Shabbat is such a feast for the senses! See the candles, hear/sing the blessings and songs, taste the challah and wine/grape juice, touch the embroidery on a challah cover or the velvet of a kippah, and smell the havdalah spices.
Beautiful scents are such a joy and so easily overlooked in a busy life. I always take time to stop and smell the (neighbours’) roses! And the lavender, and the frangipanis, and the rosemary, and the golden wattle…
I confess that our family doesn’t really observe havdalah (yet) – apart from smelling our spice box.
These spice bags are easy to put together – place a selection of spices inside a little organza bag (sold in packs for wedding favours) and tie the ribbon to hold it in place. Before that, you might like to share and compare the scents of your favourite spices. We used whole cloves, cinnamon scrolls, star anise, cardamom pods and vanilla pod. (I’m not recommending this as the world’s best combination, but it certainly smells interesting!)
This was very popular with my Shabbat Tot group of 3 to 5 year olds this month, because it needed minimum adult intervention!
1. Glue a small coloured patty pan (cupcake liner) to the centre of a small paper doily.
2. Sticky tape a drinking straw to the back.
3. Decorate with stickers or textas if you’re in the mood.
4. Insert into vases. To make an easy vase – decorate a small glass bottle with adhesive foam shapes. I buy apricot nectar in six-packs of 125ml bottles (apricot chicken, mmmmmm) and saved them up over the year. They are the perfect size to hold 3 paper flowers.
You can read my version of the 10 Commandments, rewritten for children, here. We did the same craft activity again this year, but I revised the printout (download it here) so that the numbers are against the text of the commandments rather than next to the names of the hebrew letters. Personally I think it looks a bit better – the kids probably didn’t mind either way.
In other news: dabbing a (wet but not too soggy) teabag onto paper gives better results than wiping it over; and foam cutout stickers (something I only recently discovered) are awesome!
I’ve been wanting a stuffed toy Torah for a while now, but they are not available locally, postage from overseas is expensive, and frankly I wanted something that looked more like a scroll and less like a multicoloured cartoon alien (see exhibit A). With Shavuot approaching, I decided to take the plunge and make my own. Thankfully at least one talented person has been smart enough to design their own toy Torah, and kind enough to put the instructions online. Thank you Sweet&Crunchy!!
Following her tutorial, I didn’t have too much trouble putting my own home-made sewn-and-stuffed toy Torah together. I used calico (approx 30cm wide x 85cm long) for the scroll, felt for the handles (approx 8.5cm diameter for the circles), a ribbon for the belt, and some leftover fancy fabric (with scalloped edge) for the cover. I only had to unpick one major blooper, so I’m feeling quite pleased with myself!
My daughter is very happy and already making plans to carry it around shul for Simchat Torah! I am hoping to make a breastplate, yad and possibly even rimonim, but the technicalities of all that will be revealed in the fullness of time (ie after I figure it out for myself!)
When my daughter was very young, I took a photograph of her, just before Pesach, holding a box of matzah. It became an instant family tradition, and it’s a great way to see how much she has grown from year to year. (Either that or matzah boxes are getting smaller!)
Last year my daughter was four, old enough to stay awake for our Passover Seder, but not quite old enough to sing the four questions, the role traditionally assigned to the youngest child. Instead, she was delighted to score what seemed to her to be the best job in the world: Chief Frog Wrangler. However, frogs alone do not constitute ten plagues, so I set about trying to concoct something visual for the other nine. And once we had the plagues, we needed someone to inflict them on. I have recently discovered that you can obtain actual figurines of Moses and Pharaoh, but not from anywhere near where we live. Thus it came to pass that Moses and Pharaoh were created from cardboard tubes and pipecleaners, and they made our Seder so much fun that we have booked them to appear again this year.
Initially this was going to be a Passover craft for my Shabbat Tot group and I found instructions for making a cardboard Moses on the internet. My first effort was decorated by my daughter, who may have been subconsciously channelling Joseph and his Technicolour Dream Coat.
So I decided to dress Moses up more elegantly, by glueing some fabric scraps to the outside of the cardboard tube rather than using paper. At this point I realised that the paper arms would not really match the new look, so I ditched them in favour of threading through a pipecleaner. I also decided I wanted a less cartoon-like face, so I used google images to search for a more realistic (?) version of Moses. This returned way too many photos of Charlton Heston, but eventually I found one of the very talented Ben Kingsley.
For Pharaoh I also wrapped fabric around a cardboard tube and inserted pipecleaner arms. For his head I attached a picture of King Tut. (I know this is actually his death mask, but seriously, how much more Pharaoh-y could you get?) The finishing touch was bending his arms so that he is “walking like an Egyptian”. Personally I think he looks awesome!
So, last Seder Moses and Pharaoh battled it out, and my daughter had a great time showering down plagues of hail/locusts/frogs etc. Then a few days later I discovered she had fed him to a lego crocodile for good measure. That’ll teach him to be mean to us!
I am convinced there are more ways to spell gregger/grogger/gragger than there are ways to spell Hanukkah/Chanukah! But it doesn’t matter how you spell it or what it looks like, as long as it makes enough noise to drown out the name of Haman, right?
This is a cheap yet durable Purim noisemaker which is easy to make using a variety of things you can find at home.
You will need:
1. An empty plastic bottle (with lid). Small ones are easiest to hold and shake. This year we used ice tea bottles.
2. Things to put in that will make a noise. Anything goes – rice, dry lentils, uncooked pasta, buttons, craft bells… the list is endless. You don’t need very much – if you look at the picture above, the amount of “rattly stuff” does not even reach the bottom of the decorative label. Rice by itself makes a soft noise which is quite pleasant, but add anything else and it sounds quite cacophonic when shaken energetically (which is the only way most 4 year olds know how to shake!) To make it fun to look at, I dyed some rice with food colouring.
(Tip from someone who has been there: don’t knock over a bottle of food colouring unless you really want to do a lot of cleaning up.) Two or three drops in a small zip-lock bag of rice is plenty. If colouring pasta it helps to add a little white vinegar and to let the finished product dry on a tray, but rice will just soak up the excess moisture along with the colour.
3. Strong tape to hold the lid on the finished noisemaker (not shown on photo above), unless you want to be sweeping the contents off your floor or extracting them from the mouth of some curious toddler.
4. (Optional) Materials to decorate the outside of your noisemaker. In past years we’ve tied curling ribbon streamers around the neck of our plastic bottle. This year the kids decorated a strip of cardboard (preprinted with Happy Purim) and sticky-taped it to the outside of the bottle.
Then we read out our child-friendly version of the Megillat Ester, added some visuals with our Purim spoon puppets, and shook those greggers/graggers/groggers for all they were worth! It was great fun!