Champagne ?????

Traditional New Year Foods for Good Luck and Wealth

By Barbara Heimlich
Source: History.com, Thrillist, Real Simple, Better Homes and Gardens

New Year’s Traditions and Celebrations Around the World (including Connecticut)

In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31st —New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1st. Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year.

In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight.  The grapes represent the 12 months within a calendar year. It is believed that the luck you’ll possess each month is dependent on the sweetness of the grapes; if you come across any tart grapes, then make sure to prepare yourself for a bumpy month that corresponds with the sour grape you consumed.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.  Lentils are eaten because the tiny legumes are said to look like little coins, which will bring prosperity in the coming year. From Italy, to the Czech Republic, to Brazil—whether prepared in stew, served with pork, or eaten over rice—lentils might help you pad out your bank account in the progressing months.

A major New Year’s food tradition in the American South, Hoppin’ John is a dish of pork-flavored field peas or black-eyed peas (symbolizing coins) and rice, frequently served with collards or other cooked greens (as they’re the color of money) and cornbread (the color of gold). The dish is said to bring good luck in the New Year.

Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries.  Pigs are animals that root forward as they sniff out and eat food, and therefore emblematic of progress in the year. The fattiness of pork is also related to luxury and wealth, so don’t hesitate to fry up some bacon to start off the new year.  According to some theorists, chickens, turkeys, and lobsters, scratch backward for food, a pig buries his snout into the ground and moves forward—in the same direction you want to head in the new year.

Cabbage on New Year’s is also steeped in symbolism—the strands of cabbage in sauerkraut or coleslaw can symbolize long life, while cabbage, and other greens symbolize money and prosperity.

Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere.  Ring-shaped cakes—sometimes with trinkets baked inside—are a symbol of coming full circle, making them a perfect New Year’s food. This tradition stems from the Greeks, who make a traditional Vasilopita for New Year’s Eve with a hidden coin baked inside.  In the South there is the Kings Cake, baked with a “baby” inside for good luck.

In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

And what do we eat in Connecticut?  According to Better Homes and Gardens, a traditional New Year’s Eve Menu includes a vegetable soup, an Old Fashioned cocktail, and classic honey-glazed ham with individual creamy mashed potato pots, then finish off with a traditional apple pie!!!

How to Fight Utility Hikes

State Representative Joe Gresko, (D)
121st Connecticut House District

Dear Neighbor,

As the natural gas supply shortage continues to affect the globe and the country, United Illuminating (UI) announced that they are doubling their rates effective January 1, 2023. This unwelcome news comes as UI collects record profits, passing the cost burden onto us.

The severe service rate increases will impact thousands of Connecticut families who have already faced numerous challenges over the last few years and now may not have the resources they need to keep their heat and lights on throughout the winter months.

This is unacceptable.

My legislative colleagues and I have been hard at work finding solutions, both long- and short-term, to ensure every family in Connecticut has access to affordable utilities:

How you can save now:

Last month, the Governor announced the launch of the collaborative short-term Customer Relief Plan, a $120/year credit towards your electricity bill, for all UI customers, which can offer a savings of $10/month on your utility bill.

https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2022/11-2022/Governor-Lamont-State-Officials-Work-With-Utilities-to-Advance-a-Short-term-Customer-Relief-Plan

Energize CT is a publicly funded resource where you can secure lower rates for a minimum of 4 months from third-party suppliers and learn how to make your home energy efficient to lower consumption.

During the November special session, we increased funding for Operation Fuel, an energy assistance resource for qualifying low-income families, which has an assistance program that began December 19th.

During the November special session, we also approved an additional $30 million boost in funding for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which you can apply for here through May 31, 2023.

Additional energy assistance is available by contacting Human Services Department, community action agency, or me directly.

In addition to these resources, House Democratic Leadership has formed a bipartisan commission with industry-experienced representation to evaluate alternative energy programs and legislative proposals that we can raise to protect families from severe rate hikes like this in the future.

The work we are committed to:

  • Greater investment in other sources of clean energy to remain committed to Connecticut’s environmental goals while making our state’s utilities affordable for all.
  • More regional options for energy supply to lower delivery costs.
  • Sufficient transparency on rate increases offering greater review and public input.
  • Research states with regulated markets and lower consumer costs to draft similar legislative proposals.

I understand that the soaring energy prices continue to affect working families, which is why my colleagues and I remain committed to working on solutions that will provide resources and assistance to ease the cost burden on you. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on how we can better offer aid to working families, and if you need help applying for any of the energy assistance programs listed above, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me at the Capitol at 860-842-0363 or email me at Joseph.Gresko@cga.ct.gov.

Joseph P. Gresko

Governor Lamont, State Officials Work With Utilities to Advance a Short-Term Customer Relief Plan To Reduce the Cost of Energy Supply Prices

Public-Private Partnership Identifies Ways To Help Lower Winter Energy Prices, From Electricity to Gasoline

Governor Ned Lamont, in response to calls from his administration and other Connecticut state officials – including the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Office of Consumer Counsel – to do more for customers in the state amid historically high electric prices, utility companies Eversource and United Illuminating (UI) have agreed to work with state leaders on a short-term/interim Customer Relief Plan to provide immediate relief to electric customers this winter.

Connecticut state leaders have emphasized the importance of acting quickly and advancing options to reduce bill impacts for low and middle-income customers who are struggling to pay electric bills under unprecedented economic circumstances.

The package of near-term actions developed through the combined efforts of Governor Lamont, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes, Consumer Counsel Claire Coleman, Eversource, and UI is in part the result of benefits from the long-term clean energy power contracts signed at the direction of the Lamont administration and the Connecticut General Assembly to help secure the future of the Millstone nuclear power plant and other carbon-free generation resources. Eversource and UI have also agreed to corporate contributions for energy assistance to provide support for customers.

The Customer Relief Plan has multiple elements:

Eversource and UI will file a motion with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) seeking approval for the establishment of bill credits to fast-track the return of long-term power contract earnings to all customers starting January 1, 2023. This proposal will provide Eversource customers with a monthly bill credit of around $10 per month – approximately 12.5% of the average customer increase this winter – for the peak winter months starting January 1, 2023, and continuing through April.

Data on how this will impact UI customers is being calculated and is expected to be available soon.

The companies will also seek approval for a discount for low-income hardship customers to accelerate the 2021 Take Back Our Grid Act provision enabling a low-income discount rate by providing a flat-rate credit to financial hardship customers starting in January 2023 until the new PURA-approved low-income discount rate goes into effect in 2024.

In order to provide additional assistance to customers struggling with unusually high energy prices this winter, the Customer Relief Plan also includes an Eversource shareholder expense of $10 million for energy assistance to customers in need, including moderate and middle-income customers who are struggling to pay their bills.

UI has agreed to pay $3 million to Operation Fuel for direct assistance for electricity and heating costs, subject to PURA’s approval of a settlement agreement with the Office of Consumer Counsel.

Governor Lamont said, “I appreciate Eversource and UI working with us to identify creative near-term actions that will help provide Connecticut residents with some relief from high energy costs and the significant impending rate increase on January 1. Keeping Millstone online has proven to be a great investment for Connecticut, and it’s important that residents feel the benefit of the net profits generated by the plant when they most need it. I also appreciate that this plan includes Eversource and UI corporate funding that will go to Operation Fuel for an energy assistance program. Complex issues call for creative solutions, and this public-private partnership paired with the energy assistance actions expected to be taken by the General Assembly in special session will provide residents with some much-needed relief and protection this winter.”

Commissioner Dykes said, “With a difficult winter ahead, every penny counts, and I’m gratified that DEEP’s clean energy procurements are generating revenues that will help lower customer bills by another $10 per month this winter. Along with Governor Lamont and Consumer Counsel Coleman, we worked with the utilities on a plan to get these proceeds into their customers’ hands quicker.

Steve Sullivan, president of Eversource Connecticut, said, “We know how challenging increased energy costs are for our customers, especially during these times, and want to do everything we can to help. As an energy delivery company, we can’t control the cost of electricity on the supply side of our customer bills, but it is critically important to us to uncover any and all options to provide relief for our customers. Although market conditions are tough, Connecticut’s decision to commit to contractual arrangements like Millstone is paying dividends for customers and is critical to help offset bill impacts for customers this winter.”

Frank Reynolds, president and CEO of United Illuminating, said, “UI has been a member of the Connecticut community for over 100 years, so when our customers are facing the burden of rising energy costs due to a volatile global market, we’re committed to doing everything we can to help provide needed relief here at home. While we don’t have the ability to control the cost of the energy generation supply, we are here to help our customers above all. As we enter the winter months, we remain committed to coming to the table with all parties to find additional solutions for hard working families across Connecticut.”

Nearly 52,000 households have already applied for CEAP this season, an increase of 17% over last year at this time. Benefits are available for households with incomes up to 60% of the state median income, which equates to roughly $76,465 for a family of four. These benefits are usually paid directly to the utility company or fuel supplier. Households that heat with deliverable fuels like oil or propane may be eligible for multiple free tank refills.

Interested households should apply online at ct.gov/heatinghelp or contact their local community action agency. Additional assistance is available by calling 2-1-1.

Follow The Money

Electric Costs in Connecticut

Source: Greenwich Times

As Eversource and United Illuminating customers come to terms with the announced sharp increases in their monthly bills starting in January, consumers and politicians alike are asking if the utilities are pumping too much money into profits that end up in the pockets of shareholders and executives.

For people living paycheck to paycheck, another point of contention over the rate increase is the big paydays senior executives receive in the form of bonuses and stock compensation. With Avangrid CEO Pedro Azagra Blazquez new on the job and his Eversource counterpart Joe Nolan getting the corner office only last year, a fuller picture of their pay will emerge in spring.

In a recent Utility Dive study of CEO compensation, Eversource had the most significant dip between 2020 and 2021, but that included a portion of the compensation Nolan was paid before his promotion, replacing Jim Judge. In 2020, Judge had one of the larger pay packages in the nation in Eversource’s peer group of similar-sized utilities at $14.6 million, according to the Utility Dive study.

The question typically arises when electricity rates spike or extended outages strike after significant storms. At the most fundamental measure of earnings — profits as a percentage of revenue — Eversource’s Connecticut operations have been the least profitable of the utility’s service regions, which include Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Over the past six years, Eversource has averaged 12.1 cents in operating profits on every dollar of revenue in Connecticut, according to annual reports on file with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, versus 12.9 cents in New Hampshire and 14.1 cents in Massachusetts.

Against an index of nearly 40 utilities maintained by the Edison Electric Institute trade association, Eversource has outperformed many peer companies with a 91% increase in shareholder returns in the form of annual dividends between 2016 and 2021, compared to 69% for other utilities in the index on average. However, in the last couple of years, Eversource has trailed on the EEI index for profits paid to shareholders as dividends.

Avangrid, United Illuminating’s parent company, ranks in the top 10 of that group for yields on dividends, but United Illuminating accounts for only 15% of the company’s electricity delivery business alongside larger utilities in New York and Maine and separate natural gas and renewables businesses. Avangrid does not break out United Illuminating’s operating profits in its filings with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.

Eversource and United Illuminating do not make money on electricity generation in power plants; they charge only for delivering power to customers over their lines, factoring in the cost of ongoing maintenance and repairs.

Frank Reynolds, CEO of United Illuminating and its parent entity UIL Holdings, owned by Avangrid, told CTInsider that the distribution rate increase would be the first of its kind for United Illuminating in five years.

“We’re in a heavily regulated industry, and we’re allowed to make a certain return — not a guarantee — but a certain return on investments we make,” Reynolds said. “We bring everybody to the table among our regulators and other intervenors. They have the opportunity to explore all of the investments that we’re proposing to make within our system in continuing to deliver safe and reliable service.”

At an EEI conference in mid-November, Eversource shared updated projections for its investment in its electric transmission and distribution grid, which it anticipates peaking this year above $2.6 billion before dropping annually through 2026 to below $2.1 billion, only slightly off its investment total for 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both utilities are on the cusp of significant investments in offshore wind farms and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. In Southeastern Massachusetts, Eversource is analyzing other big investments in the grid to accommodate an expected boom in solar farms.

“There’s investments that we want to make around transmission to unlock and tap into some renewable resources that cannot get onto the grid in a way that’s meaningful for the operator,” Eversource CEO Joe Nolan said in November on a conference call. “That’s something that will only reduce customers’ cost at the end of the day if we’re able to get at some of those renewables.”

In 2019, Eversource took a $204 million hit to the bottom line after ending a multiyear effort to run power lines through New Hampshire to tap power from hydroelectric plants in Canada, with stockholders absorbing that hit rather than ratepayers. Avangrid is moving ahead with the project on an existing transmission route through Maine.

In response to the backlash in Connecticut over the sharp increase in electric rates, the state’s two largest utility companies have committed $13 million to provide relief to customers struggling to pay their utility bills this winter.

Eversource will contribute $10 million from what would have been booked as profits to help qualifying customers. United Illuminating is giving $3 million to Operation Fuel, a nonprofit that provides emergency funding for people to pay their bills.

Includes prior reporting by Julia Bergman, Ken Dixon, Alex Putterman and Luther Turmelle.

Winter Sports, Art Classes, Safe Sitter Classes

Pickle Ball Lessons and Games

Sterling House Community Center Has Something for Everyone

Soccer:  Winter off-season soccer skills clinic.  Co-ed classes on Saturday’s in Erin’s Gym.  Led by advanced soccer training coaches, players will work on agility, foot skills, shooting tactics, game IQ and teamwork.

Session 1 will be January 7th-February 11th.  Session 2, February 25th – April 1st.

To register go to: sterlinghousecc.org/soccer

Channel Your Inner Artist:  Opportunity to learn the fundamentals of art from begging to end. Youth and Teen classes will be held on Saturdays with the following schedule:

Beginners: ages 6-12, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Advanced, ages 10-12, 10:30 a.m. to 11?45 a.m.

Teens, ages 13-19, 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Session 3 begins on January 14th for 5 weeks

Session 4 starts February 18th for 5 weeks

 

Adult Art Classes: Thursay evenings from 7:15 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.

Session 3 beginis January 12th for 5 weeks

Session 4 starts February 16th for 5 weeks

To register online go to: sterlinghousecc.org/art

Pickle Ball:  Calling all Stratford Seniors join the latest exercise craze – 4 week courses on Pickle Ball.  In partnership with Stratford Recreation and the Baldwin Center,  SHCC will be conducting Pickle Ball classes that teach the basic rules, skills, and techniques.  There will be short drills, practice time and friendly scrimmages

All classes will be on Wednesdays.  Session 1 will be from January 25th to February 15th.  Session 2 is from March 8th – March 29th.

Safesitters Classes:  Learn how to be safe when watching younger siblings or babysitting.  Safesitter classes for ages 11+ on Saturday, January 28th from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Register today at: www.sterlinghousecc.org

2023 Spring Lacrosse with the Stratford Storm can be found at:

www.stratfordstorm.com  Registration is now open and ends March 1st.  Games begin April 1st.

Plan Development: DOT Traffic Signal Project in Stratford

by State Representative Joe Gresko, (D)
121st Connecticut House District

Dear Neighbor,

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced a plan for installations and revisions at the following traffic control signals in Stratford:

Traffic Control Signal – Partial Replacement (all equipment expect support structures) on Route 113 (Lordship Blvd.) at:

  • Honeyspot Road
  • Honeyspot Road Ext
  • Access Road
  • Surf Avenue
  • Garfield Avenue
  • Long Beach Boulevard

 

Traffic Control Signal – Minor Revisions (upgrade controller and GPS unit) on Route 113 (Lordship Blvd.) at:

  • Eagles Next Road
  • DOT Maintenance Garage
  • Watson Boulevard

As always, please feel free to reach out to me at the Capitol at 860-842-0363 or email me at Joseph.Gresko@cga.ct.gov.

How To Follow State Laws and Lawmakers

by State Representative Phil Young (D)
120th Connecticut House District

Dear Neighbor,

Happy New Year to you and your family! As the year ends, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past year and be thankful for the support of the community near and far. Cheers to another great year, as I wish much happiness, health and wealth to you all.

Once we ring in the New Year, the Connecticut General Assembly will quickly get back into business. The 2023 legislative session is set to begin on Wednesday, January 4th. Every legislative session and committee meeting will be streamed live on CT-N.

In addition to watching session and public hearings, there are numerous ways for you to stay engaged in our state’s democracy. Below are just some of the resources available to you as the 2023 legislative session gets underway:

  • Visit the CGA website to view a daily schedule of events, access committee information, find your State Senator or State Representative, and more.

https://cga.ct.gov/?utm_source=Regis&utm_campaign=9a0dcb64cf-

  • Read the Bulletin to find out when committees are meeting, how to provide public hearing testimony, and more.

https://cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/Clerkdoclist.asp?house=X&doc_type=bul&utm_source=Regis&utm_campaign=9a0dcb64cf-

  • Register for the CGA’s Bill Tracking system, here, to follow any bill as it moves through the legislative process. You will receive notifications when the bill’s status changes.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgabilltracking.asp

  • For information on how to testify on a bill that is up for a public hearing, follow this link.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/Content/YourVoice.asp?utm_

  • Access the CGA’s Citizen’s Guide, here, for more on how you can become part of the process

https://cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/citizen.asp?utm_source

  • Are you curious about how your tax dollars are spent? The State Comptroller’s OpenConnecticut web portal allows residents to track state government spending in real time.

https://www.osc.ct.gov/openCT.html

Your concerns and opinions are fundamental to the legislative process. Please continue to reach out to me to share your thoughts, ideas, and questions.

Sincerely,  Phil Young

“Cloak and Dagger – The Revolution’s Secret War”

“Sunday Afternoon Talks” 2023
Stratford Library 2-3:30 p.m. in the Lovell Room

Historian Eric Chandler Returns on January 8th
Free and Open to the Public

The Stratford Library continues “Sunday Afternoon Talks”, its series of informative and entertaining talks featuring prominent local guest speakers, on Sunday, January 8th, 2023, with historian Eric Chandler and his presentation, “Cloak and Dagger – The Revolution’s Secret War”. The talk will be presented live in the Library’s Lovell Room. It is free and open to the public.

Spying may be the world’s second oldest profession, even recounted in the Old Testament. By the time of the Revolution, England already had a long tradition of the Great Game, its tentacles spread through the British Iles and deep within the European Continent.

However, on this side of the Atlantic with 13 separate and competing colonies? Enter George Washington – first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen….and America’s first spymaster. As the new Commander-in-Chief, George Washington would have to make it up as he went along, through trial and error and sometimes with disastrous results. “Cloak and Dagger – The Revolution’s Secret War” explores who spied for love and who for greed. Chandler will explain the who, the how, and the successes and failures of America’s first foray into intelligence gathering and the part it played in the ultimate success of the American War for Independence.

Eric Chandler is retired from a 30+ year career as an underwriter for a leading land title insurance company. He has been involved in American Revolutionary War Living History since 1974 and has portrayed infantry, light infantry, whaleboat raider and mounted and dismounted dragoons. He is currently serving his third term as a member of the Norwalk Historical Commission and sits on the Norwalk Historical Society Board of Directors.

The “Sunday Afternoon Talks” series, hosted by Charles Lautier of Stratford. For further information visit: www.stratfordlibrary.org or call the Library at: 203.385-4162

Stratford School District to End Reduced Meals in Schools

Beginning Tuesday, January 3rd

The Stratford School District reported that beginning Tuesday, January 3rd, it will charge full price for meals because the School Meals Assistance Revenue for Transition (SMART) funds, which are used to provide free breakfasts and lunches to all students through a grant provided by the Connecticut State Department of Education, will expire on Friday, December 23rd.

Students whose households are eligible for free or reduced meals can submit free and reduced-price meal applications, the district said.  School officials said it is important for families to apply as soon as possible to avoid any possible charges.  The online application is located on the district’s website:

https://www.stratfordk12.org/page/food-service-free-reduced-meal-application

Officials said the following schools will continue to offer free meals for the entire school year:

Franklin

Lordship

Nichols

Second Hill Lane

Johnson House

Victoria Soto

Students at these schools don’t need to submit the free or reduced-price meal applications, the district reported.

Feeling Grateful as a New Year Approaches

By: Irene Roth

There is so much promise before a brand-new year. There is so much anticipation for new things and a carryover of things from the previous year that still needs to be done in 2023. This can be such a positive time for all of us.

Unfortunately, for some of us, we put way too much pressure on ourselves by criticizing ourselves for all the failures. Therefore, an end-of-year assessment can make us feel stressed out and even overwhelmed at the thought of a brand-new year.

I am one of those people who loves a brand-new year. Not only is it a brand-new chance to do better and excel, but it is a time to be grateful for yet another possibility to live a healthier and more balanced life. There is so much hope in a new year. Further, there is a lot we should be grateful for.

Gratitude is not something we often think about at this time of year. Usually, we’re too busy reflecting on how our past year went wrong. We rarely focus on some of the good things. Instead, we are dead set on finding fault with everything that we did. For this reason, I don’t make new year’s resolutions.

A few years ago, I started to new tradition. Instead of criticizing how I did the previous year, I looked at the year through the lens of self-compassion and gratitude. I focused on what went right and what was good about the year instead of all that went wrong. It was difficult to do at first. However, after a while, it became easier and refreshing.

It’s not that we should be in denial about some things that went not so well that particular year. However, instead of beating ourselves up about it, we should set those issues aside as problems that need to be addressed instead of insurmountable issues. Nothing is impossible to achieve with some planning and competition.

Here is how I proceeded. First, I opened my journal to a fresh new page. I pick up a few of my favourite pens, in different colours. I write all the not so good stuff that happened during the year in black ink. I also wrote everything that I thought was nasty, mean, and awful. It felt good to get it all out on paper.

Once I cleared my mind of all the negative stuff, I turned the page and wrote all the good things that happened during the year in purple ink (my favorite color). To my amazement, I noticed something very interesting. My list of good things that happened in the year was far longer than my list of bad things! This was an unexpected realization, something that transformed how I viewed every end of the year from then on.

That was three years ago. Now I still assess the previous year with a lens of appreciation, gratitude, and self-compassion. I decided not to look only at all the bad things that happened, but to also focus on all the good. All that is required is to shift what we focus on at the end of the year. By shifting our perspective this way, we can see the approaching brand-new year as an exciting time, a blank sleight on which we can write or draw a new tapestry for a better and more balanced life.

So as the curtain closes on yet another year, may we take the time to count our blessings? May we realize that there is so much that we have in our lives that is good. Because there really are my dear friends!

Happy New Year!