July 18, 2019

Letters to the Editor

Nov. 23, 2011


Families as Partners appreciates support

Williston Families as Partners (FAP), our schools’ “PTA-like” organization, would like to thank the community (including the Williston Observer) for supporting our first-ever capital campaign — Williston Wins. We raised more than half of our $40,000 goal. With additional monies collected from our craft fair, the Stephen Mount Memorial Fun Run, the scholastic book fair and the Innisbrook sale, we’ve been able to do the following: pay for all field/teambuilding trips, eliminate the need for supplemental fundraising for preschool through grade 4 students, support the Intergenerational Reading program and provide much-needed resources for student services. We’ve also provided families with a tax-deductible way to support our local schools.

Next year, as Williston Wins gains even greater traction, we aim to eliminate door-to-door product sale fundraising — another step toward simplifying and better managing our fundraising efforts.

While the official fundraising campaign is over, it’s never too late to contribute. At any time during the year, you may send or mail a check (made payable to Williston FAP) to the front office at (Allen Brook or Williston Central) schools, ATTN: FAP. For 2011 contributions, we will send letters acknowledging tax deductions in early December.

Community fundraisers still to come from FAP in the spring include the Williston variety show and the big basket raffle.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns about FAP or our schools fundraising programs, please send an email to WillistonFAP@cssu.org.

Patty Pasley

Williston Families as Partners


James Brown Drive traffic light long overdue

I found out that you did a write up on James Brown Drive for a traffic light (Observer, “Board zeroes in on Circ alternative,” Nov. 10, 2011).

I’m disappointed I was not aware of the (Williston Selectboard) agenda pertaining to this subject. I wish the Board would have sent letters to all owners — business and residential — on James Brown Dr. so more serious discussions on this subject would have been reviewed.

I work on James Brown Dr. I have been under the impression that part of the deal was to have the light be installed within a reasonable amount of time as a requirement. The town can put in longer walkways and bike path. Why wasn’t the light installed at that time? It seems the light should have taken precedent or be completed at the same time.

To wait another one to two years, potentially, is way too long. This was in the works a long time ago but was not enforced from what I can see.

This is a major issue. The town knew about this and did not act or enforce when it should have at the beginning. Meanwhile, travelers’ lives are at risk every minute of the day. The new walkway is nice, but not nearly used as much as those of along James Brown Dr.

Just wait until bicycles and foot traffic are out, and traffic needs to move. Someone will get hurt.

Tyler E. Andersen

Duane Merrill & Co Auctioneers & Appraisals associate

137 James Brown Drive



Thank you, CVU students

On Nov. 11, the Champlain Valley Union High School student council hosted a rave at the school. Raves in general have a bad reputation, but not this one … this one had heart and soul. It was in honor of Joe Shook, a student who passed away over the summer. Joe adored music and loved to dance, so this was a very fitting tribute to his memory.

Students who attended were greeted at the door with a smiling picture of Joe — it set the tone for the evening. Everyone had fun and was respectful. Most importantly, money was raised for the Partners In Adventure Joe Shook Scholarship Fund. The fund allows children and young adults with disabilities to attend summer camps provided by Partners In Adventure. Attendance at the Rave was $5, but many students added more to the donation box, and the evening raised a little more than $1,500. As a para-educator at the school, I could not be more proud of our students. Thank you!

Sheila Kazak

Partners In Adventure board co-president


Guest column

Five steps to finding your lucky this Thanksgiving

Nov. 23, 2011

By Rebecca P. Coniglio


It is November — the leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter and families are making their Thanksgiving plans.

For me, I can close my eyes and the aroma of my mother’s house on Thanksgiving Day rushes over me. She always makes her famous mushy-mushy (what she calls “stuffing”) and more food than our small family could ever eat, but just that is enough to spark a feeling of gratitude deep within my heart. I am a child of divorce, a title I have worn reluctantly since I was 10 years old. Now, as a grown woman with a family of my own, holidays and divorce still stir-up a complex set of emotions. On one hand I remember the challenges my family faced when I was a child, especially during the holidays. On the other hand, as an adult, I am full of gratitude for my past, present and hope for the future.

After my parents’ divorce, my mother tried to keep some of our family traditions alive — such as watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade in our pajamas — but there was the nagging feeling of an empty chair at the table along with a helping of guilt and divided loyalties. That has subsided now, and I am better equipped to “find my lucky.” This is something I have been practicing a little each day. To me it means stopping, taking a deep breath, and thinking about all the people and things I feel so lucky to have in my life. I believe this is a valuable exercise to do every day, not just on Thanksgiving. But since Thanksgiving is a holiday when most people slow down long enough to reflect on what they are grateful for, it can be a wonderful day to start — with the hope of carrying it forward throughout the year.

Here are some simple steps you can follow to help you and your family find what makes you feel lucky this Thanksgiving:

1. Define what it means to feel lucky. Help your children focus on all the positive things they have in their lives and not dwell on what they don’t have.

2. Define what gratitude means and explore ways to express gratitude (for example, telling people how you feel about them, saying thank you and helping others who are less fortunate).

3. Write or draw with your children about the special people in their lives that they feel grateful for.

4. Call or write letters to special relatives that may live too far to visit this Thanksgiving.

5. Go around the room and tell each family member what he or she means to you and why. Parents: model this for your children and then encourage them to give it a try.

For parents who are separated or divorced, pay close attention to your children’s feelings and needs this Thanksgiving. Children can sense their parents’ anxiety and it can increase their feelings of anxiety. The best advice I can give, based on personal and professional experience, is to make sure the adults are acting like adults and allow the children to be children. Leave them out of any holiday stress, as much as possible. Help your children to understand that even though things are not necessarily the way they want them to be, you are still a family and there will be days full of joy ahead.

Your children may not be at the same Thanksgiving table as you or their other parent due to a divorce, but the day has the same meaning for all of you. You, as parents, can let your children know that you are grateful for them and be very assured that they feel the same way about you.

Rebecca Perlman Coniglio is a licensed clinical social worker who works with children, adolescents and young adults who are facing issues such as loss, anxiety, divorce and depression. She recently wrote a book, “Lily’s Little Life Lessons.”


The Everyday Gourmet

Plan B for Black Friday

Nov. 23, 2011

By Kim Dannies



If you’ve got a houseful this weekend, or you’re simply tired of cooking and want to relax at home, a nice antidote to the turkey fiesta is an earthy mushroom pasta dish filled with fragrant funghi. Why not uncork a nice Tuscan wine and sip a bit while you and the gang whip up this 10-minute meal? Use clean, bagged greens for a light salad to follow the pasta, and finish with a Vermont cheese board. This meal is so much kinder to body and soul than braving Black Friday crowds and waiting lines. I promise that your family will thank you (sincerely, and multiple times) for having a Plan B.



Purchase an assortment of pre-cut mushrooms that are variety packaged at the supermarket. Look for combinations of oyster, button, cremini, shitake, Portobello, and supplement with any other mushrooms that look appealing. Plan for a loose handful of mushrooms per eater.

In a large sauté pan melt 2 tablespoons of butter per pound of mushrooms and sauté for 8 minutes on medium heat, stirring often. Add 3-4 minced garlic cloves in the final minute. Deglaze with some wine or drinking sherry scraping up charred bits of fond. Add 1 cup (or desired amount) of crème fraîche or heavy cream and simmer 2 minutes so the mushroom sauce thickens a bit, stirring well. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Concurrently, boil strips of flat lasagna according to package directions. Drain and cut into 3-inch squares, or desired size. Place 2-3 pasta “hankies” in individual pasta bowls; top with a generous scoop of the funghi fricassee and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.



I asked my sister, Jody Farnham, co-author of “The Joy of Cheesemaking” and an expert on paring cheese, what to serve with this meal. She suggested: Chèvre log slices (Vermont Creamery), with honey; Garrotxa (Spain), with roasted hazelnuts; Vermont Shepherd (Majors Farm) aged sheep’s-milk cheese, with cherry compote; Creamy White Stilton (England), with chunks of pear and apple and Bayley Hazen Blue (Jasper Hill Farm), with shaved dark chocolate.


Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three 20-something-year-old daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.

Life in Williston

Hurricane of activity swirling through

Nov. 23, 2011

By Karen Wyman


How is it that during this time of year the amount of daylight becomes shorter, but my to-do list becomes so much longer? As I face the daunting tasks of finding winter apparel for the girls, planning holiday food and festivities, and the seemingly endless amount of shopping, I just can’t get myself motivated. When it’s dark when I go to work and dark when I get home, it’s hard to stay positive.

This year I was lucky enough to break up this self-pity party with a family trip to “The Happiest Place on Earth”— Disney World! A week of soaking up sunshine and Vitamin D helped improve my attitude, and now I am officially in the holiday spirit.

Although this may sound like great news, my family would not agree. This “spirit” I mention is more accurately described as an OCD-propelled hurricane of stress and mania whirling through the house. Once it has been set in motion, there is no exorcizing this demon from the house. It awakens early in the morning, with an extreme urge to clean everything. It first attacks everyone’s closets, and even my children have learned this drill. They quickly start dividing all clothing and shoes into three piles. First pile: items to stay in the closet and/or drawers. Second pile: items to be stored in the basement for future wear. Third pile: items to be donated.

The hurricane storms from room to room, checking on everyone’s progress. The same routine is then performed on toys, books, etc. Inevitably, the piles multiply and ultimately include a large trash/recycle pile, and a pile of items to be sold or “traded in.” Having the convenience of a consignment store and a donation center located right here in Williston makes this seasonal purge so much easier. All I have to do is drop off the “sell/trade in” pile at one store, get a return time from them, and then head to the other store. I simply pull-up under the overhang, and an employee comes right out and helps me get my “donate” pile out of the trunk. Then it’s back to the consignment shop to hopefully pick up a check! My girls know that before new toys can be purchased, unused toys need to be passed on to others. This makes it much easier for them to let go of things.

Now the eye of the storm hits the kitchen. As I blow through the pantry, I part with those ingredients that were intended for long lost recipes. I take a realistic inventory of what my family will actually eat, since kids’ taste buds apparently don’t coincide with sales and coupons. The aftermath that remains gets neatly returned to cabinets or boxed up and delivered to the Williston Community Food Shelf. This wonderful organization is open Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. If these hours don’t concur with my whirlwind schedule, I bring the items to one of the Williston businesses that have a designated food shelf donation box.

This year we also donated our Halloween candy to soldiers serving overseas via Operation Gratitude. After a quick trip to the post office, my family was relieved of the massive amounts of sugar that would have further fueled my rampage.

It amazes me how the town of Williston accommodates so many of the needs required to run a family and household. Even when a severe holiday spirit attacks our home, everything we need to organize, donate and replenish is available without ever leaving town. No matter how wild things get, I won’t take for granted the fact that I don’t have to trek all over the state to accomplish my to-do lists. For now this thought calms me as I make yet another list: get tires changed over, purchase new hats and gloves for the girls, and get food for all of those holiday recipes I have every intention of actually making this time.

My momentary serenity is interrupted by a new storm brewing in the basement, as my husband calls out, “Since you’ve created so much space in the playroom, I think I’m going to set up my racetrack that’s been boxed up. Wow, there are some dishes and stuff in this box I had before we got married! Where can we put all of this?”

Did I forget to mention that Williston is also conveniently served by 1-800-GOT-JUNK?


Karen Wyman has been a Williston resident for six years, and lives with her husband and twin 4-year-old daughters.


Places I’ve Played

High winds and hard-nosed fathers

Nov. 23, 2011

By Bill Skiff


The knock on the door surprised me. I looked at the clock and it was six o’clock in the morning —a Sunday morning at that. My roommate and I were fraternity men; we never got out of bed before noon on Sunday. This time I got out of bed for two reasons: We were not in our room at Middlebury College (we were in an attic bedroom of our dates’ home in Burlington) and if that was her father knocking — and if he was as bent out of shape as he had been the night before — we were still in big trouble.

It all began as a wonderful afternoon on Nov. 24,1950. My roommate and I had hitchhiked from Middlebury College to meet our dates for a dance at the University of Vermont (grass is always greener on another campus). We were having a great time at the dance when the wind began to blow, and blow and blow. The more it blew, the more power it wielded — until we could hear trees cracking and snapping all around campus. We left the dance and started walking back to my date’s home. The trip was dangerous — trees and power lines crisscrossed our route everywhere.

It became clear that we would not be hitchhiking back to Middlebury that night … that was, until my date’s father entered the picture. Under no circumstances was he going to let my roommate and I stay overnight in his house. It was touch and go, until finally his wife convinced him that it was too dangerous to send us out into the storm. We were banished to the attic, which we gladly accepted. Not only did this plan keep us out of the storm; it gave us an opportunity to see the girls again at breakfast.

No such luck. When I answered the door, it was her father. He said, “Get dressed and meet me downstairs in 10 minutes.” My roommate croaked, ”Is he crazy?! ”

“Yes,” I replied, “but get dressed and let’s go.”

I will give her father some credit. He took us to Henry’s Diner for breakfast. Trees and telephone polls laid everywhere. Electric wires on the ground snapped and jumped like angry snakes. How we made it downtown I will never know. He ordered one egg and a piece of toast for each of us. After eating he wove his car in and around fallen objects to Shelburne Road and dropped us off because two huge trees blocked the road. The man left us standing there in the rain, wind and aftermath of the one of the worst storms in Vermont history.

There were no cars so hitchhiking wasn’t an option. A cold rain, fierce winds, and occasional snow were all we had. We just kept walking toward Middlebury, which at least kept us somewhat warm. At long last a milk truck picked us up, took us to Fair Haven and dropped us off again. You couldn’t get a ride out of Fair Haven, Vermont on a bright summer day, let alone after a near hurricane. Winds were clocked at 84 miles per hour. Even the cows knew enough to stay home. We walked the rest of the day and arrived at our dorm sometime in the early evening to find no power, heat or classes for a week.

Our experience that weekend put a whole new meaning to hitchhiking, high winds and hard-nosed fathers. I sure would like to talk to him again. I am not sure what I would say, but I know exactly how I would start the conversation.


Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at vtcowcal@yahoo.com.

PHOTOS: Old Brick Church Music Series

Observer photos by Stephen Mease

With musical influences weaved from England, Ireland, Quebec, Canada and the Appalachian Mountains, Crowfoot took the stage and performed as part of the Old Brick Church Music Series in Williston on Nov. 18.

PHOTOS: Christmas bazaar

Observer photos by Marisa Machanic

The Williston Federated Church hosted a Christmas bazaar on Nov. 12.

PHOTOS: CVU girls cross country

Observer photos by Josh and Ben Kaufmann

The Champlain Valley Union girls cross country team won the New England championship on Nov. 12.

PHOTOS: Old Brick Church bird feeder

Courtesy photos

The Bear Cub Scout Den of Williston Pack 692, along with some of the scouts’ parents, recently built a bird feeder that was modeled after the Old Brick Church in Williston. According to den leader Sandra Barber, the feeder measures approximately 39 inches tall, 19 inches wide and 21 inches deep. The windows on the front are made of glass (installed by Barber) and the windows on the side are painted. The steeple roof is removable so it can be filled with seed. Barber said the den’s planned achievement focuses on wildlife conservation and that the feeder is for sale, with the proceeds to benefit the Richmond Area Flood Relief Fund. Bidding is already underway at eBay and can be found by entering the following text in the website’s search bar — “Williston Old Brick Church Bird Feeder.” Bids can also be placed by calling 878-5896. The auction is scheduled to end Nov. 26. The feeder is being displayed at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library until the auction ends.

This Week’s Popcorn

‘Tower Heist’

Could use a loftier view

Nov. 17, 2011

2 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


In “Tower Heist’s” opening sequence, Brett Ratner’s peripatetic camera delineates the major enterprise it is to run New York’s most elite apartment house while also noting the sense of community its employees share. Vintage Arthur Hailey (“Hotel”), the cozy sociology, holds such promise. Too bad the comedy caper that ensues fails to fulfill it.

The laughs are intermittent as building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) dons the role of a modern-day Robin Hood to recover funds pilfered from his band of once merry men by the Bernie Madoff-like fraud perched in the penthouse. While the film adeptly plies its genre stencil, the lack of both signature and soul deters it from attaining that comic high note.

Truly engaging farce requires that we embrace the protagonists. Outlandish as Laurel and Hardy are, we’re confident they exist — that they have a life when we’re not looking. While we kind of think Ben Stiller’s Kovacs lives outside the frame, the rest of his gang — although sporadically funny — merely represents the moving statuary the script requires.

This includes Eddie Murphy as Slide, the small-time thief/street thug Josh brings in to give his gambit a professional boost. Yes, it’s nice to see him back in the fold. And his characterization isn’t bad. But it seems as if he no longer has the business of laughter in his belly. A more heartfelt performance might have made for a zanier, ensemble synergy.

But aha, there is a dastardly good villain… the guy you love to hate. Alan Alda is despicably delightful as the duplicitous, disingenuous and whatever other adjectives describe those who not only have no qualms about appropriating other people’s money — but arrogantly believe it’s their right. He alone is reason enough to occupy Wall Street.

In this case he has depleted the pensions of all those who toil in the tony tenement. Hey, serves them right thinking they could triple their money. Adding insult to injury, it appears Alda’s Arthur Shaw has the N.Y. bench in his grease-filled pocket. Even the vigilance of Téa Leoni’s FBI Special Agent Claire Denham can’t wipe the lousy smirk from his face.

Josh, however, is undeterred. You see, ‘twas he, all chummy in a rich guy-dutiful servant sort of way (they even played chess online), who asked Shaw to please multiply thrice the portfolios. Now, double-crossed by the crooked king, his adopted mantra is “storm the castle.” It takes convincing, but he eventually forms his crew of accomplices.

Helping lead the charge are: Casey Affleck’s Charlie, the inefficient concierge otherwise distracted by his wife’s expectant condition; Enrique (Michael Peña), the slick, plebe errand boy who doesn’t know to be nervous; and housekeeper Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe), who, quite conveniently, learned safecracking from her locksmith dad back in Jamaica

And just to add a touch of class, there’s Matthew Broderick’s poor, poor Mr. Fitzhugh. Shaw’s genteel antithesis, he is the Street’s onetime golden boy from Yale. But alas, he has lost the touch, and thus his ritzy condo, too. Since his wife and kids have bailed, he figures there’s nothing left to lose except his freedom, and maybe his life.

Though there’s a twist or two, expect no epiphanic surprises. The amateurs alternately bumble and impress, causing us a pleasing titter every time they manage a bit of criminal derring-do. Conversely adding a bit of subtext, Murphy’s ringer — not quite the expert he’d like you to think he is — plays blowhard critic and never fully trusted confederate.

Meanwhile, forming the sub-plot, a conflict of interest looms as Josh and FBI lady Claire trade the sort of barbs that have signaled potential romance ever since film first took to reel. While OK, the zingers are hardly Colbert and Gable in “It Happened One Night (1934” or Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally (1989).”

But here’s my real problem. Rodney Dangerfield said it best when he explained the inherent difficulties of playing tough clubs in neighborhoods like Red Hook and Canarsie… places where you went down two steps, socially and physically. Beseeched Rodney, “How do you make guys who are up for manslaughter laugh?”

Well, we’re not up for manslaughter. But this economic thing really has us down. It’s not just the hardship it causes folks in the middle and lower classes, but also the insult it is to the very idea of humanity — the great cover-up in plain sight that poses as a legitimate, fiscal argument. Bet some even wish they could dig up Joe McCarthy to sic those wise to them.

You’d have to lock up more than one faux Madoff to give us a truly big laugh. Vicarious revenge is self-defeating. With this topic we need fiction to create the sort of acerbic muckrake that makes us laugh via its truthful insights…the kind of thing Twain wrote.

Stuff that might make a difference — a tall order, it’s way out of “Tower Heist’s” reach.


“Tower Heist,” rated PG-13, is a Universal Pictures release directed by Brett Ratner and stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Téa Leoni and Alan Alda. Running time: 104 minutes