Friday, February 28, 2014

The Other Side of the River

 Awaiting the Next Snow Storm, Winter, 2014, or
The Other Side of the River, Watertown, Massachusetts

                                                                                                      Photo by Marash Girl:  Charles River, February 26, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Remembering Allan Halpern

Marash Girl met Andrea in Paris, France, many years before Andrea's marriage to Allan Halpern (we knew him as Avrahm); Marash Boy was best man at their wedding.  Marash Girl posts this eulogy in memory of Allan Halpern -- Avrahm -- who passed away on February 11, 2014, after a long illness.
Allan Halpern & Andrea Colls on their wedding day in Manchester, England
When you’ve grown up with someone your entire life, it’s difficult to summarize all that history in a few words. Allan was always a presence in our lives. He lived with us for a while, and was always present at family gatherings such as Rosh Hashanah and Pesach. We would get together around my mother’s table and discuss, or more precisely, argue about the issues of the day. Part of Allan’s role was the food critic. The gefilte fish was superb, but this year’s matzo balls, perhaps not up to snuff. Next year it might be the reverse. He would know. He had a lifetime of experience with it all.

Allan graduated from Stuyvesant and attended Brown University.  Allan ‘s  willingness to schlepp to Stuyvesant every day illustrates his intellectual seriousness, a quality he displayed his whole life. He was an avid reader and remained passionately engaged with ideas his whole life
At Brown he studied history with one of the great and larger than life characters in the historical profession, Forrest McDonald. My brother Saul, now a professor of history, ran into McDonald at a conference before the elder scholar passed away and mentioned that his cousin Allan had often remarked about the lasting influence of his course, and McDonald smiled and said, yes  Allan Halpern, I remember him “bright and energetic.”  In between the chopped liver and the main course at Passover one might hear Allan defending Hamilton against Jeffersonian heresies, as well as more current arguments on politics and economics.
Allan was a great Epicurean. He loved good food, good wine, classical music, and opera.   He had strong opinions here too, which he had no hesitation in sharing, about the tenor, or which high-end turntable to buy. When I was very young he took me to the old Metropolitan Opera, for a standing room view of the performance. It was a still memorable experience for me.
Allan was a man of strong beliefs. He was a frequent letter writer to the Wall Street Journal, many of which were published, including this one found by Saul that I will quote from. Always well-written and cogently argued, if there was one common theme, it was bemoaning the declining standards of public discourse in an increasingly debased political culture. I would venture to say that our current politics would not have discouraged him in his opinion.
Allan was not afraid to challenge even the most notable of opponents. Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote challenging Arthur Schlesinger, another giant of the field of history.
“ Mr. Schlesinger’s article is a sad abdication of intellectual responsibility. In commenting on a campaign characterized by an unfortunate excess of demagoguery and nastiness, Mr. Schlesinger chooses simply to add an additional dose of vitriol.
Messrs. Reagan and Carter are not stupid men, although the age we live in may appear to distill an excess of simplicity on the part of those engaged in the political process. They must appear to satisfy a broad range of expectations that are politically unobtainable, no doubt fortunately so; and they are forced to champion positions that are often silly and at the same time marginal.”
I think if he were still with us, he could reissue the same opinion by merely bringing the names up to date.
For Allan, genius was a zero sum game. One was a winner or loser, but always a combatant.

Allan liked his independence, so it took him a bit of time to find the right partner in his life. I was in college when he and Andrea were married, and in fact I was with Allan the night before in what passed for a bachelor party, which amounted to both of us getting very drunk and staying out most of the night  hopping around different Greenwich Village bars and coffee shops. But it was clear to me then, and has always been clear to all of us, that he had found a wonderful mate and partner in life, someone that everyone in the family has loved and cherished ever since she became part of our lives. Alan was always an Anglophile, a boy from the Bronx who somewhere along the way picked up a British accent, so of course finding a British wife was the logical next step.

Alan was always the cool cousin, the one who could provide the voice of experience to a younger relative. I will say that with the benefit of hindsight, the advice was occasionally not the best, but it always led to interesting outcomes.  

Allan served as our mentor in all things intellectual. My brother Gary could not be here tonight—his girlfriend’s mother passed away Friday and he had to fly to San Diego. But Allan was an important influence on his life as well, teaching him Algebra when he was in the fifth grade, starting him on the road to his degrees in math, introducing him to the Marshal Chess Club where he eventually became a serious player and taking Gary to Strand and other used book stores, where Gary started on the used book hunting that has been such a large and happy part of his life.

Allan faced many difficulties in his life, with parents who died when he was young, and a sometimes challenging family environment, for our family was not an easy one to live within, but he wanted to find his own way and did. He was an important influence on me and my brothers as we grew up, and a constant presence in our lives. We loved him and we will miss him. Grief is the price we pay for love.

 I will recite a quote from proverbs that I think exemplifies what Allan believed in, and how he lived his life.

The Proverbs of Solomon
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. 

And lastly, a quote from Albert Einstein that I think Allan would appreciate
Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.

 The song is ended, but the melody lives on.

Written and presented by Gene Cornell at the funeral service of Allan Halpern. Manhattan, New York.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


'There is a famous saying in Marash:  "When you move from your home, you encounter seventy-two kinds of calamities, the least of which is death."'  Paul Bilezikian commenting on the Bilezikian family's ordeal surviving the genocide and fleeing from Marash, Turkey, to the United States. Quoted in  THE CILICIAN ARMENIAN ORDEAL by Paren Sanentz (Boson, Hye Intentions, 1989).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Love your wife? Keep quiet about it!

Apparently, in the tradition of Armenians from Marash, it was unacceptable for a man to wax eloquent about his wife; if he were so gauche as to do so, he would be asked post-haste, "What? Are you trying to sell her?"

Monday, February 24, 2014

Whose Turkey is it?

In an article in the New York Times entitled, "Whose Turkey Is It? ( -- 
 Fethullah Gulen, one of today's two Muslim leaders of Turkey, chastised both the prime minister and the protesters,  with the following metaphor: “If you are facing an invasion of ants, you can’t disregard it, thinking that they are ‘ants.’ ” 

In early February of 2014, nearly 100 years later, Gulen takes a slightly different cut on the saying from early 20th Century Marash, oft-quoted by Marash Girl's father Peter (see,  "If your enemy is an ant, perceive the ant as if it were an elephant."

On another note, now nearly 100 years after the Armenian Genocide, in their hearts if not aloud, Armenians around the world ask, (as did the New York Times,)  "Whose Turkey is it?"

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hot Mulled Apple Drink for the Multitudes

And speaking of cinnamon sticks and Christmas (see yesterday's blogpost),  Marash Girl gave everyone but herself a packet of mulling spices for Christmas . . . but yesterday, when she was in her packing room packaging books to ship to Australia and other far flung corners of the world (does the world have corners), she found another stash of mulling spices and cinnamon sticks right where she had been packaging her Christmas gifts.  Mulling spices for Marash Girl!  Cool!

Having no apple cider in the house, and not really in the mood for chai like her mother made it (see, Marash Girl checked her refrigerator to see what was there . . . and there was only one cup of apple juice.  Hmmmm......  Not wanting apple juice cold or warm or mulled, she decided to play a bit.  Throwing a handful of mulling spices (which consisted of whole cloves, whole allspice, broken pieces of cinnamon sticks and dried orange peel) into a pot of water, and adding the cup of apple juice that was left in the refrigerator, she simmered the mixture for a bit, looking forward to the hot mulled drink that would result.  

By all measures, delicious!

As long as you use an all natural apple juice -- no preservatives -- one of the advantages of mulling in this way (with apple juice, not apple cider) is that (1) it is close to impossible to find apple cider without preservatives, (2) it is close to impossible to find apple cider out of season, (3) it is far more costly to buy apple cider than apple juice, and finally, (4) the drink is one that is far less sweet and can be sipped throughout the afternoon just as you would tea.  In fact, for elegance, you may try serving it (to yourself, if you are alone, or to guests, if you have them) in a fancy teapot!  Much nicer than pouring the mulled concoction (whoops --  did you use wine rather than apple juice?)  out of a stainless steel pan from the stove top.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cinnamon sticks to the rescue!

Several years ago, when Marash Girl wrote her blogpost on fish chowder (, she did not know the secret to preventing the whole house from smelling fishy!  It wasn't until her visit to Brooklyn Heights to visit with her friend who was originally from Manchester, England, the same friend that shared her secret for perfect mashed potatoes ( that Marash Girl  learned of the solution:  "Simple," said her friend.  "Just simmer a cinnamon stick in a pot of water; soon the whole house will smell like Christmas . . . " and, Marash Girl might add, you can use the resulting cinnamon water to make yourself an aromatic cup of tea!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Chocolate Chip Scones á la Niña

Hi, Marash Girl -- I made scones this morning!  Here is the recipe including my latest modifications.  Feel free to use on your blog if you'd like.
They came out delicious :)

Chocolate chip scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal (ground up in a blender or food processor)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (or just grease with oil). Whisk together flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (this part is important; if you use melted butter the texture doesn't come out the same). Add chocolate chips and mix with your hands until evenly distributed.
Wisk the buttermilk and vanilla together and add to the dry ingredients. Mix together. The mixture will stay very dry, almost like it doesn't quite stick together. This is good for having nice crumbly scones.
Divide the dough into two balls and place one on each baking sheet. Press (or roll with rolling pin) each ball into a circle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into triangles (or whatever shape you want!) and separate so each scone has space to cook. Brush the tops with buttermilk. Cook for 17-20 minutes or until the tops are golden-brown.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

If your enemy is an ant, view him as an elephant.

"If your enemy is an ant, view him as an elephant." (Or in contemporary parlance, never underestimate your opponent; but rather, overestimate!)

So quoted the old Armenian folks from Marash years back, translating into English for the youngsters . . .  Not sure what enemies they were referring to, but you might chance a guess . . .

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When I grow old . . .

When I grow old, I shall wear purple pony tails!   [With apologies to Jenny Joseph]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mashing your potatoes?

Marash Girl never understood how folks prepared perfect mashed potatoes.  She loved to eat them (albeit, not often, as growing up, rice pilaf was the mainstay in her Marashtsi/Aintepsi home.)  It wasn't until Friday evening that Marash Girl learned of the one ingredient essential to making perfect mashed potatoes . . . and she learned the secret from her friend Andrea who had grown up in Manchester (England) and lived most of her adult life in Brooklyn Heights.  Wanna know the secret that she shared (a secret shared in an elegant English accent)?

"Baking potatoes, of course!  Baking potatoes must be boiled in order to prepare perfect mashed potatoes."

Who knew?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thinking of buying a second home?

That's why people buy second homes, I think.  To have a second chance at life.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I'll eat anything . . .

Husband at dinner,  commenting to dinner guest on his wife's cooking:

I'll eat anything she puts in front of me . . .
As long as it's perfect!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Life-Giving Love

Life-Giving Love
Love-Giving Life

Happy Birthday, Lorig

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Just say yes!

Just say yes!  So advised the President of the Senior Class of Watertown High School, Class of 1932, at their 50th High School Reunion.  "As we get older," he said, "we tend to feel that we've done everything, and there's no need to do any more . . . We start looking for excuses to say 'no' to invitations, to new experiences, to life . . . I'm here as your Senior Class President to give you lifelong advice.  Be sure that once a day, you 'just say yes!'  Say yes to friends, say yes to relatives, say yes to new experiences, say yes to new adventures, say yes to life!"

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love while you can . . .

Life is short.  Marash Girl's best friend's husband just died.  She loved him.  She loves him.  Life is not forever.  Show your love while you can . . .

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Advice to the Lovelorn


"So how do you get a girl interested in you?"

"If she's good looking, I tell her she's smart; if she's smart, I tell her she's good-looking. . . It works with guys, too!"

Monday, February 10, 2014

Labeling . . .

At a  parent-teacher conference in a Springfield, Massachusetts, elementary school, a teacher's first words to the mother of an 8 year old girl?  "What are you doing here? I thought you were in prison!"  It turns out that the little girl had told her teacher that her mother was in prison . . .  .   which was true . . . the child's mother works at a state prison . . . that is the mother's job . . .  and the teacher's assumption put into words?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Blessing, and NOT in disguise

After three folks including Marash Girl shoveled for an hour each, three times on this past Wednesday, the day of the big snowstorm, Marash Girl woke up on Thursday morning to find her driveway blocked, the opening to the street at the end of her driveway piled high with snow -- and not only snow, but all of the icy mass that had collected on the end of her little dead end street had dead ended onto the opening at the end of her driveway. The street plow had found a convenient spot to unload its burden.  Not fair!  As they used to say at the Harvard-Radcliffe Armenian Club, Vaht to do?  

Marash Girl grabbed a shovel, ignoring her lower back which was screaming out in protest, and headed out to reshovel out her car's pathway to the street . . . But what should she find, right where the driveway ends at the street, but a bucket loader with its hoe perched two feet from her driveway.  Hmmmm . . . Next in the saga -- a young man from the city was leaning on a shovel which was perched onto the snow pile right next to Marash Girl's driveway -- Starting a conversation with the fellow, Marash Girl learned that the City had sent these burly young men to clear the openings to the storm grates so that the street would not flood.

Thinking quickly, Marash Girl, grinning, quipped, "Oh, did you know that there's a grate right beneath this pile of snow at the end of my driveway?"

The young man took two (heavy) shovelfuls, returning Marash Girl's grin, pointed to the driver of the front loader who, in two swift strokes of his machine, cleared the driveway.  All that was left was for Marash Girl to shovel up were a few small piles of iced snow (which she dutifully threw into the bucket of the bucket loader) as she thanked the Good Lord and the Good Men . . .

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Spring is on its way!

Looking out of her bedroom window the day after this week's mega-snowstorm, Marash Girl thought she was seeing things -- she thought she saw a robin redbreast nibbling the buds on a snow covered maple tree -- out came her iPhone and snap went the camera.  But wait . . . the photo was taken through a glass darkly . . . through a window darkened by the winter's weather, and a screen, and tree branches, and snow . . .  if you look carefully, you might see a robin in the lower right quadrant of the photo below.

Playing around a bit, Marash Girl was able to reveal the robin in the tree branches!
 (Look for orange in the center of the photo below.)

Now you, too, can claim to have seen a robin on a cold February day in Newton, Massachusetts. . . Does this sighting countermand the implication of the groundhog's seeing its shadow this past Sunday?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hamburgers, Armenian Style (or, as Armenians are wont to call them, "Losh"!

Growing up in the USA,  Marash Girl never questioned the fact that her mother would always  finely chop onions, peppers, parsley and sometimes tomato paste (along with salt and pepper) to mix into freshly ground lamb, then shape the meat into hamburgers (why are they called HAM burgers, anyway?)  before broiling the burgers on the top rack of her Westinghouse oven.  But that's what she did, and later she did the same with ground beef.  And, of course, in the summer, she cooked those burgers over the fireplace that Peter had built in the back yard, and later over the barbecue  . . . as Marash Boy's family  did over the outdoor fire in the fireplace on the top of Wilbraham mountain.

If you want a burger that is a taste treat, try it yourself.  You'll never eat another "American" burger again!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Today is the 226th Anniversary of Massachusetts Statehood

Visiting Blogger Deron writes:

Today, February 6, marks the 226th anniversary of Massachusetts Statehood. On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the 6th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, thereby joining the Union.
Appropriate consumption of food/beverages include the following:

Above only a sampling -- tough to get what you want in NYC
Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, New England Clam Chowder (Chowdah), anything from Dunkin Donuts, Fig Newtons, Sam Adams Beer (or any other delicious MA brew), cod fish, lobster, baked beans. 
And don't forget Massachusetts' very own coffee,

and Boston Creme Donuts, heart shaped for 2/14.
Fig Newtons were created in Newton, Massachusetts!

Play some basketball or volleyball, also Massachusetts creations! 

James Naismith (November 6, 1861 – November 28, 1939) was a Canadian/ American sports coach and innovator. He invented the sport of basketball at Springfield College, Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891 .

William Morgan invented volleyball in 1895 at the Holyoke,Massachusetts, YMCA where he served as Director of Physical Education.

How will YOU mark the occasion?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Answer to Sweepstakes, or, The Wagon Is Full!

Yesterday Marash Girl initiated a sweepstakes, a prize going to the person who guessed the number of books she has listed since she began listing books 20 years ago.

The answers submitted were 73,000      54,321       36,500      

The correct number is 52,067 as of yesterday morning before Marash Girl wrote her blog post!

To the contestants, Marash Girl says (as Peter and Nasreddin Hodja would say,) "You're right; you're right; and you're right, too!" [See]

Therefore, each contestant wins a free book in the form of a gift certificate worth $25 (free media mail shipping within the United States) at  Just go to the website ( and have fun searching!  Awaiting your order . . .

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

You can't sell from an empty wagon!

Marash Girl, as many of you are aware, is the sole proprietor of the on-line bookstore,, selling books of all kinds and conditions to customers all over the world.  Quite an interesting and fun business, she thinks; fun, that is, if you love books (as she has over 50,000 books in her warehouse, 35,000 of them already listed online)!  Much of her workday is taken up by her listing her out-of-print inventory on line, detailing not only title, author, year of publication, edition, and printing, but also describing as exactly as possible the condition of the book -- its dust jacket (if it has one), its covers, its pages.  Her cousin once asked her how she could tolerate such detail in listing books online; the answer is in an old Armenian saying, "Kich mu sirem  . . .   գիչ մը սիրէմ… "  If you truly love something, an object a person, the time spent in touching it, looking at it, describing it, loving it a bit, is not considered time spent working . . . so that may be the answer.  But it all calls to mind Marash Girl's father (who, many years ago, was the proprietor of Newtonville Electrical Co., Inc, Newtonville, Massachusetts, and before that --  before the Genocide of the Armenians --  spent his childhood in the streets of Marash, Ottoman Empire, where much of that which was sold, was sold from wagons coming into the city from the countryside). His advice of many years ago:  "Just list 10 books a day," he said; "after all, you can't sell from an empty wagon!"

So if Marash Girl has been in business for over 20 years, how many books has she listed, all told?  A free book to whoever guesses the right answer!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Green conquers the white of winter . . .

It was 0 degrees fahrenheit, the ground frozen solid for weeks, snow and ice in patches covering the front garden, and yet, near to the place where the garden meets the asphalt sidewalk, near to the cobbles that guard the perennials, were two tiny green spears, not more than an eighth of an inch above the ground, but there, none the less, and, yes, green . . .  there yesterday, as well . . . .a promise of the iris waiting to burst forth . . . . . . .  a lesson for life, for sure. . .

Sunday, February 2, 2014

He's Tied To His Mother's Apron Strings!

In an Armenian Marashtsi household where Turkish and Armenian were spoken interchangeably, Marash Boy somehow must have heard the expression, "He's tied to his mother's apron strings." (Marash Girl has no idea how you'd say that in Armenian or Turkish) . . . At any rate, Marash Boy, who to this day records what he hears and replays it days later . . . Marash Boy took action on the words and, as his mother loved to relate, he literally attached himself to his mother by tying himself behind her with his mother's apron strings!

When Marash Girl asked Marash Boy if he remembered doing just that, he answered, "Yes, I remember!  Good thing I never heard the expression, 'You have to eat a pound of dirt before you die!'  My Irish assistant at the Massachusetts State House often regaled me with tales of his childhood when he actually sat down and tried to force feed himself dirt, as he knew he must eat a pound before he died . . .!!"

Saturday, February 1, 2014

On Failure, or rather, On Success

Marash Boy:  If you don't fail, you can't succeed

Marash Girl:  If you're afraid to fail, you can't succeed

Thomas Edison (1847-1931), inventor of electricity:  I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.