Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the end of an era

Today my grandfather, Popa Al Alper, passed away. He was 101 and a half.

June 2008

Back when he turned 99, many of you sent him postcards in the mail. 99 postcards for 99 years. He absolutely loved getting messages from people he knew and people he didn't (and people he thought he should know, but worried he didn't remember). It was so exciting, he said, to open his mailbox.

November 2009, with my nephew Judah

And then he said he should probably give the mailman a holiday present, for delivering all those cards from all over the country, and the world (he received nearly 200).


Popa Al loved to play pool and poker with the other "fellows" in the (non-assisted living) retirement complex where he lived. In fact, the last time my mom spoke with him a few days ago, he was happy to talk, but then he had to get to his poker game. He liked to tell us how he sometimes beat those younger fellows, those spring chickens in their 80s.

May 2007, with Elan

Even after my Nana died, Popa used to come visit my family in California for several weeks a year. He traveled well into his 90s. And the walking he used to do! I remember one time in San Diego, we started to get a little worried because he was gone for so long. When he came back, he said it was such a beautiful day, he just kept walking. And walking. And walking. And then he took a little rest sitting on a bench looking at the ocean. And then he walked back.


He loved to be with his family, and he was quite content to sit in the middle of the family hub-bub and just soak it in. He couldn't hear very well, and he was always very stubborn about not wearing a hearing aid, which did seem to serve him pretty well when surrounded by the chaos of 3 children, 3 children-in-laws, 6 grandchildren and associated husbands/wives/partners, and 9 great-grandchildren.

100th Birthday Party, November 2009

He liked to talk to you, hear what was going on in your life. And he also just liked to soak up the ambiance of family.

May 2007

He liked to eat.

October 2007, out to lunch with Elan

And he liked parties too.

the patriarch of the family

Of course our impressions of our grandparents are always uniquely rooted in our particular relationship, but I can honestly say that, to me, Popa Al has always been an example of how to live a peaceful, loving life, to enjoy simple pleasures, to focus on the positive and appreciate the blessings you have.

August 2010

He was a pretty amazing spirit, my Popa Al. How lucky we were to have him here for 101 years.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

my new favorite kitchen accessory & quick peanut sauce for dinner

We just got an electric kettle, and I'm smitten.

Suddenly, I'm drinking herbal tea regularly, instead of just thinking that I should (sweetened herbal tea helps to satiate my 4 p.m. sweet/caffeine craving, without ODing on sugar or staying up all night cause I drank coffee after noon). And I no longer have that annoying situation where I turn the kettle on and by the time it's whistling its heart out on the stove, I'm upstairs elbow-deep in a poopy diaper. Or ensconced in my rocking chair, nursing the baby. Or wrangling Elan, who's throwing a fit, while trying not to wake Emry, who's napping.

This way, after the water's boiled, the kettle just turns itself off. I need more things in my life that turn themselves off automatically. Like the Internet, nightly at 9 p.m. How much sleep I would get if my Internet went off at 9 p.m. Does anyone know how to make it do that (except for special situations like working at night, or writing important blog posts about kitchen gadgets)?

The kettle produces warm water nearly instantly, much faster than running the water in the sink, and without feeling guilty cause you're wasting water (nearly-native Californian that I am). Faster than heating water in the microwave, which always just strikes me as wrong. Mikhail's been using it to help him warm a bottle for Emry in the middle of the night, as we're tapering the baby off his midnight to 3 a.m. feed. Tonight he'll get a half-ounce of breastmilk with an ounce or so of water, out of a bottle. Is it really worth waking up for that, kid, when if you sleep past 3 a.m. you get a nice full meal out of a nice warm, decently well-rested Mama?

I notice that it's past 9 p.m. and I'm getting a little punchy, a signal I should be getting ready for bed and not on my computer. Internet-auto-shutter-offer, where are you?

Anyway, I used the kettle tonight to warm water for my favorite quick peanut sauce. I don't put a lot of recipes on this site - after all, there is the whole food blogosphere out there, with beautifully styled food photos and inspiring true recipe tales. But lately I've been enjoying cooking so much more again, and besides, who doesn't need another idea for an easy dinner?

Quick Peanut Sauce - my go-to sauce to serve with fried tofu, rice or soba noodles, and stir-fried veggies.

3 T unsweetened peanut butter
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 T chopped cilantro (I never put this in, cilantro non-lover that I am)
1 plump garlic clove, minced or put through a press
2 t soy sauce or to taste
1 t brown sugar
1/2 t chile oil
salt (if needed)

Combine all the ingredients except the salt, adding 2-4 T warm water (from an electric kettle!) to make it the consistency you wish. Add additional soy sauce or salt as needed.

Recipe from Deborah Madison's excellent Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


February, on BART, when Emry was much littler (and a better napper)

Oh, the 45-minute nap, how you foil Mama's attempts to get any work done!

Friday, May 6, 2011


Farmer's market, Seattle

Laundry, dishes, cooking.

Laundry, dishes, cleaning.

Laundry, dishes, picking up.

And then you turn around, and it's all messy again.


Is this why the housewives of the 1950s were desperate to get back into the workforce?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

spring clean

Farmer's Market, Seattle

Last year around this time I had thoughts of doing Apartment Therapy's Spring Cure, a kind of group support structure for cleaning/organizing/purging/redecorating your space. Except I was suffering through my never-ending first trimester, so I bought the book and that's as far as I got. (In fact, just thinking about that book brings back the nauseous feel that I can still remember so clearly from all the months it sat on my bedside table, mocking my energy-less, dry-heaving state.)

But this spring I am making up for it with a serious bout of spring cleaning, brought on by beautiful sunny weather - all that bright light really showed me how dirty my house was! It feels good to be sorting, throwing things away, putting things away, and cleaning. I am thinking of this as making space for new possibilities, new opportunities, and - yes - possibly even new stuff.