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July 28, 2021

A time of gratitude

By Colly Gruczelak, Plain Talk about Food

While I was cleaning my kitchen after cooking my traditional New Year’s Almond Toffee, I was thinking of how my life has changed since losing my beloved hubby, Norman, and that once again, there would be no writing, nor reading, nor laughing over our crazy New Year’s resolutions…once made but never kept.

So many years ago, being raised by the nuns in a convent, we girls had no knowledge of how people on the ‘outside world’ were celebrating the new year, nor how a champagne cork sounded when ‘popped open,’ nor that strangers were kissing strangers under branches of mistletoe. We girls were deciding on which one of our so-called bad habits would be the one we would ‘toss out’ on the evening of that new year, while others beyond our convent’s gates were making resolutions on how to make their lives better ones. 

Leaving that convent, I have kept up with this past tradition during my lifetime, and once my hubby and I were married, my resolution was ‘out with the old,’ and Norm’s was ‘in with the new.’

A few years ago, here in Ben Lomond, the guests at our New Year’s party were told to write and bring their resolutions to be read aloud just prior to the ball being dropped at Time’s Square in New York City.

This ball drop was based on the 19th century maritime tradition, that of time balls being dropped down poles in ports at noontime. Ships would use the balls to adjust their clocks to the ‘local’ time. Ball drops were used until 1942-43 when World War II was being fought and all lights were extinguished during nighttime. New Year’s Eve in Times Square, while we were at war, revelers would bow their heads for two minutes of silence, followed by the ringing of chimes. 

In keeping with tradition, today’s ‘ball’ is adorned with Waterford crystal triangles and is lowered on a 70-foot pole atop One Tower Square in New York City at precisely 11:59pm on the last evening of the old year.

For the past three years, many of the old traditions that once filled my life have been put away; what is the saying…out with the old and in with the new. All but one, reading of my hubby’s last written New Year’s resolutions that I thought you might enjoy reading as much as have I:

I was having trouble finding a personal fault to eliminate for a New Year’s resolution, so I asked Colly for help. That was a mistake! After listening to a litany of her pet peeves, I selected three potential areas for improvement, and I resolve the following for 2015:

  1. I will be more supportive of Colly’s efforts to save everyone in the San Lorenzo Valley from poverty.
  2. I resolve to drive slower when Colly is in the car, ignoring the line of unhappy motorists lined up behind us.
  3. I will make every effort to enjoy movies featuring the idle rich 18th century English nobles instead of watching football.

Of course, to accomplish all of this in one year I may have to resort to excessive amounts of alcohol. Thank God that wasn’t on Colly’s list of my faults.

And now, dear readers, the sun, long since gone…night is closing down and I raise my glass to wish each of you a blessed and loving happy New Year! 

Almond Toffee Brittle (easy)

Line an 11”x15” jellyroll pan with parchment

In a heavy pot combine:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup water
  • Cook 6-8 minutes until boiling

Add quickly:

  • 1 cup butter cut into small pieces
  • Continue cooking until candy thermometer reads 280 degrees for approximately 15 minutes


  • 2 cups chopped whole almonds while stirring constantly and continue cooking approximately 8 minutes to 305 degrees

Will be golden and thick and bubbly.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp. baking soda. Pour out onto parchment paper.

Spread to ¼ inch thick and cool 3-4 hours until brittle. Break into small pieces.


  • 2 cups whole almonds cut up into pieces
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].