I find reincarnation very attractive. No, I don’t mean that one always comes back prettier than before, but I really like the concept.

Do I believe in it? Probably not, but I’d like it to be true. It satisfies my need for justice, and an ultimate fairness in the universe.

It allows for an infinite number of variations, to accommodate all our individual foibles, good deeds, and errors. I’ll admit that Dante’s seven circles of hell (or was it nine?) tries to accommodate everyone, but you still have to fit into a particular level or category.

Reincarnation, especially if you allow for the transmigration of souls (like your worst enemy coming back as a cockroach) has the ability to accommodate everyone. If you were only somewhat good last time around, maybe you come back as a working stiff with a lousy boss, thereby giving you the opportunity to pay for your past sins, but still make something of yourself.

Your wonderful grandmother, the one who would always sneak you that extra cookie, could return as a lovely princess. Sadistic criminals are doomed to return as the beasts their actions resembled.

As a system, it’s neat, and it takes in all of the loose ends, right up to having those who led a perfect life being able to get off the merry-go-round and spend the rest of eternity in peace and love. In some traditions, the truly saintly sometimes volunteer to come back just to help the rest of us along on the path.

Reincarnation is like a good folk-tale. The main character goes forth blindly, encounters adversity and evil characters, makes life-altering choices, but finally learns the truth and is rewarded in the end. That’s exactly how I think the universe should work. Free will with rewards and punishments precisely calculated in accordance with justice and mercy.

As I said, I’m not at all sure that I believe it, but I want to. On the other hand, since nobody I know has ever come back to report on conditions on the other side, I suppose that any belief that motivates one to be kind, and to try to do better, is a good choice.

An Australian Aborigine probably doesn’t see his world in the way I see mine, any more that a Japanese Kabuki dancer experiences life the same way that a Brooklyn teenager does. I suspect that whomever the deity (or deities; you never know) may be, they have to be wise enough to know that our names for them are just handles we use to try to make the unexplainable, understandable.

If I’m wrong, please be careful when you’re walking through the woods in the future; that salamander may be me.

Coming events

Regardless of your theology, you can be better informed and make a difference.  The New York Statewide Senior Action Council is hosting a Senior Citizen Grassroots Advocacy Day on Tuesday, May 10, at the Convention Center in Empire State Plaza in Albany.

Learn about the latest federal and state policy and economic security issues of importance to seniors and their families.  There will be a briefing at 10:30 a.m.  This day is free, but seating is limited. Pre-registration is required by May 5. Lunch will be available at noon.

After lunch, attendees are encouraged to meet with their state legislators.  Among many other topics to discuss is the proposal to merge the State Office for Aging with disability services for all ages. To register, please contact Statewide at: 1-800-333-4374 or statewide4@gmail.com

Statewide is also sponsoring two upcoming telephone conferences:

— On Tuesday, May 24, from 10 to 11 a.m., the Alzheimer’s Association will be talking about how to get help for patients with dementia;

— On Tuesday, June 21, the topic will be how to compare nursing homes for services, quality, and safety, presented by The New York Regional Office of the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Call 1-800-333-4374 to get the conference number and reserve your spot.

There will be a Health and Services Fair on May 15 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 340 Whitehall Road, Albany. Admission is free, and there will be information booths, refreshments, door prizes, therapeutic massage, and even quick adult haircuts.

The Helderberg Senior Lunch Program is in need of a printer-scanner machine to print menus, sign-up sheets, and correspondence.  If you know of one available, please call Linda Hodges at (518) 872-0940

On other topics, the Helderberg Senior Lunch program will be putting on another bluebird house-building class on Tuesday, May 10, after lunch. Sign up now at the Senior Center.

A bus will be taking senior lunchers to hear the Albany Senior Orchestra at The Sanford Library in Colonie on Thursday, May 17. The bus will be leaving the Senior Center immediately after lunch, as the concert starts at 2 p.m.

Register now for upcoming workshops at the Albany Guardian Society, located at 14 Corporate Woods Blvd., Suite 102 in Albany.  Call (518) 434-2140, or email director@albanyguardiansociety.org. All workshops will be at the Society unless otherwise indicated. Upcoming workshops include:

— May 3, from 10 a.m. to 11:30: “Effectively Using Your iPhone” will be held at the Fenimore Gallery of Proctors Theater at 432 State Street in Schenectady;

— May 3, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., “Aging in Place: Your Home for Your Lifetime”;

— May 4, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., “Nutrition for Seniors”;

— May 10, from 12 to 1 p.m., “Gizmos and Gadgets: Handy Devices to Help Caregivers”;

— May 10 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., “Eldercare GPS: Navigating the Maze of Available Services”;

— May 11 from 9 to 10:30 p.m., “What in the World is a Facebook?”;

— May 11 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., “Container Gardening for Seniors”; and

— May 12 from 1:30 to 3 p.m., “Lifestyle Choices for a Healthy Heart.”

Menu

And one of those lifestyle choices ought to be lunch at the Senior Center! Come enjoy the culinary delights and the company, and join us for games and cards on Monday and Tuesday, and live music by Nancy Frueh on most Fridays.  Doors open at 11 AM, and lunch is served promptly at Noon.

— Monday, May 2: chicken primavera  with Italian vegetables, white rice, whole wheat bread, milk, and tropical fruit;

— Tuesday, May 3: meatloaf with gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, spinach, whole wheat bread, milk, frosted spice cake; and

— Friday, May 6: baked fish with tomato, mushroom and peppers, roasted summer squash, rice, whole wheat roll, milk, tapioca pudding.

Please call 872-9400 24 hours in advance to reserve lunch. Email plightbody@nycap.rr.com, or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at helderbergseniormeals@aol.com, and put “volunteer” in the subject line.

Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The Hilltown Senior Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

 

I admit it. I’m as much of a food snob as the rest of the people running around these days, and I’m actually pretty good at foreign languages, but there is a limit. I do not think that calling food by an unfamiliar name automatically makes it better

Coquille St. Jacques is scallops, and it would be nice if once in awhile a menu would tell you that. Mussels Meuniere frites is fairly close to steamed clams and fries (Yes, I know that a mussel is not a clam, and that they’re fixed with wine and not just plain water, but you do get my point).  Aioli is mayonnaise, but of course you couldn’t charge as much if you called it mayonnaise.

I’m not complaining about putting something on the menu in its original language, as long as you provide a translation. More restaurants are doing that these days, and I applaud them for it. A restaurant is supposed to make you feel good, not stupid. I’m not sure I want to patronize a place that puts showing off above pleasing customers.

I’ll allow a certain amount of obfuscation and unfamiliarity; I don’t think it’s too demeaning to ask what orecchiette is (pasta in the shape of “little ears”), but I’m sorry, I don’t automatically know what goes into “Asian Slaw.”

Coulis is a great-sounding word, assuming you know how to pronounce it, but couldn’t they tell you it just means a smooth sauce?  Actually, I’m not sure that even those snooty restaurants are using the name correctly. According to the first American edition of “Larousse Gastronomique, the Encyclopedia of Food, Wine, and Cooking,” introduction by Auguste Escoffier, a coulis is meat juices from a roast, poultry, or seafood, which can be served as a sauce or soup. Where the fruits and veggies wormed their way in I do not know.

You tell me that Eggs Cocolte contains bacon, tomato, goat cheese, and gruyere, but I still don’t know what you did to the eggs themselves (Hard-boiled? Scrambled? Or maybe “coddled”?) I think it can be fun to learn new words, providing that you tell me what they mean. Pechuga De Pollo A La Parilla is a bit daunting, but the restaurant kindly tells me that that is grilled chicken breast. Same with  Chuleta De Cerdo Frita O A La Parrilla, when you are informed that it is only a lowly fried or grilled pork chop.

It is not OK to tell me that “Mofongo (Sin Chicharron)” is “plain mofongo,” and Mofongo Con Queso  is cheese mofongo. (There is one tiny piece of essential information missing here, in my opinion).  Chateaubriand does not immediately advise me that what I’m ordering is steak and buttery fries.

I also do not think that putting together weird combinations equals great food. I’m not sure that I want to try beets (raw or cooked?) with apples, baby arugula, pecans, and a vinegar dressing.  Falafel salad sounds a bit odd, since falafel, as I recall, is a deep-fried chickpea ball, and mixing it with cold greens and salad dressing sounds like the result would be wilted salad and cold, greasy dumplings.

I caught a glimpse of something on one of the foodie TV channels that was a grilled-cheese sandwich with American cheese plus that tangy/sour Feta cheese, along with whole blueberries and some kind of meat. I might take one bite, but I get goosebumps thinking about it for more than a second or two.

I really don’t want to try octopus ice cream, or most of the bizarre combinations that are invented on those chef competition shows, either.  Why doesn’t somebody open a restaurant for nice, homey comfort food, like meatloaf and macaroni and cheese?

Coming up

On other topics, the Helderberg Senior lunch program will be putting on another Bluebird House-building class on May 10. Sign up now at the senior center.

They are trying to set up a trip to hear the Albany Senior Orchestra at The Sanford Library in Colonie on Thursday, May 17. The concert starts at 2 p.m. More information will be published as soon as we have it.

The Albany Guardian Society has announced its spring schedule.

A few of the upcoming events are:

— A workshop on “Getting Your Affairs in Order (So Your Kids Don’t Have To)” on  April 26, from 9 to 11 a.m.,  at their building at 14 Corporate Woods Boulevard, Suite 102 in Albany;

— On April 27,  from 1 to 4:30 p.m.,  is “Solve Your Tablet Challenges” for iPads and Android tablets. Workshop  at the Guardian Society. Call 434-2140 to register;

— On May 3, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., “Effectively Using Your iPhone” at the Fenimore Gallery of Proctors Theater at 432 State Street in Schenectady;

— On May 3, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., “Aging in Place: Your Home for Your Lifetime” at the Guardian Society;

— On May 4, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., “Nutrition for Seniors” at the Guardian Society;

— On May 10 from noon to 1 p.m., “Gizmos and Gadgets: Handy Devices to Help Caregivers” at the Guardian Society;

— On May 10, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., “Eldercare GPS: Navigating the Maze of Available Services” at the Guardian Society;

— On May 11, from 9 to 10:30 a.m.,  “What in the World is a Facebook?” at the Guardian Society;

— On May 11, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., “Container Gardening for Seniors” at the Guardian Society; and

— On May 12, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., “Lifestyle Choices for a Healthy Heart” at the Guardian Society.

Once again, the Guardian Society is at 14 Corporate Woods Blvd., Suite 102 in Albany.  They can be reached at 434-2140, or e-mail at   director@albanyguardiansociety.org.

Senior Summit

Yours truly from Berne,  and Charlotte Fuss and Pat Lightbody from Knox, went to the Senior Summit held last Saturday at St. Sophia’s Church in Albany

The purpose of the Summit is to provide resources for caregivers in the Capitol District, but there were informational booths set up for a wide variety of services, from veterans’ programs, adult day care programs, senior housing facilities, counseling, legal advice,  healthcare, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others. We plan to line up speakers from several of the organizations to come talk to us after lunch over the next few months.

Menu

And finally, we get to the original purpose of this column, which is to let you know the menu for next week’s lunch at the Senior Center.  Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon.  We have games and cards on Mondays and Tuesdays, and live music by Nancy Frueh on Fridays. Bingo intermittently, as the spirit moves us.

— Monday, April 25, chicken parmesan, pasta with tomato sauce, romaine salad, whole-wheat bread, milk, and citrus ambrosia;

— Tuesday, April 26, turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, roasted squash, stuffing, milk, and applesauce cupcake;

—Friday, April 29, chef salad with ham, cheese and egg, tomato salad, whole-wheat roll, milk, and lemon cake.

    Please call 24 hours in advance to 872-9400 to reserve lunch.  E-mail plightbody@nycap.rr.com, or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or e-mail her at helderbergseniormeals@aol.com, and put “volunteer” in the subject line.
    Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The Hilltown Senior Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

I love crocuses; they have no respect for authority. Other flowers wait patiently for Mother Nature to warm the ground, melt the snow, and tell them it’s safe to come out.

Not crocuses! They are the bad boys, the Dead End Kids of the flower world. They stick their little heads up through the snow saying, “I’m here! Deal with it!”

Crocuses practically stick out their tongues at the rest of the world, and I admire them for it. Sure, sometimes they get slapped down by a late storm, but they have the guts to try, and that’s what counts.

Roses are pretty, although too many of them are pink. And I have no use at all for the ones that have no scent. It’s like non-alcoholic beer; why bother

I suppose they might make a good perimeter defense, but in that case I vote for raspberries. If you’re going to get scratched, it should be worth it.

I expect plants to pay their own way, like anything else on the farm.  Give me vegetables, or fruit, or nuts, or be gone

I buy the books with titles like “Edible Landscaping,” that give one great ideas about decorating with kale. (It better be good for decorations, because I’m not going to eat the stuff, no matter what those healthy cooking magazines say.) It may make good rabbit or lizard food, for all I know.  Goldfish won’t touch it either.  

But back to the flowers. I do have some of them around, just in case. In case of what, you ask? Well, purple coneflowers are the source of echinacea, which is an immune system booster. Foxglove has digitalis, but do not try it at home. Melissa is lemon balm, and makes lovely tea.  Lambs quarters and young dandelions are great as greens.

Grandma was right; we already have everything we need.

Free smoke alarms

The Berne, East Berne, and Knox fire companies have free smoke alarms for seniors. The alarms have 10-year batteries, and will be installed by members of the fire company in your area

Close counts for this program, so don’t worry if your mailing address is not completely or specifically in town.  You can sign up at the Helderberg Senior Lunch program, or you can tell a member of the fire company, or you can call me at 872-9370 to register.

A fire company member will call you back in the near future to schedule the installation.

Elder tech

Pre-register at the Berne Town Library for the new technology-for-seniors workshops, so the instructor from MicroKnowledge computer training company can bring enough materials for everyone.  You may attend any one, or all of the classes for free, as long as you are 60 or over.

We had a full house for the smart phone session, and a lot of fun.  All classes are held at the library, and are provided through a grant from the Albany County Department for Aging.

Session 2 will be about tablets.  Bring your own if you have one; the instructor will bring a couple of extras in case they are needed.  If you don’t have one of these gizmos, this would be a good way to see whether you want one or not. Class is Monday, May 28, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Session 3 is Laptop Computers.  Bring your own, or use one provided. All you have to do is show up at the library on Thursday, March 31, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Menu

We also have the lunchtime menu for next week at the Hilltown Senior Center.  Swap tales with friends, and enjoy a lunch that you don’t have to cook.  Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon.  There are games and cards on Mondays and Tuesdays, and we will be entertained by Nancy Frueh on Friday.

— Monday, March 28: Baked ziti, tossed salad with Romaine, whole-wheat bread, milk, and applesauce;

— Tuesday, March 29: Open-faced turkey sandwich, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, whole-wheat stuffing, milk, and vanilla pudding;

— Friday, April 1: Barbecued alligator* or chicken Florentine, brown rice, California blend vegetables, pineapple juice, whole-wheat bread, milk, and an oatmeal cookie. (I recommend the chicken. BBQ alligator tastes like muddy lizard – I’ve tried it!)

Please call 24 hours in advance at 872-9400 to reserve lunch.  Email plightbody@nycap.rr.com, or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at helderbergseniormeals@aol.com, and put “volunteer” in the subject line.

Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The Hilltown Senior Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

*April fool!

I’ve been thinking (I know, I know, here we go again…). We’re always being told to be “open minded,” but do we really mean it, and by the way, just exactly what does it mean?

It’s been one of my favorite mottoes, but I think I may be a little bit of a hypocrite when it comes right down to it. I think of myself as open-minded, but what that really means is that I’m willing to consider a new idea if it doesn’t disagree with something else that I’ve already decided.

A truly open mind would be open to any new idea, without prejudice, but I’m not very open to Nazis, or Satanists, or ax murdering for fun and profit.  Of course I want you to be open-minded, but what that means is I want you to be open to my already-decided opinions.  And I have a lot of them.

If we were truly open-minded, I’m not sure that it would be the best philosophy.  If you open all the doors and windows, then anything can come in, including bugs, old advertising flyers, and rabid coyotes.  So maybe we should at least put up screens, and look before we open the door.  If you don’t, you could get hurt, but how open-minded is that?

We all see through filters — of our personal experiences, and what we’ve learned and been taught. But our personalities and interpretations filter what we learn.

I’ve known people who had appalling childhoods, with drug-addicted moms, and violent fathers, and other stuff I’d rather not think about, and yet they describe their parents as “having done the best they could.” Others have had wonderful, loving families, but are always sure that someone is attacking them, and strike back without provocation to “protect” themselves.

So what’s the truth, and who is right? I don’t know; I just have opinions, which brings me right back to the beginning.

From all I’ve read, it’s not that difficult to brainwash someone, or hypnotize them into doing something that’s not in their best interests. All you have to do is make the new idea sound logical, or for the greater good.

Sometimes those new concepts are right, and sometimes they are dead wrong. It’s all about emotions and interpretation. We all imagine that we’re smarter than we are, and that’s our greatest weakness.

It’s a lot like computer security; it’s not about secure versus not secure.  It’s about where you decide to stop along the line in between those two points.  You certainly don’t want anybody to steal your identity, but you don’t want it to take 20 minutes for the emergency room doc to find out that you’re allergic to penicillin.

I guess “open minded” really comes out as “I’ll listen to you and, if what you say doesn’t threaten me beyond my ability to accept, I’ll consider modifying my opinions.” Not very flattering, but it’s really the best that most of us can do.

If I’m aware of my filters and opinions, I can at least try to evaluate a new idea on its own merits.  Of course, statements by politicians are not included.

Menu

And my opinion is that the food at our lunches just keeps getting better!  We are now doing more of the cooking on-site, so veggies, pasta, etc. are all fresh, hot, and delicious.

The lunchtime menu for next week at the Hilltown Senior Center is here, so come and enjoy a lunch that you don’t have to cook.  Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon.

Of course, we always have games and cards on Mondays and Tuesdays, and our versatile songs mistress, Nancy Frueh, on Fridays.

— Monday, Feb. 22: Chili over rice, braised collard greens, cornbread, milk, and applesauce;

— Tuesday, Feb. 23: Roast pork with gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, whole-wheat stuffing, milk, and tropical fruit.

— Friday, Feb. 26: Macaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes, California blend vegetables, whole-wheat bread, milk, and apricots.

Please call 24 hours in advance to 872-9400 to reserve lunch.  Email HYPERLINK "mailto:plightbody@nycap.rr.com"plightbody@nycap.rr.com, or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at HYPERLINK "mailto:helderbergseniormeals@aol.com"helderbergseniormeals@aol.com, and put “volunteer” in the subject line.

Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The Hilltown Senior Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

“The whole nine yards.” It means all of it, with nothing left over, but why do we say it?

History buffs, pay attention! It may come from World War I, referring to the length of a belt of ammunition for the British Vickers machine gun. If you gave the enemy the whole nine yards, you had fired all of your bullets, until there weren’t any more.

Another interesting possibility comes from the days of square-rigged sailing ships, where nine yards was the total number of horizontal “yards” on which sails were hung. Three yards on each of three masts, would equal nine yards. The jury is still out, but those are two of my favorite theories.

How about all you Yankees out there? Originally, it was Jan Kaas, a slang term for a Hollander (translated, it means “John Cheese,” rather like our “Joe Sixpack.”) After immigrating to America, the Dutch used the term to refer to the English who were moving into Connecticut, north of New Amsterdam (now New York). 

It meant any northern neighbor who was disliked. The English, in turn, used the phrase to refer to any American colonist. To add to the insult, they made up a song jeering at the colonists’ shabby clothing, and singing that a putting a feather in his cap made him think that he was a dandy (the Macaronis were a group of highly fashionable, overdressed gentlemen back in England).

A bazooka is a portable, smoothbore weapon used to fire armor-piercing rockets, but its origin, like so many other things, was on the farm.  Bazookas were funnel-shaped devices for planting small seeds or adding fertilizer to a furrow.

The seed was carried in a shoulder bag, and the bazooka’s three-foot-long tube would dribble the material into the ground in a fine stream. Radio comedian Bob Burns modified it into a horn, which he would periodically play on his popular show.

Another habit that I always thought started with the military is the naming of things by creating an acronym out of the first few letters of its title, like Radio Detection And Ranging, or RADAR.  Turns out that it’s even older than that, and started with firefighters.

Pay attention, all you Anne Rice and “Twilight” fans! The original VAMPS were members of the Voluntary Association of Master Pumpers in the mid-1800s.  The current meaning didn’t come along until about 70 years later, in 1914, when the actress Theda Bara played a seductive vampire in the movie “A Fool There Was.”

So, fellow vamps (whichever you choose), we have next week’s scrumptious lunch menu from Helderberg Senior Services, and a few reminders:  Doors for lunch open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon. 

The Hilltown Seniors will meet on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Senior Center on Helderberg Trail. The 10:30 a.m. meeting will be followed by a potluck lunch. 

Menu

Upcoming events at the Senior Lunch program include another basket-making class, bingo on Feb. 19, and a speaker about emergency push-button alert systems. Dates will be announced as soon as we know them. Of course, we have games and cards on Mondays and Tuesdays, and lively music by Nancy Frueh on Fridays.

—  Monday, Feb. 1: Baked ziti, tossed sald with romaine, whole-wheat bread, milk, and applesauce;

—  Tuesday, Feb. 2: Open face turkey sandwich, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, whole-wheat stuffing, milk, and vanilla pudding; and

— Friday, Feb. 5: Chicken Florentine, brown rice, California blend vegetables, pineapple juice, whole-wheat bread, milk, and oatmeal cookie.

 Please call 24 hours in advance to 872-9400 to reserve lunch.  Email plightbody@nycap.rr.com, or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  

We could use a few more volunteers to fill in for our snowbirds who have temporarily flown the coop. If you’d like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at helderbergseniormeals@aol.com, and put “volunteer” in the subject line. 

Lunches are prepared by our new and talented provider, Senior Services of Albany, with support from the Albany County Department of Aging. The Hilltown Senior Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

 

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