September 23, 2014

Redhawk girls hoopsters nipped in first playoff round2/26/09

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Feb. 26, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

It was not a mighty Hurricane that the Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team ran into Tuesday night in White River Junction, but eighth-seeded Hartford High used a strong second half to eliminate the ninth-seeded Redhawks, 48-39.

“It was a tough game,” CVU coach Stan Williams said Wednesday morning. “They (Hartford) jumped out early and we could never get the lead.”

After trailing the Hurricanes 15-7 going into the second period, the Redhawks closed to within 20-19 by halftime.

“It was a one- to four-point game through most of the second half,” Williams said. “We would get to within a point, then Hartford would hit a big shot.”

CVU, hampered by chilly 11-for-52 shooting from the floor, could not engineer a serious run of points that might have gained momentum.

Hartford took advantage of necessary CVU fouls in the final minute to pull away.

Junior Allison Gannon and senior Renick Lalancette led CVU scorers with 13 points each.

It was the final appearance in the Red and White for forward Lalancette, guard Kate Bashaw and forward Becca Russ. The Redhawks ended the season with a 10-11 record.

Hartford (14-7), will meet top-seeded Bellows Free Academy (20-1) in the quarterfinal round Saturday in St. Albans.

 

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Girls hockey bumped from playoffs2/26/09

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Team already looking forward to next winter

Feb. 26, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The still youthful Champlain Valley Union High girls hockey team had a difficult trip to St. Albans on Saturday, but the outlook for next season appears to be very hopeful.

The hosts, fourth-seeded Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans, knocked the Redhawks out of the playoffs with a 5-0 quarterfinal victory, leaving CVU with a 10-9-2 season mark.

BFA led 2-0 into the final period, where it put the game away with three more scores. The Comets launched a total of 26 shots at CVU net minder Nicole Bonneau.

Coach Tom Ryan’s Redhawks had tied BFA 3-3 in an early season game at Collins-Perley Arena, but the Comets came to CVU’s home ice at Cairns Arena in South Burlington in early February and bopped the Hawks, 5-0.

On Monday night in Northfield, top-seeded Spaulding High of Barre nipped BFA 1-0 in a semifinal contest and will meet Essex High for the title on Friday night. Essex took out South Burlington in another Monday semifinal.

Ryan loses just three seniors from the current squad. They are co-captains Bonneau and defense specialist Amanda Kaminski, along with forward Marissa Parente.

Bonneau, who has been in the CVU goal mouth for the better part of four seasons has, by her dad’s count, more than 2,000 saves. She will, no doubt, be missed, as will Kaminski and Parente.

Leading the returnees will be the top scorers — sophomores Molly Howard, Amanda Armell and Alyx Rivard and juniors Maggie Ryan and Addie Peterson. Also back on defense will be junior Emmaleigh Loyer and sophomores Amanda Lacillade and Kate Ford.

In addition, junior KK Logan, a top scoring threat a season ago, should be back after missing the campaign while recovering from a field hockey knee injury this past autumn.

Others back and looking to have big seasons when they next lace up the skates are freshman Lexie Milliken, sophomores Gillian Shelley, Lizzy Betz and Hannah Johnson, along with juniors Chrissi Whitaker and Sasha Gunther.

 

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Rice defense freezes CVU

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Feb. 26, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Hotter than a desert heat wave and averaging better than 78 points in their previous three games — all wins — the Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team rolled into a Division 1 quarterfinal contest Saturday at Rice Memorial and got cooled down by an unrelenting, man-to-man defense.

 


    Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Chris Beaton (center), a Champlain Valley Union High junior, weaves through North Country Union’s defense during last Wednesday’s playoff game. The Redhawks wiped out North Country 91-49, but fell to Rice Memorial in the next round.

For the third straight year, the Green Knights knocked the Redhawks out of the playoffs. This time, the 59-46 victory put 20-2 Rice on track for an appearance Tuesday in the Division 1 semifinals against Rutland High at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium.

CVU finished with a 13-9 record and a positive final month.

Prior to Rice, coach Scott Bliss’ squad had three straight games of better than 50 percent shooting from the floor, highlighted by a lights out, roof-raising 91-49 home playoff triumph over North Country Union in which the team shot 60 percent, including an incredible 15 pops in 18 tries from beyond the arc.

That output gave Rice coach Paul Pecor some anxious moments as he planned for the quarterfinal match.

“I told our guys that they would have to guard their men outside, way outside,” said Pecor after the victory over CVU. “We didn’t want to face them (CVU) right away. They are a good team that can put up points in a hurry.”

Bliss had been concerned about the Rice defense and rightfully so.

“They (Rice) are a good team and have the best defense in the division,” Bliss said. “We had been putting up more than 70 points in our last three games and I was worried about getting as many as 40 against Rice.”

The Redhawks got 46, but they all came hard — as in 13-for-46 shooting. The Knights never trailed, but also never got out to where Pecor could feel comfortable, the coach no doubt remembering CVU’s ability to heat up from downtown and score in flurries.

Rice led 30-21 at the break and extended the lead to 47-31 before John Donnelly and Will Hurd (eight points off the bench) knocked down consecutive treys to take some of the air out of Hammond Gymnasium and pull the Hawks within 10 points with about 4:30 left.

But Rice then got to the foul line and ran off eight straight points to regain its edge.

“They are a good team,” sophomore starter Jake Donnelly said of Rice. “I was able to get to the basket a couple of times early, but then they collapsed back on defense and prevented it.”

Donnelly garnered 12 points, including a pair of threebies.

Old reliable senior John Donnelly bagged 20 points in the face of the furious Knights’ defense and hauled in 12 rebounds to lead scorers and board men.

Intent on stopping Rice’s 6-foot-6 Nick Meunier inside and smooth Jon Goldberg and Marcus Dutkiewicz outside, Bliss had his CVU defenders back off 6-foot-2 forward David Gagne, who had not hurt CVU badly in two previous games (Rice wins).

This time Gagne hit the open shots, hitting three from the right side in the first quarter en route to a 17-point day.

“We put it out for him to be the one to beat us, and he did,” said Bliss.

Goldberg was held to four points while Meunier got 18, eight in the final period.

Sharpshooting lifts Redhawks over North Country

In making their way to the quarterfinals, the Redhawks had a brush with murky Vermont high school hoop history in trouncing North Country and leaving the visitors shaking their heads at a rarely seen exhibition of superior marksmanship.

In crunching the Falcons for the second time in less than a week, CVU got 24 points from Ryan “Intercontinental” Poirier, 19 by Jake Donnelly, 16 from John Donnelly and 26 from the improving bench.

Poirier, who missed his first three-point shot and said he was off during warm-ups, then swished seven of his next nine tries from international waters. To round out the evening, Poirier also contributed five rebounds and three assists.

Jake Donnelly (4-for-4), John Donnelly (2-for-2), Chris Nigh (1-for-1) and Hurd (1-for-1) also cashed in from outer space.

The starters went a blistering 22-for-32 from the floor, while the reserves were only slightly cooler, a still notable 9-for-18.

BOX SCORES

Opening round

North Country Union (49)

Ingram 3-5 4-6 13, Pinard 6-14 1-3 13, Patten 2-3 0-0 4, Grondin 1-1 0-0 2, Batista 0-7 4-4 4, Royer 1-2 2-5 4, Medley 1-3 0-0 3, Kennison 1-7 0-0 2, Warner 1-3 0-0 2, Miller 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 17-47 11-18 49.

CVU (91)

Jesset 2-3 0-1 4, Ja. Donnelly 6-10 3-5 19, Jo. Donnelly 6-7 2-2 16, Poirier 7-10 3-3 24, Duke 1-2 0-0 2, Beaton 3-3 3-4 9, Nigh 1-3 0-0 3, Hurd 1-2 2-2 5, Gale 1-1 0-0 2, Rensch 1-3 1-2 3, Lambert 0-2 0-0 0, Leckerling 0-0 0-0 0, Clayton 2-3 0-0 4, Lambert 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 31-51 14-19 91.

NCU    8    14    19    8 – 49

CVU    22    20    31    18 – 91

Quarterfinals

CVU (46)

Jesset 0 0-2 0, Ja. Donnelly 4 2-3 12, Jo. Donnelly 5 7-9 20, Poirier 2 0-0 6, Nigh 0 0-0 0, Gale 0 0-0 0, Hurd 2 2-2 8, Beaton 0 0-0 0, Lambert 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 11-16 46.

Rice (59)

Goldberg 2 0-0 4, McCormick 4 0-5 8, Meunier 7 4-7 18, Gagne 5 7-8 17, Dutkiewicz 4 2-4 12, Hayes 0 0-0 0, Lovering 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 13-24 59.

CVU    8    13    6    19 – 46

Rice    17    13    10    19 – 59

 

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Final four beckons for boys hockey team2/26/09

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Feb. 26, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The second-seeded Champlain Valley Union High boys hockey team was speeding around the ice at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Arena on Wednesday night, hoping to put down sixth seeded Spaulding High of Barre for the second time in 10 days and advance to Saturday night’s Division 1 championship game.

 


    Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Champlain Valley Union High senior captain Ben Soll (right) works the offensive boards during the Redhawks’ 4-2 playoff win over Burlington High on Saturday.

On Feb. 14 in Barre, the 12-6-3 Redhawks laid a 5-0 licking on the 11-9-1 Crimson Tide. Spaulding had nipped the Hawks 2-1 at Cairns Arena earlier in the season.

Winner of the Wednesday’s contest, which was played after press deadline, got the ticket to Saturday night’s title test at Gutterson. The opponent will be the winner of Wednesday’s match between Essex High (13-6-2) and Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans (12-8-1).

As CVU coach Doug Hopper has warned, “The division is evenly matched this year.”

The Redhawks swarmed past seventh-seeded Burlington High 4-2 on Saturday at Cairns to earn the spot in the semifinals.

It was seniors who found the net, as Brady DeHayes scored twice while classmates Ben Soll and Sam Spencer also collected goals.

The Redhawks had their wings flapping early on, cruising around the Burlington cage in the first eight minutes of the game, but only DeHayes could sneak the puck past Seahorse goalie Justin Delibac. Kyle Logan and blue liner Owen Smith set up Dehayes.

But for Delibac and fate, the Redhawks might have had at least two more counters in that initial eight minutes. A hard slap shot by Wes O’Brien clanged off a goal post and a scampering Robbie Dobrowski was denied point blank opportunities three times in the first five minutes.

Having out-shot Burlington 13-4 in the first period, CVU took a 1-0 edge into the second reel, only to see the Seahorses tie it with 8:05 left when Jackson Danbridge poked in a rebound past Hawks’ net minder Mark Albertson.

CVU then essentially put the game away in the final 3.5 minutes of the middle stanza.

Spencer sped down the right side and deftly passed left to Soll, who laced the puck into the Burlington net to put the Red and White up 2-1 with 3:19 remaining.

A minute and 14 seconds later, Smith uncorked a blast from out front that rebounded to DeHayes in front of the cage. The well-positioned forward alertly nudged the puck past Delibac.

Spencer put CVU up 4-1 in the final canto before Burlington got a late tally by Steven Ushakov.

Smith, as did many others, had a solid two-way game for the Redhawks with two assists and expert work on defense, where at least once he broke up dangerous BHS’ two-on-one runs in the CVU defensive zone.

Albertson had 13 saves in the CVU cage.

Burlington ended its season with a 10-11 mark.

 

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Configuration options to go before parents and teachers2/26/09

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Frameworks Committee offers 11 choices

Feb. 26, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

In its last meeting before next month’s teacher and community forums, the Williston Conceptual Frameworks Committee narrowed down the configuration proposals it will bring to the meetings. Now it’s up to parents, teachers and community members to weigh in.

After deciding on two building configurations the administration said were possible, the committee came up with six different configurations for grades one through four, and five options for grades five through eight. Teachers and community members will be able comment at the forums with opinions about their choice for the best configuration.

Both forums will take place on Monday, March 9. The teacher’s forum will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The community forum will follow, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The forums were originally scheduled for earlier this month, but were postponed in light of new information pertaining to building configurations.

Participants will also be able to give their opinions on the two building configurations. One option keeps the grades where they currently are — pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and grades one through four at Allen Brook School, and grades one though eight at Williston Central School. Another configuration would put all students from grades one through four at Allen Brook, and put pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and grades five through eight at Williston Central.

Much of the Frameworks Committee’s meeting on Thursday, Feb. 19, was spent discussing how the presentation should look for the forums, as well as debating the merits of certain grade grouping configurations.

“We’re getting to a point where we need to narrow some options down,” committee facilitator Mary Jane Shelley said at the meeting. “But the more things on the table, the harder it is to be able to cut back.”

Committee members engaged in an occasionally spirited debate on certain configurations, arguing for and against the options. Most of the proposed configurations have grades grouped differently than the current four-year house structure. Also, there are configuration options with different grades looping through houses with the same teacher or student group. Looping refers to an educator teaching students for more than one year.

For instance, some configuration options have two-year grade grouping structures, with transitions occurring after a two-year period. Also, these groups loop for two years with the same teachers. Other configurations focus only on different grade groupings or different looping options, such as single-grade or multi-age looping. Some configurations combine all the possibilities into one house, or “small learning communities” as the Frameworks Committee calls them.

The committee faced challenges when it came to developing upper house configurations, since some teachers are licensed to teach only fifth and sixth graders or only seventh and eighth graders. That forced the group to remove two configuration options that would have had unequal student numbers in the houses.

The presentation for the forums has already been designed by the committee with the help of member Kevin Mara, and is available on the school district’s Web site, www.wsdvt.org. The presentation explains all 11 configuration options, and has a key to understanding each option.

Shelley will give a one-hour presentation on the configuration options at the forums. The committee chose Shelley as the presenter since she is seen as a non-biased presence in the group. In the second hour of the forums, the public will be able to give feedback at stations set up under each configuration option. Members of the committee will record both positive and negative comments about each configuration.

Even with the postponement of the teacher and community forums, Shelley told the group they were on target to present recommendations on configuration to the School Board by April. Meetings about equity across the houses would occur afterward, with recommendations being presented by May or June, she said.

If the recommendations are approved, the changes could be implemented for next school year.

 

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Helping the community is the theme of the week 2/26/09

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Feb. 26, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

As the smell of freshly baked bread wafted through Rachel McKnight’s cooking classroom at Williston Central School last Thursday, students rushed from rolling pin to baking sheet, from blender to oven making fresh breads, cookies and muffins.

 


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Emily O’Brien, an eighth grade student at Williston Central School, prepares a batch of chocolate chip muffins to be sold in support of The Hunger Project and the Burlington Emergency Shelter. O’Brien and her classmates were participating in one of many activities taking place through the Williston School District’s Theme Week.

The students were in the midst of a project for the school district’s annual Theme Week. This year’s theme, called “Hands Across the Community,” worked to involve students in community-related projects in the local area.

With help from University of Vermont student teaching intern Melissa Stimson, students baked bread to sell at UVM and raise money for The Hunger Project — a global nonprofit organization that works to end hunger by teaching impoverished people to grow and make food. Students also baked other goodies to raise money for the Burlington Emergency Shelter.

For Stimson, it was important to teach her students how to bake bread from scratch in an effort to show how The Hunger Project teaches similar skills to people all over the world.

Fifth grader Maureen Porter and eighth grader Emily O’Brien got the message.

“Instead of giving a person food, you can teach them to plant or cook,” Porter said as she and her fellow students followed a recipe for blueberry muffins.

“If you can teach them something, they can use that (skill) whenever they want to,” O’Brien said while putting chocolate chip muffins in the classroom’s oven.

Students in the Williston School District spent last week in various projects related to Theme Week. All were able to choose two focus areas. Some of the week’s activities included designing T-shirts for refugees that have moved to the region, beading bracelets to sell to raise money for the Regional Autism Center, and teaching seniors how to play interactive video games.

Physical education teacher Jennifer Oakes was enthusiastic about this year’s Theme Week and hoped students could carry the lessons they learned into the future.

“As far as I can see and as far as community outreach goes, it’s been wonderful,” Oakes said.

Students agreed. Eighth grader Mary Rutenbeck said the whole student body looked forward to Theme Week.

“It can be so much fun,” Rutenbeck said.

Rutenbeck and her classmates in M.C. Baker’s art class were designing T-shirts to be given away to refugees coming to the state through the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. Each T-shirt was uniquely designed with paint, and by Thursday afternoon more than 60 shirts had been completed — with more on the way. Baker said her students could make one shirt for themselves as well, but most wanted to donate it to the program instead.

“My kids rock the house,” Baker said with a big smile.

The creative streak continued in Liz Demas’ class, where students created unique bracelets and necklaces for autism awareness. Students were able to choose from various glass beads and handmade charms. Hannah L’Esperance had been particularly busy making bracelets.

“This is my fifth,” L’Esperance said, holding up a multi-colored creation.

Demas said the bracelets and necklaces would be sold at various student fairs and events to raise money for the Regional Autism Center. She hopes to raise “a couple thousand dollars” from the more than 225 creations.

Over in Virginia Memoe’s classroom, students participated in Random Acts of Kindness, making gift boxes and papier-mâché flower arrangements for adults in the school who “make a difference,” according to Memoe. The boxes were decorated with colorful drawings and cutouts, with chocolates and candies inside.

“We just picked anyone that we’re thankful for who teaches us and helps us,” said student Phoebe Quayle.

Besides flexing their creative muscles, students also participated in a few competitive events, including the Will-Iditarod, based on the famous Alaskan dogsled race. Students pulled one another on sleds through an obstacle course around the Williston Central School playground. Students said it was a grueling race and required them to use teamwork if they wanted to win.

“We had to encourage each other to move on,” student Andy Ho said.

Oakes said many residents stopped by the school to help students with the projects, an extension of the community theme that allowed students and Williston residents to learn from each other.

 

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Police Notes2/26/09

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Feb. 26, 2009

Locked in

A family of four was locked inside Greers Laundromat at Taft Corners on Feb. 22, according to police reports. The family went in to retrieve a blanket at about 10 p.m. and when they were ready to leave, they noticed a sign on the door that said the doors “automatically lock,” according to the report. Discovering they were locked in, they contacted the security company listed on the sign, but the company was unable to help, so they contacted police, the report notes. Police and fire personnel responded and one of the family members was able to open the back door, according to the report.

Driving under the influence

Following a motor vehicle accident at the intersection of Industrial Avenue and Williston Road on Feb. 22, Leonard J. Duncan, 70, of South Burlington was cited on a charge of driving under the influence, according to police reports. His blood alcohol test was .279, the report notes. The legal limit in Vermont is .08. Duncan was cited to appear in court.

Wanted person

Robert L. Tyler, 27, of Colchester was arrested on Feb. 16 on two outstanding warrants for civil contempt of court, according to police reports. Bail was set at $4,100 and the inspection sticker was removed from his vehicle as it was not assigned to the vehicle, the report notes.

Theft

• Jennifer A. Stephens, 25, of St. George and Amber R. Bartlett, 20, of South Burlington were cited for charges of retail theft from Wal-Mart on Feb. 16, after allegedly stealing $91 worth of merchandise, according to police reports. They were cited to appear in court.

• Tiffany Bessette, 20, of Milton was cited to appear in court on a charge of retail theft from Wal-Mart on Feb. 17, according to police reports. No details as to the nature of the theft were released.

• Margaret J. Flynn, 54, of Williston was cited for a charge of retail theft from Wal-Mart on Feb. 22, after allegedly stealing $119 worth of merchandise, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court.

• Pamela A. Boyer, 54, of Burlington was cited for a charge of retail theft from Wal-Mart on Feb. 22, after allegedly stealing $65 worth of merchandise, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court.

Driving with suspended license

• Aleax Miller, 24, of Williston was cited for a charge of driving with a suspended license following a motor vehicle stop on Feb. 12, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.

• Nathan R. Young, 22, of Charlotte was cited for a charge of driving with a suspended license, third offense, following a motor vehicle stop on Feb. 20, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.

 

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Everyday Gourmet2/26/09

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Scare away winter blues

Feb. 26, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Yes, the light is changing and the days are getting longer, but a harsh fact of northern living is that we still have a lot of winter to go.

What can we purchase in the produce department to perk up our spirits as we whittle our waistlines waiting for spring? How about making friends with that scary, hairy softball knob, celery root? This is my favorite winter vegetable and it suffers, rightly so, from a beauty-and-the-beast syndrome. I’ll admit that it is downright frightening to plop that monster into your grocery cart, but give it a chance, Belle — you’ll be glad you did.

After peeling away the skin of the celery root (also called celeriac) you’ll reveal something that looks like a potato. Shred it raw in a food processor or grate it by hand — you’ll be rewarded with ribbons of snow white, crunchy, fresh tasting slaw. Mixed with lemon aioli and flat-leafed parsley, you can practically taste spring coming around the corner. Lemony Celeriac Salad pairs beautifully with late winter braised meats as well as lighter entrees such as grilled salmon.

Lemony Celeriac Salad

1. Peel 1 hearty knob of celery root, shred it and place in a prep bowl.

2. Lemon aioli: In a small processor, finely mince 4 garlic cloves and the zest of 1 lemon. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard, the juice of the zested lemon, and 1 cup of mayo. Process for 30 seconds. Add kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste.

3. Lightly fold the lemon aioli over the celery root. Top with several handfuls of clean, dry, de-stemmed flat leaf parsley. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic and store in fridge. Salad can be made up to one day ahead; serves 8.

Warm Spinach Salad

Another fun veggie combination is a warm salad of fresh spinach and Brussels sprouts seared in brown butter and topped with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts and blue cheese. This savory side is superb with grilled steak or chicken; for a main course just add a bit of chopped bacon or sausage.

1. Prep 15 to 20 Brussels sprouts by slicing off each bottom and peeling off a few layers of leaf. Place in a glass bowl, cover and microwave for 3 minutes on high (do ahead).

2. In a large sauté pan, toast 2 ounces of walnuts for 40 seconds; reserve in a small bowl. When cool, gently break up the walnuts by hand.

3. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to a hot sauté pan and lightly brown the butter. Add the Brussels sprouts; cover and sear for 2 minutes, shaking pan often. Add 4 generous handfuls of fresh spinach; cover and turn off the heat. Set for 5 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Place salad in a serving dish and top with sea salt, fresh pepper, walnuts and crumbled blue cheese to taste. Serves 4; doubles nicely.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com

 

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Little Details2/26/09

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Among the Benedictines

Feb. 26, 2009

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

The key was enormous. We fiddled. We fuddled. We felt entirely kerfuffled by the seemingly simple scrap of metal.

Was someone trying to keep us out of the convent? A resident Benedictine handed us the long, black skeleton key moments before. Finally, after numerous failed attempts, the heavy wooden door relented, allowing my sister and me to push our way in.

Dressed in jeans and lugging backpacks, we didn’t appear candidates for the novitiate. We were weary travelers needing a night’s lodging. Staying at a convent in Warsaw’s Old City fit our finances and came with a few bonus Hail Mary’s offered on our behalf.

Our footsteps echoed along the windowless corridor leading to a guest alcove offering two simple rooms. When travelling on a budget, a convent can be a great place for sleep and introspection.

There was no concierge to greet us, no bellhop in a spiffy uniform with shining brass buttons. We used a second, smaller key to open our room; a twist of the locking mechanism pierced the silence.

Stone cold floors and sparse furnishings prompted us to speak in whispers. Our beds were narrow but the sheets were starchy clean. A crucifix prominently nailed to the wall filled any void created by lack of a television, telephone or mini-bar. A Bible sat quietly on a bedside table. A Lazy Susan was cut neatly into the wall.

My older sister Jane was visiting me halfway into my two-year stint as an American exchange student in communist Poland. Her initial reaction to our parents’ homeland reflected mild discouragement. The shortages, the gray surroundings and the bleak political climate prompted questions about whether the place depressed me. On the contrary, it fascinated this budding social scientist.

Jane dug deeply into linguistic memory to unearth Polish she’d spoken at home as a child. She could order a meal in restaurants and converse with aunts, uncles and cousins she met for the first time. It didn’t matter if her grammar wasn’t perfect. Polish’s declension of nouns adds a layer of grammatical complexity unknown in English.

Our Benedictine hosts were cloistered nuns, women who relinquished all but minimal contact with the outside world to live in contemplative prayer. We’d only met one nun, the public face of the convent, in the formal reception area. She was young, perhaps 30, as she sat in her black habit behind a window. We stated our request for a night’s lodging and she passed us keys beneath the glass. We sealed the deal by sliding a neatly folded American bill back, evoking from her the Polish response, “May God repay you.”

Western currency was a hot commodity in a communist state plagued by shortages. God witnessed the borderline illegal monetary transaction and didn’t strike us dead. Perhaps even He recognized the legitimacy of clergy participating in such dealings in a corrupt political system.

The convent was reduced to rubble during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, when members of the Polish Underground launched an ill-fated attempt to retake their capital from German occupiers. They failed. Molotov cocktails and handguns couldn’t stand up to tanks and mortar fire. Warsaw was decimated by war’s end: 70 percent was destroyed. It took decades to meticulously rebuild the city, with care taken to recapture its original architectural splendor.

Dinner arrived magically, from hands we’d never shake, from women we’d never meet. We heard a gentle rapping as our Lazy Susan spun around. I remember slices of rye bread, Polish white cheese, tomatoes, butter and jam offered on a simple tray. A small pot of tea, glasses for drinking and a few cubes of sugar completed the meal. A note affixed to the tray said, “Supper for the ladies.” We ate dinner and discussed plans to catch an early-morning train to Vienna.

A knock at our door startled us. Who could it be in this place of silence and introspection? I cautiously opened the door to find a smiling, 50-something woman standing before me.

“I knocked to see if anyone else was staying here,” the woman in street clothes offered. “My name is Danusia.* I’m visiting my sister.”

We invited Danusia in and shared what was left of our tea. She was intrigued that we were Americans and asked many questions about our impressions of Poland.

Danusia’s sister was one of the Benedictines.

“At night, she sneaks out of her room and whispers to me through the Lazy Susan,” Danusia revealed. “It’s funny she became a nun. When were kids, she was the one always getting in trouble for misbehaving.”

Danusia, a resident of Gdansk on Poland’s Baltic Coast, was in Warsaw on official business. Her husband and daughter emigrated to the West two years before. Danusia would be visiting the West German embassy the next day, standing in line for hours, in an attempt to gain a visa.

The convent evoked a distinct separated-from-the-world quality. Tucked behind an imposing wall, the high ceilinged, stone-floored edifice was a fascinating — but creepy — place to sleep

I put my head to the feather pillow and shut my eyes, only to see images of the Warsaw Uprising. It was as if the space was speaking to me, sharing history of those who came before.

You could almost feel the quiet. Laying in darkness, I’d hear light footsteps of a nun’s sandaled feel passing in the corridor, the gentle jangling of her rosary beads infiltrating the silence.

Breakfast arrived early with a gentle tapping and a swivel of the Lazy Susan. We ate, packed our backpacks and took the train to glittery Vienna. The sudden shift to blinding opulence unsettled me as I thought of Polish friends left behind.

And what of Danusia? We traded a few post cards. She eventually received a visa and moved to West Germany, abandoning her Polish home for freedom in the West.

*Name changed

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at [email protected] or [email protected]

 

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Letters to the Editor2/26/09

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Feb. 26, 2009

Digging up the truth

I am all in favor of a truth commission, provided it goes back and covers all the last 16 years (“Liberally Speaking,” Feb. 19).

We could compare what Bush did to protect the country vs. what Clinton did to help the Democratic Party and line his own pockets. Shall we look closely into all the pardons that were sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last year of his presidency and also to help elect Hillary to the Senate? Perhaps we could prosecute someone for the illegal transfer of thousands of FBI files to the White House basement computers. Perhaps we could prosecute Hillary for selling access to her husband for $100,000 in phony futures trading.

The possibilities go on and on. I doubt Sen. Pat Leahy has anything like that in mind.

Ralph M. McGregor

Williston

 

Fresh perspective on President Bush

How totally refreshing to read Mike Benevento’s column “Dear President George W. Bush” in the Feb. 19 Williston Observer.

After having had to endure several years of “Bush bashing,” it was like a breath of fresh air to read Mr. Benevento’s positive and uplifting remarks about President Bush, who gave eight years of his life in leading our country through some of the most extremely difficult times in our nation’s history. Although, as Mr. Benevento points out, President Bush was not perfect (and who is?), he was a man of outstanding character and conviction, serving God and his country without caving in to the pressures of his opponents, but resolutely forging ahead with what he believed to be right.

Our heartfelt thanks to President Bush and to Mr. Benevento.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Welner

Williston

 

Disagreeing with Bush and Benevento

In response to Mike Benevento’s paean to George Bush (“Right to the Point,” Feb. 19), I would like to differ with him on several points.

The lifting of the global gag rule does not mean there will be a mad dash to abortion on demand. Abortion is but one option of many when it comes to family planning. Under the Bush administration, the Health and Human Services Web site suppressed information about many types of contraception, for their misguided belief was that abstinence until marriage, or until the arbitrary age they set at 29 if unmarried, was to be the standard. Religious ideology prevailed, science was tossed by the wayside. Third world nations with untenable population growth were cut off from any assistance because the word abortion was verboten.

Concerning the bringing of democracy to other countries, and especially Iraq: With relentless bombing and the loss of untold hundreds of thousands of lives, there is still no democracy. There is, however, a U.S. embassy that exceeds Vatican City in size and a puppet government that cannot survive without massive military assistance from the United States. Perhaps democracy is not the best fit for Iraq or many other nations.

Terrorism has not been defeated. The Iraq debacle has done nothing more than increase insurgency and anger toward this country. Water boarding and other medieval torture methods have not elicited any credible information from those who have been mistreated in violation of the rules of every civilized nation and the Geneva Convention.

As far as Sept. 11, if ever there are truth and reconciliation hearings, perhaps we will know for certain whether Bush, Cheney et al. orchestrated or at the least allowed the attack to go ahead unchallenged. If nothing else, Bush showed a lack of leadership by continuing to read “My Pet Goat” instead of taking quick action when he was told of the attack.

Julie Bonanno

Williston

 

Now is the time for same-sex marriage

I am an 87-year-old Catholic mother of eight and I emotionally and wholeheartedly support “Right to Marry” legislation for all committed, loving, caring couples who wish to spend the rest of their lives together.

Same-sex couples are simply ordinary people who have the same dreams, hopes and desires that other ordinary couples do, so what’s the big deal?

So legislators, please do what’s right and pass “Right to Marry” legislation and do it now!

Because so very many families are trusting and depending on you …

Helena A. Blair

Williston

 

Treat gay marriage with caution

Although there are many more dire issues in front of us at this time of economic turmoil, it seems inevitable that the Vermont Legislature will be taking up the issue of gay marriage this session. Although I empathize with every individual’s desire to belong and to fit in, I am gravely concerned that the long-term ramifications of making such a change are, as of yet, largely undetermined. It is crucial that before we move ahead and change a basic tenet of our society that we explore the pros and cons of such a move from the perspective of society as a whole: ourselves, our children and their children. It is easy to understand the anxiousness which supporters of such a change might feel on many levels, but a decision of such magnitude must be made with very careful consideration, and with great surety.

There are many related issues that must be assessed when considering the gay marriage issue. Civil unions currently provide full legal status for homosexual couples who wish to share with and provide for each other. It’s up to us to ensure that future modifications don’t take us to a place we don’t want to be.

Deanna Plourde

Williston

 

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