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News

LASD approves advisory committee expansion

Los Altos School District trustees approved a resolution Aug. 25 to expand their Facilities Master Plan Advisory Committee, which provides the district with advice on future facilities projects.

The resolution broadened the membership of the committ...

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Schools

Program turns parents into school-day advocates

Program turns parents into school-day advocates


Courtesy of Sonia Maiello.
Project Cornerstone parent reader Sonia Maiello regales a Montclaire classroom.

Parent volunteers at Montclaire Elementary School in Los Altos are gearing up for the seventh year of Project Cornerstone, a countywide YMCA ...

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Community

'Beach Blanket Babylon' star entertains Rotary Club

'Beach Blanket Babylon' star entertains Rotary Club



“Beach Blanket Babylon” star Tammy Nelson entertains members of the Rotary Club of Los Altos Aug. 21. Jerry Tomanek/Special to the Town Crier

Wearing 300-pound hats as she belts out clever, zany and often bawdy songs, Tammy Nelson stars in th...

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Sports

Eagles, Spartans gear up for gridiron season

Eagles, Spartans gear up for gridiron season


Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos and Mountain View highs have new starting quarterbacks this year, with Kyle Gnoud, above, taking over for the Eagles.

If any game defined the 2013 football seasons for Los Altos and Mountain View highs...

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Comment

You may have already won!: A Piece of My Mind

There is something irresistible in the idea of buried treasure brought to light. We love to hear about the dusty picture in the attic that turns out to be a genuine Rembrandt, the stock certificate in the bottom of the neglected safe deposit box tha...

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Special Sections

A Chrysler comeback New 200C is proof the company is relevant again

A Chrysler comeback New 200C is proof the company is relevant again


Courtesy of Chrysler
The 2015 Chrysler 200C offers a 295-horsepower V-6 engine and the SafeTec package. The interior features comfortable front seats, lots of legroom and a restyled center-console area.

The reborn Chrysler Corp. is a success story ...

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Business

Modern art exhibit comes to Los Altos: Passerelle teams with Christie's on pop-up venture

Modern art exhibit comes to Los Altos: Passerelle teams with Christie's on pop-up venture


images courtesy of Christie’s 2014
Christie’s auction house will host a pop-up exhibit Sept. 10-18 in downtown Los Altos. Works on display will include Roy Lichtenstein’s “Girl in Mirror,” valued at $2 to 3 million and a 2013 untitled work by Korak...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

SARA MITTELMAN

Sara Mittelman, 97, was born May 10, 1917 and died August 15, 2014 at Menorah Medical Center. She was born in Pilica, Poland and came to the USA in 1950. Sara was a Holocaust survivor who lost her entire family during the war. She was one of the olde...

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Travel

Visiting Vancouver Western Canada's premier destination has much to offer

Visiting Vancouver Western Canada's premier destination has much to offer


Photos courtesy of TOURISM VANCOUVER
Outdoor adventures abound in and around Vancouver, including a boat excursion into Horseshoe Bay and a jaunt on the Cliffwalk at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, among the most popular attractions in British Col...

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Stepping Out

Los Altos Stage Company attaches itself to

Los Altos Stage Company attaches itself to "Trailer"


COURTESY OF LOS ALTOS STAGE COMPANY
The cast of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, clockwise from left, Mylissa Malley (Lin), Christina Bolognini (Pickles) and Vanessa Alvarez (as Betty).

Los Altos Stage Company launches its 19t...

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Spiritual Life

Spiritual Briefs

Meditation group meets at Foothills Congregational

A Weekly Meditation Practice group meets 7-8:15 a.m. Tuesdays at Foothills Congregational Church, 461 Orange Ave., Los Altos.

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host o...

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Kid-friendly equals bug-friendly in the garden


Photo By: Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Tanya Kucak/Special To The Town Crier

Native mock orange, right, attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects. In the spring, the large shrub is covered with fragrant flowers.

Bugs, insects, creepy crawlers, birds, butterflies – any living organism children can relate to – are among the easiest ways to engage children in the garden, according to garden designer Alrie Middlebrook.

“(Children) like getting their hands dirty and wet” in worm bins, compost, ponds and the vegetable garden, and they like seeing “what’s alive in the soil,” she said.

Middlebrook heads the California Native Garden Foundation, which offers garden-based classes for children in grades 2-8 at its outdoor learning laboratory in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood through its Environmental Laboratory for Sustainability and Ecological Education (ELSEE) project.

The goals and hands-on approach of ELSEE are similar to those of the Los Altos School District’s Living Classroom Program, said Living Classroom founder Vicki Moore.

Both ELSEE and the Living Classroom teach about plants not as individual, interchangeable entities, but as part of an ecosystem and in relation to the animals that depend on it.

To teach pollinator relationships, for example, ELSEE starts with a butterfly. Following its life cycle, the children learn about the butterfly’s host plants during its larval phase (caterpillar). They then explore that same butterfly’s nectar plants in its adult phase.

“The butterfly wouldn’t be there without the plant,” Middlebrook said, so a discussion of pollination leads back to the importance of plants in the ecosystem.

Students learn about the parallel evolution of the butterfly and those critical host and nectar plants.

For those planting a butterfly garden, it’s important to realize that caterpillars eat host plants. If you want butterflies, expect plants to get munched.

To design kid-friendly gardens, Middlebrook focuses on protecting ecosystem services before choosing specific plants. Healthy ecosystems provide such services as pollination, nutrient cycling, water purification and climate regulation. A good garden design allows the natural cycles and processes to operate. In practical terms, the design challenge is to avoid disrupting the natural systems, Middlebrook added.

Following are some design elements that help preserve ecosystem services.

• Don’t use impervious surfaces. Instead, choose pervious concrete or decomposed granite where a hard, uniform surface is needed. Or use stepping stones, gravel or some other surface that allows water to be absorbed into the soil rather than running off.

• Keep rainfall on site. Rain barrels and cisterns can hold a small percentage of annual rainfall, but a small pond, a dry well, grading or other techniques may also be needed to divert water from storm drains.

• Use locally native plants to attract native pollinators. Choose plants that occur together in the wild to more closely approximate a native ecosystem.

• Use local materials. It takes a large amount of energy to transport materials long distances. This energy is a factor in the “embedded cost” of the materials.

• Avoid pesticides and herbicides. Instead, encourage more life in the garden. Attract the bugs that prey on plant-eating bugs by planting native insectary plants from the appropriate ecosystem. Plants such as yarrow and globe gilia have tiny flowers that attract a wide range of pollinators and other beneficial insects. Let your population of aphids grow enough to attract the beneficial insects that eat them.

Tanya Kucak gardens organically. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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