Photos by Jonathan Fong

Rosh Hashanah: Apple lantern place cards

You’ll be the apple of everyone’s eye this Rosh Hashanah when you make these place cards for your holiday meal. So easy to make out of construction paper, they even hold battery-operated tea lights to add to the glow of the table. Sweet place cards, indeed.

What you’ll need:

– Red, green and brown construction paper
– Scissors
– Glue
– Battery-operated tea lights
– Pen


Divide an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of red construction paper into four equal sections. Each section makes one apple lantern.


Fold the paper lengthwise and give it a sharp crease with your fingers.


With the folded edge facing you, cut seven equally spaced slits, leaving about a quarter of an inch at the end.


With the slits running vertically, roll up the paper into a cylinder and overlap the edges, gluing them together.


Slide the cylinder over a battery-operated tea light — it should fit perfectly — and press down on it so the sides push out.


Cut a leaf shape out of green construction paper and write a name on it. Cut a stem out of brown paper. Glue them to the top of the apple.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

Brown bag it: DIY paper bag roses

I’m not wild about silk flowers. They scream “grandma” to me. (Sorry, bubbe.) But I do love artificial flowers made from paper. Because they are so stylized, they are more of an art piece than “fake” flowers. The fact that they obviously are not real makes them glorious.

Among my favorite artificial flowers are giant cabbage roses made from brown paper bags. They look dramatic, and no one would believe they’re actually brown bags.

What you’ll need:

– Lunch-size brown paper bags
– Rit dye
– Rubber gloves
– Scissors
– Hot glue gun
– Wood skewers

bag roses1

1. Place the paper bags one at a time in a dye bath of about 1 part dye and 2 parts water. I selected red dye for the petals and green dye for the sepals. (Oh, remember that rubber gloves are your best friend here.)

bag roses2

2. Lay the paper bags out on plastic covering to dry overnight. For each rose, you’ll need four bags of the color of your choice and one bag that’s green.

bag roses3

3. You’ve heard of double bagging. Here, you will be “quintuple” bagging, with the green bag on the outside and the four red bags on the inside.

bag roses4

4. Twist the bags together tightly so you have what looks like a handle. It should be starting to resemble a rose, or at least the torch the Statue of Liberty holds.

bag roses5

5. Peel back the green bag. Tear it in a few places so that it looks like the sepals of a rose.

bag roses6

6. Peel back the red bags one at a time, starting from the outside in. You can leave the layers as is or tear them to create petals. And just as the inner petals of real roses are more closed, keep the innermost red bag scrunched up.

bag roses7

7. The rose looks finished — but wait! There’s a second rose hidden in there. Cut the green stem at the base of the rose with a good pair of scissors. Seal the cut edge with hot glue. Then put a wood skewer into the base for a stem if desired.

bag roses8

8. And that piece you cut off? As with the first rose, unroll the layers and make another rose out of that. Yeah, you’ve got this project in the bag.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You  can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at

Photos by Jonathan Fong

DIY: Easy coffee filter flowers

I may be dating myself, but the first record I ever owned was Marie Osmond’s “Paper Roses.” To this day, I’m still obsessed with flowers made of paper. They add a festive touch to home décor, parties or even gift packaging. And they last forever.

I’ve made flowers out of tissue paper, book pages and comic books — they all have their unique charms. But flowers made of coffee filters are all the rage on craft and lifestyle blogs, so I thought I’d give them a try. I can see why they’re so popular. Coffee filters are cheap (150 of them for a dollar at 99 Cents Only Stores), durable even when wet and easy to dye.

This being my first time working with coffee filters, I experimented with a method that would be easy, yet still produce big, fluffy flowers. And it worked! The ones pictured here are the real honest-to-goodness first coffee filter flowers I’ve ever made. It shows that if a novice like me can do it, anyone can.


Coffee filters (basket style, 8-12 cup size)
Dye or food coloring
Masking tape
Skewer or chopstick

1. Dye the coffee filters


Using a liquid dye (such as Rit) or food coloring, tint the coffee filters with the hues of your choice. Wring out excess moisture from the filters, and let them dry in the oven set at the lowest temperature. Even stacked up, the filters will dry completely within about 15 minutes. You also can leave the filters white if you wish.

2. Fold the coffee filters


For seven of the coffee filters, fold them in half, then into quarters, and then into eighths. (In other words, fold them three times.) For two of the coffee filters, fold them in half, then into quarters, then into eights, and then once more into sixteenths. Cut the top of each folded filter into a curved petal shape.

3. Line them up on masking tape


Tear off a piece of masking tape that is about 12 inches long. Place the strip of tape on your work surface with the sticky side up. Then line up the folded coffee filters with the pointed end on the sticky side of the tape. Working left to right, position the two filters folded into sixteenths first, and continue with the other seven. They should overlap, with about a half-inch space between the pointed ends.

4. Roll up with a skewer


Place a skewer or chopstick on the left end of the tape and start rolling it up in the tape. As the skewer gets rolled up, the coffee filter petals also roll up in the tape. Pinch the tape into the petals as you go to make sure they stick really well.

5. Finish taping the petals


With any extra tape, secure the bottoms of the petals so they don’t flop down. You can also add additional tape if you need it. The folded coffee filter petals look a little funny at this point, but the flower will blossom in the final step.

6. Fluff the petals


Spread out the petals with your fingers to add volume. Push the pedals in different directions — there’s no right or wrong way for how they should look. Don’t fluff up the two folded coffee filters in the center of the flower. Those petals should stay closed. Place the finished flowers in a vase, and sit back to admire your handiwork while enjoying a cup of coffee.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at

DIY: Folded turkey napkins for Thanksgiving

When it comes to your Thanksgiving table, it’s the little details that count. And these napkins folded into turkey shapes certainly will have you gobbling up the compliments.

To make these turkey-shaped napkins, you will need two square napkins for each one. I chose a plain napkin for the body and a patterned napkin for the feathers. I also used paper napkins because they’re much easier to fold than cloth napkins. As you fold, press down firmly to create defined creases.

1. Start with the napkin for the body. Crease the napkin in half diagonally.

” target=”_blank”>

DIY: How to make blue and silver faux mercury glass

I love mercury glass. With its characteristic metallic shine and distressed finish, it goes with any style interior. What I don’t like about it is the cost. Even in discount stores, mercury glass items can be expensive. That’s why I like making my own. Using dollar-store glassware and just a few simple supplies from the crafts store, you can create spectacular faux mercury glass in just minutes.

Mercury glass is typically silver or gold, but I’ve made faux mercury glass in all sorts of colors, including orange for Halloween and red for Valentine’s Day. For Chanukah, I’ve gone blue and silver with these vases and candleholders. The mercury glass may be faux, but the stunning results are real.

What you’ll need:

  • Glassware
  • Mod Podge
  • Acrylic paint (in blue and silver)
  • Plastic cup
  • Wooden stir stick
  • Foam brush
  • Sponge
  • Glitter (in blue and silver)


1. Mix Mod Podge and paint

” target=”_blank”>

Home: How to make your own French memo board

Maybe because it’s back-to-school season, or because people are in fall organizing mode, but I’ve been getting requests about ideas for bulletin boards. Well, when it comes to bulletin boards, nothing combines style and practicality like a French memo board. Covered in decorative fabric, French memo boards use crisscrossed ribbons to hold photos, invitations and notes — so you don’t have to use pushpins. That’s particularly useful when you don’t want to put holes in your valuable pictures and cards.

Perfect for a dorm room or a home office, they’re surprisingly easy to make with inexpensive materials. I assembled the memo board shown here in less than two hours. 

(And to those holdouts who still won’t part with their utilitarian corkboards: You obviously didn’t get the memo.)

What you’ll need:

  • Foam-core board
  • Hobby knife
  • Scissors
  • Batting
  • Fabric of choice
  • Ribbon
  • Pins
  • Buttons
  • Needle and thread
  • Duct tape
  • Hot glue gun
  • Felt

Step 1

” target=”_blank”>

Home: Five ways to trick out your backpack for school

For me, one of the perks of going back to school every fall was getting to start the year with a brand spanking new backpack. The thing about backpacks, though, is that most are not too exciting to look at. They’re usually plain or utilitarian or they have cartoon characters emblazoned on them.

This year, instead of sending the kids off with another boring backpack, try customizing the bags to reflect their interests. A backpack is a blank canvas (literally, backpacks are made of canvas). And there are so many fun and easy ways to decorate them, as you can see here. All the embellishments can be purchased at crafts stores and party stores. 


” target=”_blank”>

Home: Back-to-school floral arrangement with pencils

Throughout my high-school years, I was a straight-A student. My only B was in driver’s ed (and that was a miracle, given my car accident the first day of driver’s training). Letting your teachers know you appreciate them can help your standing, too, and starting the year off with a gift on the first day of school never hurts. 

Here’s an idea that could get you an A+ for creativity. It’s a vase made of pencils covering a cylindrical container, with a tape measure as a ribbon. You can fill it with any flowers you’d like. It’s sure to cheer up any classroom. 

What you’ll need:

  • No. 2 pencils
  • Small glass/vase/can
  • Double-sided tape
  • Rubber band
  • Colored plastic tape measure
  • Fresh or artificial flowers


Step 1:

” target=”_blank”>

Picture this: DIY photo books

We love taking photographs, don’t we? According to Yahoo, 880 billion photos were taken in 2014. Sadly, most of the photos we take remain on our smartphones or SD cards, never to see the light of day. My mother, who witnesses her five children busily snapping photos like paparazzi at every family get-together, constantly complains that although everyone’s taking photos, she never gets to see any of them. 

In our digital age, photos aren’t printed — they’re shared on social media. And even when we do have our photos printed, they typically end up in shoeboxes rather than being displayed in photo albums. 

Thanks to a growing number of online book-printing sites, however, more and more people are compiling their pictures into photo books. And this is not your bubbe’s photo album. The new generation of photo books are bookstore-quality, bound publications that can look like coffee table books. You can create them with drag-and-drop ease, incorporate text, borders and backgrounds, and choose from various binding options. 

Following is a comparison of three popular photo-book publishing services. There are, of course, many more, but rather than confuse you, I am comparing three services I have personally used, so I can speak from experience. 


” target=”_blank”>

I have used to print photos from my digital camera for more than a decade. When it first launched its photo-book capabilities in 2004, I was an early adopter and became a book-making fiend. Even though the technology was so new at the time, Shutterfly managed to make the creation process extremely user-friendly, easy enough for a novice to figure out  — for we were all novices at the time. 

Fast forward to 2015, and Shutterfly is the dominant player in the photo book market. In fact, when I did an unscientific survey of my friends and family, almost all of them use Shutterfly. Part of the reason is that the site, with its many premade design templates to choose from, is geared to the beginner. 

I would recommend Shutterfly to anyone who’s new to photo books, although I have been using the site less frequently, as I don’t use its pre-designed templates, and other sites offer more design flexibility at a lower price.

Presto Photo

” target=”_blank”>

I was also an early customer of Presto Photo, then known as, back when it was run out of the founder’s house in North Carolina. At the time, I was actually not looking for a resource to print photo books, but rather to print press kits. I had been making press kits by making colored photocopies and placing them in a pocketed folder, but the photocopies were expensive, about $1 a page. With Presto Photo, I was able to create a soft-cover, professionally bound press kit that looked like a booklet, or an annual report for about half the price of color photocopying. 

A few years ago, when I was taking a furniture history class at Santa Monica College, our final project was to write a paper comparing and contrasting four pieces of furniture from two different periods. Not content to write a simple paper with some photos attached, I created a hardbound book through Presto Photo using photos I’d taken at the Getty Center and adding text and other illustrations. Needless to say, the other students really hated me for that.

One advantage of Presto Photo is its huge selection of sizes to choose from. Unique to them are mini-sized albums as small as 3 3/4-by-
2 1/2. I’ve made them for unique and memorable party favors. 

While Presto Photo is not as easy to navigate as Shutterfly, it does have drag-and-drop features. I like it because it also allows me to design my book in Photoshop or InDesign first, then upload the PDFs.


” target=”_blank”>

Jaws drop when people see the books I’ve had printed through Blurb — they are absolutely gorgeous. Blurb offers hard-cover books with dust jackets, so they look like professionally printed books you would find at a bookstore. I have made coffee table books with my vacation photos, wedding photo books for friends, even cookbooks. And the price is surprisingly affordable. A 100-page hard-cover book with dust jackets costs less than $50. 

What I like about the Blurb book creation process is that you can assemble the book using Blurb’s free downloadable software. Then you upload the book when you’re ready to print. I’ll admit, it’s a little tricky to work with the program. But once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty manageable. They do offer an online bookmaking tool as well.

Not only does Blurb make books that look like they belong in a bookstore, it also functions as a retail site from which you can sell your book. You can set the price mark-up you want and keep the profits. They will even help you sell your book on Amazon, or as an e-book through the Apple iBook store. 

‘A Sacred Culture Rebuilt’ at Museum of Tolerance

Just inside the fluorescent-lit room, six picnic-style tables were supplied with arts and crafts essentials: scissors, glue sticks and stock photos. 

“A lot of survivors don’t have pictures,” said Lori Shocket, artist and curator of the hands-on exhibition, so she came prepared with a Ziploc baggie filled with spare images: cut-outs of Auschwitz, yellow Jude stars and cattle cars.

On Nov. 9, five Holocaust survivors attended the first of four workshops held at the Museum of Tolerance (MOT). (The final workshop will take place on Dec. 7 and a fifth workshop will be held in Las Vegas on Dec. 14.) 

Survivors were told to bring pictures, documents and memorabilia — anything that held meaning and helped to tell their story. 

Those artifacts were scanned, printed, cut out and placed on a 10-by-10 canvas board. The boards will be displayed and digitized in an exhibition called “Memory Reconstruction: A Sacred Culture Rebuilt.” 

“The exhibit, although it’s conceived by me, is actually done by the survivors,” Shocket said. “They’re the artists, in essence.” 

At the workshop, a 15-year-old volunteer, part of the museum’s MOTivating Youth Volunteer Program, helped Holocaust survivor Albert Rosa, 98, paste a black-and-white cutout of Auschwitz onto his collage. This is where his family perished 70 years ago. 

“I remember those tracks,” he told the volunteer.

Shocket is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, artist Siegfried Knop. “When I grew up, he never told me any part of his Holocaust story, just little bits, and I could never grasp them,” she said.

But that changed two years ago, when Shocket and her father started painting together. 

“Once we started painting, it was like a door opened, and he started talking about his story, every detail, and it was amazing to hear.” These in-studio talks eventually inspired a series of collaborative paintings by the father-daughter duo.

After hearing her father’s stories, she realized how crucial it was to document survival stories. At the time, Shocket had just finished a 15-foot installation titled “The Human Element Project” for a temporary exhibition at the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery, shown from July to October of this year, before moving to a permanent collection at DOW Research and Technology Center in Collegeville, Pa. 

The massive installation consisted of 118 anatomical portraits, each canvas representing an element on the periodic chart.

Shocket adapted the concept to this current project. Using the periodic table as her muse, she is collecting 118 (the number of elements) collaged testimonies for the final exhibition.  Each testimony represents an element on the table. 

“They’re like sound bites of their experiences, visual vignettes,” the artist explained.

The centerpiece will be a collaborative painting by Shocket, her father and artist Doni Silver Simons, which will tie together the concept of the project.

When the survivor participants arrived at the first workshop, Shocket showed them examples of finished collages, one of which was her father’s. 

“That’s him,” she said, referring to a black-and-white photograph of a boy with slicked-back hair. 

“And that’s his sister,” she said, pointing to a faded picture of a woman reading on a Berlin balcony, with a curtain of Nazi flags behind her suspended from buildings. Beside her photo was the last letter her father ever received from his sister. 

Some survivors came to the MOT with their families, others came alone.

Avrami Hacker, 13, was joined by his father, Adi, and his grandfather, Ernst. Three generations of Hackers worked on the collages. Avrami wanted to do a project for his upcoming bar mitzvah, and, because he’s part of MOT’s teen program, he’d heard about the workshop. 

“This is so special,” Avrami said. “I learned about the camps where my grandfather went, and the letters he sent from Theresienstadt [concentration camp] to his friends in Vienna.” 

Like Shocket’s studio session with her father, the workshops gave survivors a chance to reminisce as they combed through old photographs.

Especially with this project, time is of the essence. 

When Liebe Geft, director of the MOT, first heard about Shocket’s artistic vision, she knew she wanted to debut the completed exhibition at the museum’s next Yom HaShoah commemoration in April 2015. 

Geft explained, “In order to do that, we really had to accelerate the process and schedule workshops, do the outreach and identify the partners. And Lori’s working at triple speed.”

After everyone else had finished their collaged elements and gone home, survivor Elizabeth Mann was still working on her collage. 

The remaining volunteers and staff members sat around her as she held court. With the room nearly empty, she talked about her youth, growing up in Kecskemet, Hungary, about her father and mother and about playing the piano. 

“I never played the piano again after my parents were killed,” Mann said. “Never again.”

“The numbers in the Shoah are staggering, they are unfathomable,” Geft said. “It’s difficult to relate to these numbers. But one person, one name, one face makes it very personal.”

Mendelsohn — Better Than Beethoven!

Saturday the 9th

Syzygy Theatre Group stages Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning “Talley’s Folly.” First staged in 1979, the romance was Wilson’s answer to his first play about the Talley family, “Fifth of July.” It features the characters of Sally Talley (a small town girl from a wealthy and bigoted Protestant family) and Matt Friedman (a Jewish accountant 12 years her senior) as partners in a sweet and unlikely courtship.

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 3 p.m. (Sun.). Through Oct. 14. $20 (Fri. and Sat.) pay-what-you-can (Sun.). GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank. (323) 254-9328.
” TARGET=”_blank”>

Wednesday the 13th

Two DVDs of interest are released this week. With beautiful archival footage as well as interviews with dancers, the critically acclaimed documentary, “Ballets Russes,” tells the story of the ground-breaking dance company created by Serge Diaghilev, and the equally culturally relevant competing groups that emerged after his untimely death. Multiple International Film Festival award- winner, “Gloomy Sunday,” is also out this week. The romantic period piece focuses on a love triangle between a restaurant owner, a waitress and a pianist, set against the backdrop of Holocaust-era Budapest.

“Ballet Russes”: $22.49. ” TARGET=”_blank”>

Thursday the 14th

Big name comedians donate stage time to raise money for The Federation’s children’s literacy program, KOREH L.A. Contributing “Laughs for Literacy,” D.L. Hughley, Jamie Kennedy, Jon Lovitz, Howie Mandel and Bob Saget appear tonight at the Laugh Factory.

7 p.m. $150 (includes hors d’oevres and drink tickets). 8001 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 761-8219.

Friday the 15th

Fine art and contemporary crafts can be found all weekend long at the inaugural Santa Monica Arts Festival. Come to view paintings, sculpture, photography, wood crafts and even painted talitot by artist Smadar Knobler — as well as hourly demonstrations by artists and artisans. Items are also available for purchase.

Sept. 15-17. Hours vary. Free (children under 12), $6.50 (seniors), $7.50 (adults). Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 458-8551.

An Art Form

Artists from places as far afield as Brooklyn, Baltimore and Tal-Shahar, Israel, and as near as Beverly Hills will be exhibiting at the 18th annual Festival of Jewish Artisans at Temple Isaiah on Nov. 21-22. Among the crafts on the display will be sandblasted glass, ceramics, gold and silver jewelry, textiles, calligraphy, papercutting, photography and inlaid wood. Eleven of the 28 artists are new to the festival, but many have been exhibiting in the social hall of the Pico Boulevard synagogue for years.

“It may not be the largest of the Judaic art festivals, but it is probably the nicest, quality-wise,” said Ruth Shapiro, a jeweler and silversmith who has been exhibiting there for 14 years. Shapiro, a Mar Vista resident, was one of 100 women artists from all over the world who participated recently in the Miriam’s Cup competition in New York — a competition to create a vessel to commemorate the part Miriam played in the Exodus from Egypt. Trained as a nurse, Shapiro began her career 15 years ago when she took a class in the technique of lost-wax casting at Santa Monica College. At Isaiah, she will sell mezuzot, yads, jewelry and other items. Judaic art “is absolutely booming,” she said. “When I started, there were only a handful of Judaic artists working in metal, and I thought I knew every one. Now, I don’t.”

This is the first Isaiah show for Ruth Levi, a papercut artist and calligrapher who makes custom ketubot, as well as wall-hangings, mezuzot and other Judaic items. “I’m really excited,” said Levi, who recently moved to Los Angeles from New York with her husband, Rabbi Peter Levi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Levi, 28, who is expecting the couple’s first child in February, became a full-time artist two years ago after several years as a grammar school teacher. Meeting fellow artists and getting exposure is an important motivation for participating in the festival, she said. “It also helps me to get a sense of what people like.”

The festival, among the first of its kind in the country, has inspired similar festivals throughout the United States, says founder Jean Abarbanel. An arts educator, Abarbanel co-chairs the festival with Marcia Reines Josephy, director of the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum and a well-known art historian. Since the show’s humble beginning as part of a temple lecture series on Jewish art, attendance has mushroomed to about 1,200 visitors. It attracts artists from as far away as Brazil, Israel and Canada, as well as from large and small towns across the U.S. There are four exhibitors from the tiny coastal town of Willits, Calif., in Mendocino County, where a small cadre of Judaica artisans thrive.

The show is “juried,” which means artists must send in slides of their work to be considered for the 28 to 29 available spaces. “We have a roster of over 300 artists from all over the world that we send applications to,” Abarbanel said. Selection criteria include the uniqueness, quality and Jewish character of the work. And the objects must be functional. “We want Judaic objects, as opposed to paintings or sculptures,” Abarbanel said. “The idea is that people will own objects that can be family heirlooms. And these objects carry the values of our culture. They’re the way we maintain our identity as Jews.”