Love Has Many Forms and Faces

Stephen and Tasha by Kim 3          One of the more famous of the poems Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote to her Robert as they fell in love begins, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” It has always been a favorite of mine. I even set it to music and played it on my guitar in the days I sang in coffee houses and for parties.  Love can be given in many ways, and all of them are valid and special because each person has his or her own way of giving love. When I pay attention and see how love is given, it is a wonderful lesson to be cherished. Watch very small children; toddlers give us wonderful examples of the giving of unconditional love.

The gifts of love are so special. My home has loving presents from friends and family that come from their love and I cherish the giver as I see, wear, or use them. The kind words I hear, or receive in emails or cards and letters never fail to warm my heart. The love I have shared with my beloved husband for nearly forty years is an important part of my every day experience. I think of him as my always valentine. Love whether brotherly, romantic or spiritual nourishes my heart as well as the heart of us all.

Valentines’ day is an annual reminder that love is a vital part of our lives. I know that as I live with love and give it, I grow happier and more content. A wise teacher once told me, “You don’t have to like everyone but you must love everyone.” When I first heard this I thought a lot about what it meant. How do I love everyone? Especially how do I love those that annoy, irritate or even do awful things, whether to me or to others? In time I have taught myself to do this. I learned how as I grew more aware when I wasn’t loving and deliberately corrected myself, replacing criticism with unconditional love. I am still learning.

When I practice unconditional love, love without judgment and with compassion, even unlikable people can be loved. I don’t have to like them, or like how they act. Nor do I have to approve of anything about them. I can simply open my heart and see them as another human being, however troubled or awful, and envision them surrounded in the light of love. If I feel they ought to be punished I can say I hope they get what they deserve, without specifying.

When my children were small and had been naughty, I might not have liked their behavior yet though I might punish them, I loved them all the same. Often their bad behavior came from ignorance or was a test of boundaries. When I make an effort not to judge another person regardless how I might feel about them, I enhance my ability to give that kind of love. Unconditional love grows from practice. Just as I could punish my child’s bad behavior and love them still, I can give my unconditional love to anyone, and as to punishment, that’s not my job. I can have faith that eventually what goes around will come around, and sooner or later, so it will.

A Lesson in Baking A New Recipe

Apples 3Apples are versatile and make for good cold weather desserts. They are relatively inexpensive and always available, plus they are very good nutrition. Needing inspiration for an apple dessert, I checked through my cookbook collection looking for a different way to make one. Because I try to avoid pie crust, I’m not a pie baker. Apple crisp, though very tasty, gets boring. I found that the recipes in my cookbooks for Apple Pan Dowdy and similar concoctions called for too much starch for a healthy diet.

After perusing many recipes, I decided to create one of my own. Toward that end I was careful to note down my ingredients and their measurements in case I wanted to repeat my effort. Sourcing many of recipes I had perused, I tried dried bread crumbs. This proved to be a mistake. They absorbed too much of the liquid and made for a rather stiff end result. Still, the pudding tasted good enough so that I wanted to make it again, but a little differently. Rather than using dried bread crumbs, I decided to try fresh ones. I pinched small pieces off the bread, including the crust.

The pudding tasted wonderful. Unfortunately, my original dish size was incorrect for the change in the recipe. The resultant mess on the oven floor was horrendous. Another lesson learned. The recipe was so good I made it again with different fruit. This one worked well however it stuck to the baking dish. More lessons. The solution to that was to set the container in a pan of hot water for the duration of its baking time. This produced a moister result. All in all the recipe through trial and error has improved to a point where I want to share it.

 

Preheat oven to 350, use a 2 quart buttered covered casserole

Ingredients:

4 cups THINLY sliced peeled apples*

4 or 5 slices of bread

½ cup raisins or chopped dates

¾ cup rough chopped or broken pieces of walnuts (Optional)

½ cup flour

¾ cups brown sugar

1&1/2 cups cider

¼ cup butter plus some for buttering casserole

1 tsp Cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp clove

¼ tsp salt

 

Method: Heat cider, butter and spices on stove until butter melts. Stir to blend. Butter well a 2 quart casserole. Pinch off small pieces of bread. Cover bottom of casserole. Make a layer of apples, sprinkle on ¼ cups brown sugar, 2 Tbs flour, ¼ cup raisins and ¼ cup (optional) walnuts. Repeat bread, apples, sugar, flour, rest of raisins ¼ cup (optional) walnuts. End with a layer of bread, apples, (optional) walnuts, sugar and flour. Pour cider mixture over all. Bake covered at 350 for 1 hour. Uncover casserole and bake 10 more minutes to brown. Serve or save for later or next day. It tastes lovely with cream or ice cream or plain.  Alternative ingredients: 1 to 2 cups frozen cherries, cut in quarters and 1 to 2 cups frozen blueberries, omit raisings, substitute pecans for walnuts. With berries, you might use a shallow pan filled with water beneath the casserole for a moister pudding that doesn’t stick.

 

Up to my Neck in Lemons, my latest book has more recipes, poetry, and insights into turning Life’s Lemons, into Lemonade To have your own autographed copy,  please send $15. To Tasha Halpert at P.O.Box 171, North Grafon, MA 01536,  or purchase your copy on Amazon.

Life’s Patience Training

pictures downloaded from my camera 2. 148My introduction to using a computer came abruptly. The son of a friend dropped one he had built on my desk and said, “Here you need this.” He left me without giving me any instructions beyond how to turn the machine on and off. This was back in the nineties when I still happily typed my columns on a typewriter and delivered them by hand. I imagine you can sympathize with how it was to try to apply what I knew about typing to this newfangled mechanical servant! Fortunately he did come back to teach me until I began to learn better how to manage. It certainly took patience—his and mine.

How do you learn to be patient? By being patient, of course! It helps to have had little children to care for, yet not everyone gets to do that. Many of us, however work with cell phones and computers on a regular basis. They can present much need for patience. As a writer, I deal with that often. I do not have much knowledge of computers except what I have needed to learn in order to write and publish on the internet and submit to the paper.

In this time of sad stories we read and hear every day, I hope to be able to offer positive, uplifting words to help readers feel better about themselves and life. For the opportunity to do this I am grateful. That said where does the patience training come in? It has to do with the use of computers and their mysteries, and it includes the use of cell phones with their dropped calls, missed words, bad or strange connections, lack of cell towers, “roaming” charges and so on. Still, computers can be worse.

Sometimes when I start up my computer it announces that it needs a pass word. I never have put a password on my computer to start it up, so how can I find it or post it? I do keep a list of my many passwords to various and sundry sites. I even printed  it out so that in the event I have forgotten one I don’t have to go look for it on the computer while trying to use the computer to access the site. Having something in print is helpful, and keeping records in other places than on the device you are using can be equally so as I have discovered.

There is the problem of the articles that vanish because I can’t remember the titles. Sometimes a piece even disappears because I hit a key that mysteriously makes it do so.  If I am writing a column or a poem, thankfully I can retrieve my effort with the backward arrow. However if I am emailing, I have to begin again. Ah, patience training, her it comes again! I am sure my readers have similar issues to deal with, and know what I mean. The bright side, however, is the opportunity to practice my ability to be patient, and that can indeed be valuable for my life in general.

Clearing the past helps manifest the future

          It’s helpful to begin the new year with a clean slate. However in order to do that, it is important to deal with any situations or setups that are connected with or derived from the past. If I don’t clean up what I need to from the past, I will have created a big mess that impedes my progress in the year to come. I learned this the hard way one year when I accumulated a huge pile of items that needed to be filed because I had never found the time to do it conveniently. Thus I had an inconvenient task to deal with. This year I have been dilatory about filing new poems where they were meant to go. When I have done this a little at a time organizing them is much easier.

          The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah begins with a thorough cleansing and refurbishing of the entire home, most especially the kitchen. This is a symbolic way of wiping the slate clean for new beginnings. I now know the value of this. Being thorough  with this process, however does take time. Though I have accomplished some of my cleaning up, much remains to be done. For instance, I have yet to go through and scrub down my refrigerator. While I have every intention of tackling this task soon, unfortunately I haven’t found the right time just as yet.

          Still, nothing in there has developed an odor to alert me to an inedible substance that must be discarded. As far as I can tell I have kept up with my leftovers, and there is nothing lurking in its back for me to dispose of. Sadly, my refrigerator does not hold as much as I wish it did. Whenever I do a big shopping I usually have to reshuffle whatever is on the shelves in order to fit in the new items, and that tends to keep things current. I need to do this especially when adding to my freezer which needs to hold things like shrimp on sale as well as an assortment of the good frozen organic vegetables we like so much.  

          I have gone over my desk, organized it and thrown out the various lists, notes and other accumulated paper that were not current. I also threw away a bunch of pens that no longer wrote and put away the ones that did. In addition I purged my wallet of coupons that were not valid because they were past the expiry date. We still have some Christmas gifts that we have not yet managed to connect with their recipients; however I am confident that this will happen in good time. There are still drawers to tidy, and my filing cabinet to go through.

          I can think of more and more if I try. There are writing projects on my computer I haven’t looked at in some time. I could discard them or continue to consider them. There are old poems I could look at and decide whether to keep, revise or eliminate. Yet where do I stop? I might go on cleaning and clearing until summer if I kept at it. At some point I must decide what is enough and what will be too much. Soon I need to stop and decide it’s time to move forward. The space garnered by elimination will help me and that’s a good reason to do so.

I’m Not Making Any New Year Resolutions This Year


          I’ve been writing the Good Earthkeeping columns since I moved to Grafton and joined the garden club. Two friends I made in the club shared my enthusiasm to write a column for the Grafton News. I proposed the title, approached editor Charlie Bolack, and voila, my friends and I had a column to enjoy writing. Only it turned out they didn’t have as much fun doing it as I did, and soon turned the whole column over to me. Eventually I joined Word Press and began posting here.

          I began this column in the early nineties when the trend toward holistic and natural goods and behaviors was beginning to crest. At that time, the content and direction of my column was primarily informational. It concerned healthy cleaning solutions, book reports on helpful texts, ways to recycle, and occasionally, something from my point of view. After some time I discovered that many of my readers preferred the more personal columns, so I trimmed my sails to the proverbial wind, so to speak and focused more and more on perspective pieces.

          Since some of my perspective is a reflection of my experiences both as a child and as an adult, pieces of my personal history began to creep into my writings. Many readers have since commented on how much they like that aspect of it.  Once again I have seen the way the wind blows and acted accordingly. It’s fun for me to share some of the memories I have of times before computers and cell phones, not to mention 24 hour television programming. Some of you may remember the test patterns on the small black and white TV we watched as children. They began when the evening programming ended.

          So where do the New Year Resolutions fit into this picture? Quite simply I’m not making any this year. My resolutions do not seem to survive the first few months, and they usually have to do with projects not behaviors. If I could say that the projects I resolved to complete were finished or the behaviors changed,  I might still make a resolution or two. Yet I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe making a resolution about something to accomplish or even work on for the new year jinxes the project. And that worries me, so this year I resolve not to resolve, I will instead welcome any surprises that the year has to offer.        

The way things have gone in my life, it seems that everything falls together the way that ultimately works best. So why should I meddle? I do know that there are things I once wished for that I am relieved I didn’t get, and things I never thought to wish for that to my delight have. I will leave the resolving and long term planning to the Powers that Be and focus on the present moment in the new year to come. Wait…does that sound like a resolution? Shh no that’s not a resolution, just my focus for my life. Happy New Year to all, I wish you, my dear readers every joy in the year to come.

The Carols of Christmas

          One of my most precious childhood memories is of my mother with her violin tucked firmly under her chin, playing Silent Night on Christmas Eve. We sang it in German, the language of the land of her birth as well as the one it was originally written in. We also sang Oh Tannenbaum in German, and in English other carols we knew and loved. When I was very small, there were real white lit candles in holders that clipped to the Christmas tree branches.  My mother had brought them with her from Germany when she married my father.

          On Christmas Eve we would come together in the dining room around five or six o’clock to have a light supper with sandwiches, finger food, and sweets. Then we would go into the living room where the newly decorated tree stood in glorious splendor with silver strands of thin shiny Metal tinsel draped over its branches—we saved it from year to year. The small white candles were lit before we began to sing. After that we opened presents. In my home, Santa brought the stocking presents, not the ones under the tree.

          Some of the traditional carols of Christmas date back to the 17th century or even further. Others, like Silent Night  (1818) and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, (1865)one of my father’s big favorites were written more recently. These words and melodies have a magical effect. They connect us with our past, and not only our own personal past but the pasts of our ancestors who sang them too. The old hymnal of my father’s Episcopal church had wonderful histories of the various Christmas carols. Whenever I have sung them I am always brought back to that church with its wonderful stained glass windows.

          One of my favorite hymns, Of the Father’s Love Begotten, has roots in the 10th century, and its majestic chords have a sound that invokes the soaring European cathedrals that predate the discover of America. There is a part of us all which has been called the collective unconscious that embraces the past that is encoded in our very bones and responds to the sounds of celebration throughout the centuries. For all of history, singing has been an important part of universally celebrated holidays like Christmas, New Year’s and Easter.

          These connections and others that we experience with the holidays heighten and expand how we feel. Our customs, too, connect us not only to our families but also to our ancestors as is fitting. Those who join Christmas carolers, for instance, are participating in a ritual that goes back centuries when children would go door to door in their villages begging treats and wishing the home owners Merry Christmas or Happy New Year.

          The word carol actually means a dance of praise and joy. It may be that we no longer dance to any of the carols of Christmas yet they do indeed bring joy to the heart and happiness as we raise our voices in celebration of the season of peace and good will we call Christmas.

Simple Recipes for Good Health and Good Taste

          Many of us probably ate too much over the holidays. It’s easy to do when party potluck invitations bring out people’s desire to celebrate with good food.  There is a temptation to try “just a little” of every dish and that includes the usual array of desserts and tasty treats special to this time of the year. Salads don’t tempt most appetites and hearty soups do, however, what really makes the tongue sit up and take notice are sauces and condiments that can enliven jaded appetites.

          This simple recipe using cilantro is a staple in our ‘fridge. Ingredients are few: Cilantro, garlic, mayonnaise, yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Put a bunch of cilantro into the food processor. (You probably could use a blender but I don’t advise it.) Add a clove of chopped garlic, ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup plain yoghurt, and a a squeeze of lemon or lime. Process until well blended and smooth. I keep a plastic lemon in the ‘fridge to help with this. Serve on any vegetable, chicken, fish, eggs, or whatever you can think of. It is tasty and healthy. I have heard that to some, cilantro tastes like soap. Apparently this is genetic. Check with your family before serving.

          Here is another sauce or pesto I think of as “medicine on the hoof”. It’s extremely good for you. This is especially true during this season of colds and viruses. The raw garlic, the onion and the uncooked parsley all have vitamins, minerals, anti-viral, antibacterial  and anti cancer components. I named it Garlic Whammo. It could also be called Garlic Pesto. A pesto is a thick sauce you can spread on pizza, bread or crackers, or mix with pasta to enliven what you are serving. It is usually uncooked and contains herbs and some kind of oil, preferably olive. It keeps well precisely because of the oil, and may include optional nuts or seeds as well.

          My Garlic Whammo has four main ingredients: Garlic, Parsley, a small onion or half a medium one, and olive oil. You can add other things—grated cheese and/or nuts or seeds, however you don’t have to. You do not need to remove any but the largest stems, and those only if you wish. However to make it you do need a food processor as a blender would not do a good job without your adding too much oil. It is wonderful on anything you want to serve it on: pasta and it is excellent on scrambled eggs, fish, chicken or any vegetable.

          Take a good sized bunch of fresh parsley and place it in the bowl of the food processor. Add anywhere from four to eight  roughly chopped cloves of garlic, to taste. Add 1 small or ½ medium onion, cut into chunks. Add ½ cup olive oil. You may wish to start with half of this amount and then more as it processes. Process until smooth and creamy without any mouth feel of the individual parsley flakes. This keeps well though I would eat it within a few days or so to get the greatest benefit from the fresh ingredients. The parsley keeps the garlic from overwhelming taste buds or anyone with whom you speak.