NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

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 soul ~ 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 Potomoc 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.)

The Beauty of Dried Flowers

Posted on March 5, 2019


The beauty of dried flowers

By Jacqueline Bennett


The beauty of dried flowers is not only intrinsic in their visual appeal but exists through their longevity and versatility. The photo I snapped, seen to the right, is one of my favorite dried flower arrangements. Perhaps because it spotlights a vintage jug which belonged to my mother. I adore the unexpected simplicity of the arrangement and the natural colors. I am quite certain I will keep this arrangement with me forever.


A discernible secret revealed  ~ in some cases dried flowers can last “forever.” At least they can last for many, many years. Keep them so long as they are still “seen” and enjoyed, suggest online sources.


To some degree beautiful floral/dried flower design is the result of a knack. However, it is also taught even at the university level. My Alma Mater, the University of Connecticut offers a course called “Floral Art” through the horticulture department indicative of the importance of this kind of beauty to our surroundings. 


Seven commonly cited elements of floral design are : *proportion *scale *harmony *rhythm *balance *unity *emphasis.



Mixing arrangements of dried flowers with live flowers or placing them nearby in freestanding vases is a technique I sometimes use. In the photo to the left I mixed pussy willows with dark brown lotus pod stems and placed plants stems in separate vases.


Pressing flowers is a popular DIY project to create dried flowers used as bookmarks, potpourri, drawer fragrance or bath salts. However, lovely bunches of dried flowers for display can be found in craft stores, such as A.C. Moore and Joanne’s. 

Fresh Snowfall Belies Chuckles’ Early Spring Prediction

Posted on February 21, 2019


My Potter’s Bench awaiting the early arrival of spring – ha! Photo by Jacqueline Bennett


By Jacqueline Bennett


A fresh late February snowfall is not unusual in New England, however, on Ground Hog Day 2019 both Punxsutawney Phil, and Chuckles at the Lutz Chidren’s Museum here in Connecticut promised us an early spring. So what pray tell is this new white stuff all about?


Despite the century-old tradition of turning to a groundhog for a long-term weather report, these a.k.a. woodchucks that are of the marmot species – basically, large squirrels., have been accurate only 40 percent of the time, according to a CNN report. Nonetheless, thousands of spectators continue to turn out annually to witness the sleepy animal’s forecast in Punxsutawney, PA. In Manchester, CT, home to the Lutz and the state’s official groundhog, the mayor and other local dignitaries were present for the prediction.


How did it come to pass that a big ole squirrel is thought to hold the answer which certified meteorlogists are paid to know? The phenomenon is said to date back to ancient Christian times when people brought candles to services for winter blessings and somehow it evolved to include animals., says CNN.


No shadows were seen by Punxsutawney Phil or Chuckles meaning bye, bye winter. Only in theory this year, as across the country bitter cold and heavy snowstorms have been the trend. Another four to six inches of snow fell this morning for us with an icy mix. Warmer temperatures are expected by tomorrow, into the low 50s, likely to result in melting. Still, I wouldn’t pack away the wool sweaters and mittens yet ~ it appears the earliest spring will arrive in the Northern Hemisphere is, as the calendar states, March 20th.