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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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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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