NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

First Time Peach Picking at Irish Bend Orchard

Posted on September 7, 2020

By Jacqueline Bennett


With Labor Day Weekend upon us and the fairs held this time of year cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to do something a little special. My first time peach picking at Irish Bend Orchard in Somers, CT turned out to be a great choice..



The folks who run Irish Bend couldn’t have been more pleasant and it was fun to try a new adventure. As well, the customers and staff were following the current masks and social distancing protocols.¬†

I definitely got my steps in today because pickers follow the orange flags to the rear, west side of the orchard. On this day three types of peaches were ripe for the picking with golden Messinas in abundance and it was the last day for white peaches – better known as Sugar Giant. I figured I knew how to pick peaches from watching so many Hallmark movies, so I enlisted the gentle twist approach. It is easy to understand why farmers need to hire pickers when their crops are ripe and ready – it is a big job. Fun for a day trip but it cannot be easy to fill up bag after bag, after basket.




¬† ¬† ¬† Judiciously picking about a dozen, I figured¬† I had plenty to put up a batch of my Wicked Girl jam – this will be another first for me – peach jam.¬† In addition to local honey and other fresh from garden items, they sell peach jam at Irish Bend Orchard, however, I started making my own Wicked Girl jams about two years ago, in that, what was available on the store shelves was too sweet for my taste buds. I keep my recipes pretty simple and thus far I have gotten positive feedback. Also selected a few ears of corn on the cob and a couple nice looking tomatoes from their farm stand. Whenever possible I like to support our Connecticut farmers. Irish Bend’s new hours are Fri, Sat, Sun 9-5.


All in all, today’s adventure was just peachy !

On Foot Along Two of the the Nation’s Most “Amazingly Scenic” Trails

Posted on August 25, 2020

I adore White Birch trees !

Loop Trail and Ledge Trail.

By Jacqueline Bennett


USA Today has named two trails in New England as among the top ten “amazingly scenic” in the country. It turns out I have short-hiked one – a portion of the Appalachian Trail that goes through October Mountain State Forest in Lee, Massachusetts and have visited Acadia National P:ark in Maine, home to the second, the Parkman Trail.


Admittedly, notions come over me from time to time and two years ago I decided I wanted to do something out of the ordinary specifically on October 1. Perusing online maps I discovered a place called
October Mountain in Lee, Massachusetts.”Perfect” I thought, “October Mountain on October 1st “. And, easy driving distance from the Greater Hartford, CT area where I reside.

A family of walkers.


This mountain is foreboding. Upon arrival. one is greeted by heavy, dark forest and soon enough signs that alert visitors to black bears that roam the space Рhunting is allowed year round. YIKES ! I am what I describe as a walker/hiker Рrecreational at the most Рbut I do enjoy fancying myself  as more than just walking ever since I traversed some easy, low trails at the base of the White Mountains many moons ago. As well, as a teenager I visited Acadia  National P:ark with my family.


Lee Campgrounds are at October Mountain.

Alert – You are sharing this place with bears. Where is Daniel Boone?

Year round hunting notice.

P:ark ranger hut.

My sister Candy.


















Admittedly again, upon arrival at October Mountain I felt a pang of the “flight or fight syndrome” but worked through it to stay, get out of the RAV4 and make our way along a couple trails. The park was hosting a motocross competition that day and there were some other hikers about, including a family. The park ranger was in his hut and overall it was probably a relatively safe day to be on October Mountain – a name I adore.


Scenic, definitely. I am a lover of white birch trees and have a couple photo ops that were snapped of me peaking through white birch branches.


From the get-go, I was glad that we stayed. So neat to think I have actually hiked the Appalachaian – even if it was just a short trail or two. How great to have been on foot at October Mountain and Acadia National Park and to have each be part of a special recognition of America’s grand natural resources. To think I have been to both – right here in my beloved New England !

Windsor, CT’s Brown’s Harvest Hosts 3rd Annual Sunflower Festival

Posted on August 16, 2020

Brown’s Harvest in Windsor, CT hosting its 3rd annual Sunflower Festival the weekend of August 15th-16th photo by Jacqueline Bennett


Write-up & Photos By Jacqueline Bennett


Sunflowers, sunflowers everywhere ….¬† With so many events cancelled due to the COVID pandemic , here’s one that is still on ~ the 3rd Annual Sunflower Festival at Brown’s Harvest in Windsor Connecticut. It ran two weekends, including through 4 p.m. today ~ Sunday, August 16th.. Tickets are available upon arrival.


Brown’s Harvest is a fourth generation farm that soon enough will have pumpkins galore on hand but presently they are bringing ‘sunshine’ to those who stop by to see multiple variations of sunflowers they planted. At $5 for the younger ones and $17 for adults you can venture into the sunflower field and of course bring one home. Everywhere one looks the sunflower motif can be seen and after months of cloistering indoors it seems so nice to be outside enjoying such an uplifting sight. Per requirement of Connecticut Gov. Lamont, visitors are required to wear masks but they can be momentarily slipped off for photo ops. Speaking of which, for professional photo opportunities such as wedding pics, a site fee is being charged..


In addition to the field of sunflowers, hay rides are available. As well there is live music, food trucks, vendors and local artists have some interesting sunflower sculptures to view.




Gradual Reopening on Cape Cod Amid COVID

Posted on June 3, 2020

Me, a previous summer РChatham, Cape Cod. 

By Jacqueline Bennett


For those of us who adore Cape Cod and typically vacation there each summer, interest is keen about if and when we can make the trip to enjoy our favorite spots.  As of today June 3 2020, Massachusetts remains in Phase I of reopening following the COVID-19 shutdowns that have been in place across the nation, however, Phase II is just days away of what is a gradual four-phase plan.


Beaches have been open right along but parking lots only reopened on Memorial Day Weekend with more limited parking allowed. If social distancing is not possible, face masks must be worn unless swimming. Don’t assume lifeguards will be on duty and don’t expect to use restrooms, changing rooms or showers just yet. Beach wheelchairs are also not available at the moment according to Cape Days. Beach volleyball, Bocce or other organized sports are not allowed at this time.¬†


“The earliest” lodging will be available is June 8. As for your favorite restaurants – call ahead to see if they offer take-out or have outdoor seating. The Cape Cod Times is reporting that some restaurants have opted to close before the phasing in of reopening the state. Two notables in Hyannis, Dockside and Roadhouse Cafe. Restaurant owners are welcoming news this week that restaurants may skip the traditional lengthy process of getting permits from the alcohol commission and instead get licensing from local municipalities.¬†


As for events, again call ahead or check websites. A couple that sound appealing –¬† if it materializes, 35th Annual Citizens Bank Pops By the Sea on the Hyannis Town Green a fundraiser for the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, August 9, $25 & up admission. Here’s something at the opposite end of the highbrow cultural tangent – “Hooker’s Ball”.¬† Bet that name got your attention, it sure caught mine. The Cape Cod Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance will host it’s 19th annual as a virtual event – on August 1 in Chatham. All that’s needed is a Smart Phone or computer check their website for cost. Okay, it might be more fun to attend the real thing – hopefully – next summer. If you are a lighthouse lover, most Cape lighthouses are closed until further notice but still viewable from the exterior. What about the famous land & sea Duckmobiles? According to their website, they are closed for 2020.¬†


The Times is describing the COVID-19 summer on The Cape as a “muted summer.” Nonetheless, for me even a muted summer on Cape Cod is better than nothing.



*Check out the MY VIEW column I wrote for the Cape Cod Times published May 29 ” The Magic of ‘The Cape’ Will Prevail Over Temporary Inconvenience”.

Is Scrod Even A Fish? On a Memorial Day Weekend Quest for Low- Fat Foods

Posted on May 23, 2020

Scrod – a great low-fat choice.

By Jacqueline Bennett


With Memorial Day Weekend upon us and due to my own health considerations, I refreshed my memory researching low-fat foods and found a favorite of mine at the top of the list – scrod. There is disagreement, particularly in New England, as to whether or not schrod or scrod is a fish at all or merely an acronym begun by the Parker House in Boston, MA. standing for ‘select catch received of the day’ ?


As such, scrod can be cod, haddock or other white fish. That certainly would have been news to me back when I first ordered scrod which has become one of the dishes I most enjoy.¬†For that first scrod dinner, I was out to eat with Aunt June who was my father’s sister, my parents, my sister Candy and niece Debbie at a fine restaurant in the Boston suburb where my aunt lived at the time – if I have written about this before please indulge me the repetition.


Were one to ask what Aunt June liked making best for dinner, the answer would be reservations! HA ! Although she was actually a good cook, the kitchen was far from the place she wanted to be. We spent a lot of time with Aunt June in Stoneham, thus Dad or Aunt June treated us to many a meal at lovely restaurants in the area. It was dining in those Boston-area restaurants that I developed my taste for excellent seafood, baked stuff shrimp, shrimp scampi, hot lobster served with salad topped with light dressing and,or freshly steamed vegetables.


Turns out fish can be some of the healthiest food choices, lucky me. That said preparing them at home, they do not typically come out as good as when a professional chef does the deed. I have sufficiently digressed from the topic at hand Рchoosing low-fat foods for your health which can be especially challenging on holidays. 


Health experts suggest picking white lean fish, chicken breast,or for those times when nothing but a burger or steak will satisfy pick low- fat red meat trim it or buy it that way. If you are a soup person as am I – choose broth-based soups – that means for me switching from my beloved New England Clam Chowder made with milk to Manhattan or Rhode Island Clam Chowder.


Pick cruciferous veggies fresh or frozen to avoid salt such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips. There was much discussion of the value of consuming ancient grains which I will name here but I have not yet tried them – fargo, bulgur, spelt or quinoa. I’m thinking for now whole grains are a good choice yet white grain does digest more easily. Leafy greens are another good option spinach,¬†kale, collard greens and romaine lettuce – the latter I enjoy in a Caesar’s Salad.¬†


Beans and legumes are said to be a good low-fat option. Sweet potato. Mushrooms and garlic can add flavor to low-fat meal. Fruits are one of the best low-fat foods but if you have special digestion issues like GERD be careful to pick smooth fruits like blueberries or bananas. In various on-line sources Tart cherries, were singled out for rave reviews in that they are fat-free and ant–inflammatory.


Be careful about too much dairy. With Memorial Day being the unofficial start of summer  it can be tempting to order a milk shake. Think twice or three times before doing that. Instead reach for low-fat or skim milk, and both low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese. 


I hope this low-fat refresher helps make your holiday healthier and happier !

Look Forward – With Each Dawn Comes Hope for a Better Day

Posted on March 31, 2020



Photos by Jacqueline Bennett – Springtime in Connecticut

By Jacqueline Bennett


In the midst of trying times one must remember that with each new dawn comes hope for a better day. Take solace in what is ahead – the beautiful blossoms of springtime. I am so fortunate to have these blossoms – soon to be making an appearance – just outside my Connecticut home.


Not far from me, near the Hockanum River Hiking Trail, some trees already have small buds – nature’s promise of what’s ahead.


I’ve been thinking beyond this difficult space in time when the world is gripped by the coronavirus pandemic – thinking about some of my greatest joys in life, such as walking the beaches of Cape Cod in the early morning or late afternoon – West Yarmouth, Chatham, Hyannis. I enjoy when the air is warm enough to wear shorts but cool enough to put on an oversized sweater with them. I also adore watching the sunrise over Hyannis Harbor – so peaceful. Yet, knowing that the arrival and departures of the ferry boats is on the way.¬†¬†


I’m looking forward to walking and walking and walking the parks and beach boardwalks of Connecticut. And hot lobster rolls at Abbot’s in Noank and Lenny & Joe’s in Madison.¬† ¬† ¬†


When I was a student at UConn the horticulture department offered an elective course in flower arranging – a wonderful break from the intensity of core studies. Anyway, I love writing and photography but in the back of mind I thought too about opening a small floral shop. In trying times, why not take a few moments here & there to dream outside your box ? It’s amazing how it can make you smile and the calm it can bring.


Last but far from least, I’m looking forward to the seeing the joyful faces and child’s antics of my great nephews – almost – ages 2 and a half, and one, with the younger one’s baptism coming in June.¬†


Keep looking forward ……¬†

Adding Color with Lavender & African Violets

Posted on February 24, 2020

Arrangement of dried lavender.

African Violet

By Jacqueline Bennett


For some time I had my eye on a beautiful milk bottle vase. When I spotted fresh arrangements of dried lavender at a floral shop last week, I knew they would make ideal companions.


Even the sound of the word “lavender” is soothing. Thus, it makes sense that studies have shown essential lavender oils and lavender scent may reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and restlessness. Some studies suggest lavender is useful as an anti-septic and anti-inflammatory. *** However, lavender is not FDA approved for medicinal purposes ~ be sure to check with a physician about the use of any essential oils for health purposes! Lavender is also well-known as an ingredient in beauty products such as fragrance, shampoo, skin care. According to, lavender symbolizes purity, devotion, grace and calmness.


That noted, it is such a pretty herb/plant, visually pleasing. Aromatic lavender has a gentle scent and can add the perfect accent of soft COLOR to a space. At the moment, I have mine on the dining room table which is covered by a white lace tablecloth. With spring just around the corner, I’m looking forward to perusing Home Depot and Lowe’s nurseries for lavender plants. Among the most popular species of lavender are English & French, which vary in sprig size and longevity. Lavender farms make for a pleasant destination, there is one in Harwich up on The Cape (Cape Cod, MA) and one closer to home in Tolland, CT. , Lavender Hill Farm.


Turning to one of my favorite sources, The Old Farmer’s Almanac (established in 1792) ~ African violets, a tropical plant, thrive in lower, indirect light. It is best to keep the soil slightly moist, watering this small houseplant with room temperature water, from the bottom. Online sources concur that humidity is “vital to the health of African Violets.” They do grow with white flowers but my preference is purple or blue for yet another pretty splash of COLOR in a space. African violets have fuzzy leaves and it is best to use a small soft brush for dusting. They are symbolic of beauty, pain & struggle, says Happy almost spring everyone …¬† ¬†


Happy National Bloody Mary Day

Posted on January 1, 2020

The Bloody Mary prepared at Water’s Edge in Westbrook, CT. Photo by Jacqueline Bennett

Photo & Write-Up by Jacqueline Bennett


In the spirit of starting 2020 off on a light note, let me wish everyone “Happy National Bloody Mary Day ! ” Well-known as a hangover cure, what better time to celebrate The Bloody Mary than January 1, the morning after New Year’s Eve.


The Bloody Mary “made its debut” at the Paris Ritz Hotel in 1921. It was said to be a concoction put together by bartender Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot, according to Food & Drink America: “Full Course” Encyclopedia, notes National Day Calendar. After Prohibition was lifted in America, Petiot brought his ~ now famous ~ drink to the King Cole Bar in New York.


Early on it was called a “Bucket of Blood” but eventuated to become The Bloody Mary, thought to have been named for either Petiot’s¬†girlfriend or Queen Mary Tudor.¬† As well, it was dubbed a “Red Snapper” which what you need to order at the King Cole Bar, a historic gathering place which still welcomes customers.¬†


Exactly how the ingredients meld to settle the stomach and sooth an aching head is for a chemist to explain. For the masses, it is enough to know after having had one too many on New Year’s Eve, a remedy is at hand.


These days almost anything can be part of a Bloody Mary recipe but to be true to the original ~ it must contain vodka and tomato juice. Typically, lemon juice is added along with Worcestershire, cayenne to be topped off with one’s choice of edible garnishes.

No Christmas Tree Shortage for Manchester Fire Department

Posted on December 21, 2019

Plenty of Christmas Trees at the Manchester, CT Fire Department shown Chad Hahn and Chief Dan Langer. Photos by Jacqueline Bennett

Story & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


Contrary to dire predictions of Christmas Tree shortages across the United States, in Manchester, Connecticut the local fire department has plenty.  The Manchester Fire Department 8th Utilities District, a volunteer department, will be selling trees until at least tomorrow ~ December 22 ~ and a good selection is still available.


Braving cold temperatures, Chief Dan Langer and Chad Hahn of the MFD, were on hand Saturday Dec. 21, manning the tree lot at 18 Main Street. Both said about a supposed tree shortage, the department had not felt the impact. However, they agreed sales this year were slower than usual, which each attributed to Thanksgiving coming late in November, plus some rainy weather last weekend. On more seasonable days, sales were swift.


Some days we sold 150 in a day, ” noted Hahn.


Said Langer, “We received one shipment of 705 trees, 700 regular size and five 10-12 feet tall. ”¬†


Typically, the department sells the trees as a fundraiser starting just before Thanksgiving to just before Christmas Рonly four days away. The ample supply of trees in Manchester, CT may have something to do with the department shipping them in from Vermont just as they did last year ~ Douglas Firs. Tree farmers in Vermont have maintained since at least 2017 that there was no shortage in the Green Mountain State. 


“Not here,” one farmer is quoted as having told


The Atlantic reported a looming Christmas Tree shortage two years ago citing cautionary words from the National Christmas Tree Association which pointed to the “Great Recession” ten years past, when the association said, many farmers lacked the money for large plantings. In that it commonly tales ten years to grow a Christmas Tree, the NCTA predicted a shortage was likely on tap or just around the bend. The prediction was picked up by major news outlets and reported this season.



On Saturday afternoon, Langer and Hahn echoed the sentiments of the Vermont tree farmers. Nonetheless, Hahn said one customer told him of driving up to Connecticut from the New York area to avoid prices as high as $1,100 -$1,200 for a tree.


I had never heard of that, ” he said.


Clearly, it was worth the drive because the MFD trees are going for $40. The handful of larger ones which are already sold were priced a bit higher. The fundraiser pays for the department’s social budget which covers costs such as department donations to the Manchester High School Scholarship Fund, the annual Christmas party and Memorial Day picnic. The department’s operational budget is funded by taxpayers.


If you are still on the hunt for the perfect Christmas Tree you may be in luck. By the way, the MFD lot is a very pretty Christmas Tree Lot. Adds Hahn, an even nicer sight when the lights go on at dusk.

“And so was the Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston …

Posted on November 17, 2019

Stockbridge MA in the Berkshires ~ photo by Jacqueline Bennett


By Jacqueline Bennett


As Stockbridge, Massachusetts, tucked sweetly in the Berkshires mountains, prepares for its annual celebration of Norman Rockwell fame ~ made iconic by the American illustrator’s depiction of the Main Street at Christmastime ~ my thoughts drift to another iconic tale of Stockbridge. The village is a touchpoint in the James Taylor classic “Sweet Baby James”¬†


Now the first of December was covered with snow And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. Lord, the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frostin’. With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go ….


Perhaps it is the lullaby melody or having been young when that song was young but for me, it is bittersweet. Whatever Taylor had in mind when he penned his lyrics ~ the beauty of lyric and music is that it takes on personal meaning for the listener. To me, these moving, perfectly descriptive lyrics speak to the uncertainty of what’s ahead, joyful though it may be, amidst the beauty and tentativeness of the present moment. When James Taylor wrote that song, inspired by the birth of his namesake nephew, Taylor’s star was rising. Yet he was a young songwriter/musician who could not possibly have known the success that awaited him.¬†


Certainly we have all experienced moments where we can feel the ripeness of the future. Nonetheless we know that means what has been extraordinary about the present phase of life is slipping away and we already feel nostalgic for what will never come again ~ ” With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to to go …¬† ¬†


As you travel the roads of your life this holiday season, I hope you do feel ripeness in the future but also ~ breathe ~ and take in the beauty of these moments that will never come again.