NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

Jane’s Chocolate Mint Plant

Posted on September 20, 2019

Chocolate Mint Plant in a vase.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


When Windsor, Connecticut’s Jane Garibay put up a post saying she had an abundance of chocolate mint plant growing in her yard if anyone was interested in some, I was intrigued. Never before had I heard of chocolate mint plant.


After a bit of research I thought it would make an interesting topic for one of my floral/plant pieces on newsandviewsjb. A sensory experience! The aroma is just as described ~ reminiscent of the “classic Girl Scout cookies.”


According to, it is common for chocolate mint plants to grow rampant. So much so that if you desire, you may want to “tuck it in a pot to curtail its wandering ways.” That’s my plan.


Jane had an abundance of chocolate mint plant growing in her yard and offered to share.


I plan to “plant” a portion of the stems with soil in a pot for my Potter’s’ Bench on the back patio. Also, I have placed a few stems in a small vase indoors. Fragrant and pretty too.


In ground soil, chocolate mint is said to thrive when positioned near water gardens or in moist soil. It is said to favor partial shade but will still grow in full sunlight. A bonus, chocolate mint plant is known as a natural way to chase away pesky insects. Typically, it will survive a light frost. Perfect, because with autumn around the corner a light frost is surely not far behind.

Paper or Plastic? Not Any More in Connecticut

Posted on August 16, 2019


Took my Trader Joe’s bag to Big Y to avoid paying for another bag – single use plastic bag ban went into effect Aug. 1, 2019.

Article & Photo by Jacqueline Bennett


Paper or plastic? As of August 1, 2019 consumers no longer have the option of choosing paper or plastic bags at retail stores in Connecticut. A new state law has gone into effect banning single use plastic bags at retail stores for environmental reasons.


Shoppers now must pay 10 cents for plastic bags, money that will go to the state coffers. As of 2021 single use plastic bags are slated to be banned completely. Most consumers are saying it is hard to oppose something that is good for the environment. Nevertheless, many say they did reuse the plastic bags for purposes such as lining waste paper baskets. As well, some folks question why retailers are now charging for paper bags.


For months consumers have been encouraged to purchase reusable bags and bring them along when shopping. Since the first of the month it has become commonplace to see bags from other stores being utilized. (For example, I brought my Trader Joe’s bag into Big Y. ) New England-based Big Y is now selling – once no cost paper bags – for a dime. However, their new paper bags include handles. Apparently, those handles cost the store 10 cents ?


According to NBC Connecticut, Highland Park Market in Manchester expects their bag costs to “quadritriple” without the plastic option because of the greater expense of paper bags. Highland Park, arguably a more upscale grocery experience, has had handle paper bags right along – just saying. At Stop & Shop, through August paper bags will be available at no charge.


Macy’s is also offering reusable bags in the large shopping bag style, with Macys,com featured prominently on each side. In fact, every reusable bag I’ve seen put out by retailers essentially is an advertisement for their store. So, consumers now get to pay for advertising on behalf of retailers ?


Some grocers are still letting cashiers give out small, tinted plastic bags used for cold items, like meats or ice cream. At self-checkouts, shoppers are on the honor system – at the end of a transaction a question pops up on the terminal screen asking how many plastic bags you have used. Zero has been my choice, in that in my purse I now carry a small reusable bag with me. Yep, my keys, wallet, lip gloss and a reusable bag ~ the perfect Pavlovian subject since the point of forcing reusable bags into our lives is to “shift consumer behavior.”


Not everyone is acclimating. A man in front of me at Walmart a couple days ago had a cart filled with groceries and not bag to seen. Rather he held up his receipt as he exited. A challenge for retailers will be to keep track of purchases if consumers take exception to paying for bags; and dealing with the frustration of watching shoppers shuffle about boldly with reusable bags that advertise for other stores.


The bottom line is ~ things change. In fact, change it has been said, is the only constant in life ~ you can bag that.



Mom’s Recipe Box : “Sometimes A Girl Just Needs To Be Bad Pizza” from Maureen

Posted on June 19, 2019











“Sometimes A Girl Just Needs To Be Bad Pizza” from her granddaughter Maureen has been added to Mom’s Recipe Box



“Sometimes a Girl Just Needs to be Bad Pizza” from Maureen 


Award Winning Pizza ~ by Maureen Muriel Lucas

What I love about this recipe is the blending of flavors between the sauce and the toppings. I’ve enjoyed cooking and baking all my life. My Mom, Muriel Anna Bennett Lucas taught me the love of cooking, as well as, baking. My Mom was an amazing woman. A great teacher of life. Along with my daughter, Kathleen, we would prepare wonderful, loving creations together. Always an adventure to try something new.

I enjoy making a recipe my own, so I experiment. A recipe is just a guideline ~ is my motto ~ when cooking in the kitchen. Baking ~ you need to be precise. I find that cooking or baking is quite therapeutic, as well as, enjoyable. The wonderful smell of the flavors permeating the house. 

This pizza smells wonderful baking. The satisfaction of seeing your loved ones enjoying what you created is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. Hope you enjoy creating this pizza as much as I do. It’s fun to create with your children, no matter what their ages. Bon Appetito !




*A bit of family history that I asked Maureen if it was okay to share and she said “yes”. Growing up Maureen was known as “Dolly” to the family. It was a nickname given to her by my father, her grandfather, “Big Johnny”, because she was as pretty as a doll. And, he often sang the song “Hello Dolly” to her ! ~ JB






Looks great ! Yes- indeed – sometimes a girl just needs to be bad !


Enjoy award-winning homemade pizza! Homemade dough, homemade sauce with onions, garlic, hand crushed tomatoes, whole milk mozzarella ( whole) ricotta (half) Margherita turkey pepperoni less fat, less sodium (half), sprinkle of Italian seasonings. .~ MML


Toppings : one half cup of Part Skim Ricotta, one and a half to two cups Whole Shredded Mozzarella (I shred from the block), 4 oz Margherita’s Turkey Pepperoni (less fat and sodium ~ surprise, it tastes great!), one cup tomato sauce (recipe below ~ use more if you’d like), 4-6 Roma tomatoes (depending on size), Italian seasoning ~ shake on desired amount.

Pizza Dough : one package pizza active yeast pack, one cup warm water. one tsp sugar, one tsp salt, 2 tsp vegetable oil (I prefer Mazzola), two and a half cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur’s is best)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Tomato Sauce : one jar of your favorite sauce, 4 Roma tomatoes ~ blanch then remove the skin, one half cup of chopped sweet onion, one tsp of chopped garlic (fresh makes a difference), one tsp butter, one – 2 tsp of Italian seasoning, fresh ground pepper and salt to taste

In medium Dutch oven melt one tsp of butter, place the onion into saute until translucent. Then add garlic until soft (it cooks fast). Then add jar of sauce, and crush by hand the blanched Roma tomatoes. Then blend together. Let it come to a soft boil then add the other tsp of butter, then turn down to a high simmer. Once it is at a nice simmer add Italian seasoning and salt/pepper to taste. Let it simmer one half to a full hour. This allows the sauce flavors to blend together.

Pizza Dough : Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in remaining ingredients; beat vigorously for 20 strokes. Let rest about 5 minutes. When ready press on to baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If necessary use rolling pin. Shape to size of pan. Then begin your creation !

Smooth sauce on top of dough. Not too much ! Make sure you have the crushed Roma tomatoes spread across, as well as, onion and garlic. Then sprinkle some of the shredded mozzarella cheese to lightly cover. Next place ricotta about the pizza; just press or spread lightly. Then top with the rest of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning on top as desired.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Removal will be easy with the parchment paper. You will have a nice award-winning pizza.

Buon Appetito !  



*Look forMom’s Recipe Box” as an occasional feature on newsandviewsjb where recipes are added to the Cecelia G. Bennett Collection to honor the memory of my mother


Join the Journey ~ Windsor Monarch Project

Posted on May 22, 2019

Monarch butterfly illustration by watercolorist & interior designer Betty Jo Davis of the Windsor Monarch Project

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


Butterflies hold a mystique. “Universally” butterflies are said to symbolize metamorphosis, renewal and beauty ~ with the grandest beauty of the species being the Monarch ( ) . On a spiritual level Monarch butterflies are believed to represent good luck, an omen that one is on the right path or a need for change, even communication of well-being between the living and the dead. Practically, Monarch butterflies pollinate plants critical to the health and preservation of our delicate ecosystem.


Given the value of Monarchs, Windsor resident Suzanne Urban set out to reverse a disturbing trend that she cautions, has positioned these insects as nearing endangered. Inspired by a similar, successful effort with a different type of butterfly in San Francisco, three years ago Urban decided to raise Monarchs in Windsor. Soon enough she had compatriots in fellow residents Kate Lange and Betty Jo Davis. The three women comprise a core committee for the Windsor Monarch Project, all artists they bounce ideas off each other said Urban. They have found another visionary in Jane Garibay, the director of First Town Downtown, an organization which has taken the Windsor Monarch Project under its wings – so to speak.


Suzanne Urban shows the rock she painted for the Monarch Butterfly garden outside Ace Hardware in Windsor Center.

“There are so many stories that keep coming up,” Urban said during a May 18 interview at the First Town Downtown office.


Stories, she said, of Monarch butterflies appearing at emotional times in individual’s lives. Stories, she describes as “six degrees of pollination” ~ an expression highlighting a connectivity ~ helping the project to take flight.


“This is the most passionate group I’ve ever worked with, ” Garibay noted.


Since moving to Windsor with her husband from the southern part of Connecticut a few years back, Urban has fallen in love with the community ~ citing the warm and welcoming attitude of townspeople. That too, she added, motivated her to want to do something special to bring attention to the wonder of Windsor ~ a community of good will.


“Monarchs move from flower to flower to create common good for all,” said Urban.


Scott Hoffman of ACE Hardware answered the call and a butterfly garden of colorful, scented flowers was planted outside the store on 296 Broad Street in early May.

Once the core committee came together, they set out to raise awareness among the town’s young people. Lange, a local realtor landscaped habitat designs and brought the project into Poquonock Elementary School. Oliver Ellsworth Elementary School has come next; Eagle Scout candidate Emile Shwayhat built cages for the schools to host the cycle of life the butterflies undergo. The project had a mobile mural, Urban designed, at the Lion’s Club Festival, and, a local Brownie troop has helped spread the word.


With First Town Downtown on board, the next step has been inviting businesses to participate. Scott Hoffman of ACE Hardware on Broad Street was first to answer the call, sponsoring a butterfly garden planted in early May outside the store. The Town of Windsor as well, has joined the journey, approving 1000 square feet along the Windsor Center River Trail for Monarch habitats, where a sculpture created for the project by local sculptor Lon Pelton can be found.



Some interesting facts and spiritual beliefs about the “magic” of Monarch butterflies from PBS and

  • Milkweed is necessary for Monarchs to thrive, they lay their eggs in milkweed ~ between 300-400 eggs in 5 weeks but with a low survival rate
  • Butterfly gardens need colorful, scented flowers rich in nectar to attract Monarchs
  • Monarchs have four “generation” stages
  • The presence of Monarchs is indicative of a healthy environment
  • February & March is mating season, subsequently they migrate north from Mexico
  • They return south to Central Mexico in September and October, their winter home ~ “For thousands of years people living in Mexico have believed that the butterflies are spirits of the dead, their arrival in winter coincides with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)”
  • Monarchs are said to “communicate” through color and scent
  • The presence of Monarchs is a sign that angels, or a guardian angel, is nearby


Butterfly garden foster families have become part of the Windsor project. Organizers continue to seek more volunteers and sponsors. For additional information and to view the entire list of sponsors thus far, go to First Town Downtown ( ).


Urban is an illustrator who also creates garden art and owns “smirking goddess studio”. With the Windsor Monarch Project gaining momentum, she is working to secure a grant to have a Monarch butterfly mural painted on a building near the railroad tracks in town ~ a desired location to bring high visibility for the project to folks traveling through town by train. Ultimately, her hope is to attract visitors/tourists here to see the Monarch habitats and for Windsor ~ “where the Shad always return” ~ to also become known as a destination where the Monarchs always return.


*Follow the progress of the Windsor Monarch Project on Facebook


“Thank You” from Accomplished Herald Photojournalist ~ Sylvian E. Ofiara

Posted on May 13, 2019

“Thank You” note from photojournalist Sylvian E. Ofiara, “Sinch” who worked for the Manchester Evening Herald which was later called The Manchester Herald, a former daily newspaper in Manchester, CT.

By Jacqueline Bennett


Treasures found are one of the great outcomes of spring cleaning. Such is the case for me this May when I came across a “thank you” note from Sylvian E. Ofiara.


An accomplished and locally renown photojournalist, Mr. Ofiara worked for the then Manchester Evening Herald, Manchester, Connecticut, for many years. By the time I began reporting for “The Manchester Herald” he had retired or was retiring and had become a popular professor of photography at Manchester Community Collage.


I do not recall the milestone that brought me to interview him in 1991, nonetheless, I do recall what a tremendous compliment it was to be given the assignment by my editor – who made it clear it was a special assignment that she wanted in my hands. Somewhere in my archives, I’m certain is the article I wrote but it is not easy to locate at the moment.


Mr. Ofiara was well-respected and had done tremendous work for the newspaper.


Thus on a beautiful, warm afternoon I went to his home above Keeney Street. Each with a glass of lemonade, we sat in the backyard for an approximate two hour interview, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I recall what I wore ~ a blue flowered below the knee dress ~ I imagine I recall that so clearly because at some point Mr. Ofiara began taking photos of me !  I never did see the pics he took but most certainly I can still envision him with his camera in hand. 


Nicknamed “Sinch”, he was a World War II U.S. Army Air Force veteran. Such a nice man, he was eager to offer photography tips.


A original Sylvian E. Ofiara photo.

My story ran. A bit of time went by and a letter arrived at the ‘The Herald’ office addressed to me. Inside was a gracious “thank you” note for the story – on the cover of the note was a Sylvian E. Ofiara original photo. As well, Mr. Ofiara had enclosed another matted original photo. I now have the first framed such that the note can be read and eventually plan to frame the second – both exquisite blossom photography. 


“Sinch” has since passed away ~ August 1, 1926 – May 18, 2012. I am so pleased to have met and interviewed him, to have been entrusted with telling the story of a community gem who became part of Manchester’s town history; and, to have written the article for the very newspaper where he built his reputation. Now, each time I look at the photos he mailed to me, I am reminded of that sweet afternoon.


Read more about “Sinch” MMH.Sinch2013 (1)


Under the Cherry Blossom Tree

Posted on April 24, 2019

Photo near the Manchester/Vernon CT townline.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


Cherry blossoms in springtime stir the inner spirit ~ their beauty is breathtaking. Typically they are in bloom in April and early May in the Northeastern United States & other regions.


A fond memory of mine as a student at the University of Connecticut is a hot spring day, wearing tan fatigue shorts and a spaghetti strap top, sitting beneath a gorgeous cherry blossom tree on a wall on the patio outside the Student Union on the Storrs campus, reading and enjoying a cup of blueberry yogurt. I distinctly remember taking in the beauty of the blossoms, the day, the campus and truthfully, the joy of being young. 


In the U.S. cherry blossoms are most closely associated with Washington D. C. where they host an annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. The national flower of Japan, cherry blossom trees that line the East Potomac are some of a March 27, 1912 gift from Japan to the U.S. of 3,020 cherry blossom trees, representing a growing friendship between the two countries ~ though perhaps interrupted by WWII. With hostilities in the past, the gift was renewed in 1965 with another 3,800 trees. Here in Connecticut, the city of New Haven hosts an annual Cherry Blossom Festival celebrating 72 Yoshino Cherry Blossom trees planted there in 1973 ~ this year the event is slated for April 28. Most often cherry blossoms are light pink or white. They have a short season, at peak for a mere two weeks, before they begin falling to the ground. Symbolic of spring, renewal and nature they are a magnificent sight to behold. If you are inclined to sit under a cherry blossom tree ~ best not hesitate ~ the season of cherry blossoms is brief.



Unions Struggle To Save America’s Middle Class

Posted on April 14, 2019

Striking workers outside Stop & Shop in South Windsor, CT April 13, 2019 Photo by Jacqueline Bennett

Commentary by Jacqueline Bennett

Courtesy photo – Connecticut 60th District State Rep. Jane Garibay (D-Windsor) and her sister Carol (center) support workers on strike at the Windsor, CT Stop & Shop.


As America’s middle class continues to shrink, union workers are struggling to save it.


“Whether one is concerned about middle-class wages, incomes, mobility in relationship to the rich and the poor, one policy solution can help strengthen the middle class: strengthen unions.” David Madland and Alex Rowell wrote in a piece titled ‘Unions Help the Middle Class, No Matter the Measure.’


Unions, they said, increase workers’ wages and benefits, boost economic mobility for future generations, reduce runaway increases at the top, raise the share of national income going to the middle class, reduce inequality, decrease poverty and improve worker’s well-being. Nonetheless in the past few decades union membership has dwindled. The decline, they add, has been accompanied by a stagnation of workers’ wages and their lesser share of economic growth in the United States, with just one percent of Americans having “captured” 70 percent of U.S. economic growth over the last forty years.

Mike Larned, a lineman, proudly displays his I.B.E.W. Local 42 jacket. “A Vanishing Breed”  Photo by Jacqueline Bennett


These figures should be astounding given the history of the American Labor Movement starting in the early 19th Century. Some American businessmen made fortunes being so callous and ruthless they were dubbed “Robber Barons.” Before ~ unions, child labor laws and expanded public education ~ sweatshops were the norm. Children of factory workers, coal miners and other laborers had few options other than to continue working in the same low paying, difficult conditions their parents faced. This is more than just what is written in history books for Americans whose grandparents and, or, great-grandparents lived through it.


Workers quite literally put their lives on the line to unite for change. Early on they endured criminal charges. In 1804 in Philadelphia, PA journeymen boot-makers and shoe-makers who tried to create better working conditions by refusing to work were convicted of criminal conspiracy. That held until 1842 when the concept was “rejected” by the Massachusetts Supreme Court ~ read more about the American Labor Movement at


Hard fought for changes, brought improvements in ~ wages, benefits and working conditions ~ not only for union workers, but for nonunion workers too as companies strove to keep workers they had and to discourage the formation of more unions. Madland and Rowell point out, that remains the case in the present day. When workers join together to improve their conditions it generalizes to the population at large they said, and thus strengthens the middle class. Another key aspect of mobility in the past, which remains true today, is maintaining high quality and low cost public universities, it was noted.


Unions also help equalize political power ~ “encouraging people of modest means to vote and by providing a crucial counter balance  to wealthy interest groups.”


What is the answer to saving America’s middle class? Part of the remedy means fortifying ~ not weakening ~ job security, according to The Atlantic magazine. Cited in addition, the need to increase public infrastructure spending to create construction and other jobs, open up profit-sharing and corporate transparency.


And, saving the middle class lies with the fortitude ~ the grit ~ of today’s American workers to honor those who came before them. It lies with an understanding by current and up coming generations of an America without the strength of unions. Last but far from least, it lies with who Americans elect. Are candidates elected that stand with workers to raise wages and strive to strengthen unions? Ultimately, it will be policy-makers who make the difference in shaping the future landscape of America.


*photo added

At the Capitol With Connecticut State Representative Jane Garibay

Posted on March 30, 2019

State Rep. Jane Garibay (D-60th) at the Legislative Office Building ~ through the window in the backdrop can be seen Connecticut’s Capitol building in Hartford. Photo by Jacqueline Bennett 3/28/2019

State Rep. Jane Garibay served as Acting Speaker of the House and presided over a Technical Session. Photo by Jacqueline Bennett 3/28/2019


Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


It was an interesting day spent March 28 with State Representative Jane Garibay at the Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut. Garibay represents the 60th District, covering Windsor and Windsor Locks.


A freshman legislator, Garibay won election in November 2018, defeating a Republican incumbent. In her first year on the hill, she has already co-sponsored a bill.


“I am honored to serve the people of the 60th district and to share this incredible journey,” she said, “I am proud to serve with so many dedicated legislators working for the good of the people in their districts and state.”


Part of the journey is learning the ropes at the state Capitol. With a desire to share what she is learning with voters, Garibay has been posting information on Facebook about the legislative processes. She serves on three committees, transportation, commerce and aging. Windsor Locks is home to Bradley International Airport and the rail line travels right through Windsor, so Garibay was eager to be appointed to the Transportation Committee.  This session it has been a ‘hot seat’ committee as a result of Democrat Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to reinstate tolls on Connecticut highways. Opinions among Connecticut residents run strong on both sides of this topic, as such, protesters have been at the Legislative Office Building (LOB) making their feelings known. As the bill heads for the General Assembly, Garibay said she is reserving her decision on which way she will vote until she sees the bill in its final form.


Other high profile, controversial issues the legislature is tackling this session are the legalization of recreational marijuana and a motorcycle helmet law.  


     Although Garibay is new to the legislature, she brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from her years serving as president of the Windsor Board of Education and executive director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, a position she left before signing on to her current job as director of First Town Downtown. Her work on the legislative Commerce Committee includes a continuation of her long-time efforts to help small businesses thrive.


Connecticut she said is truly an extraordinary state known for its well-educated, well-trained workforce and with an enviable location between New York and Boston. Her goal is to keep Connecticut’s workforce well-trained. As well, she is focused on ensuring the state’s future success by striving to find ways to keep our young people here ~ millennials and subsequent generations ~ and to expand the concept of success beyond a college education to include other types of higher education. One proposed bill coming out of the Commerce Committee seeks to encourage economic growth and job creation by promoting careers in manufacturing to public school students and by establishing a task force to study the demand for career and technical education teachers.


“There will be over 25,000 open manufacturing jobs to be filled in Connecticut in the next 20 years,” Garibay notes on her legislative page.


Reflective of the state as a whole, Windsor and Windsor Locks have aging populations. That also makes her work on the Aging Committee critical to their needs, Garibay added.


  • To learn more about the activities of Garibay’s committees go to For Garibay and many other legislators, healthcare remains a priority. They are looking for personal tales. Residents can also read about this project on Garibay’s legislative page under “Share Your Health Care Story”; and have the opportunity to e-mail her “your story.”


State Representative Pat Wilson Pheanious (D-53), representing Ashford, Tolland, Willington.


Among the procedures that Garibay has learned about, is the requirement that the House meet daily while in session. This is a requirement that can be met by a Technical Session often utilized to approve bills that have bi-partisan support and are not controversial. At least two legislators must be present. On the day of this interview Garibay served as Acting Speaker of the House and presided over the Technical Session with Rep. Pat Wilson Pheanious (D – 53) serving as Acting Majority Leader. The public/press can be invited into the chambers to observe firsthand and even participate. I was asked to help open the session by reading a prepared daily prayer, which I did ~

  • “Let us pray. Almighty God, bless our Legislators who give of their time and themselves each day for the good of the people of this great State. Guide them to make decisions that will benefit all. Amen.”


The view from Garibay’s office on the fifth floor of the LOB is a piece of Connecticut’s history ~ the Connecticut State Armory built in 1906. Hanging on her walls she has two large prints of photographs taken by accomplished Windsor photographer Len Hellerman which he and his wife hand-delivered to Garibay at the LOB.

Photo prints by Windsor photographer Len Hellerman hang on the walls of St. Rep. Jane Garibay’s office.

One print is the Windsor Train Station, the other depicts aeronautics in Windsor Locks.(click to enlarge)


“I wanted one depicting Windsor and one depicting Windsor Locks,” Garibay explained. One print shows the Windsor Train Station and the other depicts aeronautics in Windsor Locks, where too, the New England Air Museum can be found.


The days are full for Garibay. And, back in her district she holds monthly coffee hours to meet with constituents, alternating between Windsor and Windsor Locks.. Only months into her first term and she has co-sponsored a bill with a young legislator, Sen. Will Haskell (D-26). The proposed bill is a reward program for state employees who report wasteful practices.


I love being a legislator and I am learning how the legislature works. Fellow legislators and staff are very supportive making an overwhelming job much easier,” said Garibay.



Lilacs Welcome Spring

Posted on March 24, 2019

Write-up & Photo by Jacqueline Bennett


With the arrival of spring I eagerly await the blossoming of the lilac bush not far from my front steps. It is gorgeous and fragrant. At the risk of sounding cliche, the soft purple tone of these flowers makes me wonder at the beauty created by nature.



Although lilac-colored lilacs are considered to be the most common (syringa vulgaris), as Martha Stewart pointed out in a wonderful blog piece she wrote, lilacs are a “diverse genus.” They grow in white, violet, blue, lavender, pink, magenta and purple ~ and in varying shades of those hues.


Each color has it own symbolism: white ~ purity & innocence: violet ~ spirituality: blue ~ happiness & tranquility: magenta ~ love & passion: light purple ~ first love. 


 Lilacs need six hours of full sun daily and to be planted where there is good drainage, experts advise. Whether one describes lilacs as growing on a bush or tree is said to depend on the thickness and height of the trunk. In years past, lilacs were used for medicinal purposes. In present day, they are utilized in aromatherapy. The light purple toned are said to have a calming effect to ease anxiety, according to . Considered edible, lilac recipes are available online ~ one that caught my eye is a Lilac Lemon Fizz Mocktail. 


Typically, lilacs blossom in May. It is possible to extend their blossoming season, however, most often it is brief. So, be sure to take time to smell the lilacs.

Talented Women Enriching Lives Around Them ~ Focus on Melane Larned, Laurie Czarzasty

Posted on March 13, 2019

Melane Larned shown at Water’s Edge in Westbrook, CT where the baby shower for her daughter Maryann was held March 10, 2019.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


With greater attention being paid to the value of women in American society and the world as a whole, let us pause to appreciate women we know who balance careers, household management and nurturing their families, yet still find time to share their talents to enhance the lives of those they love.


It has been a whirlwind two years for Melane Larned and Laurie Czarzasty. Yet, a blessed two years for the women whose lives intersected because Melane’s youngest daughter and Laurie’s son fell in love. Add to that the joy of Melane’s oldest daughter expecting her first child, as well as, Laurie’s daughter getting married then expecting her first child, and there have been showers to plan, weddings and a baptism. These ladies have been busy! Melane has applied her management skills to multiple event planning and Laurie discovered a new talent, chocolate making.


“Being a Manager, my brain is trained to plan, organize and control the outcome. I practice this at home, at my job, and any function that comes my way. This is my happy place and those who know me have no worries with the outcome,” said Melane, whose full-time position is as Project Manager at The Groton Naval Sub Base Hospital in Groton, Connecticut.


The whirlwind for Melane and Laurie began after Maryann accepted a marriage proposal from her, now husband, Tom. Three possible venues were scouted out. The young couple selected Anthony’s Ocean View in New Haven,  a “destination” wedding site complete with palm trees in the sand. 


“Maryann planned her wedding. Laurie and I would ask her opinion before we purchased anything. We both wanted her to have her ‘Dream Wedding’, ” Melane recalled.


This fabulous cake was part of  Maryann’s nautical themed wedding shower.

Anchors away at Fox Hopyard

Melane and Laurie at Maryann’s wedding shower.

However, before the September wedding came a July wedding shower for Maryann. Melane picked an outdoor venue at Fox Hopyard in East Haddam.


“The planning was thought of randomly, as the weeks went by. I would focus on an idea, purchase everything to complete the look I envisioned. Pack it away in a box and on to the next idea. Websites ETSY and Zazzie became my best friends” noted Melane.


And she said, Laurie was ready and willing to pitch in. The theme for both Maryann’s wedding shower and wedding was nautical so Melane made certain every detail that could be ~ was nautical !


Beautiful Michelle opens gifts at her baby shower for Thomas III, planned by her mother Melane.

Soon enough the happiness surrounding the wedding plans was dovetailed with delight at the news that Maryann’s sister, Michelle (Melane’s oldest daughter), and her Tom, were expecting their first child. Held at Angelico’s Lakehouse Restaurant in East Hampton, Melane set out to give Michelle the perfect baby shower spotlighting her love of reading and books


Michelle’s baby shower focused on her love of reading and books. Melane put together an entire corner dedicated to Dr. Suess.

Books, books, books were everywhere!

Books, books, books were everywhere. Melane created an entire corner dedicated to Dr. Seuss complimented by goodies galore.


“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! ” from ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go!’


“I had so much fun with this theme,” Melane added.


She also enlisted help from Michelle’s friends and family to create table center pieces using their favorite children’s books: Erica ~ Good Night Moon; Haley ~ The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Kathleen and Maureen ~ Madeline; Liz and Brooke ~ Beatrix Potter; Toni ~ Alice in Wonderland; and Coleen ~ Winnie the Pooh.

A special moment ~ having worked together to help their children realize a dream wedding, Melane and Laurie held hands during the ceremony with their husbands by their sides, Mike and Karl.



Just a month later on September 30, 2017, it was wedding bells time for Maryann and Tom. After all the planning and collaboration, it was amazing! A bonding experience for the families.


The excitement, however, was far from over. Only three days after the wedding,  Michelle gave birth to Thomas III, the first grandchild for Melane and her husband Mike. Sheer joy! A lovely baptism ceremony and baptism reception took place a few months later.






Shown at Maryann’s baby shower, Laurie has discovered a new talent, making chocolates.


Laurie is President/CEO of LmCzar, Educational Compliance Services. 




It was around the time that so many events were happening with the families that Laurie discovered a hidden talent. Motivated, she recalled, by a desire to do something special. She is now a chocolate-maker ~ a chocolatier ~ for family and friends.


Remembering her initial foray into making the chocolate treats, Laurie said, “I knew there would be a lot of desserts there and I wanted to do something different. I really enjoy doing it.”

For Thomas III’s the baptism.

Courtesy photo ~ Lauren and Maryann


Since then, using molds, she has custom designed chocolates to fit various occasions, including for her daughter Lauren, a baptism for Thomas III, for a graduation at the request of a friend, and most recently for Maryann’s baby shower. 



After two years of event planning, the latest event, the shower Melane planned for Maryann was so eloquent and well-organized that staff at Water’s Edge were commenting about it. “The most eloquent, nicest shower I’ve seen here,” said one staff member. It all went off without a hitch. 


It has been an emotional roller-coaster … so life changing! The special relationships I have with Michelle and Maryann are unique. The only thing I wish for is, for everyday they wake up in the morning, that they are loved, happy and at peace,” said Melane.


Courtesy photo ~ Water’s Edge Westbrook, CT

Baby Bingo



The buffet

Building blocks

Leave a message; guess the number of kisses


AHOY! It’s a boy.



Continuing the nautical theme ~ cupcake table







Thomas III

(Writer’s note: The Bennett, Larned and Czarzasty families are related.)