Ornamental Odyssey: A Local Story

Posted on December 2, 2016 by  
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traveler-linda-clarkIt’s safe to say that Los Altos resident Linda Clark loves holidays. Her attractive mid-century ranch home undergoes several seasonal makeovers each year, with the biggest transformation at Christmas.

A frequent world traveler with her husband, Dean, Clark has visited Africa, Indonesia, the South Pacific, the North Pole, Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, China, the Baltics, South America and more. The couple’s home is decorated with mementos from many of their trips – including fans and masks from Indonesia and South Pacific islands – and a guest bedroom is known as “The Africa Room.”

Clark’s love of Christmas decorating began as a young girl. Her parents found it too much work, so it became her job. “It really began before my teens, or just about at that time,” she said. “Every time something grabs my fancy, I buy it. Every time we travel, I try to buy something representative of the country.”

She’s found that one of the drawbacks to group travel is the lack of shopping time. “Every Stanford trip we’ve been on, I always write (on the evaluation afterward), How can I help support the country’s economy if you don’t give me time to shop?” Clark said with a laugh.

Clark couldn’t say offhand how many ornaments are now in her collection, but the largest tree, in the living room, has more than 1,000 ornaments on it. And there are 13 other trees. Even her tiny Santa’s workshop tree – a Manzanita tree branch – has more than 200 ornaments on it and is “very painstaking to decorate” because of the diminutive decorations, she said.

Her Santa and Mrs. Claus trees have very few ornaments because of the difficulty in finding pairs of the Christmas couple. She’s always on the lookout for them and was pleased to find a pair at Los Altos’ Cranberry Scoop last year.

Other themed trees include the train tree (for her husband, who loves model trains), the angel tree, the travel tree and three kitchen trees; the latter have more than 600 ornaments on them. When the Christmas season approaches, the Clarks retrieve 35-40 storage bins from their shed and get to work.

In addition to finding treasures while traveling, Clark is always on the lookout at craft fairs, artists’ open houses and favorite stores such as Cover Story and Cranberry Scoop in Los Altos.

Some of her ornaments go way back, such as her Santa and Mrs. Claus applehead dolls, which she estimated that she’s had for 50 years. Friends add to her collection from time to time, and she has also made many of the ornaments herself.

In addition to Christmas, Clark decorates for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day and Flag Day. She also has ornaments for many other occasions and events, such as baby showers, wedding showers, travel and school.



Downtown Los Altos Art Exhibitions

Posted on December 1, 2016 by  
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autumn-aspen-and-evergreenFollowing is roundup of local arts events and exhibitions.


Karen White is the featured artist for the month of December at Viewpoints Gallery. Her exhibition, which runs through Dec. 31, features oil paintings created over the past year.

A reception for the artist is scheduled 5-8 p.m. Friday at the gallery.

White approaches her subjects – landscapes, cityscapes and still lifes – in a contemporary way, with bold brush strokes and vibrant colors.

“Painting allows me to explore my subjects through a modern lens,” she said. “Whether painting outdoors or in the studio, my focus on design, color and texture continues right through to the finished work.”

Viewpoints Gallery is located at 315 State St., Los Altos. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, call 941-5789 or visit viewpointsgallery.com or karenwhiteart.com.


“Color of Light,” a group show of Gallery 9 member artists, is scheduled to run through December.

An artists’ reception is slated 5-8 p.m. Friday at the gallery.

The Los Altos gallery, established in 1970 by a cooperative group of nine artists, moved to downtown Los Altos in 1973. Current membership stands at approximately 30 and comprises a diverse group of local artists who work in various media, including painting, printmaking, photography, jewelry, ceramics, sculpture and weaving.

Gallery 9 is located at 143 Main St., Los Altos. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, call 941-7969 or visit gallery9losaltos.com


The Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society has scheduled an art show through Feb. 6 at Vino Locale, 431 Kipling St., Palo Alto. The display showcases the work of 26 local artists.

For more information, visit scvws.org.

To submit an item for “Local Arts Roundup,” email Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com


LACI Solicits Feedback On Park

Posted on November 11, 2016 by  
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laci-open-houseLos Altos Community Investments (LACI) held an open house Nov. 2 to discuss its planned green space on First Street in downtown Los Altos.  According to Sares Regis, a developer working with LACI, 95 people stopped by to share input with designers and developers, snack on appetizers and informally vote on amenities they would like to see in the proposed half-acre park.

LACI displayed several boards featuring different descriptors for the park, which would cover the portion of Parking Plaza North that fronts First Street. They asked questions such as “What character would you like to see in the Green?” or “What passive amenities would you like to see in the Green?” with options listed including “outdoor living room,” “dog walk” and “charging stations and Wi-Fi.”

“I used up all but six of my stickers,” said Los Altos resident Harry Guy of LACI’s voting process.  The retired engineer and lead emergency preparedness volunteer said he was excited to see that the plans promised something a bit more than a communal lawn. “We don’t need a bunch of grass, because of the water (consumption),” said Guy, expressing optimism that landscape architects Joni L. Janecki & Associates would install something more drought-resistant.

Janecki & Associates designed the David and Lucile Packard Foundation grounds and De Anza College’s sunken garden. Brad Jacobson of EHDD architects is another veteran of the Packard Foundation project on Second Street. “Residents were open to solutions that help solve problems the town has,” Jacobson said of the Packard Foundation headquarters. “There was a way to bridge the charm … with a forward-looking aesthetic. It’s not either-or. There’s a lot to learn from both sides.”

Many Los Altos residents were enthusiastic about the potential project. Ron Labetich, a longtime real estate broker in the city, dubbed the park a “great idea.” Maddy McBirney, a member of the Los Altos Public Arts Commission, said, it was “awesome.” McBirney added that she thought it was an inspiration for some of Los Altos’ other underused spaces, like the Veterans Community Plaza.

Others were skeptical about how the park could change the existing fabric of Los Altos. Guy, who was excited about the park itself, was more nervous about the changing face of First Street – particularly the old home now containing Bumble. It was the residence of Los Altos’ first librarian and is seen by many Los Altos residents, like Guy, as a landmark.


Kelly Snider, managing director of LACI, said all critiques are being taken into account. “We are just beginning to consider the size and design of the proposed park, the types of features and elements the park could contain, and the type of programming it could host,” she said. “We are seeking input from everyone in the community and are happy to meet and discuss with anyone who is interested.”


A $3 Million Donation For MS Services

Posted on November 4, 2016 by  
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ceo-cyndi-zagieboylo-visits-with-edward-dowdThe National Multiple Sclerosis Society has received what representatives called “a significant, life-changing gift” from Los Altos resident Edward Dowd.

The gift will establish the Edward M. Dowd Personal Advocate Program, enabling some patients to continue living in their homes.

The $3 million, multiyear gift is the largest gift the society has received from an individual donor.

The Edward M. Dowd Personal Advocate Program will expand the society’s services for people living with MS, ensuring that personalized case management is more consistently available to those needing in-depth support.

“For too many people living with MS, significant challenges and roadblocks prevent them from living their best lives,” society officials said in a statement. “Disease progression, employment issues, social and environmental factors, family issues and more can present seemingly insurmountable obstacles to receiving needed housing, home care, medical equipment, insurance and other support.”

Society officials said Dowd’s gift will expand its nationwide network of trained case managers who are knowledgeable about MS and who can provide the level of support necessary for navigating the challenges of MS.

“This life-changing gift will accelerate the collective and individual ability of people affected by MS to live their best lives – connected, solution-focused and resilient,” said society President and CEO Cyndi Zagieboylo. “People affected by MS have a supportive partner in the society to access the information and resources they need to make life choices and to find sustainable, life-changing solutions.”

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.The National MS Society mobilizes people and resources so that anyone afflicted with the disease can have the best possible quality of life.

For more information, visit: nationalmssociety.org


LAHS Hosts 11th Science & Tech Week

Posted on November 3, 2016 by  
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water-rocketFrom learning the mechanics behind vacuum technology to discovering the mysteries of bioluminescence in the deep seas, Los Altos High School students were exposed to varied science and technology careers last week.

The school hosted its 11th annual Science & Technology Week, inviting speakers from more than 30 industries and academia to discuss their career paths with students. Speakers covered such topics as public health research, oceanography, plant reproduction, machine intelligence, computer science and socially minded innovation.

The objectives of the week included demonstrating the value of math and science education to encourage students to take more associated classes during high school, raising awareness of the variety of related career opportunities, highlighting the diverse backgrounds of professionals and prompting students to think creatively and join the ranks of innovative thinkers for the next generation.

The week kicked off Oct. 19 with keynote speaker Robert Baertsch, vice president of software engineering at skyTran.

In a presentation open to the entire community, Baertsch addressed how today’s traffic congestion and climate change challenges can be resolved with innovative and green technology like Personal Rapid Transit systems. Baertsch is responsible for skyTran’s software control systems and helped develop the company’s magnetic levitation wing and motor controls.

Students last week could select from among more than 25 presentations covering topics such as medicine, psychology, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, environmental science, ecology, oceanography, engineering, art, math and space.

The Eagle Theater was packed during the Oct. 25 presentations, with students eager to hear the address by Jill Tarter, the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute.

Her presentation – “Life Beyond Earth?” – examined the possibilities of living beings beyond what is known on Earth. Her presentation ended with thoughtful questions from students, such as, “Are there other universes?” “Do we all exist in a computer simulation?” “What will extraterrestrials look like?” and “Should we be trying transmit into space to discover?”

For more information on Science & Technology Week, visit: lahsstemweek.com


Eagles Sweep Spartans In Finale

Posted on November 1, 2016 by  
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eagles-sweep-spartansIt’s going to take more than a few broken toes to prevent Los Altos High’s Kat Mumm from playing volleyball – especially against rival Mountain View in the league finale.

The outside hitter played through the pain to help the Eagles sweep the Spartans Thursday.

Mumm came up with a big kill in the marathon first set that tied the score at 22, snapping a three-point run by Mountain View. The teams traded points until 24-all, when Kaitlyn Wong’s ace put the Eagles up one. Payton Shaffer answered with a kill for the Spartans and teammate Lauren Price followed with one of her own to give Mountain View a 26-25 lead.

Lauren Limbach’s kill down the middle tied it, but the Spartans got the lead back when Los Altos’ next serve landed in the net.

Again on the verge of winning, Mountain View couldn’t put the set away. Los Altos rattled off three straight points, starting with a spike by Hanadi Nassif, who totaled a match-high 17 kills. Setter Kate Carlson followed with an ace and the Eagles won when the Spartans’ next kill attempt went wide.

Los Altos led for most of the second set – by as many as six points – before Mountain View tied it at 17 on Aidan O’Leary’s kill. But the Eagles scored six of the next eight points (two on Limbach kills) to go up 23-19.

Eleonore Johansen, whose nine kills tied Shaffer for the team high, then scored off a block. That’s as close as the Spartans got. Mumm’s back-row kill made it 24-20 and after Los Altos was called for an illegal touch, Mountain View returned the favor to end the set.

The Spartans refused to surrender, however. They built a 15-9 advantage in the third set behind four points by Shaffer and stellar setting from her big sister Sam.

It wasn’t enough to hold off the resilient Eagles. They went on a 12-4 run to take the lead. Nassif contributed three kills – highlighted by a cross-court blast – along with an ace during that span.

Host Mountain View regrouped to tie the set at 23, but Limbach’s block for a point and a Spartan shot that went long ended it.


Los Altos HS Librarian & Author

Posted on October 28, 2016 by  
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los-altos-high-librarianLos Altos High School librarian Gordon Jack is debuting his first young adult novel to the community Nov. 9 with an author event that promises to be fresh and fun, like the book itself.

Jack’s novel, “The Boomerang Effect” (2016, HarperCollins), chronicles the story of high school junior Lawrence, who finds himself in a spot of trouble and connects with a freshman mentor, Spencer, who helps Lawrence find his authentic self.

“It takes place during homecoming week, when someone is destroying the class floats,” Jack said of his book. “Everyone thinks Lawrence is responsible; he and Spencer work together to clear his name.”

As a librarian, Jack said students constantly ask him to recommend young adult novels that are funny.

“There are not a lot of young adult books for guys that are funny out there,” he said. “YA is a lot of paranormal fantasy, which are really popular with readers. You just don’t see as many funny books.”

Jack found that odd, because his son, now 14, became a reader thanks to comical series such as “Captain Underpants.” Jack said he wanted to create something with “that immature sensibility to it.”

“The Boomerang Effect” was three years in the making – including rewrites with an agent and subsequent rewrites after HarperCollins purchased the book.

“I have been writing for a long time,” Jack said. “When I was an English teacher, it was hard to write because you were always grading. When I made the transition to librarian, I had the weekends.”

Once ensconced in the library, Jack had time to read more young adult novels, which helped him understand the genre.  While Jack is surrounded by teens every day, he said his novel is not a depiction of Los Altos High. The Viking mascot is a nod to Palo Alto High, his alma mater.

“It’s meant to be entertaining and silly and funny,” he said.  Jack plans to continue the fun with an author event, scheduled 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at Kepler’s Books, 1010 El Camino Real in Menlo Park.

“I want the event to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve been to a lot of these author events, and I want to avoid the typical thing where the author does a reading.”

Jack invited a few Los Altos High seniors to help him make the event different. He will challenge the teens in a contest that tests their knowledge of pop culture, young adults and young adult literature. The event will include prizes and giveaways for the audience as well.

Because his intended audience is young adults, Jack hopes a crowd of young people attend – he really wants to make his book’s premiere a community event.

Ahead of its official Nov. 8 release, the novel is already receiving praise on Goodreads.com, a book review website. The School Library Journal, a publication for school librarians, commended “The Boomerang Effect” as “highly recommended for YA readers looking for a novel with large doses of humor and a narrative rooted in personal growth and self-awareness.”

For more information on the Kepler’s event, visit: keplers.com/event/gordon-jack


Loyola Corners Studio Teaches All Ages

Posted on October 27, 2016 by  
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halo-pottery-in-los-altosHila Itzhak’s pottery classes do not just mold clay – they also mold children.

From her Loyola Corners studio, Halo Pottery, she hopes to give children in the South Bay the opportunity to not just make something, but to relax while doing so.

“It is the best activity because it is not just art and creation. It is the most natural thing a child can touch,” Itzhak said of the material. “Clay can heal. It will bring you to your roots. When you open a bag of clay, it smells like just after the first rain.”

Itzhak runs several different programs out of her studio, including weekly classes and one-off workshops. She rents out space for birthday parties and work retreats. Summer camp ended recently. During the long Thanksgiving break, she will experiment with a camp for children out of school for the long weekend.

According to Itzhak, anyone from 4 years old and up can get something out of Halo.  “It builds motor skills,” she explained. “When they draw or paint, it is two-dimensional. With clay, they see things differently. They will not simply draw a porcupine, they know how the animal is structured.”

Itzhak’s students can eat off of their work. They mold the clay, paint it and can bring it home after it has been fired and glazed. Itzhak’s 3-year-old son prefers eating off of his handiwork at the dinner table. “It builds self-esteem when parents use a child’s bowl,” she said. “It makes them want to sit around the table and eat.”

As she gestured toward a sky-blue teapot, Itzhak said its potter was just under 5 years old. He walked in and wanted to make a teapot from day one. Her young student started with a bowl and worked up from there until he could make a watertight teapot and matching lid.  “He understood not just how to make something out of clay, but how a teapot is formed,” she said.

Many of these same skills, besides perhaps the fine-motor dexterity, are just as useful for teenagers and adults as they are for young children. Itzhak has hosted work retreats and girls’ nights out – complete with wine – in the studio. She finds pottery to be a salve for the frenetic Silicon Valley lifestyle.

“Everything here seems very calm on the surface but is very hectic,” she said. “Even children have a busy schedule. People come in and can work together on something. You don’t need experience, just the right instructions and the will to work. Every piece a child makes, I want it to be their best. A child does not need to feel insecure.”

Halo Pottery is located at 981 Fremont Ave., Los Altos. For more information, visit: facebook.com/halopottery


‘Granny Units’ Could Aid Housing

Posted on October 26, 2016 by  
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number-0fIn a joint study session, the Los Altos City Council and the Planning and Transportation Commission last week reviewed how secondary living units might allow for new housing in Los Altos.

City officials concluded that secondary living units, small outbuildings often called “granny” or “in-law” units because of their customary inhabitants, could help alleviate Silicon Valley’s housing crisis.

Community Development Director Jon Biggs asked the council if Los Altos should lower the minimum lot size allowed for secondary units from 15,000 square feet. Out of the city’s 9,439 total parcels, only 1,501 are more than 15,000 square feet.

David Kornfield, the city’s planning services manager, said the meeting provided enough information to move forward.

“There are more eyes on the streets in places with second living units, and there’s different patterns of living,” he said. “When we come back (to the council), we will provide a much more comprehensive report on what the benefits are to the community and what the requirements are from the state.”

After the study session focused on secondary units, the conversation shifted to affordable housing. Los Altos has been without an affordable housing administrator since a 2015 request for proposal proved unsuccessful.  That’s at least partly due to the fact that no one seems to know the scale of affordability in Los Altos.

The city has partnered with Palo Alto Housing to administer affordable units in downtown Los Altos. According to Los Altos Mayor Jeannie Bruins, no one knows if units designated affordable are occupied by families that need the assistance, because the city has a complaint-driven compliance system.

Citing his experience living in Los Angeles, Alex Samek – another member of the Planning and Transportation Commission – suggested annual registration of below-market-rate units, including secondary housing.

City staff indicated that they would take Samek’s suggestion into account as they form an affordable housing strategy, which will not yet require a housing administrator.


Coaching with honor at LAHS

Posted on October 21, 2016 by  
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los-altos-high-field-hockey-coachHer players and their parents have said it for years, and now the Central Coast Section has recognized Mary Donahue for the way she coaches the Los Altos High field hockey team.

The Los Altos resident has been named this year’s CCS Honor Coach for her sport. Criteria for selection include service to the sport, maintaining professional standards of conduct and being a role model and inspiration.

Los Altos players and their families said Donahue checks all the boxes.

“She’s an amazing coach,” said Tanya Matthew, a junior. “She always encourages us to do well and pushes us to do better.”

Although Donahue acknowledged, “I do like to win,” it’s the relationships – not the results – that matter most to her. The connections she’s made with players and parents keep her coming back year after year.

“It seems always to be a challenge for us to see winning results on the field, but we always have such a great group of girls on our LAHS team,” said Donahue, in her 10th season as coach. “I’ve been really lucky to have gotten to know them and their super nice, supportive families. It makes the coaching so worthwhile.”

As for the light shined on her by the CCS, Donahue said she is “really, really honored” to win the award. Many people who know her would deem it long overdue. Donahue tries to set a good example by treating the game – and those involved in it – with respect.

“I do truly believe in the positive coaching idea and assume the best from athletes, coaches and refs,” she said. “I think most folks are generally trying their best and are well intentioned in their actions, and try to treat them as such.”

As for the remaining few weeks, Donahue said the goal is to “improve and have a better second-half record than we had in the first half of league play. And this will sound dorky, but I also want the kids to enjoy the rest of the season.”


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