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News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

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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Big prize escapes Los Altos family this year, but giant pumpkins still dazzle neighbors

10.13.2013 KassoPumpkinHaulingParty-7630b
Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The gourd-y details: The Kasso family shows off its prize pumpkins to Covington School students.

As local youth scour farmstands to pick the perfect pumpkin to take home, they may think they’ve found the big one – that is, until they venture down Marvin Avenue in Los Altos to the Kasso house.

Pumpkin envy may set in as their jaws drop in awe at gourds so large they could fit the bill as Cinderella’s coach.

Growing big pumpkins – tipping the scale at 686 pounds this year – is a labor of love for Suzanne and Chris Kasso and their two children.

“We like to garden and we like to experiment, so growing big pumpkins is the best of both worlds,” Suzanne said. “We also like to tinker and troubleshoot and learn and grow. It sets a good example for the kids.”

At their fourth weigh-in at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival Oct. 14, the couple’s pumpkins were dwarfed by a 1,985-pounder, but they took home prizes in the the Most Beautiful category.

After their weigh-in, the family stopped by Covington School as it adjourned to let their children share their giant pumpkins and answer classmates’ questions.

The Kassos plant big pumpkins along the edge of their driveway, where neighbors stop to pose for photos in Halloween costumes and marvel at how large the giants are until Thanksgiving, when the family painstakingly harvests seeds and saws the pumpkins into smaller pieces for recycling in their compost pile. The family then feeds the soil that will birth next year’s pumpkins.

The Kassos said they didn’t really know what they were doing when they started their growing tradition nearly 10 years ago.

“We got a 60-pounder and thought, ‘Wow, this is the biggest one we’ve seen,’” said Suzanne of their initial attempt.

Shortly after, they enrolled in a class hosted by the Los Altos Hills Parks and Recreation Committee and realized that there was both a science and an art to growing big pumpkins. Simply popping a seed from any garden store into unprepared soil wouldn’t generate the magic needed to produce large pumpkins.

Prepping for pumpkins

The Kassos said their hobby requires year-round attention, starting from the day after they pluck the pumpkins from their vines.

“As soon as we move this guy out, we begin prepping for next year,” said Chris of what happens behind the scenes. “You can have good seeds, but if the soil isn’t good, it’s not going to grow.”

It’s not exactly a trade secret, but the family’s on-site compost pile of chicken and horse manure along with other organic waste is a critical element in their success. Starting in fall, they rototill and fertilize the ground where they grow their pumpkins to prepare the optimal bed.

Then the hard work begins. Germination of the subtropical plants poses challenges. The seeds must be started indoors and kept at a temperature of at least 90 F until they take root. Once the pumpkin plants are transplanted outdoors, vigilance is essential. Chris uses plant cages to protect the tender vegetation from little critters like squirrels. He and Suzanne spend time nearly every day during the early growing season digging trenches, as the plants’ vines seem to grow exponentially. By harvest, the pumpkins’ tentaclelike vines can extend more than 60 feet.

“Every year we learn something new,” Chris said. “Maybe by the time I retire, I’ll be able to grow one that’s 2,000 pounds.”


Kasso Family cultivates pumpkin prowress - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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