Saratoga is just a bit different. I’ve been in touristy towns before, and they all try to enhance the impression for which they’re famous. Maine residents wear slickers and heavy sweaters. Salem has just a bit of the Puritan about it, with singular accents of witchcraft; they even have an “official witch.” New York City is the melting pot, and really doesn’t need to do anything but exist to achieve that.

Saratoga, however, is fashionable. Not quaint like New England, not artsy like Woodstock, but exclusive looking. There are intellectual bookstores, gorgeous mansions with impeccably landscaped grounds, and stylish little parks.

Even the tourists are fashionable.You can pick out the locals, at least the ones who don’t work in the hospitality trade, because they are the only ones wearing real clothes. You know what I mean; they actually own things that are not this season’s style. Everybody else is “dressed,” even if it’s casualwear.

Of course, the people who depend on the tourists have “character.” They fit perfectly in their venues, whether it be the latest couture, leather goods, or hats. They exemplify the tourist-eye view of what they ought to be.  It’s theater, and they do it well.

It is also definitely upscale: Where else have you encountered a shop that sells nothing but exotic olive oils and vinegars? Someone should open a place next door selling nothing but salads and grilled meats, and put in a doorway between.

It’s a great place for people-watching. I think if a movie director were shooting there, he (or she) would tone down the cast to make it more believable. The stylish folks sitting at the outdoor cafés are just a mite too stereotypical.

For instance, there are the “beige girls.” You know, the ones in the cashmere autumn-weight beige coats, with impeccably styled shoulder-length or a bit shorter beige hair (of course with no visible roots), wearing beige knee-high suede boots, a fine brown wool skirt (not too short), an ivory blouse (just off-beige, for accent) and peach-beige lipstick. A “quiet” outfit that screams the fact that it cost more than the down payment on your current house.

If you can never be too rich or too thin, Saratoga has more skinny expensive women than I’ve seen in a long time. I swear that the “plus size” shop (if they have one) stocks nothing above a size three.

We also have the “dangerous boy” types: slick, slightly-rough looking thirtyish-fortyish guys in black leather jackets, black T-shirts, close-cropped dark hair, and one gold or diamond stud earring (pun intended, as is the look). They wear tight designer jeans (but with no tacky label showing), and expensive athletic shoes.

I did see a couple of guys wearing flannel shirts, but they were from Eddie Bauer or Something-or-other Outfitters, never Carhartt, and the cuffs have not a thread out of place. The only manure you’ll find is at “the track,” and then it is kept carefully out of sight by men who speak no English, but will do any job to support their families. Only hard workers survive in these jobs; having enough time to be a derelict is restricted to the higher-paying positions.

It’s a lot of fun, but I encourage you to limit the amount of cash or credit you bring if you don’t wish to incur your own version of the national debt. There are deals to be had, but those only soften you up for the rest of the oh-so-unique and fashionable goodies that you will have to have, or buy for Mary Anne because you just couldn’t resist.

Coming up

On a more affordable plane, October is Adopt A Dog Month , Financial Planning Month, International Walk To School Month, National Go On A Field Trip Month, and National Toilet Tank Repair Month. The week of the 23rd - 29th is National Massage Therapy Week, Rodent Awareness Week, and Give Wildlife a Brake! Week.

Mother-in-Law Day is the 23rd, as is National Mole Day, and Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day.  United Nations Day is the 24th, and International Artists Day and World Pasta Day are the 25th. Howl at The Moon Night is October 26th.

The National Day of The Deployed is also the 26th. Champagne Day, National Breadstix (Bread Sticks) Day, National Chocolate Day, and St. Jude's Day are all on the 28th, and the 29th is National Cat Day.

Friday, Oct. 21, is the next health presentation by the folks from Walgreen’s Pharmacy.They will be speaking about depression; what are the indications, and what to do about it. This is an important topic for seniors, because we may not easily recognize it in ourselves or our friends.

Sign up now at the senior center for the trip to the Festival of Nations on Sunday, Oct. 23. The bus leaves the senior center at 1 p.m. and will return by 5 p.m. Cost is a whopping $4. Contact me at 872-9370 for more info.

Albany County is sponsoring a Senior Summit on Wednesday, Oct. 26. This is our opportunity to learn about services for seniors, and talk to service providers and our elected officials to tell them what programs and services we really want or need. It will be held at St Sophia’s Church on Whitehall Road in Albany from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Assorted breakfast snacks will be served, so please register by signing up at the senior center, or calling Scott Siegel at 447-7040. Transportation will be provided; if you haven’t signed up yet, call Phyllis at 872-9370 if you need a ride. The bus will leave the Senior Center at 8 a.m.

November 1 is a free concert at 1 p.m. at Proctor’s in Schenectady, featuring the Empire State Youth Orchestra. Call Linda Carman of the Hilltown Seniors at 872-2448 to reserve your free tickets. Transportation will be provided by Helderberg Senior Services. Bus will leave at 11:30 a.m.

The next shopping bus to Walmart and Colonie Center will be on Nov. 2.  Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

Menu

In case you missed the announcement last week, the lunch program is now offering transportation to and from lunch!  No driving in the rain, or wondering if you feel up to taking the car out; we can provide door-to-door service! Just let Linda Hodges (872-0940) know you’d like a ride when you call to reserve lunch.

We also have the lunchtime menu for next week at the Berne Community and Senior Services Center.  Swap tales with friends, and enjoy a lunch that you don’t have to cook.  Doors open at 11 AM, and lunch is served promptly at Noon.  We also have games, dominoes, and cards on Mondays and Tuesdays.

— Monday, Oct. 24, lemon oregano fish, stewed tomatoes and zucchini, hash brown potatoes, rye bread,  and citrus ambrosia;

— Tuesday, Oct. 25, herbed chicken with gravy, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, wheat bread, and tapioca pudding; and

—Friday, Oct. 28, tuna salad on wheat, hearty bean soup, pickled beets, apple juice, and brownie.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch or arrange transportation. You can also email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  If you’d like to help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at , 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 Town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

As promised last week, today we have fun and frustration with finances. “There is always a way to protect your money,” says John Florsch IV of Fowler, Doyle, Spiess & Florsch, PLLC, and it is never too late to act.

Protecting your assets, no matter how small, and being prepared for the unexpected are the best things you can do to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Regardless of our age, long-term care insurance can be a good idea; people are living longer these days. Get a few quotes, and check the fine print; some policies stay the same price every month, but others allow the insurer to raise premiums.

Now is the time to make decisions and take action.You could choose to put your home or other assets in someone else’s name, but be aware; any transfer of assets within five years prior to your needing care will be automatically presumed to have been done for the sole purpose of obtaining benefits. Period. No discussion.

Another good reason to have an attorney advise you, and draw up any documents needed, is because every action has consequences, and an elder-law attorney is familiar with the common pitfalls that can occur. For example, if you own your home, and transfer it to someone else, you will lose your STAR (School Tax Relief) exemption, and the taxes can skyrocket.

You need protections built into that transfer because, once you do it, you lose all right to say how the home should be cared for, or even whether it can be sold.  An attorney can draft a “life estate deed” that allows you to retain the right to live in your home for the rest of your life. Even if Medicaid takes a lien on your individually-owned house, it must do so at fair-market value, and the county must approve the lien.

You are allowed to have some assets; an individual may retain $14,850, plus life insurance having a face value (at issuance) of less than $1,500.

If you are married, your spouse can have a home and auto of any value, plus an assets amount set by each county. Albany County allows $74,820; Rensselaer County permits $119,000. You may retain ownership interest in the sale of the property, even if you are in a nursing home when your spouse dies.

A hospital stay can cost $2,500 or more per day in the Capitol District.Your insurance company can refuse to pay if it decides that hospitalization is not necessary, and you need to be prepared to have someone who can act for you if you are incapacitated.

Nursing homes can cost $12,000 to $14,000 per month.If the patient is stable, the hospital’s discharge planner is under pressure to shuffle that person out as quickly as possible.Often, after three or more days, a patient has improved enough to go to a rehabilitation facility. The discharge planner will give you a universal application to determine your income, assets, and resources in case you may need Medicaid. No matter how much money you have, it can be eaten up very quickly by long-term care charges.

Nursing homes and rehabs would like to know in advance how they will be paid. A good nursing home can “cherry pick” its clients to assure a positive cash flow. While you are in the hospital, you will be offered a choice of eight nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities that have openings. If no beds are available nearby, the law allows the hospital to look as far as 50 miles away.You are required to take the first available slot, or your insurance can refuse to pay.

If you have designated a durable power of attorney, that person can act for you in choosing a facility. If you haven’t legally and formally designated someone, a relative can sign for you.This may include drunken uncle Louie, or that cousin you’ve always hated, or your beloved but addle-pated, irresponsible son.

You may be told that you or your loved one is required to “spend down” to the Medicaid income level. Be careful, and consult your attorney; the waters begin to get murky here! Some expenditures are allowed, and some are not.

You may pre-pay for your funeral, but you may not pay your grandchild’s college tuition. The tuition will be considered a gift, and will be disallowed. Disallowed expenditures can trigger penalty periods, during which you cannot apply for, or receive Medicaid, even though the money is gone.

You need an advisor who understands and can untangle this Gordian Knot.The law was changed in 2006, so now the penalty period begins only when you become otherwise eligible for Medicaid. Even under these circumstances, there are legal ways to protect your assets.

You might make a loan to someone; this would trigger a penalty. However, the income from the payments you receive could be used to carry you through the penalty period.

If this sounds confusing, it is. Government regulations are written that way on purpose. The government want to be sure that no one can get away with anything, but the (mostly well-to-do) lawmakers have very little concept of what life is like out here in the real world.  Meeting people and talking about hardship is very different from living with it.

An attorney can collect all the documents and facts that Medicaid will need, before you need them. They can send for copies, and check figures for accuracy.They can look at the advantages and disadvantages of joint accounts and transfers, and draft the documents that will protect you and your survivors.

Taking care of others after you’re gone

If you die (and most of us probably will at some point), beneficiaries and others who might have inherited if there were no will, can contest your will on the grounds of force, duress, or incompetence. You need to name those people, even if you only leave them $1, to stave off such a challenge.

Fluffy and Fido can be remembered, but leave money for their care, not bequest directly to them.To avoid confusion, specify their names, just as you would with humans.

Plan ahead for care of disabled family members. It can work to their disadvantage if a severely disabled child inherits directly.You may establish a trust for that person, though; it is allowed by Medicaid rules.

Online legal advice and forms can be risky; they may not contain all the language that is necessary to protect you and assure that things go the way you want them to. I have been yelled at more than once by attorneys who have reviewed my efforts using those sites.

Unless we went to law school, and have kept up on all the most recent regulations, none of us is so smart that we can’t louse things up. As a matter of fact, after doing the research for this article, and speaking with Mr. Florsch, I’m going to call him to review a couple of my self-lawyering efforts. My thanks again to John, and his fellows at Fowler, Doyle, Spiess & Florsch, for caring enough to advise me on this critical topic.

Coming up

Moving on, October is American Cheese Month, Positive Attitude Month, and American Pharmacists Month.  The coming week (16th - 22nd) is National Chemistry Week, National Food Bank Week, and National Friends of Libraries Week.  The 17th is National Pasta Day, and Wear Something Gaudy Day; the 18th is National Chocolate Cupcake Day. Medical Assistants Recognition Day is the 19th,  and Get Smart About Credit Day is the 20th. The week wraps up with Make A Difference Day on the 22nd, and you never know how much difference a small gesture can make.

An excursion to the Troy Farmers Market will take off this Saturday, Oct. 15. The bus will leave the Berne Community and Senior Center at 9 a.m. and will stay at least until noon. Call Chasity McGivern at 470- 9094, or email her at . There will also be a sign-up sheet at the Senior Center.

Saturday, Oct. 15 is also Senior Citizens Law Day at Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Ave. in Albany from 98 a.m, to 3 p.m.There will be workshops on estate planning, Medicare and Medicaid, charitable giving, and protecting against scams. All sessions are free, and no registration is required.

There will be a Make a 3-foot Witch workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the senior center after lunch.

The next shopping bus, to Walmart and Colonie Center, will be on Oct. 19.  Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

Friday, Oct. 21 is our next health presentation by the folks from Walgreen’s Pharmacy. They will be speaking about depression; how to recognize it and what to do about it. This is an important topic for seniors, because we may not easily recognize it in ourselves or our friends.

Sign up now at the senior center for the trip to the Festival of Nations on Sunday, Oct. 23. Bus leaves the senior center at 1 p.m. and will return by 5 p.m. Cost is a whopping $4. Contact Phyllis Johnson at 872-9370 for more info.

Albany County is sponsoring another Senior Summit on Wednesday, Oct. 26. This is our opportunity to pick up information, and talk to senior service providers and our elected officials to tell them what programs and services we really want or need. It will be held at St Sophia’s Church on Whitehall Rd. in Albany from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Assorted breakfast snacks will be served, so please register by signing up at the senior center, or calling Scott Siegel at 447-7040.  Transportation will be provided; if you haven’t signed up yet, call Phyllis at 872-9370 if you need a ride.

November 1 is a free concert at 1 p.m. at Proctor’s in Schenectady, featuring the Empire State Youth Orchestra. Call Linda Carman of the Hilltown Seniors at 872-2448 to reserve your free tickets. Transportation will be provided by Helderberg Senior Services. Bus will leave at 11:30 a.m.

We regret to announce that Helderberg Senior Day Care will be closing on November 4. This is  separate from the lunch program.

On the plus side, the lunch program can now offer transportation to and from lunches. No driving in the rain, or wondering if you feel up to taking the car out; we can provide door-to-door service. Just let Linda Hodges (872-0940) know you’d like a ride when you call to reserve lunch.

Menu

The lunchtime menu for next week at the Berne Community and Senior Services Center is ready.  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.

Monday, Oct. 17, baked ziti, Italian blend vegetables, Italian bread, chocolate pudding, and milk;

Tuesday, Oct. 18, baked fish with lemon herb sauce, stewed tomatoes, rice, rye bread, applesauce cake, and milk; and

Friday, Oct. 21, cheeseburger with Swiss, oven roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts, wheat bun, oatmeal cookie, and milk

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch or arrange transportation. You can also email her at: , 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 , 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 Town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

We were greeted by the flying witch and her broom as we took our seats this past Saturday, Oct. 8.

You know we are wise old seniors and we were not taken in by her frightfulness. Better luck next year.

Birthdays celebrated for the month of October were, Millie Rossman, Charlotte Fuss, Margie Wright, Edna Bunzey, Rosemary Porter, and Mary White. Anniversaries were Fran and Henry Brezenski. Much happiness and good health for the coming year.

A sign-up sheet was passed around for 2017 for the kitchen committee. I know, it’s like the retailers shoving Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all in one. We have to make sure we are ready for the new year as we eat out November and December. So, if there isn't anything to eat, we get grumpy.

Talking about eating let me share the following with you:

— Oct. 15, roast pork dinner at the Westerlo Reformed Church;

— Oct. 15, turkey dinner at the Thompson Lake Reformed Church;

— Oct. 16, roast beef dinner at the Berne fire house;

— Oct. 17, NEAT dinner at the Berne Reformed Church; and

— Oct. 22, breakfast at the Helderberg Lutheran Church.

I kid you not. This is too good to be a joke.

Wait there is more! The senior meal site serves lunch Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. If you have no transportation they can come and pick you up. And, the Westerlo Reformed Church serves lunch the fourth Thursday of the month.

We have the following trips planned, yes there is food. On Oct. 18 we are going to the Log Cabin for an Oktoberfest and on Nov. 1 we are going to Proctors for a senior free concert. Ice Cream?

It was announced that we are planning a 5 night, 6 day trip to Canada in August. So, get your passport out or enhanced drivers license so you can join us. I will have more information next month.

Some of us have signed up to be pen pals to kids at BKW. We are going to meet each other at a Valentine’s Party.

Our Thanksgiving dinner will be Nov. 12 at the Berne reformed Church. You need to make reservations with Shirley Slingerland.

After the meeting we had some Halloween entertainment. 3 teams decorated pumpkins with table 2 winning. Three girls had to scoop candy corn from one bowl to another with a spoon in their mouth. Lois Wood took first prize.  And last 3 men getting a hoop through three different sizes of pumpkins. The winner of this game was Bob "PeeWee" Snyder.

Thanks to all for being a good sport. Now that I am hungry, I'm off to get a piece of apple pie.

Remember:  Once you lick a cupcake it becomes a muffin and muffins are healthy.

Just click your heels three times, and say, “There’s no place like home.”  That’s about the level of reality-testing and preparedness that too many of us use for our futures.Yeah, yeah, I know, we’re all going to live to be 103, fiercely independent, and taking care of ourselves until we suddenly die in our sleep. Any more fairy tales you’d like to hear?

A few of us may actually be that fortunate, but the rest of us will lose a little agility, a little hearing, a little clarity of sight. Some of us, regardless of good nutrition and exercise, may take a fall or two, and break a bone or three. A Colles fracture is what happens to your wrist when you put out your hands to break a fall.

Who do you trust? I mean really trust, like with your life. Like it or not, you’d better pick somebody or else people you’ve never met, and who don’t know you, will be making those decisions for you. Me, I trust all kinds of people, but almost nobody gets close enough to know what quality of life is acceptable to me, and when I want somebody to pull the plug.

There are a few relatively simple and easy things you can do to take care of this. If it turns out you don’t need it, fine! It’s like learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation; if you never use it, good, but if you do need it, you could save a life. In this case, it’s our own lives we save.

I looked into these questions, and called several elder-law attorneys to ask about it. One was in private practice in Delmar, and another was one of those big firms that does a lot of advertising about how much they care about people. I left messages, and identified myself, and only one firm got back to me: John Florsch, of Fowler, Doyle, Spiess & Florsch in Troy called me to arrange a time for us to talk.

I find this significant. It means that Fowler and company were the only ones interested in giving free advice to people who need it simply because they need it. I don’t know why the others didn’t respond; maybe they were too busy, or didn’t think the seniors who read an independent regional newspaper were important enough, or rich enough to bother with. Regardless, and especially after John Florsch took several hours of his valuable time to give me his expertise and advice, I know who I’m going to call.

John said that there are three critical documents you need to have in place: a Health-Care Directive, a “Living Will” (sometimes called an “Advance Care Directive”), and a Durable Power of Attorney.

You can combine the Health-Care Proxy and the Living Will with a HIPAA release, which lets you designate who may or may not have access to your health and coverage information (HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).

What all of these do, in a legally valid format, is say what is acceptable to you in terms of healthcare procedures; who is allowed to act for you if you aren’t able to act for yourself; and, in the worst-case scenario, how your belongings, benefits, and assets should be parceled out.

My best friends have mine, and they know, among other things, that, if mentally I cease to be me, then I want out of this particular incarnation. I do not want some well-intentioned bumbling idiot deciding to keep me on life support for 12 years simply because I never told anyone in writing what I want. You decide for yourself where that line is.

Some related terms and documents you may have heard of include the “MOLST” and the “DNR.” MOLST is an acronym for Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. It is a set of instructions and consent for end-of-life medical decision-making. If you are terminally ill, you decide where you want to die (for instance, at home or in a hospital), and what treatments should or should not be given to you.

This may include comfort measures (palliative care) only, as well as a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, and the provision or prohibition of  hospital care, feeding tubes, intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and other extreme measures. In New York State, you can get a copy of the MOLST from the state’s Department of Health (form DOH-5003).

A Durable Power of Attorney designates who may act on your behalf in legal matters, especially financial matters. Your spouse cannot sign for you, and your signature is not a substitute for your spouse’s except on a joint bank account. A Durable Power of Attorney does not normally cover life insurance or real estate.

If you do not give someone power of attorney, things can get long, expensive, and complicated.  Someone will have to petition the State Supreme Court for an “ incapacity” decision. The court will appoint an attorney as your advocate, and another attorney as an evaluator. The evaluator will ask questions to determine your mental capability.

The court decides whether you are capable of making your own decisions. If it believes you are not capable of directing your own affairs, the court will appoint someone to act for you. At that point, the court decides who this person will be; you have no say in the matter.

It is never too late to take action, and to set things up the way you want them. According to Mr. Florsch, it is also never too late to protect your assets, regardless of how much or how little you may have.  Next week, we will explore the fun and exciting world of financial savvy.

Coming up

On a lighter note (and almost anything would be lighter at this point), October is Feral Hog Month, Gay & Lesbian History Month, and German-American Heritage Month. The week of the ninth through 15th is Drink Local Wine Week, Fire Prevention Week, and Veterinary Technicians Week.

Clergy Appreciation Day is the ninth; National Handbag Day, National Kick Butt Day, and Native American Day is the 10th.  The 11th is National Face Your Fears Day, National Food Truck Day, and Southern Food Heritage Day.  Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is also on the 11th.  Columbus Day is Monday the 12th, as is National Take Your Parents To Lunch Day. The birthday of the US Navy is on the 13th. World Egg Dayis the 14th, and the next day is the International Day of Rural Women, and  National Cheese Curd Day.

The Hilltown Seniors will gather on Oct. 8 at 10:30 a.m. at the Berne Community and Senior Center for their monthly meeting and a Halloween celebration.

An excursion to the Troy Farmers Market (yum!) is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15, and you can use your SNAP coupons to purchase from the profusion of fresh and tasty items offered there for sale. The bus will leave the Berne Community and Senior Center at 9 a.m., and will stay until noon (or maybe longer). Call Chasity McGivern at 470- 9094, or email her at . There will also be a sign-up sheet at the senior center.

Saturday, Oct. 15 is also Senior Citizens Law Day at Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Ave. in Albany from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be workshops on estate planning, Medicare and Medicaid, charitable giving, and protecting against scams. All sessions are free, and no registration is required.

The next shopping bus, to Walmart and Colonie Center, will be on Oct. 19. Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

Sign up now at the senior center for the trip to the Festival of Nations on Sunday, Oct. 23. Bus leaves the senior center at 1 p.m. and will return by 5 p.m. Cost is a whopping $4. Contact Phyllis Johnson at 872-9370 for more info.

Menu

The lunchtime menu for next week at the Berne Community and Senior Services Center is ready.  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.

— Monday, Oct. 10, chicken with peach sauce, broccoli, roasted red potatoes, wheat bread, tapioca pudding, and milk;

— Tuesday, Oct. 11, chili con carne, spinach, corn bread, apple crisp, and milk; and

— Friday, Oct. 14, grilled muenster cheese sandwich on wheat, tomato soup, coleslaw, apple juice, brownie, and milk.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , 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 , 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 Town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

Our ancestors were amazingly smart. I know, for them, most of the techniques and recipes they invented were about survival, not artistic creativity, but I’m nonetheless impressed.

A cow provided milk, cheese, butter, meat, leather, and soap. Who figured all those things out? Imagine someone sitting around his or her campfire saying “Hey, I’ll bet if I ran water through those ashes, and then mixed it with fat, I could use that stuff to clean things.”

Not even my strangest friends think that far afield. Everything was used, and preserved, and stored for the lean months. Did you ever notice how many ways there are to “put up” fruit? We can it, sauce it, dry it, make jams and jellies out of it, and then branch into exotic things like chutney and mincemeat.

Mincemeat, of course, is shorthand for minced meat, and, since sugar is a preservative, it was an effective and tasty way to serve and preserve meat and suet. Spices brought home from the East by the Crusaders expanded the culinary repertoire, and minced-meat pies became a popular Christmas dish, baked in the shape of a manger, with a miniature Christ Child on top.

Cromwell and the Puritans put a stop to all that Popish nonsense in the 17th Century, and abolished Christmas for a number of years. Their austerity extended to those who came to settle New England, which may be why the tradition never took root as firmly here in the Colonies as it had back home.

I don’t know if there’s a traceable connection, but have you noticed that old English plum pudding and mincemeat are remarkably similar? They seem to have evolved the same way, since mincemeat seldom contains meat these days, and plum pudding has no plums.

Both have dried apples, currants, and other fruits, spices, and some type of citrus. Both often involve a certain amount of brandy, or dark beer, or rum, for flavor and good keeping quality. As a matter of fact, I bet you could make a pretty decent plum pudding by just adding eggs, bread crumbs, and flour to mincemeat, and then letting it soak in brandy for the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In Britain, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is known as “Stir-up Sunday,” because that’s the day the Christmas plum pudding is made and stored away. Our Thanksgiving has nothing to do with it; the Book of Common Prayer included an exhortation about stirring up the will of the people for the Sunday next before Advent. It’s good luck for every member of the family to give the pudding a stir as it’s prepared.

Another part of the tradition came to be the inclusion of a sixpence or other coin to foretell wealth for the person whose slice contained it. Other tokens may also be included, such as a tiny wishbone for luck, a silver thimble for thrift, and an anchor for safe voyaging. You can still buy pudding charms from British import companies; I have a couple of sets myself. Now all I need is to find someone besides myself who likes plum pudding.

Coming up

Speaking of safe voyages, there are a whole slew of fascinating trips in the works for the fall: the shopping bus on Wednesday, Oct. 5, will be going to Walmart, and then taking a side trip to Indian Ladder Farms to buy apples on the way home. The next bus, to Walmart and Colonie Center as usual, will be on Oct. 19.  Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

An excursion to the Troy Farmers Market is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15, and you can use up your SNAP coupons to purchase from the array of fresh and tasty items offered there for sale. The bus will leave the Berne Community and Senior Center at 9 a.m., and will stay until noon (or maybe longer).

The Hilltown seniors will gather on Oct. 8 at 10:30 a.m. at the Berne Community and Senior Center for their monthly meeting and a Halloween celebration.

October is Adopt A Shelter Dog Month, Bat Appreciation Month, Country Music Month, Dyslexia Awareness Month (however you spell it), Italian-American Heritage Month, and National Critical Illness Awareness Month.

The first week of October is 4-H Week,  Great Books Week, National Chimney Safety Week, National Midwifery Week, and Spinning & Weaving Week.

Cephalopod Awareness Day is the first (go look it up!), as is Fire Pup Day and Model T Day.  The second is Country Inn Bed & Breakfast Day. Guardian Angels Day, International Day of Non-violence, Islamic New Year, and Rosh Hashanah. Kanelbullens Dag (Cinnamon Roll Day) and National Taco Day are on the fourth.  The fifth is World Teachers Day, the sixth is American Libraries Day, and the seventh is World Smile Day.  National Motorcycle Ride Day is the eighth, along with National Pierogy Day.

Menu

The air is getting crisper, and a hot lunch starts to sound better and better. Come on down, and enjoy a lunch that you don’t have to cook.  Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon.

— Monday, Oct. 3, lasagna rollups, chickpea salad, what Italian bread, pears, and milk;

— Tuesday, Oct. 4, meatloaf with tomato gravy, cauliflower, oven roasted potatoes, wheat bread, birthday cake, and milk; and

— Friday, Oct. 7, mac and cheese, stewed tomatoes, wheat bread, baked apples, and milk.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , 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 , 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 Town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

 

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