Los Altos Library Reading Buddies

Posted on January 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , , ,

Carter’s preferred snack is freeze-dried liver, “Clifford the Big Red Dog” is his favorite book and eating is featured prominently on his list of daily activities. Torrey likes bananas, “Henry and Mudge” stories and dressing up. Desi’s jam is bacon, “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog” and napping in the sunshine.

As profiled on their respective promotional bookmarks, each four-legged Reading Buddies participant boasts a distinct personality. But it’s the canines’ ability to listen without interrupting that consistently attracts the program’s two-legged participants – struggling readers who gain confidence by reading aloud to therapy animals. Saturday marked the post-holiday return of the free monthly drop-in sessions at the Los Altos main library.

“It is a wonderful program because all the volunteers, they bring their dogs,” said Jean Nei, acting children’s library supervisor at the main branch. “The children, especially the young readers, love to come to the library to read to the dogs.”

Here’s how it works: Children are paired with a volunteer and read aloud to that volunteer’s trained therapy pet. No one corrects pronunciation or becomes impatient awaiting the completion of a sentence. Some pets even cock their heads as if following the storyline.

The program is a popular Los Altos Library offering, drawing approximately 10-15 readers each month, Nei said. Some of the young participants don’t own pets, and the opportunity to read to a friendly furry ear is a novelty.

Certified Animal Behaviorist Julie Bond co-founded Reading Buddies in 2009 with Patty Guthrie, past vice president of Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services. The San Jose-based organization dispatches volunteers and their pets to libraries, retirement homes and hospitals, as well as to high school and college campuses during exam times.

Furry Friends pays monthly visits to more than 60 facilities throughout Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, including Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, The Forum Senior Living Retirement Home and De Anza College. While dogs and cats are the most common therapy animals, rabbits, guinea pigs, miniature horses and even llamas have put in appearances as well. All human and animal volunteers are evaluated and trained.

Three of Bond’s own dogs – all collies – have participated in Reading Buddies; Desi, a 6-year-old male Rough Collie, is her latest program companion. His claim to fame is actually his roommate Ozzie, a direct descendant of Lassie from the classic television series, according to his bookmark.

The effects of Reading Buddies’ low-stress environment are evident during follow-up sessions and through reports from students’ schools, Bond said. “This increases their fluency, and it increases their confidence,” she said. “It helps them speak up in class.”

Volunteer Reading Buddies publicist Maddie Elkin, 14, learned about the program a few years ago when she assisted with ushering participants from the library lobby to their assigned dog or cat within the Orchard Room. Afterward, she listened as the children read.

Reading Buddies meets 2:30 p.m. the fourth Saturday of each month at the Los Altos main library, 13 S. San Antonio Road. For more information, visit furryfriends.org


California Indian Feast Exhibition

Posted on January 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

Acorn Mush Basket“Seaweed, Salmon and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast,” a statewide traveling exhibition from the Grace Hudson Museum and Exhibit Envoy, is scheduled to open Saturday and run through April 16 at the Los Altos History Museum, 51 S. San Antonio Road.

The exhibition will feature historical and contemporary photographs, artifacts, food specimens, memoirs and recipes. Based on a compendium of Native American cuisine by Margaret Dubin and Sara-Larus Tolley, the display showcases foods important in the lives of Native Californians.

Sherrie Smith-Ferri, director of the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, curated the exhibition in consultation with her aunt, Kathleen Rose Smith, a California Indian artist and a member of the Coast Miwok and Dry Creek Pomo tribes.

Smith-Ferri noted how much fun it was to put the exhibition together. “It brought back lots of good memories of getting together with the family to spend time at the coast harvesting abalone, mussels and seaweed, or going to pick berries,” she said. “And of course, it brings back recollections of some great meals eaten together.”

The exhibition contains harvesting instructions and recipes for foods such as huckleberry bread, pine nut soup, rose hip syrup and roasted barnacles. Related programs for children are scheduled 10 a.m. to noon Saturday (“Animals and Fish as Food”) and Feb. 11 (“Native Plants as Food”).

Museum hours are noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is free. For more information visit: losaltoshistory.org


Downtown Los Altos Art Exhibitions

Posted on December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

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


Loyola Corners Studio Teaches All Ages

Posted on October 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

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


Local Teen Centers For Youth

Posted on September 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

air-hockey-at-the-undergroundLos Altos and Mountain View city officials sought a way to keep teens off the streets and safe. They’ve achieved that by opening teen centers – The Underground in Los Altos and The View in Mountain View.

The centers offer adolescents a safe place for fun, fitness and study. Both provide a free space for teens to hang out after school and on weekends.

“I believe that if there is nothing for teens to do, they can be pretty reckless, and this is a good place to let that energy get released in a good, positive way,” said Raul Villaseñor, a Los Altos High School who frequents The View.

The View caters to students in grades 6-12, and as many as 50 use the facilities on any given day. The Underground, which serves ages 12-17, hosts approximately 10 visitors per day. Both centers are open to all students from Los Altos and Mountain View.

The two facilities provide a wide range of activities, from games to fitness competitions and classes.

“The Underground offers regular drop-in hours for teens to utilize air hockey, pool table, pingpong, video games and more,” said Zack Silva, Los Altos recreation coordinator. “We also have scheduled tabletop game tournaments, like pingpong and air hockey, as well as occasional cooking classes.”

The Underground serves as a venue for Los Altos Youth Center dances, open to students from Blach Intermediate School and Egan Junior High School. The space is available to rent for parties or other special occasions as well.

The Underground is located in Shoup Park at 400 University Ave., Los Altos. For more information, visit: losaltosca.gov/recreation/page/teen-programs


Train Days Roll In Again At History Museum

Posted on August 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

Train Days at LAHMThe Los Altos History Museum’s Train Days event is making its annual stop 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 17 and 18 at the museum, 51 S. San Antonio Road.

According to organizers, Train Days celebrates the joy and wonder of model railroading. Elaborate layouts, intricate scenery, scaled renditions of prototypes and whimsical engines and theme cars – complete with steam, lights and sound – will speed the rails. Visitors can explore the gauges and scales associated with model railroading as private collectors and clubs showcase their trains and field questions about the mechanics and electronics of their layouts and the history behind the locomotives and railroads that inspired them.

The event will also feature California Operation Lifesaver with education on proper rail safety and the U.S. National Park Service Trails & Rails Program, a glitter tattoo station, a train-themed marketplace and a variety of gourmet food trucks and carts.

“We’re pleased to bring visitors something new every year,” said event chairwoman Kristen Fuller. “This year we welcome the Golden Gate Toy Train Operators, who will display an interactive layout displaying vintage toy trains of three different gauges – S, O and HO – and invite visitors to control some of the switches and accessories.”

The museum sponsors the event to demonstrate the importance of trains to national and regional history. For more than 150 years, rail service has been transporting passengers along the Peninsula. In 1907, Southern Pacific put Los Altos on the map with its steam railway connecting Palo Alto to Los Gatos.

Admission is $5, free for children 4 and under. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org


Stage Company Lineup For 21st Season

Posted on July 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

Los Altos Stage CompanyLos Altos Stage Company recently announced its lineup for its 21st season, scheduled September to June at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

The season’s lineup features two musicals and three plays.


The season opens with “Assassins,” a musical featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman. “Assassins” delves into the violent means some will use to obtain celebrity status. The musical challenges audience members to look at their culture through the lives of the nine assassins and would-be assassins of the presidents of the United States. Characters such as John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guiteau and Lee Harvey Oswald appear onstage to tell their stories in a kaleidoscope of dangerous personalities disappointed and disillusioned by the American Dream. Performances are scheduled Sept. 1-26.


Five lost souls find themselves relating through a series of quirky acting exercises in a summer community acting class in Annie Baker’s “Circle Mirror Transformation.” The intimacy of the class creates an unlikely Petri dish where funny, surprising and poignant secrets are revealed. The New York Times, The New Yorker and Time Out New York hailed “Circle Mirror Transformation” as one of the top 10 plays of 2010. Performances are scheduled Nov. 17 through Dec. 11.


The Los Altos Stage Company begins the new year with Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang’s “Yellow Face.” “Yellow Face” explores what happens when a prominent Asian-American playwright and activist accidently casts a white man as the Asian-American lead in his new play. Intertwining the historical events of the 1990 casting controversy of “Miss Saigon,” the 1996 Campaign Finance Controversy during which a number of Asian-Americans were investigated by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the 1999 accusation of espionage against Wen Ho Lee, “Yellow Face” explores the complexities, contradictions and comedy of the construct of race. Performances are scheduled Jan. 26 through Feb. 19.


Next is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a play based on the 1960s novel by Ken Kesey and adapted by Dale Wasserman. Set in a mental hospital for convicted criminals, the play explores issues of individual identity and freedom, with inmate McMurphy clashing with Nurse Ratched as he fights for the dignity of his fellow patients. Performances are scheduled April 13 through May 7.


Los Altos Stage Company closes the season with “[title of show],” a musical about two young songwriters in New York City writing a musical about two young songwriters in New York City. Featuring music by Jeff Bowen and book by Hunter Bell, “[title of show]”’s two leading characters find that writing a comedy about the process of writing is more interesting than anything else they could write. Performances are scheduled May 25 through June 24.

Season subscriptions for all five plays are on sale now from $90 (students) to $162. Single-play tickets are set to go on sale Friday.

For tickets and more information, call 941-0551 or visit: losaltosstage.org


Vintner Keeps Winemaking A Family Affair

Posted on June 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

Winemaker’s wife and sonThe wine business is often a family business, with multigenerational hands wielding blades when it comes time to harvest, and in-laws and nieces enjoying first samples of a given year’s yield. Labels and vines are passed from mothers to sons and fathers to daughters.

The all-in-the-family focus is a great thing for wine drinkers, because the love these families share is evident in the wines they produce.

I recently met a local, family-centric winemaker at Honcho, the new wine bar in downtown Los Altos. John Benedetti of Sante Arcangeli Family Wines was hanging out at Honcho that night – his wines are featured on the lounge’s menu.

Our conversation about winemaking quickly became a chat about kids. John is a dad. Talking about his wines and his son produced the same wide smile and excited twinkle in his eyes.

“I used to work in high-tech,” shared Benedetti, adding that a primary reason for selling his tech business and making the leap to full-time winemaker was to focus on work that was more inclusive of his young son and family.

In celebration of Father’s Day, I asked Benedetti about how family influences his wines.

“Being a dad is a huge part of what I’m doing,” he said.

He explained that he’s working to build something his son, Lucca, will someday want to be a part of. While his son may be too young to fully appreciate what Benedetti is creating, after one taste of his well-balanced Split Rail Pinot Noir, it’s easy to imagine that his extended family is proud of what he is achieving.

“My dad gets involved, too,” Benedetti said. “He’s 83 now but can still shovel grapes when harvest comes around. It’s hard to make him sit down, actually. I’m often worried he’ll overwork. He and my mom show up at the winery all the time to help out and provide moral support.”

While there are key milestones in the year of a winemaker, such as harvest and bottling, it is a career with few days off. In addition to making Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and a Rosé of Pinot Noir under his Pescadero-based Sante Arcangeli label, Benedetti serves as a winemaker for several other local producers.

“It’s a career I love and one that usually loves me back,” he said.

For those celebrating their fathers by grilling outdoors this Father’s Day, Benedetti recommends his Mardikian Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast/Green Valley), which can be ordered online at santewinery.com.

“The white pepper in the Mardikian begs for savory food, and the wine is big enough to hold its own against richer foods,” he said.

If you’re taking your dad out on the town the Saturday before Father’s Day, visit Honcho at 235 First St. for a glass of Sante Arcangeli’s local Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation Blend. Benedetti said the wine has wonderful structure and acidity.

For a family day trip beyond Los Altos’ bounds, the Sante Arcangeli tasting room at 216 Stage Road perches just over the hills at the heart of Pescadero.

Christine Moore is a Mountain View resident. To read her blog, visit: sheepishsommelier.blogspot.com


Tech Challenge Competitors Design Gliders

Posted on May 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

Blach Intermediate’s “Time Flies” teamFlying supplies to a remote location presented the problem – and opportunity – at this year’s Tech Challenge competition at San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation, held April 23-24.

The annual team design competition engages students in hands-on engineering projects. For the 2016 “Taking Flight” challenge, they worked on building and launching gliders that could carry supplies with pinpoint precision. The engineering process is intended to include real-world meanings – each team had to explain where the glider was going, and why.

A team of three Gardner Bullis School sixth-graders placed first in their age group. Kiefer Tierling, Gage Garcia and Mihir Mishra dubbed themselves “Blackbird Designers Team” in recognition of the world’s fastest aircraft. After prototyping a wide range of designs and materials for their glider, they came up with a functioning model only days before the competition, but their foam device launched smoothly and nabbed the prize.

Gage was working on a balsa-wood model when Kiefer started cutting foam and discovered that a model using that material landed pretty near the target. They refined a foam glider that could carry pingpong ball supplies.

“A breakthrough that we had was that we were able to keep adding things, because the center of lift is below the center of weight,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer noted that this year’s challenge proved more difficult overall than last year’s because it required more advanced construction to meet the minimum requirements of a launcher and glider. “It took a lot of teamwork to get it done,” Mihir said.

A team of five eighth-grade girls from Blach Intermediate School, “Time Flies,” won second place overall in their age group after working for half a year on their gliders. Kayla Blalack, Olivia Byun, Mika Nijhawan, Vikki Xu and Noelle Crawford had to launch over a set of obstacles and deliver their payload to a target beyond (figurative) mountains and storms.

They met weekly starting in October to research relevant concepts such as airfoils and then began to experiment with basic materials. “We knew the science, but the hardest part was making the design,” Mika said. Other Los Altos School District award winners included “Aerial Taiga Team” and “KYD Tech Team” from Almond, “EPIC Team” from Springer and “Sky Force Team” from Santa Rita.

More than 2,600 students from around the Bay Area participated in this year’s challenge. The late Bob Grimm of Los Altos, among other early supporters, founded the event 29 years ago.

For more information on the Tech Challenge, visit thetech.org


Los Altos’ K-9 Has His Day Downtown

Posted on May 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , , ,

Los Altos Police K-9The Los Altos Police Department’s K-9, Lord, has a bulletproof vest, car heat-alert system and trauma kit. His handler, Officer Julie Tannock, said the equipment protects them both – as well as the public. She’s used the K-9 trauma kit, for instance, on people requiring immediate medical attention.

“It has anything we could need before getting to the doctor or vet,” she said. “I’m lucky to work for a city that takes care of its dogs.”

Not all pups are so fortunate, and that’s where the Police & Working K-9 Foundation comes in. The nonprofit organization’s “Cover Your K-9” project provides lifesaving equipment for California police and working dogs. To raise funds for other working animals, Lord will have his day during a meet-and-greet 2:30-4:30 p.m. May 21 at the plaza outside Enchanté Boutique Hotel, 1 Main St.

“It’s one way to use our community plaza to have positive events,” said hotelier Abigail Ahrens.

The family-friendly fundraiser will feature photos with Lord and handouts of free police trading cards, giveaways from Petco, donation incentives at downtown’s Posh Pooch Portraits and advice from Fuzzy-Wolf canine behaviorist Jimi Dixon. Organizers request that it be a people-only event.

During Lord’s day, Tannock will address the German shepherd’s initial and ongoing training as a public servant. She explained that K-9s are “locating tools” to track people, drugs and bombs.

“They’re not attack dogs,” she said. “We use their noses to help us do our jobs.”

Lord is now 9 years old. Tannock anticipates that he’ll be on the job for another couple of years. Once he retires, Tannock as handler will be responsible for his medical bills. The Police & Working K-9 Foundation has that covered, too, with $1,000 toward emergency medical care for retired dogs.

For more information on the meet-and-greet event, call Enchanté Boutique Hotel at 946-2000.  For more information on the Police & Working K-9 Foundation, visit: coveryourk9.com


Next Page »