November 28, 2014

PHOTOS: Williston Central School musical ‘Annie’

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A cast of 58 Williston Central School students performed “Annie” as the school’s spring musical on May 11 and 12. The play also marked AJ Cronan’s last year as artistic director. (Observer photos by Jayson Argento, www.lakechamplainphotography.com)

 

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PHOTOS: Vermont Respite House 5K Fun Run & Jiggety Jog

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More than 240 participants and volunteers turned out for the Vermont Respite House 5K Fun Run and Jiggety Jog in Williston on May 11, raising nearly $50,000 for the Vermont Respite House. (Observer photos by Jayson Argento, www.lakechamplainphotography.com)

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PHOTOS: CVU girls tennis

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The 11-0 Champlain Valley Union High School girls tennis team defeated Burlington High 6-1 on May 13. (Observer photos by Greg Duggan)

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THIS WEEK’S POPCORN: ‘Iron Man 3′

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This Time with Irony

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By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer

 Oh, to be fifteen and totally grok director Shane Black’s “Iron Man 3,” seen with your best pals and later praised over cholesterol-ridden burgers, accompanied of course by an unconscionably-sized basket of fries. Inside that magic circle, this film is probably great. Outside it, the third episode of the Marvel Comics-derived adventure is just pretty good.

 

Still, even seen from the vantage point of the Great Unwashed, there is much to recommend this rousing adventure as Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, jumps once more into the breach to save humankind. And if the experience jogs a fond memory of those comic book reading days, odds are it’ll amplify your enjoyment.

 

Indeed, there is the minutiae and lore of the franchise, doubtless the entertainment lifeblood of the male adolescent enthusiast…a phenomenon his parents wish would transfer to his schoolwork. But don’t sweat it if the terminology overwhelms. You’ll pick up what you need, and what you don’t, well, rest assured there won’t be a test afterwards.

 

Meanwhile, simply surrender to the kaleidoscopic onslaught of special effects that propel the saga with megaton shock and awe. If there’s an f/x language, “Iron Man 3” pens a veritable thesis, the film neatly and rather wondrously melding its over-the-top visuals with the narrative that manages to seep through its crevices. It’s all about that uniform.

 

For those who’ve come late to the party, note that Tony Stark, multi-billionaire weapons manufacturer turned Earth savior is a tinkerer extraordinaire. As such, he has been working on a customization of his Iron Man suit… a new fold in the metal that hopefully will allow him to respond more effectively when the bad guys rear their ugly heads.

 

Which just happens to be now. Entering stage left is disgruntled old colleague, Aldrich Killian, played despicably well by Guy Pearce. After having reached bottom in the single-minded pursuit of egocentric ambitions, he’s back in town to show off his stuff, especially to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, his now archenemy’s main squeeze.

 

Shades of Nazi superman genetic altering insanity, the preening Mr. Killian, via his Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), is touting the majesty of Extremis, a substance invented by Stark’s ex, Maya (Rebecca Hall). He plans to rule the world, and he’d like Pepper to be his Ava Braun. But she’s not buying, and you can figure the upshot.

 

Also sullying the mélange of antithetical forces is The Mandarin, a dark-hearted terrorist of penultimate acumen who’s been having his ghastly way, artfully portrayed by Ben Kingsley. A study in evil with no real objective other than the total intimidation of the planet, it is no mistake that his mystery and elusiveness evoke a reminiscent chill.

 

But beware. Director Black weaves a fairly good story between the crescendos of visual wonder. All is not what it seems. And, lest we fear that the razzle-dazzle of techno wiz filmmaking forgoes the dramatic elements of the comic book adventures that won our favor in the first place, note there is ample quixotic melody strewn through the action.

 

Yep, for all the thrill that was gleaned way past your bedtime— imagination, comic book and flashlight under the covers—the writers didn’t omit your romantic education. Tony is cool, handsome, cute, witty and, like the icing on French apple pie, intriguingly rich. Analogously, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is surely this 14-year-old’s blonde ideal.

 

Call me a corny old sap, but it’s believing that their amour is every bit as genuine as the most earnest of Hollywood’s pairings that keeps this leviathan of color and sound from dissolving into just one more CGI extravaganza. But the prime mover and shaker, fully matching the visuals in one-two punch fashion, is Robert Downey, Jr. himself.

 

He is the glib braggart personified, at once human and extraordinary, and likeable because we know in our hearts that beneath all the vaunt and persiflage the protection of his fellow man is job #1. Although, in this episode, attempting to convey the vulnerability under the alloy, the psychoanalysis is a bit much. But don’t worry, he’s still quite super.

 

However, whether a metaphor about heroism or merely this go-round’s notional mechanism, there is an irony to this third installment of Iron Man. Yes, the title persona performs many spectacular deeds. But it is when he is compromised, bereft of steel-capsuled identity, and still able to outclass the foe, that we are most heartened.

 

In that ability is captured the essence of the fantasy…a profound wish for control and a hope that there is something more within our own power to ensure our future. We are about accomplishment and the vanquishing of perceived boundaries. So, when a film like “Iron Man 3” successfully illustrates that dream, we celebrate our own destined mettle.

“Iron Man 3,” rated PG-13, is a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release directed by Shane Black and stars Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Guy Pearce. Running time: 130 minutes

 

EVERYDAY GOURMET: A proper potato salad

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 By Kim Dannies

 

I had the pleasure of reading “American Potato Salad” by Rebecca Hays, which appeared in Cook’s Illustrated a while ago. For the uninitiated, Cook’s Illustrated is the beloved nerd of the cooking world. Their motto is “we make mistakes so you don’t have to.” Cook’s pedantically Poindexter approach to the basics is well worth revisiting as it is old-school cooking technique at it’s finest.

For example, they tested several varieties of potatoes and discovered that Russets absorb the most vinegar while they are hot because they have a weaker cell wall and crumble more easily, “a charming, not alarming feature,” according to Hays. Because veins of vinegar permeate the whole chunk, seasoning the potatoes while they are hot is a flavor game changer. Because there is little discernible difference between a potato cooked in the jacket or peeled, go the easy route: peel and cut into large cubes, boil in salted water and do not overcook.

After testing dressings with mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt, test-tasters overwhelmingly chose mayo — like a freshly pressed summer linen suit, 1/2 cup seasoned mayo dressed two pounds of potatoes properly and perfectly.

 

All-American potato salad

Peel 2 pounds of Russet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Place in a large saucepan and add water to cover potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Simmer until tender, 8 minutes. Drain potatoes and transfer to prep bowl. Add 2 tablespoons white vinegar over the hot potatoes; fold gently to combine. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Fold together: 1/2 cup mayo; 1 rib chopped celery; 2 tablespoons minced red onion; 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish; 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard and celery seed, each; 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut into cubes. Salt to taste. Gently fold together dressing and eggs. Cover and chill one hour or up to 24. Serves 4.

 

Try some of these splashy burger combos with the salad: shrimp, scallop, and mint bound with panko and egg white. Chicken/turkey burgers with bacon and avocado and BBQ ketchup. Duck burgers with chutney and basil aioli. Short rib burgers with caramelized onions, bleu cheese and tomato. Lamb and beef combo stuffed with Greek seasonings, tzatziki sauce, grilled onions.

 

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters. Archived Everyday Gourmet columns are at kimdannies.com. [email protected]

 

HUB HAPPENINGS

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Phillips awarded for lifetime service

The Vermont Rural Water Association recently honored Williston engineer Don Phillips with the Tony Torchia Award.

The award is presented  annually to an individual for outstanding service efforts over a career in the water industry. Phillips served over 40 years assisting many Vermont communities with planning, design, construction and upgrades to their water and wastewater infrastructure. He recently retired from Aldrich + Elliot, based in Essex Junction.

“I really didn’t think I did anything special over my career,” Phillips said. “What I did focus on was insuring I always acted in a manner that built trust and respect at a very personal level. It was very rewarding for me to have built some very close relationships over the years with many different folks including, system personnel, regulators, other engineers, as well as many local and state officials.”

 

AllEarth Renewables named Bicycle Friendly Business

On Earth Day, April 22, the League of American Bicyclists recognized AllEarth Renewables with a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Business award, one of 63 businesses awarded in 44 states this year.

“More and more business leaders are realizing that bicycling is a simple and cost-effective way to move toward a more productive company,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. “Promoting healthy transportation is increasingly attractive to employers and prospective employees, and it’s moving America toward a more sustainable future.”

On any given day in the summer, more than a third of the company’s 23 employees ride to work or run errands near its Williston office and at least three employees commute to work by bike year-round. The company provides shared bikes, lockers, shower facilities, bike maintenance tools and the use of company vehicles for mid-day appointments.

 

Vermont Federal Credit Union members elect board

 

Approximately 375 people joined Vermont Federal Credit Union at its 60th Annual Meeting in April, reelecting Joseph Finnigan and Douglas Fisher to the board of directors. The group was the largest turnout in the history of the credit union’s annual meetings.

 

Vermont unemployment 4.1 percent in March

The Vermont Department of Labor announced that the seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for March 2013 was 4.1 percent, a decline of three-tenths of a percent from the prior month’s estimate of 4.4 percent. The comparative national average was 7.6 percent. March 2013 represents the eighth consecutive month without an increase to the unemployment rate in Vermont.

 United Way awards companies for philanthropy

United Way of Chittenden County recognized leaders in the community at its annual awards presentation and dinner on May 8.

Awards included:

Live United Award, recognizing a company that embodies the United Way’s mission, to Vermont Gas.

Keyperson of the year, celebrating above and beyond achievement of one or more people leading a workplace, to Nicole LaBrecque from PC Construction.

Affinity award, recognizing a company that “excels in their field and for the common good,” to Engelberth Construction.

Campaign of the year, recognizes an organization for campaign management best practices, to Hickok & Boardman Companies.

 

Pete Johnson named Vermont Small Business Person of the Year

The Small Business Administration announced the 2013 Vermont small business award winners April 15, awarding the 2013 Vermont Small Business Person of the Year title to Pete Johnson, Pete’s Greens owner.

The other 2013 Vermont winners are Nelson’s Ace Hardware as the Family-Owned Business of the Year, Shelburne Shipyard as the Woman-Owned Business of the Year, Music Store Live as the Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Patch’s Green Service LLC as the Micro-Enterprise of the Year and Eastwind Diamond Abrasives as the Exporter of the Year.

“Congratulations to all of our winners,” said Darcy Carter, SBA Vermont District Office director. “Each one is deserving of their respective award. They all represent the best of Vermont’s small businesses.”

The winners will be recognized during the 2013 Vermont Small Business Awards Ceremony on June 13.

 

FairPoint’s anti-idling initiative receives environmental honor

FairPoint Communications, Inc. was honored for its anti-idling initiative by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, receiving an honorable mention award at the annual Vermont Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence on May 14.

The Vermont Governor’s Awards were established in 1993 to recognize the actions taken by Vermonters to conserve and protect natural resources, prevent pollution and promote environmental sustainability.

 

Vermont employer semifinalist for DoD award

Vermont employer Engineers Contruction, Inc. of South Burlington has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2013 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the DoD’s highest honor for employers that provide support to their Guard and Reserve employees. This year, 138 semifinalists stood out among 2,899 employers nominated by a Guard or Reserve employee.

Up to 15 award recipients will be announced early this summer and honored in Washington, D.C. in September at the 18th annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award ceremony.

 

Berlin City donated to local schools

Berlin City Auto Group announced that it donated $33,050 to 24 New England schools across New England as part of its Drive for Education program.

Award recipients included Richmond Elementary School and eight other Vermont schools. The company is set to hold check presenting ceremonies on May 22.

 

Catamount Marketing welcomes Burdett

Catamount Marketing has hired Nina Burdett as a sales representative and marketing consultant.

Burdett previously worked three years with g.housen & co. as a marketing and communications coordinator. Burdett grew up in Keene, N.H. and is a graduate of the University of Vermont.

 

Vought joines VBSR

Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility welcomed Roxanne Vought as internship and special projects manager.

A graduate of UVM, Vought started her career through a series of internships with Burlington area nonprofits, and continued with management positions at Vermont Mozart Festival, UVM Lane Series and Carbon Harvest Energy. Prior to joining VBSR she spent eight years with UVM Continuing Education.

THE HUB: New studio teaches self-defense and empowerment

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Paula Lee (left) and Gerald McCan recently opened the Self Defence Institute. (Observer courtesy photo)

Paula Lee (left) and Gerald McCan recently opened the Self Defence Institute. (Observer courtesy photo)

By Phyl Newbeck 

Observer correspondent

Paula Lee of South Burlington is passionate about self-defense. In the hope of passing that passion on to others, she and her business partner, Gerald McCan, have opened the Self Defense Institute, Ltd. in Williston.

Lee earned a black belt in Shotokan karate in 1998 and became a certified instructor in the R.A.D. (rape aggression defense) program in 2006, teaching both basic and advanced self-defense. She has taught self-defense for the Shelburne Parks and Recreation Program, assisted local police departments in teaching R.A.D. classes, and worked with the Vermont Outdoor Guide Association.

After a stint in the Air Force as a military policeman, McCan spent 22 years with the New York City Police Department working in various capacities including teaching self-defense to battered and abused women and as a firearms trainer. He is hoping to establish roots in Vermont.

The Self Defense Institute offers classes for men and women in self-defense and firearms training and safety. Lee and McCan are also prepared to provide individualized instruction and personal training, but McCan notes that a class environment is more cost-effective for clients. The two are also willing to provide classes on specific self-defense scenarios, including the legal ramifications of certain actions. Currently, biweekly classes seem to work best for their customers.

The duo has already provided instruction to more than 100 people. While they work on improving their new space, they teach at the Hilton Hotel in South Burlington.

“It’s a neutral venue,” McCan explained. “Many of our clients are new to firearms and some have never owned one. They can be a little bit intimidated in traditional sportsman settings and don’t necessarily like looking at a trophy buck. The Hilton and our new space are both neutral classroom environments.”

Lee took martial arts lessons as a child but eventually lost interest. Her two sons decided they wanted to be ninjas so she signed the three of them up for a family martial arts program.

“They hated it, but I loved it,” she said. “I developed teaching skills and love having the opportunity to help people and empower them to develop their own competence and learn what to do in a risky situation. A big part of that is developing awareness skills and avoiding those situations.”

Lee teaches basic handgun instruction and safety, but stresses that McCan has more background in that field. McCan said he likes to go beyond the traditional National Rifle Association syllabus to talk about other areas of self-defense.

“A firearm is like a rock,” he said. “It’s neither good nor evil.”

He recalled a woman who told him she worried about statistics showing that owners of firearms are likely to have those weapons used against them. McCan said he didn’t disagree.

“Buying a piano doesn’t make you a pianist,” he said by way of analogy. “You are more likely to get hurt with your own firearm unless you’ve got the self-confidence to fire it in a safe and informed fashion.”

Both Lee and McCan stress that part of what they teach is a particular mindset of confidence and empowerment.

“It starts with the mind,” said McCan. “Nobody has the right to make anyone do anything they don’t wish to do and we’re teaching the confidence to recognize that.”

McCan added that while firearm proficiency is important, it’s only part of the self-defense package.

“The firearm is the last card in the deck,” he said. “All self-defense starts from awareness, attitude, alertness and how you perceive your environment. The firearm is the tool of last resort but if you need it, you want to have the confidence and skill to use it.”

The Self Defense Institute is located at 528 Essex Road, Williston. To learn more, call 735-6314. 

 

THE HUB: The scoop on Yogurt City

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Yogurt City is set to open in Maple Tree Place later this month. (Observer photo by Rachel Gill)

Yogurt City is set to open in Maple Tree Place later this month. (Observer photo by Rachel Gill)

 

By Rachel Gill 

Observer correspondent

Fourteen flavors of self-serve frozen yogurt will begin tantalizing taste buds starting next week with the opening of Yogurt City, a franchise frozen yogurt company opening in Maple Tree Place. The corner location, previously occupied by Ben & Jerry’s, had been vacant for years.

After three months of construction, Wendy Lu, who is helping to open and run the new yogurt shop, said she hopes to open by Tuesday, May 21. Lu’s boyfriend, Shawn Zheng, is the shop’s primary owner. Both Zheng and Lu moved to the U.S. from China, Lu 10 years ago and Zheng, 15 years ago. They now both live in St. Albans.

Yogurt City started in 2011 and has since swelled to include approximately 20 shops sprinkled along the East Coast.

In Williston, shiny new self-serve yogurt machines line the neon green and vibrant orange walls also adorned with multi-colored tile. The space is accented with orange and white swirl lights that hang from the ceiling.

Next week, Lu said the yogurt machines will begin dispensing flavors such as New York cheesecake, very raspberry and cappuccino, among many others. All flavors hover around 100 calories and contain zero grams of fat per half-cup serving, according to Yogurt City’s website.

All flavors are also mixable, so customers can taste any flavor combination they can conjure up. After choosing a yogurt flavor, folks can move on to the toppings bar, which offers fresh fruit, cookie dough, nuts, chocolate chips and more.

“We are excited to open and we want people to come visit Yogurt City,” Lu said.

Lu and Zheng have seen the success of Yogurt City before.

“My brother opened a Yogurt City in Staten Island, New York, four years ago and it does very well,” Lu said.

At its Maple Tree Place neighboring shop, The Paper Peddler, the buzz about the new yogurt shop has already started.

“It’s exciting to see that a new business is going to the empty spot, especially a frozen yogurt place,” said Louise Nichols, a Paper Peddler employee. “I knew something was up over there when we all started hearing all the noise over there from the construction.”

Kathie Cooke, owner of The Paper Peddler, said she always welcomes new neighbors.

“We think it’s great, especially in the summer, this place will be hopping,” said Cooke. “It may not bring more people into our shop, but it will certainly generate interest in this area and may make people want to know what else is here.”

Karen Sidney-Plummer, general manager of Maple Tree Place, said Yogurt City will make a great addition.

“We are very excited about it especially with the start of our summer concert series that begins June 20,” Sidney-Plummer said. “Yogurt City should do phenomenal business and they chose to open at a perfect time of year so they definitely have that in their corner.”

Yogurt City is located at 121 Connor Way, Suite 110 in Maple Tree Place. 

 

CVU girls tennis to take on Essex

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Captain Andrea Joseph prepares to return a hit. For more photos, visit the Web Extras section. (Observer photo by Greg Duggan)

Captain Andrea Joseph prepares to return a hit. For more photos, visit the Web Extras section. (Observer photo by Greg Duggan)

By Stephanie Choate, Observer staff

The undefeated Champlain Valley Union High School girls tennis team will bring its 11-0 record to Essex High on Thursday afternoon, after bagging back-to-back wins in the beginning of the week. 

On May 14, it beat Colchester High 7-0 on its home courts and on May 13 defeated Burlington High 6-1.

The team beat Essex earlier in the season, but next week the Redhawks will face two teams they have yet to play—6-4 Mount Mansfield Union High and 6-3 St. Johnsbury High. The Redhawks were supposed to play St. Johnsbury on May 11, but the match was postponed to May 22, the last match of the regular season.

Meanwhile, the boys tennis team racked up three recent wins. On May 11, it beat St. Johnsbury High 4-3, on May 13 defeated Burlington High 4-2 and on May 14 beat Colchester High 7-0. 

On Thursday, the Redhawks are set to play strong Essex High at home, then travels to Jericho on May 20 to play Mount Mansfield, a team they have yet to face.

 

 

Sports Roundup

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Home games for lacrosse teams

The Champlain Valley Union girls lacrosse team will face Burlington High at home over the weekend, then welcome South Burlington High to its home field on Tuesday. 

On Wednesday, it traveled to Middlebury Union High, after the Observer’s press deadline.

Mount Mansfield Union High narrowly tipped the Redhawks in a high-scoring game on May 10, just beating CVU 11-10. 

The boys will play Middlebury at home on May 17, then Burlington on May 22. Middlebury handed CVU one of its few losses this season in mid-April, while the Redhawks handily beat Burlington earlier in the season.

On Tuesday, the Redhawks traveled to Jericho to face Mount Mansfield Union High in a make-up game, after a mid-April matchup was rained out. The Redhawks powered past the Cougars, defeating them 11-5, with Alex Bulla and Nevin DiParlo each scoring three goals.

On May 11, CVU crushed Spaulding High 13-0 on its home turf.