate (my sister-in-law and her husband are vegan so we eat a lot of plant-based food in our family). I based the recipe on one from the first Oh She Glows cookbook (which was a gift from Ave, incidentally ♥ ♥ ♥ ). Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to post the recipe!

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And finally, right at the tail end of the month, I finally got round to posting the recipe for Savta Clara’s Tomato, Carrot and Rice Soup. It’s a winter warmer that packs a lemony peppery punch and it’s an old family recipe passed down by Mr Olive’s granny. Generations of soup-lovers can’t be wrong!

Apart from that I went on a girls’ karaoke night, had a date night with Mr Olive, added a few more rows to a scarf I’m knitting (first ever knitting project – wish me luck!), signed a fair few petitions – no need to guess the subject 😦 – and, as always, did a sh*tload of laundry!

So how about you? How was your start to 2017?

Em xx

Kids’ Room Tour

I was, frankly, a little terrified about moving Sophie and Tom into their new beds. I was afraid of things that go bump in the night – nothing supernatural, just the telltale sound of a child falling out of bed and crashing to the floor. I was also filled with trepidation, imagining being woken in the witching hour by a toddler gleefully galloping around the house having realised that his new toddler bed is much lower to the floor and rather less confining than his cot was.

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But Tom, who, at two, can occasionally take a rather cavalier approach to health and safety, was starting to enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to climb out of his cot and up onto the changing table. And Sophie, at the age of four, was definitely ready to move out of her toddler bed and into a big girl bed.  It was time. Room makeover, baby!

Mr Olive and I went bed shopping and chose a classic white single bed for Sophie, locally made by HouseIn, a company that specializes in ‘healthy’, environmentally friendly solid wood furniture, free from toxic chemicals. Apparently, even their glue is based on soya protein. Yum! (Just kidding – don’t eat glue, friends!) We’re really pleased with the purchase and with the room restyle which, I think, has resulted in a simpler, less cluttered and more functional space.

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The room is a decent size but not exactly cavernous so it was important for us to keep the beds up against the walls and maintain the floor space in the middle of the room for playing.

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The ‘It’s a Jolly Holiday’ banner is a DIY via this tutorial and is a tribute to our family’s Mary Poppins fixation. The goatbells hanging from the curtain rail were picked up by Mr Olive on his hiking trip in Greece last autumn.

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The Four Bears canvas print was a gift from my cool sister-in-law. The little wooden train at the front with the Hebrew letters was also a gift from friends and spells out ‘Tom’.

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The paper cranes mobile was a DIY and the red dress hanging on the back of the door was a gift brought back from Singapore by my other cool sister-in-law (is it the job of sisters-in-law to be cool or what?).

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The shelving unit is the IKEA Lerberg, which I spray painted white. It’s great for stacking boxed toys. I also love large glass jars (placed safely out of reach) for all of those little plastic doodads the kids seem to magnetically attract – the jars corral it all, it actually looks kind of cute, and if the kids want something specific from a jar they just ask.

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We kept the existing colour scheme, a bright and gender-neutral combo of red, yellow, blue and pink. So far the kids haven’t had too much input into how the room is decorated (too young to give a monkey’s, basically) but I can feel that starting to change. Sophie’s new bedding was a surprise Christmas present but I knew she would love the fairytale unicorn design. And, boy, does she! Almost every night she asks me to keep the light on for one more minute so she can admire her duvet cover one last time. So cute!

The kids have shared a room since Tom was about seven months old and, altogether, it’s worked well. They wake each other up occasionally, but since Sophie generally acts like she’s trying to win a gold medal in competitive sleeping, it’s not usually a problem. I also think that room sharing supports sibling closeness and they do really seem to enjoy being together.

I’m super happy with the room’s new(ish) layout and a good side benefit is that it has forced me to do some toy purging and reorganization too. First world problems, I know. But most importantly, Sophie and Tom love their new beds, nobody has fallen out (yet) and, hey, if they get really hungry at night there’s always that soya protein bed glue to chew on. KIDDING!

OTHER PRODUCT SOURCES: Wall art – Society 6; Book display unit – IKEA hack; Curtains, white chest of drawers, mirror, white fluffy rug, pink flower light – IKEA; woven rug – Fox Home; pink unicorn bedding – ASDA George

Pouf Love: it’s a thing!

“You say pouf and I say floor cushion; you say tom-ey-to and I say tom-ah-to…” – wait, you mean that’s not how the song goes?! And do you say ‘ottoman’ or just plain and simple ‘footstool’? So confusing. Anyway…

I was looking back at my Pinterest boards and I realised that my love for poufs (floor cushions?) began three years ago and I’ve only just got myself one now. So that means I’ve been fantasizing about getting a pouf for THREE years! It’s not as if I was yearning for a Ferrari. I guess I’m just majorly into delayed gratification, even when it comes to something as relatively easily attainable as… whatever you call them.

img_2567But now… now, I have a pouf in my home and it’s ever so lovely. I wanted it for our living room so I knew it needed to fit in with my Valentine’s Day-esque colour scheme (our living room falls in the Relationships gua of our home, according to Feng Shui, so this inspired the colour story for this part of the house). I found a wonderful seller on Ebay called Multimate Collection, who sells floor cushion covers made from upcycled Indian saris. The seller emailed me a couple of options in the pinkish reddish tones I requested and I chose my favourite. When it arrived I took it to a local upholsterer here in north Tel Aviv and got him to make me a cushion to fit inside. And, boom! A pouf cushion! A floor-oman! An ottopouf? (Is this joke getting old?)

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It’s beautiful. The kids love bouncing on it. And you get a whole new seating option which is easily portable and much cheaper than forking out for an armchair – yay hooray!

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So what about you? Are you as enamored of sitting on the floor as I am (preferably with a comfy cushion under your bum)? Are you an ottoman lover? Or do you fall firmly into the chaise longue camp (there must be one, right)?