Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bat Houses, Not Bats, Combat Mosquitos?

Bat house constructed on shed in Takoma Park, MD.  Photo Credit: Lorig
Did you know that the United Nations has proclaimed 2011-2012 the International Year of the Bat?  Marash Girl's daughter and son-in-law knew and have celebrated by  recently constructing a bat house on the top front of their shed in Takoma Park, Maryland, hoping to attract bats to combat the mosquitos that plague them in their yard. They have been awaiting, with bated breath, the arrival of the first bat.  Sadly, they admitted, not a bat has been sighted since the bat house was built two weeks ago.  But not to worry, their 5 year old son Raffi assured them.  "Maybe the mosquitos will see the bat house and stay away!"

N.B. For more information on bats, go to

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Deir al-zour, Der Zor, Deir ez-Zor, Dayr az-Zawr, Deir ez Zor , Deir al-Zur, دير الزور, Դէր Զօր, Ter Zor

However you spell it, if you're Armenian, it spells death. Shivers went through my body as I listened to the BBC this morning on the way to the Gath Pool, and it wasn't because of the weather.  The BBC, reporting on saboteurs in Syria, mentioned Deir ez-Zor, and there I stopped listening.  A wealth of memories -- the stories, the tears, the heart break of the old folks as I listened from my darkened bedroom, trying to fall asleep as I was growing up.  Deir ez-Zor, the place of death for hundreds of thousands of Armenians, my people, my ancestors, Armenians who were going to be 'resettled' by the Ottoman Government, that is, those who survived the 'death march' of rape, murder and mayhem.  Some lived through those horrors and arrived at Der Zor, a desert destination with no food, no water, no shelter . . . .  Few survived to tell that tale.

From Armeniapedia: (

The modern town was built by the Ottoman Empire in 1867. In 1915, during the Armenian Genocide, it witnessed grim scenes as many thousands of Armenians arrived at the end of forced death marches from Anatolia. Thousands died in Dayr and surrounding areas, many at the Ra's al-'Ain springs outside the town. France occupied Dayr az-Zawr in 1921 and made it the seat of a large garrison. In 1946 it became part of independent Syria.
The Armenian Orthodox church in the town contains a memorial to the victims of the genocide, and is an important centre of commemoration, especially on April 24.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Nearly 4,000 Post Offices Might Close, 5 in Newton: New York Times, July 26, 2011

Newton Corner, Massachusetts

It's not enough that Newton Corner has lost its library, lost its post office (many years ago), and lost its "villageness" with the building of the Massachusetts Turnpike, now the residents of Newton Corner  may not even have the wonderful little New Town post office in Watertown to walk to.

According to Sean Collins Walsh writing in the New York Times on July 26, 2011, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has indicated that nearly 4,000 U.S. post offices might close.  Walsh writes that most of the offices to be closed are primarily in rural locations and produce little revenue.  Kind of sweet to think that any part of Newton, Massachusetts, be considered rural by the powers that be!  Bitter sweet, that is.  On the list of targeted offices are Boston College (Chestnut Hill 02467), Newton Lower Falls 02462, Newton Upper Falls 02464, Nonantum 02458, and West Newton 02465, and New Town (Watertown 02472) used by many if not most Newton Corner residents.

An email was sent out yesterday to area post offices from Dennis Tarmey, USPS Communications, Greater Boston District, stating that should the media have any inquiries about the closings, they should contact Mr. Tarmey at 617-654-5982 or email him at  Mr. Tarmey promises to respond to every media inquiry, so if any of you have contacts with the media, please use your voice.

I'd like to think that our voices will be heard, whether or not we are "media".  We the people must speak out or once again, our services with go the way of all good things.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Deron Charkoudian appointed to New York City's Community Board 1

Deron writes, "I will have non-binding advisory votes on issues such as liquor license renewals, street fair applications and city park renovations.

Here's the story in one of the neighborhood newspapers:"

Charkoudian joins C.B. 1

Print Friendly Print Get a PDF version of this webpage PDF

Deron Charkoudian, who lives and works in the Financial District, was recently appointed to Community Board 1 to replace Rebecca Skinner. Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
BY TERESE  LOEB KREUZER  |  Deron Charkoudian, 34, who lives and works in the Financial District, is the newest member of Community Board 1. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer appointed Charkoudian to fill a vacancy created when board member Rebecca Skinner resigned because she was moving away.
Since 1999, Charkoudian has lived in an office building converted to residential use.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes here,” he said of the Financial District, noting how the neighborhood used to close down on weekends and no longer does. “I want to help keep the transformation going.”
Specifically, Charkoudian would like to work on creating more green space and opening more schools. He also would like to see safer conditions for pedestrians.
“There’s no such thing as a stop sign down here,” Charkoudian said. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve almost been hit by cars.”
Charkoudian added that he believed narrow streets, many of them clogged with vendors, have exacerbated danger to pedestrians.
Charkoudian, who comes from Newton, Mass., got his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Johns Hopkins University and a master’s degree in finance and accounting from Carnegie Mellon. He worked for Goldman Sachs for several years before joining the Federal Reserve Bank of New York a year ago as a bank examiner.
“I wanted to get involved in a public service role using my skill set from the street and my formal education,” said Charkoudian. “Public service is part of my background. My parents were in public service for much of their careers.”
The desire to serve the community was what prompted Charkoudian to apply for a seat on C.B. 1. He hopes to serve on the board’s Financial District and Seaport/Civic Center Committees.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sturbridge Coffee House, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Returning to Boston from New York City, or heading to New York City from Boston?  Consider getting off at Sturbridge, going west on Route 20 for 2 minutes and stopping at the Sturbridge Coffee House (right across from the Stage Loft Theatre which is visible above).  A delightlful respite with delicious light fare for breakfast and lunch, wonderful unusual coffees, and atmosphere that can't be matched.
 Entering the Sturbridge Coffee shop, we smile at the welcome sign (above) and the sign to the left of the clock (below).

The coffee options listed above are a welcome relief from the options served at the national chains.
The quiet country atmosphere with lots of windows (if you look out of them you'll see trees) and light, a choice of seating and a pleasant lack of the noise and bustle so prevalent in city coffee shops makes this visit a must.

The Sturbridge Coffee House prepares its sandwiches and waffles fresh when ordered, and offers freshly baked pastries and breads daily. 
And if you can believe the signs, you'll never leave!
Not happy sitting at the windows on the first floor?
Choose a window seat on the balcony!

Or you may choose to sit on the porch, although on this 101 degree day, there were only two folks who took that option.

Drinking iced coffee purchased from the Sturbridge Coffee House, a local polishes his bike in the 98 degree shade in front of the shop. The Sturbridge Coffee House, a must on your next trip through Western Massachusetts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

National Weather Service: Tornado indicated near Springfield, Wilbraham, Monson

Marash Boy just arrived home as the skies darkened and his phone rang.  Another tornado in Wilbraham?  And we had been thinking about clearing the rubble and rebuilding. . . A warning from God?  What is going on?  Two in two months?  Luckily we're not there in Wilbraham, and we have very little more that we can lose -- I guess it could hit the sheds which it spared last time around. . . and the few trees that it left standing . . .

Wednesday Morning, July, 27, 2011:  Thanks be to God -- the tornado dissipated and Wilbraham only received heavy winds, violent thunderstorms, and huge hailstones.

Tom Ashbrook, Kurt Timmermeister, WBUR and Home Made Yogurt (Madzoon)

Kurt Timermeister, Growing a Farmer: How I Leaned to Live Off the Land. NY, W. W. Norton, 2011
Growing up, I would always hear talk among the women, usually in Turkish and Armenian with a few words in English thrown in. . . one of the favorite subjects was where to go if your yogurt fails -- which dandigin (lady of the house) had the best magart (yogurt starter).   EVERYONE made their own madzoon in those days. (From here on, I will be using the word madzoon for yogurt, as madzoon is our Armenian word for yogurt.) There was no "store-bought" madzoon that I know of.  And I always thought that madzoon and magart, whoever made it, were all the same, chemically speaking, although I have to admit that my mother's madzoon tasted so good that I once described it to my elementary school friend as tasting like ice cream! (She was horrified when she tasted it and found that it tasted nothing like ice cream!)  Recently when I was talking about the woman on Dexter Avenue in Watertown who was famous for having the best magart in town, I was asked how one woman could have a starter that was any better than another?  I didn't know the answer, but I was soon to find out!

Reading Kurt Timmermeister's fascinating treatise On Growing a Farmer, (to which I was first introduced while listening to Tom Ashbrook's fascinating interview on WBUR, fascinating because Tom himself was brought up on a farm in the midwest,) I came upon a discussion of  how to make yogurt (madzoon). I was given pause when I read the following on page 146:
"The cultures that the milk is inoculated with vary, but are all variations of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. The easiest way to find these cultures is in supermarket yogurt.  They are often listed on the container. The smallest producer is generally the best, although, surprisingly, not all are the same. As yogurt is a rather basic product, I expected all commercial yogurts to resemble one another.  I look for small regional Greek yogurts.  I get the best results with those.  The flavor and texture of the eventual yogurt depends on the specific cultures. The large national yogurts have so much going on in them that they scare me. Try a few different ones; it is surprising which you will enjoy and which you will eventually avoid."

So my mother, my grandmother, and my aunts WERE right and my memory had not failed me.  There are varying cultures, and the woman on Dexter Avenue really did have a culture that made the best yogurt.

Off to the supermarket to see for myself.  Chobani Greek Yogurt . . . there it was, and I decided to buy some to try my hand at making madzoon using Chobani Greek madzoon as magart.  And true to my hope, the madzoon that I produced using Chobani's magart was the thickest and sweetest madzoon I had ever made . . .

From Chobani's website:

Only natural ingredients. Free of preservatives and artificial flavors.
·      Free of synthetic growth hormones. (Milk from cows not treated with rBST)
·      Includes 5 live & active cultures, including 3 probiotics - L. Thermophilus,  L. Bulgaricus, (which are required by law in order to call the product yogurt), Lactobacillus Acidophilus,  Bifidus, and Lactobacillus Casei.  They note that they use milk from local dairy farms located within 15 miles of our plant.

I decided to research a bit more and learned the following.

STONYFIELD ORGANIC PLAIN WHOLE MILK YOGURT contains cultured pasteurized organic whole milk, pectin, vitamin D3, 6 live active cultures (which in tiny almost impossible to read print) are L. Thermophilus,  L. Bulgaricus,  L. Acidophhilus, Bifidus, L. Casei, L. Rhamnosus

BROWN COW YOGURT contains pasteurized milk, pectin, l. Thermophilus., L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus & Infidus.

DANNON contains l.acidophilus, s. thermophilus, l. bulgaricus

ACTIVIA contains bifidus regularis (exclusive to Activia), s. thermophilus, l. bulgaricus

DanActive,  which is a probiotic dairy drink and not considered yogurt, contains l. casei immunitas, s. thermophilus, and l. bulgaricus.

So there it is, folks.  Take your pick. Let me know which magart you decide to use, and if you have a local dandigin who can provide you with magart better than the store bought brands, I'd love to have some!

N.B. For directions on how to make madzoon, see Marash Girl's blog post:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Plymouth Rock, Hot Dogs and Family Togetherness

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Driving through Plymouth, Massachusetts, last week reminded Marash Girl of her visit to Plymouth Rock many years ago, and it wasn't the visit or the Rock that remains fixed in her mind, but rather the trash barrel around which a family of four huddled, eating their hot dogs, being oh so careful not to drop any crumbs on the ground.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What do you want for breakfast?

Lentil pilaf, the grandchildren shouted!  Lentil pilaf?  For breakfast?  Well, who is Marash Girl to question the tastes of her two little grandchildren.

All she had to do was to boil green lentils with brown rice (1 cup of each with a bit under 4 cups of water), and the way she does it is to bring the mixture to a boil in a heavy iron pot with a teaspoon of salt and some Aintab red pepper.  As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, she turns it off and lets it sit for 1/2 hour.  After the half hour is up, she brings the mixture to a boil again and turns it off.  After another half hour, all the water should be absorbed and the lentil pilaf ready to receive the onion that Marash Girl chopped and sauteed in olive oil while the pilaf was readying itself. 

Mix in that onion, and you should hear the shouts of joy, at breakfast, lunch and dinner!  In fact, when Marash Girl asked the grandchildren what they wanted for dinner that night, they shouted out in unison, "Leftovers!"  "Leftovers?" Marash Girl asked.  "You mean leftover lentil pilaf and leftover merjumek kufte?"  "Yay," they shouted.

And there you have it!  The perfect meal(s) for the perfect grandchildren!!!
The perfect grandchildren hugging Dr. Seuss in 101 degree weather, Springfield, Massachusetts

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Autograph Books, 1952

Did anyone else have an autograph book in 6th grade?  We did, all of us in the naughty Class of Claflin School, 1952, the only class in the history of the school that was denied a week long camping trip to New Hampshire because Miss Tobin thought we were out of control! (I don't know whose fault that was!!!)
What happened to that autograph book, anyway? I remember it was deep red with gilt embossed letters stating "Autographs" on the front. It must have been tossed with my brother's baseball cards when the powers that be cleaned out the attic of the Lowell Avenue homestead.

Although I don't remember how I signed my friends' autograph books, I DO remember some of the inscriptions that accompanied the autographs in mine, especially the one written by David Seeley (later a member of the Newton Police Force) which went something like this:

I'm yours 'til the ocean wears rubber pants to keep its bottom dry.

Or the one from George Maxey (later a member of the Newton Fire Fighters):

Good luck to you and the Boston Red Sox.

And the one from Claudette Thierry (my best friend):

I like to be naughty, I like to be nice, but just to be naughty, I'll sign my name twice!

(And she did!)

Did any of you have autograph books?  Do you remember any of the autographs in YOUR autograph book? In the comments below, please share your favorite autograph inscriptions!!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Farewell to Borders Books

It is with great sorrow that Marash Girl read the email from Borders Books this morning, the email that confirmed yet again the demise of Borders Books. 

Has our society come to a crossroads?  Are we really participating in what may be seen as another 'burning of the books'?  Or is this simply the case of another mega-business brought to its knees?

For months, Marash Girl has been receiving emails, not from mega-bookstores, but from small independent booksellers, humbly bidding farewell to their customers before closing their doors forever.

Above photo taken from the internet several years ago; can't remember who to credit, but thank you, whoever you are!
For Marash Girl, books, ink and paper books, are holy.  She will continue to honor the ink and paper book for as long as the Lord allows.  Please go to and peruse her inventory of over 28,000 titles for sale, books old and new, in every possible category you could imagine; and if there are no books listed there of interest, have faith.  There are another 28,000 as yet to be listed in her warehouse, an old train depot in Newton Corner, Massachusetts.

In the meantime, pray for all booksellers as they struggle to keep their doors open and their books away from the ashes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Indian Hill Road North, Chatham, Massachusetts

Morning walk for the New York Times
Greeting the rooster on the kitchen wall in Chatham
Domesticated Day Lillies along Indian Hill Road North

Sunrise through twin trees
Lobster Buoys and Pickup Truck

Sunrise through a Chain Link Fence

Airplane through a Chain Link Fence

Breakfast for one:  in line on Thursday morning

The road to the kettle pond

A boat afloat: mailbox on Indian Hill Road North

Sandpipers: Mailbox on Indian Hill Road North
Morning Glories: Mailbox on Indian Hill Road North

Above photos by Marash Girl

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Merjumek Kufteh Continues to the Next Day!

If you haven't had a chance to read Marash Girl's blogpost on Merjumek Kufte, you can check it out before you continue reading today's post:

Here's the rub!  When you make Merjumek Kufteh, you make it for a family of 12, which in this day and age, means that you'll have a lot left over.  Did you?

Not to worry!  Merjumek Kufteh is delicious the next day; we had made ours into khounches and stored them in the refrigerator.  Took them to the beach yesterday and had them for a picnic lunch.  Even the little ones love them cold!

Still more left?  Add the Merjumek Kufteh to that chicken broth that you made from the chicken you roasted three days ago!  Delish!

Still have some of the pervaz?  Three suggestions.

1) Throw a handful into the chicken broth with the Merjumek Kufteh for an even more delicious soup treat.

2)  Add freshly chopped ripe tomatoes with some olive oil and lemon juice for a delicious Armenian Salata (Salad) -- It'll be a lot tastier than that $8 variety that you get at your local Middle Eastern Restaurant!

3)  Still more pervaz?  Beat up 4 eggs, add salt, pepper and red pepper and whatever's left of the pervaz; drop by tablespoonfuls and fry "pervaz pancakes" in 1/4 inch of oil.  Serve as is or in sandwiches with freshly sliced tomatoes.  Delish!

Let me know how it all turns out.

We never waste anything!  Remember the starving Armenians?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Merjumek Kufte Continues To The Next Generation

Oh, Ama, you brought red lentils!  Can we make Merjumek Kufte?  Except I don't know how . . .

We are on Indian Hill Road North in Chatham, Massachusetts, visiting friends who have never tasted Merjumek Kufte, and since our friends are ABC (see yesterday's blog), they wanted so much to learn how to prepare it.  As they watched, they didn't want to take the time to record the details, so Marash Girl has done so here.

In a large pot, place one cup of dry red lentils (ours were purchased from Massis Bakery in Watertown, Massachusetts).   Rinse well.  Cover rinsed red lentils (which are actually orange in color) with 2 cups of fresh water, bring to a boil, simmer for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit for about one hour.

While the red lentils are "cooking", chop up one large onion and slowly simmer in about a half cup of olive oil:
Meanwhile, prepare the pervaz.  Wash and chop one bunch of fresh green Italian parsley, one bunch of fresh scallions (with tips trimmed off), and 1 fresh green pepper.  Place in a bowl and toss.
This is the pervaz, half of which we will be stirring into the Merjumek Kufte, half of which we will be using for added garnish.  But not yet!
When the red lentils are "cooked" (i.e., open, soft and edible), add 1 cup of medium bulghur and 1.5 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.  Turn off heat.  After an hour, check the mixture to make sure it is thick.  (Never add too much water at the beginning, or you will have a watery kufte.)  Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of Aintab red pepper (or Cayenne, if you have no Aintab red pepper, but use less if you substitute Cayenne).  Stir it up. As the mixture sits, it will get thicker, which may take another hour.  If you are cooking the kufte in a heavy iron pot (which you should be), it will stay warm.  When the mixture is thickened, add the onions and olive oil and stir.  Just before serving, add handfuls of the chopped greens (the pervaz), and stir.  If the kufte is still too soft, serve it in a platter.  By the time you finish dinner, it will be thick enough to make into khounches.

Merjumek kufte prepared into "khounches".  Be sure the ridges from your fingers are evident on the outside of the "khounches"!

 Or better yet, prepare well enough ahead of time so that you can shape the kufte into "khounches" and serve at room temperature as mezzeh!

Having assisted in the preparation of the this kufte, and the creation of the khounches,
the next generation proudly serves Merjumek Kufte.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Armenian By Choice

Armenian By Choice
June 4, 2011 - After working for hours under the hot sun salvaging for us whatever memories she could from beneath the tangle of trees and pile of detritus (once our cabin) climbing 15 feet into the sky, with no trees to shade her, (the tornado had torn them down and used those trees to crush the cabin), good friend and neighbor Joan Scully Metz holds up the Armenian flag which she has rescued from the rubble.  She has indeed earned her stripes, as it were; she has been baptized ABC: Armenian By Choice, and may I add, Armenian By Courage.  We are so grateful.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Listen to the Mockingbird!

Photo Credit:
From the east, the soothing music of the surf; from the west the joyful song of the mockingbird.  What more could we ask?  It was our week at the beach, our week of beauty to our eyes and beauty to our ears.

Yesterday morning, for the last time this summer, Marash Girl walked along the road paralleling Sagamore Beach.  The mockingbird's song followed her as she walked.  Looking up, Marash Girl saw the mocking bird, singing not only with all its heart, not only with all its soul, but with all its body.  Every note was sung so fully that Marash Girl feared for the well being of the bird, but she need not have feared.  The bird sang and sang and sang, more beautifully, more fully, more joyously, than any bird she has heard.

Why then call this joyous bird a mockingbird?  Must we mock true beauty by damning it with words?

N.B. mockingbird - refers to Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos. [mock Middle English mokken, mokke, mocque, Middle French mocquer, Old French mocquer, moquer, to mock, Greek mokos, a mocker + bird Middle English bird, brid, Old English bridd, bird, young bird].

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Morning, Noon, & Night: Farewell, Sagamore Beach!

              Blessings on Sagamore Beach -- Let us give thanks.
Colorful reminder of earlier days -- when lobster traps were made of wood.

Trees on the beach at high noon!

The calm after the storm.

Have you ever seen the sunset and the moon rise in the same moment?

Keeping warm after the sunset:  Sagamore Beach

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bastille Day on Sagamore Beach

Last night, soon after the harvest sized moon appeared on the horizon, fireworks in all their splendor exploded up and down Sagamore's beach. Marash Girl had forgotten that it was Bastille Day. Not Karoun of Springfield's Karoun Yoga, though.  Just arrived from Springfield, Karoun reminded us of the reenactments that occurred yearly on Wilbraham Mountain, when her Uncle George (Dr. George Charkoudian) was still living and the children would free him from the Bastille that they had gleefully constructed around him.

Last night, on July 14, 2011, the storming of the Bastille took place for the first time with the next generation.  From the safety of her room, Marash Girl could hear the planning, the building, the attack and the final destruction of the Bastille, freeing the prisoners and bringing freedom to France and Sagamore Beach forever.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chicken Coop at the Beach

Good morning.
Cool breezes, surf, and chicken chatter wake us every morning at this beautiful spot on Sagamore Beach.  "I've never seen a chicken before," said Grandson Raffi, even though his mom is considering getting chickens and a portable chicken coop for their back yard in Takoma Park, Maryland, where, Visiting Blogger Enila informs me, roosters are not allowed!
Ama's favorite photo of the chicken coop.
Rafayel's & Visiting Blogger Enila's favorite photo of the chicken coop. This is the view from a South window of our summer rental on Phillips Road, Sagamore Beach. The ocean is visible in the distance, though not in these photos.
There really are chickens in that coop next door!
Chicken Coop next door with Cape Cod Canal and Cape Cod on the Horizon.

And for breakfast,  homemade Juicy Juice popsicles followed by homemade French toast!

 And home made chocolate milk (with moustaches) for dessert!