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NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

New England Patriots Make Magic – Magician in the House, Yes Really

Posted on January 22, 2017

By Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com033

 

(Magic: Use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible; a special, exciting quality that makes something or someone different and better than others – Cambridge English Dictionary)

 

Fans will be hoping for a little more magic when Hall of Fame-bound New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Head Coach Bill Belichick and an array of talented receivers enter Gillette Stadium tonight in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Fans will be hoping Brady’s and Belichick’s seemingly special powers beat the Steelers in the AFC title game and once again bring the Pats to the Super Bowl. For more than a decade Brady and Belichick have provided New England Patriots fans with magical memories, including multiple Super Bowl championships setting them apart as better than all the rest.

 

Now, abstract Patriots magic has become real.  The Patriots have hired a magician – yes an actual magician.

 

John Logan is the New England Patriots staff magician, profiled in a piece written by Ryan Hannable titled, “You are Reading This Correctly: The Patriots Have a Team Magician Here’s the Story” posted on http://www.weei.com January 9, 2017. After being graduated from Bryant University in May, 2016, Logan applied for a job with the Pats as a digital content associate. Researched by the Pats organization Logan was quickly hired, however, he was asked to do more.

 

Logan grew up in Hanover, according to Hannable’s article, studied entrepreneurship, marketing and communications in college, appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and has written two books – “The Perfect Illusion: Life” and “The Magic Behind Success: What Business Leaders Can Learn from Entertainers Regarding Creativity”, the latter was turned into a documentary. At the request of the Pats organization, Logan is putting together a weekly video series called “Magic Moments” in which he performs magic tricks for interested players the likes of Martellus Bennett, Shaq Mason, Matt Lengel and Malcolm Butler. In one segment, Logan even guessed defensive back Justin Coleman’s first kiss. Reportedly, Brady’s take on the whole magician stint is that it’s “pretty cool.” Hum….. wonder if Tom Terrific remembers his first kiss?

 

Thus far, 12 episodes of “Magic Moments” have been recorded. They can be viewed on http://www.patriots.com with a new one posted each Friday. Logan says football is the priority but that he sees his tricks as a stress reliever and as motivational.

 

“Obviously football is first but I think it’s a nice stress reliever and my theory on magic is I perform to prove that impossible is just a word. That’s my slogan: impossible is just a word.” Logan was quoted as saying by Hannable.

 

Different – yes. However, Patriots fans (recently voted number one in the NFL) would likely agree it is not different for team Patriots to expand the boundaries of what is possible, to create magic on the playing field. A few hours from now Pats fans will find out if that ole’ Brady/Belichick magic is in the air – and, if the game will be charmed by a few magical New England snowflakes.

Inheriting the Dream – Simsbury Honors Martin Luther King Day

Posted on January 17, 2017

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The 7th Annual MLK Day in Simsbury Celebration was held at First Church in Simsbury, Connecticut January 16, 2017 – the Henry James Memorial Select Choir performs.

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State Representative John Hampton and vocalist Jolie Rocke Brown join hands to sing.

 

 

 

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

Inside the Simsbury, Connecticut church where a young Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice stood out, town leaders spoke of pride in their place in American history. People filled the pews flowing upstairs into the balconies at the First Church of Christ Monday, January 16, for the 7th Annual MLK Day in Simsbury Celebration.

First Selectman Lisa Heavner.

Simsbury, Connecticut’s First Selectman Lisa Heavner.

 

“A great man once graced Simsbury with his presence,” said First Selectman Lisa Heavner.

 

First Church of Christ Pastor the Rev. George Harris recounted a story, by now well-known, about Martin Luther King Jr. working on a Simsbury tobacco farm in the summers of 1944 and 1947 to earn money to attend Morehead College. While attending a Sunday service at First Church with other young black men working on the farm King’s voice was said to have resonated as parishioners sang hymns, noted Harris. After the service, King was approached and welcomed by the pastor at the time.

 

First Church of Christ in Simsbury, CT.

First Church of Christ in Simsbury, Connecticut.

“What story will be told about us 70 years from now and will it make us proud?” Harris said.

 

Differing so immensely from life in the era of the segregated South, it was King’s experience of social inclusion and being welcomed in Simsbury that helped to shape his vision for his life – his calling – as evidenced by recollections later written by King, noted State Representative John Hampton. King’s time in Simsbury “crystallized” for him, what he wanted to do with his life said Hampton, who chairs the MLK Day in Simsbury Celebration Committee.

 

Keynote speaker Greg Jones.

Keynote Speaker Greg Jones.

Keynote speaker Greg Jones reflected upon “The Responsibility of Inheriting the Dream.” The founder and chairman of the Legacy Foundation of Hartford, a venture philanthropy focused on addressing disparities in education and health, Jones quoted the speech given by King during the March on Washington in 1963 when he talked about “the fierce urgency of now.” Jones said King’s words still apply today.

 

African-Americans who have benefited from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, in which King was instrumental, as well as supporters who believe in those ideals, have a responsibility to carry the movement forward or risk “bankrupting” it, he said.

 

Jones fought back tears recalling an incident in his hometown when he was a child, which came to be called the “Orangeburg Massacre.” Inspired by King, 200 African-American students from South Carolina State University on February 8, 1968 in Orangeburg, South Carolina, sought to end racial segregation at a local bowling alley. Their efforts were met by South Carolina Highway Patrol officers.

 

“Three students were killed and 27 injured. It was one of the deadliest, bloodiest shootings by authorities on a college campus,” said Jones as he regained his composure, “I was just a kid but it is brandished in my memory forever.”

 

“We do not want to go back to the 1960’s,” said Jones.

 

Action is the answer, he continued. It is all right to see colors, “we all see colors”, but the key is to respect all colors, said Jones. And action can run the gamut in everyday life from speaking out against injustice to simple kindnesses shown to others – saying hello, holding a door – each can make a world of difference, he added.

 

Musical selections were offered by Jolie Rocke Brown, a soprano who has a long list of credits such as singing at Canegie Weill Recital Hall and with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. She was introduced by her friend, Angela Griffin, Director, Simsbury Public Schools Music & Performing Arts. From the town’s middle school, the Henry James Memorial Select choir sang “Sit Down Servant” under the direction of Scott Semanski and the Simsbury Intonations Chorus performed led by Greg Babal, director.

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Jolie Rocke Brown.

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Henry James Memorial Select Choir under the direction of Scott Semanski, choral director.

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The Simsbury Intonations Chorus, Greg Babal, director.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the ceremony closed, many locked hands. Everyone was asked to sing, “We Shall Overcome.”

Angela Griffin and T. J. Donohue share a hymn book and sing together "We Shall Overcome."

Angela Griffin and T. J. Donohue .

A mother and daughter join in.

Mother and daughter.

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Locking hands in song, “We Shall Overcome.”

 

 

 

 

 

Destination: Panera Bread Cafe Newly Opened in South Windsor, CT

Posted on January 13, 2017

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South Windsor, Connecticut.

Write-Up & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

It has become tradition for my sisters and me to celebrate the January 12 anniversary of our mother’s birthday by picking a restaurant where we meet for lunch on that day. This year we could not think of a more perfect spot than the new Panera Bread Cafe in our South Windsor, Connecticut ‘neighborhood’ where we added to the celebration by using Christmas gift cards to Panera from our nieces Katie and Sofia.

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Located on the edge of Evergreen Walk along Buckland Road, this is a busy place. A few features set it apart from other Panera cafes that I have been to, such as a popular drive thru window, self-ordering kioshs, an inside pick-up window and rapid pick-up cubbies. A fireplace separates two interior dining areas.

 

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Self-ordering kioshes.

Rapid pick-up cubbies.

Rapid pick-up cubbies.

A fireplace separates two dining areas.

A fireplace separates two dining areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Panera motto is “100 percent of our food is 100 percent clean.” On this day high marks for taste were given to their Roasted Turkey, Apple & Cheddar sandwich. Served on Whole Grain Cranberry Walnut bread with roasted turkey “raised without antibiotics”, Vermont white cheddar – oh that Vermont white cheddar – “freshly made” apple and cabbage slaw with a hint of arugula and mustard horseradish. The Pick Two combo comes with one’s choice of a half sandwich and either soup or salad. Both the Bistro French Onion soup and Seasonal Greens Salad tossed with reduced -fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing, also got high marks.

 

015In that this luncheon was a birthday party of sorts, we decided to splurge and each ordered a dessert item. A nationwide chain, Panera is well known for its baked goods. A few bites of the Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake for me & the rest came home in the ever so cute mini bakery box in which it was served; and a brownie and raspberry almond thumbprint cookie for my sisters. All were thoroughly enjoyed!

 

In addition I want to mention the pleasant young women taking orders, Marie, and Tami who patiently answered questions about ingredients in the crumb cake and whether or not the thumbprint cookie had actual almonds or almond flavoring. She even checked the Panera handbook. Large picture windows looking out onto the bustling Buckland Road is another part of the appeal of this cafe. I anticipate a return visit. Go to http://www.PaneraBread.com for more information about the menu.

 

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Thank you Katie! Thank you Sofia!

Sofia, then age 3, helps Mom.Nana open her birthday gifts in 2010.

Sofia  and my sister Candy help Mom/Nana open her birthday gifts at what Mom called “the big time” we held for her in 2010.

Myself and Katie holding Mom/Nana's hand.

Myself, and Katie holding Mom/Nana’s hand.

Sofia and Dixie play a game at Mom/Nana's birthday party.

Sofia and my sister Dixie play a game at Mom/Nana’s birthday party.

 

Happy Birthday Mom/Nana!

Diaco Firing Offers Opportunity To Pick Better Fit for UConn Football

Posted on December 27, 2016

Stadium

Photo by Jacqueline Bennett Pratt&Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, current home of UConn football.

By Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

The red light was flashing on my land line when I arrived home yesterday alerting me to a waiting message – “if you haven’t heard, Diaco has been fired.” ‘Diaco’ referring to Bob Diaco, head coach of University of Connecticut Football for the last three seasons. I would venture to guess text messages have been flying as fast as fingers can pound the keys and phone lines across the state have been burning up the “Diaco’s been fired” news.

 

Eagerly I awaited a report from Kevin Nathan of NBC30. Connecticut’s best broadcast sports journalist, I particularly wanted to hear his take on the firing. He was not on the 6:00 p.m. program but had sent word that according to a source, four candidates were under consideration for the job – including Randy Edsall, former head coach of the Huskies.

 

In addition to being a proud UConn alumna, I too am  a “former”  – a former UConn football season ticket holder. Although cost played a role in my dropping season tickets, it was not the only reason. Yet, I tried to attend a couple games per season to support the team which dwindled to attending just the homecoming game. This season, I did not even go to the homecoming game. Rain or shine, I am a firm believer in team loyalty. I still wear my UConn Football sweatshirt, and when they are available I watch the games on television. Paraphrasing a well known poem however,  – ‘there was no joy in Mudville.’

 

The last time I recall taking great joy in watching a UConn football game, Dan Orlovsky was quarterback. At 6′ 4″ with a precision throwing arm he was easy to spot from our seats to the left of the scoreboard. Orlovsky’s dedication to Connecticut is legendary. A blue chip player out of Shelton who passed up chances to play high profile competitive football with established college programs in order to help UConn build its football program under Edsall’s tutelage. Having held season tickets since the days of Memorial Stadium on the Storrs campus, we continued buying four season tickets for a number years.

 

I must add the fun that came with standing near the goal posts at Memorial Stadium is gone and the fun of the drive to campus is gone. The noise level has become increasingly unbearable in Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, current home to UConn football. I understand background music that is played needs to appeal to the present day student body but would it spoil some vast eternal plan to also remember the alumni in attendance.

 

Back to Orlovsky. He certainly did his part time in a what was supposed to represent a promise of growth and prominence on the Husky gridiron, a sport overshadowed by the tremendous success of UConn men’s and women’s basketball and their multiple national championship titles.

 

Something went awry.  Reports surfaced of friction between Edsall and the athletic director at the time. Reports surfaced too of Edsall admonishing Connecticut fans for not being aware of football customs apparently entrenched in other regions. Please excuse us here in New England for taking time away from football frenzy to read novels, study, turn out for library and historical society presentations, visit museums and attend the theater. Edsall brought the team to a bowl game then infamously departed on a plane immediately afterwards to take a head coaching position in Maryland – without informing his players in person before he flew the coop.

 

Paul Pasqualoni was hired next. Older, Pasqualoni was well-respected with experience coaching at the NFL level and close ties to high school coaches in Connecticut. Unfortunately, he did not seem to click with the UConn players. After Pasqualoni was let go, T.J.Weist was hired as an interim.

 

Enter Diaco. Oh my. Diaco, 43, comes across as a well intentioned guy. A photo still posted on the university website shows a happy looking Diaco with his wife and three children when he was hired. From day one however, his over-the-top public statements were clearly a misfit for Connecticut. I do not simply mean the University of Connecticut. I mean the state of Connecticut, which although progressive in the political arena is collectively conservative in manner. Diaco’s demeanor at press conferences became uncomfortable to see as a viewer, and became the subject of eye rolls when sports reports were delivered. Then came the embarrassment of the so-called civil rivalry trophy competition Diaco orchestrated with another university. The opposing team won that trophy this season but departed without bothering to pick it up leaving the university with “egg on the face.”

 

As this season went on, fewer and fewer people showed up at Rentschler for the games. Finally, it was acknowledged that the fan base had been lost. During an interview with WTIC radio after Diaco’s firing, David Benedict, the new athletic director, invited former supporters back to the fold noting efforts are underway to improve.

 

In three seasons under Diaco, UConn had a 11-26 record. This season the Huskies were 3-9 with consecutive, devastating losses and what was described as the worse offensive line record in the country. A young, upcoming quarterback was relieved of his duties.

 

It is hard to hear of someone losing a job. Nonetheless, a change offers an opportunity for UConn to find a better fit for the head coach spot and the football program. UConn posted a press release on the university website with a statement from Benedict which reads, ” I believe a new leader for our program and student-athletes is needed to build long-term success.”

 

Diaco was quoted in the same press release as saying the firing is not how he hoped things would go but he expressed his gratitude for his time at UConn. Because his termination will not happen in 2016 and is not official until January 2, 2017, the university will reportedly save about $1.5 million in buy-out costs from the contract renewed with Diaco in May. UConn will reportedly be required instead to pay Diaco a $3.4 million buy-out.

 

Along the way, Edsall has expressed regret over the way he left UConn. He brought the program success and was apparently well-regarded by his UConn recruits, among them Orlovsky. And after all, under the stewardship of Gov. Dan Malloy, Connecticut has proclaimed itself as a state of “second chances”. That refers to convicted criminals but a second chance state is a second chance state.

 

Ironically, among my crowd we had speculated things went so poorly for UConn football this season that the university might seek to bring Edsall back. Three other potential candidates were mentioned last evening by NBC30. The station reported a new head coach would likely be named within 48 hours. As soon as the news breaks, I am sure the red light will be flashing on my phone

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12/29/2016 Revision & Update: Randy Edsall has been brought back as head coach of UConn Football – a press conference announcing his return is slated for Rentschler Friday, Dec. 30 at 11 a.m. 

Christmas Baking & Oranges in Stockings

Posted on December 24, 2016

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Homemade gingerbread powdered with confectioners sugar.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

Food is an integral part of Christmas and baking can be a most satisfying aspect of the season. Long hours spent peeling, measuring and  mixing are quite worthwhile when the finished product is eagerly anticipated by family and friends.

 

004016A sight that heralds the holiday for me is loaves of banana bread fresh out of the oven, later wrapped in foil for delivery. This isn’t just any banana bread, it is a family baking tradition being carried on by my sister Candy made from our mother Cecelia’s recipe which was handed down to her from our grandmother Delia. It is tricky trying to achieve the precise flavor and consistency resulting from this recipe. Done right the taste is beyond compare.

 

006Homemade brownies were always made by my Aunt Emily at Christmas. Gingerbread 002powdered with confectioners sugar was another of my mother’s holiday favorites. This year I decided to try my hand at baking both. Part of the fun of Christmas baking is picking out tins decorated with reindeer, snowmen, and more or other containers that will make for a festive appearance when secured with curling ribbon for carrying to their destinations.

 

Candy's lattice crust apple pie.

Candy’s lattice crust apple pie.

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What would an American Christmas holiday be without homemade apple pie. Candy creates beautiful lattice crust apple pies using a Pillsbury recipe: 1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust – 6 cups thinly sliced & peeled six medium apples – three-fourths cup sugar- 2 TBS all-purpose flour – three-fourths tsp ground cinnamon – one eight tsp ground nutmeg – 1 TBS lemon juice – 2 TBS brown sugar – heat oven to 425 degrees F – place pie crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate – press firmly against side and bottom- in large bowl gently mix filling ingredients – spoon into crust-lined pie plate – top with crust and flute sides – bake 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown – cover edge of crust with 2-3 inch wide strips of foil after the first 15-20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Cool on cooling rack at least two hours before serving.  

 

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There is one food item that Christmas would be incomplete without; a seemingly simple piece of fruit. Youngsters have been finding oranges in the bottom of Christmas stockings for as long as most remember. It was a tradition in my family. It is uncertain when and where this popular custom began but it has continued. Some say it began in Europe with St. Nicholas according to thekitchn.com, others trace it back to the Great Depression of the 1930’s when fruit was scarce and truly was a treat; and still others maintain the segments of the orange are meant to represent the sharing of the season.

 

Whatever your traditions culinary or otherwise, Merry Christmas!

 

 

Successful Reuse of The Hilliard Mills – George Washington Would Be Proud

Posted on December 21, 2016

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Photos by Jacqueline Bennett December 2016.

Article & Photos By Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com021021

 

Another American presidential inauguration is but weeks away, this one for a billionaire able to afford the finest clothier. It is fascinating to think the woolen worn by George Washington at the country’s first inauguration in 1789 was made in a mill in Manchester, Connecticut – America’s oldest woolen mill site established in 1780.

 

The Hilliard Mills opened in 2006 as part of an ongoing effort in New England to repurpose once vibrant factories. The goal as stated on their website, is “to preserve one of Connecticut’s finest architectural and historical treasures.” According to a history of the site, circa 1780 it housed a woolen factory belonging to American industrialist Aaron Buckland – a name familiar to those who shop at the nearby modern day Buckland Hills Mall. It was at Buckland’s factory that the wool for the suit worn by Washington at his inauguration is said to have been produced, as well as, wool blankets for the soldiers during the War of 1812.

 

Once the “economic engine” of New England, old mills leftover from the heyday of the Industrial Revolution remain powerful visuals on the landscapes of virtually every Northeastern community. For too long these buildings stood as relics, vacant and deteriorating with broken windows, a metaphor for what some called New England’s broken manufacturing base.

 

No longer. A reuse movement that began in the 1970’s has gained steam. Having provided wages that clothed and fed working class Americans determined to make life better for the next generation, these sites are finding new purpose. And it has been noticed.

 

“Adaptive reuse of old buildings which began as a fad in the early 1970’s, has become an economic phenomenon with no sign of slowing in New England,” writes the Los Angles Times.

 

“Reuse” has become a golden term at local planning and zoning commission meetings in towns across Connecticut, and surely throughout the region. One might say overcoming challenges that can accompany reuse gives growing meaning to the phrase “Yankee Ingenuity.”

 

Retrofitting old factories often involves bringing them up to current building and environmental codes. In an article titled “Smart Growth/ Smart Energy” published on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts government site, it is further noted that reuse of old mills can require cooperation among state regulators, municipal officials, neighbors and financiers. Nonetheless, entire districts are being revitalized with old mills as the focal point. Creating more obstacles the article points out, often old factories were constructed along narrow roads and on floodplains – not surprising because of the need to be near rivers or brooks as a source of energy. In addition, the larger sizes of the mills mean multiple uses may be needed to utilize the space.

 

The Hilliard Mills, located at 640 and 642 Hilliard Street, sit across the road from the Hockanum River, offering a nice view with great aesthetic potential; a canoe and kayak race is held on the Hockanum each spring. Back in the 18th Century, named when Connecticut was still a colony, this body of water was known as Bigelow Brook and ‘Sawmill’ River. Surrounding the The Hillard Mills is a wooded area, keeping nature close at hand.

 

To date twenty-two tenants occupy The Hilliard Mills including Manchester PAL, Brown Sugar Catering and Silk City Music Factory – a recording studio. (Go to http://www.hilliardmills.com to learn more.) Turn at the intersection onto Adams Street to find another example of successful reuse of an old factory, the popular Adams Mill Restaurant. And, across town on the south side the Cheney Silk Mills have been converted into apartments. 

 

Each Christmas season, a simple set of holiday lights appear in a row of windows on the top floor of The Hilliard Mills. It is a pretty sight as twilight falls or into a winter evening. Philosophically speaking, even more – the lights serve as a beacon of the steadfast and innovative entrepreneurial spirit that helped build the nation, and today helps to sustain it. George Washington would be proud. 

‘Best Ever’ Hot Chocolate

Posted on December 13, 2016

011By Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com

 

In a scene from one of my favorite Hallmark movies, “The Christmas Shepard”, the two main characters fall in love while mixing homemade hot chocolate – a.k.a. cocoa – in a country kitchen. Sally, played by Teri Polo, grates blocks of dark chocolate while Mark, played by Martin Cummins, uses an exotic gadget to blend the resulting cocoa powder. A romance sparks.

 

Although I am not quite that dedicated when it comes to brewing up this cold weather delectable, I have been told I make a “delicious”, “best ever” hot chocolate. As much as I would like to take credit for having a magic touch when it comes to serving the ‘best ever’ homemade hot chocolate, the truth of it is – it’s rather easy and perfect to try today on National Cocoa Day.

 

‘Best Ever’ hot chocolate starts with the best ingredients. That includes Mountain Dairy Milk produced by the Stearns Family Farm in Storrs, Connecticut – I use 1 percent white milk. Some people like to make “cocoa” with Hersey’s Cocoa natural unsweetened powder and add sugar. I prefer pouring into a mug two tablespoons of Hershey’s Syrup per one and a half cups of milk.

 

009007 Keeping a close eye on the large sauce pan while heating the milk on the stove, when steam rises I know it’s ready. Be sure not to scorch the milk because that will alter the flavor. Stir continuously while gradually pouring the heated milk into a mug.

 

Next comes a big decision. Will it be marshmallows or whipped cream on top?  Here I used fat free whipped cream then sprinkled it with shaved pieces of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate. Allow a couple minutes for the drink to cool down before sipping.

 

Voila! So easy. ‘Best Ever’ Hot chocolate is a great way to warm up on a cold almost winter day.