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News

"Brown is the new green," says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spending nearl...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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Business

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

DR. ALFRED HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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