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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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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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