NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

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.

Mindfulness, Stretch, Walk For Your Health

Posted on February 10, 2019

Be Mindful - Brew A Cup of Tea.

Photo by Jacqueline Bennett Dog Lane Cafe Storrs, Ct ~ Brew a cup of tea for mindfulness


By Jacqueline Bennett


Mindfulness is the new trend but what does it mean? Essentially it is about staying in the moment. Focus on simple tasks and send out positive energy to calm the mind rather than letting your thoughts race in a zillion different directions ~ which can be mentally and emotionally taxing.


Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as brewing a cup of tea says Focus on each step of the process along the way ~ thus allowing the mind to take a mental break.


A couple more simple suggestions offered for practicing mindfulness, wish someone happiness and pause to look up at the stars. Wishing someone happiness is a philosophy said to have been promoted by Chade Meng Tan  ~ “Throughout the day, randomly wish for someone to be happy.” This might be someone you love, someone you are worried about, someone from the past, anyone.


Looking upward is another way to practice mindfulness. Headed for work ~ pause and look up, at the computer ~ pause and look up, taking out the trash ~ pause and look up, walking the dog ~ paws (ha!) and look up at the sky or the stars.


Bringing a moment of peace to your life on a daily basis may well have a cumulative effect. Certainly it cannot hurt to give mindfulness a try.


Stretching notes can have multiple benefits. Done on a regular basis, stretching can increase flexibility and range of motion which can enhance your ability to do other physical activities. (Easy stretching is my preference.)


Stretching can also help to heal and prevent pain by increasing blood flow to the muscles thus reducing muscle soreness and making recovery easier. It can help improve posture by encouraging proper muscular skeletal alignment. Tight muscles it was pointed out as well, can result in strain, even headaches. To be beneficial stretching needs to be done in proper form, information which is available online.


Of course, walking remains one of the best activities for the health conscious. What better time to add some steps to your day than in February, the American Heart Association’s Heart Health Month. As I have stated in previous posts ~ walk until your heart is content!


Why not stretch a bit before and after walking & bring mindfulness to your movements? A happy  health ‘hattrick’.


**Always check with a physician before starting any new exercise.

Arctic Blast Crosses Connecticut

Posted on January 31, 2019

Squalls created near and total whiteouts on January 30 in CT, worse than these snowy conditions seen here from years past.


By Jacqueline Bennett


An Arctic blast has sweep Connectcut with temperatures expected to drop to 24 degrees below zero in parts of the state this morning, January 31. Residents who need to go outside, are being warned to take precautions ~ covering the skin which can freeze quickly in such extreme cold.


Last evening intense snow squalls created near and total white-out conditions, accompanied by whipping winds leaving zero visibility along the way. The squalls arrived in the Greater Hartford area between 5:30-6 p.m. creating a blizzard-like effect. They lasted only minutes as they passed through, followed by calm. 


Anyone who has ever been caught in a snow squall knows it can be scary. Squalls come on fast as heavy snow whirls at a rapid speed making visibility nearly impossible. Fortunately weather reports were on the nose in predicting the oncoming squalls for yesterday giving CT residents time to prepare here.


Meanwhile, in Penn and New York multi vehicle pile-ups and injuries were reported. Severe cold is consuming a wide band of regions across the United States. The polar vortex has brought even more extreme sub-zero temperatures to the Mid-West, 60 degrees below in places. The Super Bowl is slated for February 3 in Atlanta, Georgia, where a cold snap has also hit.

Toss Kindness Like Confetti ~ How to Succeed With New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on January 7, 2019



Live in the moment ~ appreciate the here & now ~ the beauty around you.. Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


By Jacqueline Bennett


There is something about the start of a new year that feels as if it comes with a new lease on life  ~ the perfect time to resolve to change bad habits, accomplish goals and generally make life improvements. The fact that New Year’s resolutions are talked and written about extensively is an indicator that change/self-improvement is important to many people.


Yet it is no secret that it is common to fall short of that resolve. Experts say the best way to stay on track is to keep it simple.


Here are a few tips from the American Psychological Association to help meet success with resolutions:


  •  Start small ~ make resolutions that you can keep. For example – rather than overhauling your entire menu, strive to eat more vegetables and fewer sweets.

    Eat more vegetables 

  • Be more active

    Change one behavior at a time. It is amazing what a difference one small change can make ~ not necessarily aiming to run a marathon but instead resolve to walk at least 10 minutes every day or simply to be more active, move about more in your space. One small change can have a rippling effect on a journey to bigger changes.

  • Don’t beat yourself up over a misstep. Perfection is unattainable notes the APA. Do not give up if you go off track ~ keep going.
  • Talk about your resolutions and ask for support – these ideas are both recommended by the APA, such as support groups. I believe that needs to be a personal decision. Some people do better with quiet resolve. If you finally sign up for that yoga class, you have the option of discussing your self-improvement objective, or keeping it to yourself.

“It is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important.” ~ APA. The APA adds if you feel professional advise might help – seek it.


Remember, change does not always come easily. It can be hard work to choose an apple for a snack not a cookie or to hold your tongue in a situation where previously you would have verbalized a zinger.


May I suggest a resolution ~ live more in the moment. Appreciate the here and now, the happiness that comes from living each day and appreciation of the people in your life.


Resolutions, I believe, are more palatable to the soul when they include doing something for others, as well as yourself. Along with whatever else you have in mind to improve your life in the new year, how about adding a resolution to “toss kindness like confetti” ? Just one act of kindness from each of us, each day, has the power to improve the world around us, and thus improve our own lives.