Heartwings Love Notes 1064: Thankful for Small Blessings

Heartwings says, “The more thanks we give, the closer we grow to good fortune.”

Is it appropriate to do good for selfish reasons, i.e., to do good for the reward? This thought has been going around in my head recently, and it seems quite a conundrum when you think about it. To do good, altruistically, without expectation of reward is or is said to be, the best of ways to act. Realistically, to do good without a motive, might be said to be an essentially unselfish act.

However, it is also true that what goes around comes around. What you do to or for another person will return to you, often in spades. This seems to me to be a good reason to behave oneself, as well, as I and others were brought up to do. My question is, does the motive matter? If I’m doing a kind act for selfish reasons, because I know I will receive back in some way, is there less of a reward or benefit than if I do it just out of kindness?

Common sense says, it ought not to matter, what goes around comes around, regardless. Besides, life is too short to be concerned with such trivial notions. What really matters is to be thankful, regardless. No one is perfect, nor is any circumstance, at least in the long run. The best anyone can do is the best they can. For instance, I never did enjoy riding a bicycle, no matter how hard I tried. I managed to fall off frequently. Once, after I had a tumble, when a kind stranger brought me and my bike home, my parents thanked him then after he left, berated me for accepting a ride from a stranger. Oh, well, such is life.

My parents did the best they could to protect me from whatever bad thing might happen. I am grateful to them for their caution and for their efforts. I was a friendly child and might well have gotten into some kind of trouble and suffered for it. However, thankfully I didn’t. Of course, I grew up to become a parent who practiced the same caution. Isn’t that always the way? We have one end of the behavior and then the other in order to understand how it all works out for the best.

On a daily basis I try hard to remember to express my gratitude for the smallest and even the most ordinary of blessings. The reason I do it is because I want to remember to be grateful and to take nothing for granted. In my experience people can disappear from my life without any warning, expected events and opportunities can vanish suddenly. When I have made note of a blessing at least I have acknowledged it. Gratitude is key for us all to have a successful, productive, and happy life regardless of motive.

May your giving of thanks become a constant experience.

Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert

PS do you remember to express your gratitude often? How is it for you? I do so enjoy your comments and emails. Write me at Tashahal@gmail.com, and for more Love Notes, check out my website at www.Heartwingsandfriends.com

Heartwings Love Notes 1063: A Recipe for Friendship

Heartwings Says, “Food and friendship go together.”

Remember how at one time friends would do a chain letter for the sharing of recipes? This involved typing up 10 copies of a recipe and sharing it with ten friends who were to do the same, and so on. Names were listed and we crossed out the name at the top and substituted one’s own. In addition, we were supposed to share a recipe of our own back to the sender. Theoretically, we were supposed to get back a large number of recipes to enjoy. In practice I don’t know about anyone else, but I got few if any new recipes and those I did get, much to my dismay, were not to my taste.

Once everyone pretty much had computers this changed to sending them out as emails. While this was easier, it still produced the same results for me: One or two recipes back and nothing I could make use of. However, I have often shared recipes with friends and they with me. These I keep in a loose-leaf notebook of pages with clear plastic over them beneath which I can place the written page for preservation.

This unique recipe for a banana cake given me by a dear friend is very special. Banana Lattice Cake: From South America, the recipe is somewhat time consuming, yet fun to make especially if you have a child to help you with the lattice work. Grease a 9X12 baking pan, preheat the oven to 350 or 325 if pan is glass.


1 egg

1 stick butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

4 or 5 ripe bananas

Cinnamon to sprinkle

Sugar to sprinkle

Lemon juice to sprinkle

Method: Cream sugar and butter, add egg and vanilla, beat well. Mix in Baking powder and salt, then flour. When mixture is well blended put half of it into baking dish. Press into dish, let sides build up a little. Slice ripe bananas over top and distribute evenly. Sprinkle lemon, sugar and cinnamon over bananas. Take about a teaspoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Then put your hands together as if you were clapping but rub them back and forth so that the dough makes a long roll or strip. Crosshatch the bananas with these strips, placing them on the diagonal. Don’t worry if some are not long enough; just add onto them with shorter pieces. The dough will all glue itself together nicely as it bakes and spread out to make a pretty, puffy appearance. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool before cutting and serving. Delicious! Serves 24 to 36.

Whenever I make this, I think of my friend fondly and wish we could share a piece. My hand written recipes are my most precious and evoke fond memories of the times we spent together.

May you have friends to cook with, and may your recipes turn out well.

Blessings and best Regards, Tasha Halpert

Please write me back with any comments, thoughts or suggestions. I prefer tashahal@gmail.com for now. All blessings, Tasha

Heartwings Love Notes 1061: 3 Soups for Soup Weather

Heartwings says, “Homemade soup warms the heart and the tummy too.”

Growing up, I was accustomed for the most part to think of soup as something that came in cans. Certainly, I didn’t know anything about making it from scratch—not at least for some years as I taught myself to cook. I remember once making a cream of mushroom soup and thinking, what a waste of time, it tastes just like it came from a can.

Chicken soup made from the bones to begin with was one of my first efforts. I must have seen my mother doing it because she was never one to waste anything that could be made into food. She was a very thrifty cook. As time went by, and I was feeding more people, both family and later, friends, I began out of necessity to learn the art of soup making.

 At one time, and especially when I had a garden I fed the scraps to, I even saved my vegetable peelings and tops and boiled them into a tasty broth I used to enhance my homemade soups. This was especially good with vegetable and bean or lentil soup. For some reason I don’t think my mother did much with lentils or beans. Perhaps my father didn’t like them. It was Stephen that got me into lentil soup, something he had enjoyed long before we met. Another of his favorites is onion soup.

After researching a variety of recipes, I crafted my own very simple onion soup. I use 1 ½  to 2 cups thinly sliced onion sauteed slowly in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 of olive oil. When onions are soft and ready, I add 1 quart box low sodium beef broth, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 or so minutes. Serve either plain or with some toasted bread with melted cheese on top. This serves 3 or 4 nicely.

My potato soup is equally simple: I use ½ a large onion, chopped sauteed in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 of olive oil. Peel or don’t 4 medium Maine potatoes, chop and add to onion along with 3 cups water or broth and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook an hour or so. Serve or store for next day when it is even better. Chopped fresh parsley, though not necessary, will also enhance the taste.

And finally, here is a favorite of mine, using mung beans. Sprouted they are the ubiquitous bean sprouts of oriental foods. In their dried state they are tasty and nutritious. I use ½ cup chopped onion, 1 cup mung beans, 2 cups chopped potato, 1 cup or more sliced carrots, 1 cup or more chopped celery, 1 teaspoon thyme, ¾ teaspoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon ground garlic, 2 cups beef broth and 4 cups water salt and pepper to taste. Sauté onion and add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer until tender and tasty—45 minutes to an hour.

May your meals be tasty and nutritious regardless what you prepare.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I love it when you share your recipes and make comments or suggestions. Please feel free to write me at tashahal@gmail.com. Your emails make my day. Thanks!

Heartwings Love Notes 1060 Birthdays are Markers on the Highway of Life

Heartwings says, “When you take note of the milestones, you know how far you have traveled.”

I remember my mother when she was in her late eighties shaking her head and saying, “How did I get to be this old?” Now I am celebrating my eighty-seventh birthday and thinking and saying the identical words. Years, decades, days have melted and become one past without much definition. Where did the time go, and how did it pass so quickly? As one friend of mine often says, “Beats me!” It seems as though each day or even week slips into the past and immediately shrinks or dwindles to practically nothing. Perhaps I’ll write a poem about that. I’ve written lots of poetry on the theme of time and all that pertains to it.

 I’ve considered collecting the poems into a chapbook, if I can somehow carve out the time it takes to discover, select, design, and proofread them for the pages. I suppose I could, yet my days are pretty full as it is with cooking, doctor’s visits, and taking care of the needs of the moment. I do no cleaning fortunately, because I have a wonderful person for that. Stephen helps when he can with what he can, for which I am also grateful. These daily doings, the minutiae of life blend themselves into my time so seamlessly I find it difficult to catch hold of any part of a day without using considerable effort.   

Sometimes I try to locate the year such-and-such happened and shake my head and sigh. I can’t find any landmarks to tie it to. There are some important milestones, however that do stick in my memory, and I am grateful for them: My high school graduation, the year Stephen and I met and the year we married, my children’s birthdays and those of other family and friends. I have two Birthday twins though only by date of course. I did mark one recent birthday with a zoom party—my eighty fifth, so people in Italy and those in California could both attend without traveling. I like to celebrate birthdays–mine, and that of others. I believe it is important to mark the years as they pass.

At one time I remember I thought fifty was old. Now someone fifty is to me in the prime of life. I can recall my mother saying “When I was in my fifties, I could do anything.” I could say the same now. The hourglass that marks my time has lots more in the bottom than it did then, and my personal, physical self is commensurably unavailable. Yet I can make the most of whatever time remains to me, and that is my task these days. I will explore the potential for doing that and then at least I may find it easier to mark the milestones on the highway of my days.

May you find many fine milestones to enjoy as your days and years pass.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I always enjoy your comments and your questions as well as your suggestions. Please write me at Tashahal@gmail.com. Read more Love Notes at www.heartwingsandfriends.com.

Heartwings Love Note 1059: Feedback

Heartwings says, “What is perceived may alter what is received.”

As a very young child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered, “I want to be married and I want to be famous.” How I knew or even if I knew what these meant is unknown to me now, however it is definitely what I said. I am married, and counting my first time, I have been married for sixty-seven of my nearly 87 years. I am happy to say I have no regrets.

As to the second, being famous, I have to decide what is meant by that. Being recognized in the supermarket as the author of a newspaper column might to some people mean being famous. Having kind things said about that column is equally nice. Being told by a reader that you have been helpful in some way is gratifying to hear. Does it mean I am famous? I don’t know. I can say that these experiences satisfy my initial desire to be famous. In other words, I’m sufficiently famous to suit me.

However, while these are pleasant experiences, something I have learned is not to dwell on feedback from others. My eldest daughter and I had a recent conversation about this. She was saying it was not her habit to base her self-value on feedback. I told her I loved that thought and would steal it, because I agree. I have learned that lesson more than once and have the stories to prove it. As far as I can determine, what people see in anyone else most often depends on the personal filters through which they perceive that person. We all have them; the trick is to be aware of them.

Years ago, I learned that if people praised me, it was because of what they liked about me, or what I had done for them or another. If they criticized me, they probably didn’t approve of what I had done or how they saw me.Their opinion was what influenced their response. I must admit it’s nicer to be praised than blamed, yet both are in the eye of the beholder. This was a new level in detachment for me. I had learned to be detached from possessions, now it was time to be detached from opinions both good and bad. I appreciated that lesson.

I myself must be the judge of how I am doing. I am the only one who really can tell how I am measuring up to my own standards. Being honest with myself, I can see my value to myself as well as to others. When I honor my efforts, recognize my efforts as worthy, and feel good about them, then I will have been successful, regardless of the result. We cannot all win the blue ribbon, but we can all try. And when we do, then we have succeeded.

May you enjoy success in your own eyes, whatever you try to do.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I treasure your comments and enjoy your communications. Do let me know what you think; I promise to respond. Please do write to me at Tashahal@gmail.com

The Beauty of Fall

Heartwings Love Notes 1057 The Beauty of Fall

Heartwings says, “When your eyes are open to beauty, your heart is too.”

Driving the country roads of New England is a nice experience most times of the year, but the fall presents an especially glorious season to do so. I was reflecting on this thought recently, as I drove Stephen and me to a town not far from our home in North Grafton, for our Covid Booster shots.

It was a bright, clear sunny day. We traveled on roads lined with trees expressing their fall exuberance. The noontime light shone through the brilliance of their red and yellow leaves. It was heartstoppingly beautiful. After we’d had our shots, I decided it would be fun to not go straight home but to have a meander—what I call a wandering adventure, in further traveling the lovely roads.

Though I hadn’t been on these streets before, knowing the area sufficiently, I didn’t fear getting lost. We drove down one astonishingly bright, curving tree lined road after another, marveling at the sights that unfolded. Both of us were enthralled with what we saw. I sent up a little prayer of gratitude. It was so peaceful, yet so exciting!

For a moment in time that stretched on and on, I had no thought for the troubles of the world, what we’d have for lunch, or anything beyond the present moment. As I drove, from time to time I’d point out an especially wonderful tree or vista. It was easy to keep my eyes on the road because that was where the action was anyway. Fortunately, there was no one behind me to grow annoyed at my somewhat slow pace. If there had been, I would have pulled over and let them pass. I was in no hurry to get anywhere. 

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. I cherish it, not only for its beauty but also for its interesting weather. Like spring it is a back-and-forth time of year. Cold alternates with warm as the season progresses. It’s coats one day and shorts the next. Having been born in the fall may have something to do with it. Also, there are the holidays to look forward to. Furthermore, as an adult I enjoy the opportunity to sleep better and longer as the dark hours take over from the light.

That night as we got ready for bed we talked about the glorious vistas, as well as splendid individual trees we had seen on our drive. I reflected how thankful I was for the opportunity to take the time to do the trip. Experiences like those are precious. Those of us who are fortunate to live where they are frequent are especially blessed. I hope to keep New England as my forever home.

May you find delight in the fall wherever you dwell.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS Are you having a nice fall? Do you welcome it? If not, or if so, tell me why, I so appreciate readers’ comments. Let me know what you think, I am eager to hear. Write to me at Tashahal@gmail.com. Go to www.Heartwingsandfriends.com for more Love Notes.

Heartwings Love Notes 1055 Decisions Can Be Tricky

Heartwings says, “Sometimes decisions can change with better information.”

We like where we live now, and we have lived here for eight years. It is convenient and cozy. It holds one good-sized room and a bedroom with a galley kitchen. It tends to get easily cluttered; however, we are accustomed to that and so are those who visit us. What just about everyone comments on is the most difficult aspect of our second-floor dwelling place: our stairs are steep and narrow. Fortunately, there is a strong banister to cling to, which I do. I also suggest to visitors that they do the same.

In the past I simply considered the stairs good exercise. Then I found them getting arduous. Parkinson’s had reduced my mobility, making the stairs more challenging. It became difficult both to go up and to go down. What was worse, I could no longer carry anything more than my cane. Stephen had to lug everything by himself. And the stairs weren’t easy for him either.

We began to seek a ground floor apartment and encountered nothing we either liked or that fit our budget. When we sought help at the Senior Center, we were told about a residence home in Whitinsville. My helpful daughter made an appointment for us both and we went to see it: an independent living situation set within a lovely pre-civil war mansion built by the owner of the original Whitinsville mills.

The amenities for residents included meals, snacks, laundry, electricity, heat, and housekeeping. It seemed ideal; however, the living arrangement consisted of one room only, with a bath. A lovely place to live, with generous rooms for relaxing, dining, and so on, it would mean giving up most of our possessions, or putting them in storage. Also, no one else in the residence was gluten intolerant. I could not ask the kitchen to make meals for just me, plus the danger of cross contamination.

Regardless of that, we said we move in and began preparing. What we didn’t yet know was what the price would be for two, versus one person. Over the next while as we waited for that information, we discussed how we would do this. I found myself filled with regrets on a daily basis for what I’d lose: making our meals, most of my wardrobe to fit the small closet space, the books I could not have with me, and more. Stephen was being stalwart and kind as he coped with what he could not fit into the space.

Then we were given the price. It was more than we had expected or planned for. How much did we really want to do this. This new factor completely altered the perspective. Much conversation ensued. Things changed in our minds. The illusion of leisurely living, with everything taken care of faded when confronted with the reality of what was not physically, mentally and emotionally going to work, so we declined–with a little regret and a big sigh of relief.

May your important decisions be guided by your truth,

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS Tell me about your decisions, and how they have been for you. I love it when readers share their stories. Please write me at tashahal@gmail.com. For more Heartwings, check out www.heartwingsandfriends.com.

Heartwings Love Notes 1054 Where are my cookies

Heartwings says, “Sharing is caring and easy to do.”

My first husband and I had five lively children, and to pass the time while I cared for them, as well as to make them happy, I baked cookies several times a week. The trick, however was to make sure everyone got his or her fair share. To do that in a good way, I counted up the cookies and divided by five, saving a few over for the grownups. On the list of amounts per child, each one was to check off the ones taken. Most of the time this kept the peace.

I used to do the same with any expensive fruit, like peaches and plums. Everyone abided by this setup. No one wanted to feel the collective wrath of the rest of the family if they didn’t. Fairness was an important principle that I wanted to be sure my children learned. I made it a priority for everyone to get their fair share.

 In addition, to help make each child feel cherished and special I used to take each in rotation for a trip to the destination of their choice. But not just that, I made a rule that when we were out, my time would be devoted exclusively to the child—I would do no errands or other personal activity. They remember these fondly.

I tended to discourage competition within the family, and rarely if ever compared any one of them to another. This was not how I was raised. My mother was a very competitive person and my father was somewhat this way also. Perhaps this was due to the prevailing attitudes of their generation. Regardless, I did not think it helped siblings to become friends when they were always being presented as being into competition.

I am happy to say my grown children are all good friends. They share one another’s lives in positive ways that my sister and I were not encouraged to do. For example, I remember discovering something really nice she did for my mother that neither told me about at the time, and I found out quite by accident.

If there were more sharing in today’s world, there would be a better use of resources. I recall once suggesting to a neighbor that we invest together and share in a power mower; she looked at me as though I had two heads. Sharing is caring, both for the planet and for friends and neighbors.

There are many ways to share that cost us little to nothing in cash or time. On the internet, there are informational blogs on many subjects that one can read and add to. Parkinson’s individuals, for instance can be of help to one another this way. Volunteering in a variety of ways can be another way to share. Some organizations, like the Rotary Clubs, are very giving. Regardless how you spend your time, remember, if you do bake cookies, your neighbors might like some too.

Enjoy sharing the best way you can, and there are many to choose from.

Blessings and Best regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Suggestions, comments and thoughts are always welcome. I treasure your emails. Please write me at tashahal@gmail.com, and I’ll happily answer.

Beware Always and Never

Most if not all of us have a tendency to use certain phrases almost by rote. We may not use them on purpose, mindfully, but as a matter of habit. My mother had one. Almost invariably, when she could not find or had misplaced an item she said: “Somebody stole my…”. When I realized I had picked up this habit, I began curbing it.  I was making it more difficult to find the missing object. After all, if someone stole the item how could I ever find it? This is one example of a catch phrase, one that often becomes habitual.

Another example is the use of “always” and “never” when either complaining or scolding. “You always forget to shut off the light,” for instance, or “you never let me know when you’re coming.” Using these words is counterproductive and unnecessarily critical. They do little to no good to communicate what a person is trying to get across. Furthermore, they are probably not accurate, but are actually an expression of feelings rather than being a fact. Most everyone, whether they use them or not, probably remembers someone who consistently does or did.

I certainly heard these words from my mother over and over again. For most, especially parents, they are simply a habit of speech. What is important to remember is that they do not help. They often make things worse. They usually make the person addressed feel defensive, and then they are apt to deny doing or neglecting the act in question all the time. Too, the words, instead of helping to resolve the situation being discussed, will usually perpetuate the negativity of the conversation.

How often growing up did one or both of your parents use the words “always” and “never” to describe some act they hoped to correct. How did it make you feel? Did you feel criticized, perhaps unjustly? When another adult uses the same words, it is even worse. I try hard not to speak them because I don’t like how I feel when someone says them to me. They feel to me like a judgement of my character or my efforts. They feel unjust and arouse a sense of protest, making things worse for me and for the other, as well. If I make an effort to be conscious of what I say when I am speaking, it is easier to stop unhelpful but habitual words and phrases from being spoken aloud.  

Too, these words can cause hurt. There is no need for them. Instead of being an honest statement of how someone feels, they are an apparent criticism, pushing the argument along. What might be better and more effective would be to say, “When you forget to lock the door, it makes me feel …” or “When you forget to turn out the light, I get upset because it is a waste of energy—or drives up the electric bill.” This approach helps to heal the situation, not make it worse. When we become aware of this habit if speech, we can communicate more effectively, and everyone benefits.

Keeping the Sabbath

The Bible says: but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. The origin of the word Sabbath has to do with rest. The interpretation of rest is of course whatever is given it by the Bible, or by those practicing it. For myself, it means nothing so stringent as not doing anything, as the Hebrews and too the puritans interpreted it, but instead, of enjoying the day free of specific duties and obligations.

The early settlers to New England took their Sundays seriously. People could be punished for doing any sort of work not permitted by necessity—cows, after all don’t stop producing milk nor animals go without feeding just because it’s the seventh day of the week, or the first, depending on your interpretation or your religion. While the Sabbath originated in Hebrew culture as a day of rest, it became a universal practice for the Christian world at large, migrating from Saturday to Sunday in 400 AD.

When I was growing up nothing commercial was open on Sundays except the drugstore. Church, of course offered services which we attended. Few gas stations served the public, and it was important to plan the Sunday drive on a full tank if possible. There was no running out for groceries if you didn’t already have them, and the Sunday roast beef, leg of lamb or chicken was part of the day in ours as in many households. My father would stop at the drugstore on his way home from church to pick up a couple of quarts of ice cream, packed tight by hand into round cardboard containers at the soda fountain counter. To this day Stephen and I always enjoy ice cream on Sundays.

The idea of the Sabbath was that a day to rest, a vacation from chores and duties, was good for human beings. I have for many years taken Sundays as a day of rest. What that means is that I don’t do any unnecessary tasks that day: no laundry, cleaning, or other housework or similar duties. I try to do only pleasant activities like writing, and of course sending out my column and Stephen’s. Resting for me is more about taking my time to do what I wish to do than sitting down or taking a nap. It could mean baking something or trying a special recipe just for fun, or even going somewhere nice for a walk and to take photos.

I was inspired to write this column by one of my daughters who phoned us up on a Sunday morning we had taken to sleep in. When I said the reason we were sleeping in was that it was Sunday, she said “Oh, but when you’re retired, every day is Sunday.” I told her we took Sundays as special days, and explained briefly. Being retired for me doesn’t mean a rocking chair, it means I have the privilege of choosing what I want to do when I want to do it as long as I am mindful of deadlines, of course. I do love Sundays, and cherish the guilt free duty-less hours they hold. 

Tasha Halpert