April 22, 2019

PHOTOS: Williston sugarhouses

Observer photo by Luke Baynes

The end of winter coincided with the end of maple syrup production last week, as 80-degree temperatures cut short a sugaring season that typically runs through mid-April.

This Week’s Popcorn: “Jeff, Who Lives at Home”

In Destiny’s Neighborhood

2 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


Though one might initially add “Jeff, Who Lives at Home” to a list of films inspired by the recession, it isn’t economic cataclysm that has kept our title character ensconced in the comfort and security of his mother’s basement. Nope, it’s much more complex, a psychological conundrum the directorial Brothers Duplass tackle with mixed results.

Enticing by its off-the-beaten-track foray into the psyches of its main characters, souls in search of something or other and noticeably damaged in varying degree, the small, independent-look style is familiar. But while thus provocative and a refreshing retreat from the sturm und drang of mainstream fare, ultimately it is more sweet than epiphanic.

And aw shucks, just as my horoscope had predicted, I sure was jonesing for something epiphanic. Yet, while no big revelations come from this saga about how Jeff, enamored of the movie “Signs” (2002), reads his destiny into every occurrence, if you see it with the right folks, the chat thereafter might prove a stimulus for your own flash of brilliance.

Or not. In such case, like one of those dreams that merely reworks the rigors of the day,  this then only leaves you with an alternately charming and confounding traipse through the business of being human. Which, for some, might be a welcome change. Good, but not great, performances by Jason Segel, Susan Sarandon and Ed Helms glue it together.

Whether you call it fate, providence, karma, or what have you, Jeff, played by a now over 30 Jason Segel, has picked up where philosophers since time immemorial have left off…contemplating his destiny with a soul-searching intensity. Fact is, he does very little else. That is, until he gets an erroneous (or was it?) phone call asking for Kevin.

Certain it’s a sign, a clue to his path through the mysteries of the universe, immediately all things Kevin rule Jeff’s life. Coinciding with his older, married brother Pat’s suspicion that his wife is cheating on him, a perfect storm of happenstances occurs when the possible cuckold, played by Ed Helms, solicits Jeff’s help in his time of marital disarray.

Meanwhile, Mom, portrayed by Susan Sarandon, too young the widow and working in a nondescript office/cubicle situation that pretty much epitomizes her dull-as-dishwater life, only wants one thing for her birthday. Having left money on the counter, she’d like Jeff to buy some glue and fix a shutter in the kitchen. It just may be too much for him.

A picture in the living room of Jeff in a Harvard basketball uniform tosses us a key. I’ve known people like Jeff. The challenge of everyday life is so simple that they don’t bother, opting instead to ponder the unknowable, hoping to find the bliss in their brilliance. In the interim, just as inactivity renders a body part vestigial, they lose touch with the easy stuff.

Pat, on the other hand, is a pragmatist, part-time cynic, and equally unhappy in the wannabe status he denies. However, while the circumstances prompting the teaming of the two brothers are not enviable, there’s nothing like a family crisis to encourage an emotional accounting, put things in perspective, and maybe even foster a little bonding.

So off they go on their adulterous wife chase, a semi-slapstick scramble through Baton Rouge, inevitably steered by segues at each Kevin sighting. In-between resulting melees and watershed discoveries, they take inventory of their lives, their relationship and the rationalizations that have formed them. In turn, we get a glance into their personalities.

Not a big peek, mind you, but just a subtle enough inkling to remind us that, as similar as we are, we’re just as much different, and essentially inscrutable. Norms of behavior are the convenient quantifications of psychologists. But for us out here, often prone to bleat, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” certainly it’s humbling enough reason to embrace tolerance.

On a far less rarified plane, Susan Sarandon’s stoical Mom also finds herself face-to-face with her plight in life when hope springs from her computer screen in a mysterious e-mail. It’s a “secret admirer.” Although Mom’s the buttoned-down sort, Carson McCullers wasn’t just whistling Dixie when she said the heart is a lonely hunter. She bites.

We laugh and anguish over the seriocomic survey of our nobleness and foibles, glad when a chord is struck, upset when it seems we won’t be discovering the meaning of life. After all, while wittily assuring in a small, neo- “Harry and Tonto” (1974) way that we’re all in the same boat, what can you expect from a guy named “Jeff, Who Lives at Home?”

“Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” rated R, is a Paramount Vantage release directed by Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass and stars Jason Segel, Susan Sarandon and Ed Helms. Running time: 83 minutes 




Closing the proficiency gap

CVU, Williston school boards address NECAP scores

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

Williston Central School Principal Jackie Parks gives a presentation to the Williston School Board addressing the continued struggles of Williston’s economically disadvantaged and special needs students on the New England Common Assessment Program exams. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes )

Despite showing overall improvements in the 2011 New England Common Assessment Program exams, economically disadvantaged and special needs students in the Williston School District and at Champlain Valley Union High School continue to struggle.

The WSD and CVU boards – which met at the same time on March 14 – agreed that efforts need to be made to close the academic proficiency gap.

“We have been identified as not making what they say is adequate progress with a couple of subgroups for a number of years now in both reading and math for students on IEPs (individualized education programs) and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Williston Central School Principal Jackie Parks.

Parks said the key to closing the gap is hiring high quality teachers.

“The teacher really is the most influential factor on student achievement,” Parks said. “The good news of that is we know the effects of really good teaching overshadow those other variables like socioeconomic status, like ethnicity, like class size – and even what (students’) previous achievement level is – and that’s why we invest in really high quality teachers.”

At the CVU board meeting, Lorna Jimerson suggested that test results could be skewed because of the fact that not all 11th grade students have completed algebra II before taking the NECAP exam.

“It seems to me that there might be a problem with the timing of the test,” Jimerson said. “Some kids might take three or four years to do algebra I, geometry, algebra II … but the exams get in between.”

Like Parks, CVU Principal Sean McMannon said that being adequately staffed is critical. He requested that a $40,000 budgetary windfall that resulted from overestimating rising health insurance costs, and underestimating the savings from an eliminated information technology position, be allocated toward teacher staffing.

“What I’m requesting from the board is the permission to – if possible within the budget – go back to that final tier which we reduced which brought us in at a 1.5 (percent) increase year-to-year, and if possible within the hiring landscape, to reinstate up to $40,000 worth of positions,” McMannon said.

Jimerson said she would support that course of action.

“I would be in favor of this,” Jimerson said. “The key to kids’ learning – especially kids that are struggling – is small class sizes.”

The board agreed to grant McMannon the authority to reallocate the budget surplus by a margin of 7-3.


The following Williston and St. George residents were recently recognized for academic achievements from their respective schools.




Ryan Landvater and Kathryn Laughlin have been named to the Dean’s List for the winter 2011 semester.




Kelsey Darby, Ryan Poirier and Rebecca Russ were named to the Dean’s List for the winter 2011 semester.


Colgate University


Kelsey Holbrook Jensen, the daughter of Mr. David B. and Mrs. Jeanne M. Jensen, is a recipient of the Dean’s Award for academic excellence during the 2011 fall term at Colgate University.


Northeastern University


The following Williston residents were recently named to the University’s dean’s list for the fall semester, which ended in December 2011:

Mark Albertson, an Economics major

Grace Zebertavage, a Nursing major


Tabor Academy


Tabor Academy Headmaster Jay Stroud has named Nicholas Fukuda, son of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Fukuda, to the commended list for semester one of the 2011-2012 academic year.


Castleton Stage College


The following students were named to the Castleton State College Dean’s list for the spring 2012 semester.

Katelyn Bashaw, Social Science

Patrick Hollick, Mathematics

Recipe Corner

By Ginger Isham

Final season – final recipes


Yup! Mother Nature fooled us but I am not surprised, as she has let the whole country down this past year! We made a little less than the normal amount of maple syrup this season.  We will ration it as sugar was during WWII.


Maple Marinated Berry Dessert

4 cups strawberries (you can use raspberries, blueberries and/or mix)

½ cup Grand Marnier liqueur

3 egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup white wine

Place berries in a bowl and drizzle with Grand Marnier. Spoon into heatproof custard cups. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl until foamy and pale. Set in pan of simmering water. Whisk all the time you are adding maple syrup and wine until mixture is thickened and fluffy. Spoon sauce over berries and place under broiler just until golden in color – about one to two minutes. Serve with mint leaf on the side.


Maple Walnut Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

1 egg

¾ cup oil (I use a scant less)

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sugar  (I use ¼ cup)

¾ cup maple syrup – dark grade

Mix all together and add following:

3 cups oatmeal

1 cup flour

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup chopped nuts

¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes (you can get at health food store)

Mix well and drop by teaspoon on oiled or aluminum foil cookie sheets. Bake 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cookies will spread some.


No-Cook Apricot Cookies with Maple

¾ cup Grape-Nuts cereal

¾ cup graham cracker crumbs

¾ cup dried apricots, cut up very fine

½ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup light maple syrup

1 tablespoon orange juice or water

Combine all ingredients and shape into balls with lightly greased hands. Roll in powdered sugar.


Ginger Isham lives with her husband on a fifth generation family farm on Oak Hill Road.


Sports Shorts


New CVU girls lacrosse coach Erin Malone. (Courtesy photo)

When the Champlain Valley Union High girls lacrosse team opens its season on Saturday, April 7 at Montpelier High, a new coach with considerable high school and college playing experience will be calling the shots.

Taking over the reins is Erin Malone, a former three-sport captain at Essex High and career record-setter in lacrosse at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She was recently an assistant coach at Essex. At Wesleyan, Malone set a career mark in assists while making the team’s 100-point club.

After opening in Montpelier, Malone and the Redhawks play at Spaulding High in Barre on Wednesday, April 11 before their home opener against Rutland High on Friday, April 13.


Three members of the Division 1 runner-up Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team have earned recognition from the Vermont Basketball Coaches Association.

Sophomore Emily Kinneston was named to the Association’s Division1 and 2 Dream Dozen, which recognizes season-long contributions from underclass players. Also named to the dozen was junior Kari Lavalette of Williston who played at Essex High.

CVU seniors Remi Donnelly and Elana Bayer-Pacht played Saturday for the North team in an annual Division 1 and 2 senior all-star game against the South team at Windsor High with the North winning, 61-59.



High school hockey all division teams were announced recently with CVU’s girls team members Rowan Hayes and Nicole Sisk gaining academic all-star honors.

Hayes, from Burlington High, was a CVU forward while Sisk was the Redhawks’ goalie. Both are seniors.

Qualifications for the Academic All-Star Team include at least a 3.5 cumulative grade point average.

Yarnell, a senior defenseman on the CVU boys team, was a member of the Harris Conference team in Saturday’s Essex Rotary-Key Bank All-Star Hockey Classic which played its Austin Conference counterparts Saturday in the all-senior game at the Essex SkatingFacility. The Austin Conference won, 2-1.

‘Pretty good year’ for CVU jayvee boys basketball

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Champlain Valley Union High’s boys junior varsity basketball team went 14-6 over the recently completed basketball campaign and included a pair of last-second victories in the process.

“It was a pretty good year for these guys,” summed up coach Seth Emerson Monday.

One of the white-knuckle triumphs came at Spaulding High thanks to sophomore co-captain Ryan Schneiderman. “Ryan hit an eight-foot floater in the lane to give us the win,” said Emerson.

The coach said Schneiderman was the team’s top scorer and rebounder and “could drive the bus if needed.”

Another chiller-thriller came late in the season in a home contest against Colchester High, when sophomore Matt Howell sank a final seconds three-pointer from the deep corner to put the youthful Redhawks in front of the junior Lakers.

The team’s leading ball handlers were sophomore co-captains Ed Myers and Zach Evans who ran the offense. “On defense, they created crazy pressure on the opposing guards, “ said Emerson.

Guards off the bench included sophomores Mike Iakovlev, Matt Cockayne and Clarke Shedd, all “super solid” according to the coach.

Big guys working inside included Peter Scrimgeour, Brandon O’Connell and Jake Stoll, while Eric Bergkvist did some of everything. Emerson called freshmen Jack Frost and Collin Osbahr the team’s most improved players.

With 10 varsity players returning next winter, competition for jayvee and varsity slots will be intense with this year’s undefeated freshman team added to the mix.

CVU girls hoops jayvees bounce to 17-3 season

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

This coming winter will bring at least six new faces to the Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team, but the future looks strong thanks to a junior varsity team that went 17-3 this past season.

Coach Cathy Kohlasch praised the work of the team members who she said, “played well together.”

The junior Redhawks scored at a 46-point clip per game while allowing foes only 31 points per outing.”All of our players brought something to each game,” Kohlasch said. “Different games meant different leading scorers.”

As to which players are destined to move up next season, the coach was reluctant to make forecasts. “Next year we will have a different varsity team from this year,” Kohlasch said. “We will need some height.”

CVU, which made it to the Division 1 championship game, graduates six players, five from the front court.

In looking ahead, Kohlasch said much depends on players gaining experience through AAU and various basketball camps prior to November’s tryouts. She also pointed to a superior Jayvee (freshmen) B team, plus a strong incoming group from junior high leagues.

One player who saw action with the varsity this past season was sophomore Amanda Lougee, called up to fill in when injuries depleted the roster. Kohlasch said sophomore Kirsten Bird was a strong presence inside and freshman Caitlin Grasso handled the ball most of the time and ran the offense.

Others included freshman Amari Boyd (“rebounder”), freshman Maddie Turnau (“versatile, tremendous improvement”), sophomores Jenna Brassard (“good height, defense, blocked shots”) and Sydney Lalancette (ditto),

Also sophomore Talia Cohen (“outside shooting”), sophomore Kestrel Grevatt and freshman Katherine Scotnicki (“played well when and where asked”) along with freshmen Sami Harvey and Sarah Bergkvist (“solid seasons”).

“I was very pleased with the season,” Kohlasch concluded. “We had a nice group of athletes.”

Little Details

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Seize today

Latin music permeated the air as the barista churned out lattes and “flat whites” for caffeine-craving clients. I treated myself to tea and a custard slice. It was spring 2007 and I found myself sitting in the café of Wellington’s public library.

My husband was hiking one of the green paths traversing New Zealand’s capital city. Our daughter, a visiting fifth grader at Karori Normal School, was attending youth group at a local church. Caroline, the energetic college student who facilitated the fun, plied the middle schoolers with candies and cookies as they played team-building games while learning a little about faith.

Pen in hand, I prepared questions for an interview with the director of a faith-based unit at Rimulka Prison. After working with incarcerated women in Vermont, I felt eager to learn about Kiwi reintegration strategies.

Audrey proved gracious and patient, thoughtfully answering each of my questions. I learned that the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, represent a disproportionate percent of inmates. This is not unlike Blacks and Native Americans in the United States. Repeated devaluation and disparagement of a culture—by a powerful, dominant class—penetrates deeply, impacting the collective psyche of a people.

Communal living, sustainable agriculture and a rich tradition of ancestral storytelling revealed themselves as expressions of Maori cultural values. The restorative justice movement is actually inspired by the practices of the Maori and other indigenous peoples.

We visited a Marae, a Maori meeting house. These gathering places evoked a church-like reverence. They are places of celebration, mourning and lessons in accountability when a community member commits an offense and must face his/her people to seek forgiveness.

My vegetarian family passed over meats at a Hangi, a traditional Maori feast. We indulged in bowls of kumara (sweet potato) soup and root vegetables simmered in a pit of heated stones dug into the earth. We practiced, but did not perfect the Haka, a Maori war dance now closely associated with the rugby team the All Blacks.

We visited the Franz Josef Glacier—it was melting—and waded in the Tasman Sea. (The sand fleas were irritating.) We hiked 72 km on the Queen Charlotte Track, fighting off hungry weka birds trying to steal our humble trailside lunches. We spent countless hours at the Wellington Public Library reading books and downing hot chocolate with pink marshmallows.

Our daughter learned she could land in a new school, city, country, and continent and, somehow, find her way. She adjusted to her teacher’s very different teaching style.  She experienced “American foreign policy” as more than mere words—it impacted how some people perceived her. Myth-busting and defying stereotypes was part of the gig. Friends like Aperva, Luhama, Charlotte, Emma, and Darin warmly welcomed her into their circle, assuring her a spot in playground games.

Reading, writing, learning, exploring, volunteering and connecting formed our New Zealand to do list during two months that flew by at lightning speed. This was our second sabbatical, following a similar stint in Poland when our daughter was five.

These experiences proved life-changing as we reassessed personal priorities and material needs. Sometimes life feels too busy to sit down and seriously ponder what we hope to accomplish, see and experience in this life. None of us knows how many grains of sand remain in our hourglass.

The “travel bug” seems to cause a persistent itch in our family. Five years have passed since our New Zealand sojourn. Our now 15-year-old daughter asserted herself, spending this year studying at an overseas high school. With leaves secured and backpacks packed, I bid you adieu with plans to send my next dispatch from somewhere along the North Sea. Thanks for reading.

Seize today.


Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at Editor@willistonobserver.com or LittleDetailsCol@yahoo.com

Letters to the Editor

Applaud student’s courage

Harking back to the days of Jesus, and more recently the Constitution, free speech is an unalienable right. Perhaps the unanimous decision by the eight-member board “Trinity Baptist School”… Observer, March 22) doesn’t understand that which is written… I applaud Master Oblak’s courage and recommend a good attorney.

Brian M McConnell


Hope Oblak family sues

I was appalled by the article “Trinity Baptist School suspends student for essay.” While I don’t have all the facts, if the tone of the essay is consistent with the excerpt cited in the article, it is hard to believe that in this day and age there could exist an educational institution that is so narrow-minded. I hope the Oblak family sues. Some things are so wrong, you have to have the conviction to fight it.

Pamela Cowan


Dogs off leash

In the spirit of balance in opinion, I want to add my perspective on dogs off leash. I have walked, run, biked, cross-country skied and roller bladed on the rec path since the beginning of the path. I am on the path more days of the year than not. I have yet to see an irresponsible, inconsiderate owner of a dog off leash. I understand a person apprehensive about dogs, especially large ones, is made nervous being approached by a dog off leash, but we should not tether all dogs for a few people’s fears. Dogs ON leashes present risks, as well. Anyone on a bike, or roller blades, approaching the back of a person with a dog on a leash, have feared the dog leash acting like a trip line.

I am thrilled with all the use the rec path gets from an eclectic population. The enjoyment of the path takes on many forms and tolerance is in order.

Sharon Gutwin