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Arts & Entertainment A weekly guide to music, theater, art, movies and more, edited by Rebecca Wallace

Former restaurateur Donia Bijan describes in a new memoir her family’s journey of exile and quest for belonging

:=B8=B; 5 D@579 5H @=:9ÁG H56@9 by Renee Batti photographs by Michelle Le

Donia Bijan squeezes lemon juice into an apple mixture, working in the backyard of her Menlo Park home.

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t the time former restaurateur Donia Bijan began writing down memories of her parents’ lives, she was wracked by grief over the unexpected and gruesome death of her beloved mother, Menlo Park resident Atefeh “Amy” Bijan. Bijan, the owner and chef of the highly regarded L’Amie Donia restaurant in Palo Alto, now closed, felt compelled to leave a record for her son and her sisters’ children about their grandparents, who immigrated

to the United States after being exiled from their homeland in 1978, at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution. The project of remembering through writing germinated as Bijan sorted through her mother’s possessions, eight days after Amy Bijan, still vital and fit at 75, was struck and killed by a car while walking in a crosswalk on Menlo Park’s Santa Cruz Avenue in January 2004. Entering her mother’s home a few days after the funeral, Bijan worked

somberly amid the scent of tea and roses, “sorting and packing the boxes I had lined up by her cabinets like little coffins, filling them with cups and saucers wrapped in newspaper, and spoons, spatulas, and whisks,” she would write later. During the course of packing up, Bijan came across a collection of papers tucked into a kitchen drawer — newspaper clippings from food sec-

Clockwise from left: Donia Bijan picks low-hanging apples while her husband and son, Mitchell and Luca Johnson, help harvest harder-to-reach fruit from an abundantly producing tree in the family’s backyard; an array of apples; wholewheat apple bread — one of several results of the apple harvest — cools on the backyard picnic table.

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tions and loose pages from notepads with recipes written, in English and in Farsi, in her mother’s hand. They were recipes for American dishes, dating back to the year her parents arrived in this country, leaving behind all their possessions, including the hospital they built and operated, to be looted in the frenzy of revolution. It was then that Bijan began musing about the connection between food and belonging — the link between the ritual of the table and the ability to find one’s place in the world. “I knew when I found those recipes that something was there, and that I was going to find that something — I was going to find the key to open the door,” she says during a recent interview in the sunny backyard of the Menlo Park home she shares with her husband, artist Mitchell Johnson, and their 10-yearold son, Luca. Her mother, she says, “had Persian cuisine down,” but when she lost her homeland, she had an instinctual understanding that embracing the cuisine of her adopted country would allow her to find a place in the new, sometimes baffling world in which she found herself transplanted. “She found that you can lose everything, lose your home even, and find a sense of place in the kitchen,” Bijan says. “It doesn’t matter where that kitchen is. ... It’s the power of

food: You can hit rock bottom and a taste can cure you — give you something sensory to hold on to. It’s what will bring you comfort at the end of the day.” As grief clouded her days and memories of her mother overwhelmed her, Bijan wrote. “There was nothing else I could do,” she says. “I was incapacitated.” She also closed her restaurant that year after 10 years, finding that continuing “was just too much” — particularly with a 2-year-old son whom her mother had helped care for during Bijan’s long days in the popular bistro’s kitchen. The writing project consumed several years, but she had no intention of publishing the work. It was the relentless encouragement of her husband, she says, that led her finally to seek a publisher. The result is “Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen,” which is being released next week. The book is billed by publisher Algonquin as a memoir, and each chapter concludes with recipes, some reflecting Amy Bijan’s culinary passions and skills, others developed by Donia Bijan as she melded flavors of Persian, French and other cuisines. Its narrative moves back, forth and beyond geographically: from Tehran, where Bijan was born and lived until she was 15, when the family left for a vacation in Spain but was unable to return home after the country exploded in turmoil; to the United States, where the entire

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family eventually settled and Ms. Bijan took a degree in French from the University of California, Berkeley; to France, where Ms. Bijan was trained at the Paris-based Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School and years later interned for months in two eminent restaurants in French villages. Bijan explains early on in the book that she had written “in an attempt to find answers to the questions I never asked my parents, such as ‘How did it feel to start your life from nothing?’” But as she calls upon her memories to delve into that question, another critical element of the book emerges: The writer is compelled to examine her own experiences and complex feelings as an exile — remaining devoted to her parents, honoring the culture they thrived in for six or more decades, yet knowing she must find her own place at life’s table. That quest proved a challenge for the naturally shy Donia, the youngest of the late Dr. Bijan Bijan and Amy Bijan’s three daughters. But the writer describes the journey with penetrating insight, reflecting on her experiences with a sometimes jarring honesty. “I didn’t want the book to be sentimental,” Bijan says. “A lot of memoirs can be like country music: ‘I lost my love, I lost my pickup truck, I lot my dog ...’ It’s tricky — it’s easy to fall into the sentimental trap.” Regarding the book’s title, Bijan explains in an email: “Homesick pie is the sum of the longing and hunger I feel when I make my way to the kitchen, almost like sleep walking! And if someone were to look through our kitchen window, they would see a pair of busy hands peeling, chopping, mixing flour, butter, eggs for our dinner, but also finding other nourishment in bringing us to the table to share that meal. ... There is more than just eating when we break bread.” Food as an essential that satisfies and nurtures far more than our physical beings is a theme returned to again and again in “Homesick Pie.” Referring to the kitchen in the Bijan home soon after her parents immigrated to their new country, Bijan writes: “Slowly we had been stocking our pantry with turmeric, cumin, saffron, cinnamon, allspice, dried fruit, lentils, fava beans, and basmati rice. “In Iran, I had climbed onto the kitchen counter to look at my mother’s cooking spices, opening them one by one, taking in their prickly scent. Now, it reassured me to see them lined up again like stepping stones across a vast ocean.” N Renee Batti is the news editor at the Almanac, one of the Weekly’s sister papers. Info: Donjia Bijan will read from “Maman’s Homesick Pie” at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 — the book’s official release date — at Kepler’s bookstore in Menlo Park. She also will be at Book Passage in San Francisco on Oct. 13, and Books Inc. in Mountain View on Oct. 25, as well as in bookstores across the state and the country. Ms. Bijan also will give a cooking demonstration at Draeger’s in Menlo Park at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16. Go to doniabijan.com for more about the book and events.

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Dragon Productions cast members in the surprising Colette Freedman comedy “Sister Cities.�

Humor and heart over unlikely subject ‘Sister Cities’ is clever and captivating by Jeanie K. Smith

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ou may not have heard of playwright Colette Freedman, but she’s one of the most prolific writers for the stage, garnering numerous awards for her 25 plays thus far, including the comedy “Sister Cities,� currently being performed at the Dragon Theatre in downtown Palo Alto. A comedy it most assuredly is, even though the plot centers on the suicide of the mother of four grown daughters. Unbeknownst to three of the four, mother Mary (Shelley Lynn Johnson) had developed ALS in the last two years, and as the disease progressed, she desired nothing more than to be released from her suffering. Her daughters — all named after the city or state they were born in — gather to mourn and decide how to handle her death. They’re in for quite a few surprises as the plot unfolds. Oldest daughter Carolina (Kim Saunders) has built a successful law career, but hasn’t managed to achieve happiness in relationships. Austin (Darcie Lee Grover) has won awards and acclaim for an early novel, but now can’t muster up a paragraph. She moved back home with mom a while back, presumably to help care for her, but it’s also clearly a retreat of sorts. Dallas (Alexandra Bogorad) seems happy to be a housewife with a loving husband, but has her own dark secret to reveal. And the youngest, Baltimore (Katie Rose Krueger), is proudly pursuing a degree in sociology at Harvard — or, is she? Facades crumble and secrets tumble out as the four women begin peeling away the years of separation and come face to face with several realities: their own, the reality of their mother’s illness, and one huge

THEATER REVIEW reveal that propels them into catharsis. While the plot revolves around this major issue that I won’t spoil for you, still there is abundant humor in the witty dialogue and the well-drawn characters as they get reacquainted. Freedman has a knack for spot-on one-liners, and in this context they provide surprising and welcome relief from what could be a deadly subject (no pun intended). The heartbreak of ALS and the mother’s choice of suicide are not dealt with lightly, but they are made bearable by the deft writing. In fact, there is a thoughtful presentation of differing sides of an argument, enough to prompt discussion over after-show drinks. But the four daughters need a kick in the pants to get them out of their various stuck places, and that’s really where the play takes us — ultimately a warm and generous place of fresh starts and sea changes, courtesy of family crisis. The five actresses are wellmatched to their roles, and are all adept at handling the comedy as well as the pathos. Saunders is excellent as the uptight Carolina who perhaps undergoes the most change, putting a new spin on “letting her hair down.� Bogorad is suitably preppy and perky, and Johnson gives a convincing portrayal of a woman who has accepted her fate and now merely wants relief. Krueger is cute as a button, sassy and smart and delightful; hopefully we’ll get to see more of her on local stages. But the real standout of the ensemble is Grover as Austin, deadpanning her way through the play

with ease, then delivering punch and vinegar when needed with equal aplomb and emotion. Her energy so nicely contrasts with that of the other sisters that it’s great fun watching them collide with her seeming nonchalance. Neal Ormond’s set is both serviceable and attractive, a cheerful middle-class living room with a bit of taste and a touch of schmaltz. Steve Shumway’s lighting provides demarcation when needed, and Rosie Ricca’s costuming nicely breaks out the characters for us — even down to the underwear. Director Dale Albright does a great job with pacing and comic timing, and keeps the show from slipping into maudlin territory. His deft direction, a talented cast, and an intriguing and funny script make for a very entertaining evening at the Dragon. N

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Fun for the whole family ... WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!! This space donated as a community service by the Palo Alto Weekly.

What: “Sister Cities,� by Colette Freedman, presented by Dragon Productions Theatre Company Where: Dragon Theatre, 535 Alma St., Palo Alto When: Through October 23, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Cost: Tickets are $16-$30. Info: Go to dragonproductions.net or call 800-838-3006.

25th Annual Palo Alto Weekly

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CHINESE Chef Chu’s 948-2696 1067 N. San Antonio Road on the corner of El Camino, Los Altos 2010 Best Chinese MV Voice & PA Weekly Jing Jing 328-6885 443 Emerson St., Palo Alto Authentic Szechwan, Hunan Food To Go, Delivery www.jingjinggourmet.com Ming’s 856-7700 1700 Embarcadero East, Palo Alto www.mings.com New Tung Kee Noodle House 947-8888 520 Showers Dr., MV in San Antonio Ctr. Voted MV Voice Best ‘01, ‘02, ‘03 & ‘04 Prices start at $4.75 Su Hong – Menlo Park Dining Phone: 323–6852 To Go: 322–4631 Winner, Menlo Almanac “Best Of” 8 years in a row! Page 36ÊUÊ"V̜LiÀÊÇ]ÊÓ䣣ÊUÊ*>��ʏ̜Ê7iiŽÞ

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ITALIAN La Cucina di Pizzeria Venti 254-1120 1390 Pear Ave, Mountain View www.pizzeriaventi.com Fresh, Chef Inspired Italian Food Spalti Ristorante 327-9390 417 California Ave, Palo Alto ݵՈÈÌiÊœœ`ÊUÊ"ÕÌ`œœÀÊ ˆ˜ˆ˜}Ê www.spalti.com

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MEXICAN Celia’s Mexican Restaurants Palo Alto: 3740 El Camino Real 650-843-0643 Menlo Park: 1850 El Camino Real 650-321-8227 www.celiasrestaurants.com Palo Alto Sol 328-8840 408 California Ave, Palo Alto Õ}iʓi˜ÕÊUÊœ“iÃÌޏiÊ,iVˆ«iÃ

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Search a complete listing of local restaurant reviews by location or type of food on PaloAltoOnline.com

Eating Out FOOD FEATURE

Born to brew Beer is a blend of art and science for brewmaster Jeff Held of Gordon Biersch Palo Alto by Tyler Hanley

Michelle Le

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Jeff Held works on a fresh batch of beer in the Gordon Biersch brewery in downtown Palo Alto.

DINNER BY THE MOVIES AT SHORELINE’S

Pizzeria Venti

vations r e s e r epting now acc

able! l i a v a g caterin

eff Held cradled a glass of auburn-colored beer — Gordon Biersch’s popular Märzen lager — as massive cylindrical machines hummed beside him. The brewing area in the rear of Gordon Biersch’s downtown Palo Alto restaurant sounded akin to a large laundry room on a recent Monday, its machinery churning feverishly. Held was cleaning one of the stainless-steel brew tanks using an organic-eating caustic. “This equipment was built in Germany in 1965, so it’s very old equipment. Oldest in the company and probably some of the oldest in the country,” Held said. The vintage equipment is apro-

pos considering Gordon Biersch’s Palo Alto location at 640 Emerson St. was the company’s first, opening in July 1988. There are now more than 40 nationwide. Held, brewmaster of Gordon Biersch Palo Alto for nearly a decade, beamed with a youthful enthusiasm while describing the brewing process that is organic at its core despite the heavy mechanical element. “To make beer you use four ingredients. You use malted barley, hops, water and yeast,” Held said. Brewing in large amounts is a time-consuming and complex undertaking — Held uses roughly 1,000 pounds of malted barley to (continued on next page)

Scaloppine di vitello al Marsala

The town of Marsala is a seaport city located in the Province of Trapani on the island of Sicily in Italy. The low coast on which it is situated is the westernmost point of the island. It is best known as the source of Marsala wine. Chicken Marsala is an ancient dish made with this wonderful wine. So great was thought the power of this wine, a Greek warlord even believed his men fought with more flair by drinking a little before battle. But it was the English who settled in Sicily in the early 1800’s who are credited with “upgrading” the dish with the use of veal.

It is our distinct pleasure to offer Scaloppine di vitello al Marsala as this week’s special dish.

Buon appetito! Chef Marco Salvi

SCALOPPINE DI VITELLO AL MARSALA sPOUNDVEALMEDALLIONS sTABLESPOONSOLIVEOIL s!LL PURPOSEmOUR s3ALTANDPEPPERTOTASTE sLARGESHALLOT MINCED

sPOUNDFRESH button mushrooms, sliced sžCUPDRY-ARSALAWINE sCLOVEGARLIC CHOPPED sTABLESPOONBUTTER

Preparation instructions: Add 2 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly season the veal with salt and pepper coat each medallion in flour, shaking to remove excess flour. Place in the heated skillet until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes. Remove medallions from the skillet, place in a baking dish covered with foil, and keep warm in the preheated oven until ready to serve.

1390 Pear Ave., Mountain View (650) 254-1120 www.mvpizzeriaventi.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet over medium low heat, and sauté the shallot, garlic and mushrooms, scraping up any browned bits, until shallots are tender. Increase heat to medium high, and stir in the Marsala. Cook and stir until thickened. Remove from heat, and whisk in the butter until melted. Pour sauce over the veal and serve with a wedge of lemon. Serves 4

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Eating Out    (continued from previous page)

           



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brew 600 gallons of beer — but Held’s appreciation for the craft is apparent. He begins with a “base malt� before adding other malts (for certain brews), water, hops and finally yeast in varying amounts depending on the final product. If he is brewing the lighter Export beer, he will use 100 percent pale malt as his base. The opaque Schwarzbier calls for pale malt plus a small percentage of black malt that “gives the beer that deep rich color,� he said. Of course it’s much more involved than it sounds, with boiling, sterilizing, condensing, aging and filtering all part of a process that can take more than a month to get from base malt to beer glass. “A lot of people say brewing is a combination of art and science, and I’d agree with that,� he said. At 42, Held has an amiable demeanor and somewhat contagious joie de vivre. An appreciation for organics can be traced to Held’s roots, as both of his older brothers are now farmers in Cayucos. But Held tapped into his interest in brewing while in college at U.C. Davis, where he met fellow student Jeff Alexander, who was studying fermentation science. After graduating with a degree in economics in 1992, Held went to Sugar Bowl in Tahoe to “be a ski bum for a winter� before figuring out what he wanted to do. That same year, Alexander opened Los Gatos Brewing Company. “During that time it was the boom of the brew pubs and they were really hopping busy,� Held said. Alexander offered Held a job at Los Gatos Brewing Company where he would bartend for 30 hours a week and spend another 10 learning how to brew. “I knew I liked beer. I didn’t know that much about brewing,� Held said. Held spent a year and a half studying under Alexander while realizing he wanted to make a career as a brewer. “I found a passion for the brewing and knew I wanted to take that

Thoughts from a brewmaster Brewmaster Jeff Held of Gordon Biersch Palo Alto offers some insight on how to best enjoy beer from a bottle, the difference between lagers and ales, and other sudsy tidbits: s On drinking beer out of a glass rather than a bottle: “(Bottled) beer has carbon dioxide in it, and much like when it’s pouring from a tap, you want that carbon dioxide to release. So as you pour the beer into a glass, the bubbles will start to form and flow out of the glass, releasing different aromas and, when you drink it, flavors.� s On ales and lagers: “The difference between ales and lagers is the yeast that you use. A lager yeast likes to work in cool temperature, 50 degrees instead of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. And a lager takes a long time to ferment, seven to 10 days, whereas an ale takes two to three days. A lager is not better than an ale nor an ale over a lager, just different yeasts.� s On finding the right brew pub: “If you go to a brew pub and you taste their lightest beer, and it tastes clean and fresh, then you probably know you’re in for a good trip.� s On beer color and alcohol content: “A lot of people will associate the color of beer with the strength of beer, but they’re completely unrelated.�

full time, so I interviewed with a bunch of different places so I could be a full-time brewer and ended up getting a job with Sudwerk back in Davis,� he said. Held worked at Sudwerk from 1994 to 1995, learning from brewmaster Dave Sipes, who now works for Boston Beer Company of Samuel Adams fame. In 1995 Held was hired as the head brewer — and the only brewer — at Pacific Brewing Company (later called Willow Street Brewery) in San Rafael. But Held was constantly striving to advance in the profession, so in 1998 he returned to U.C. Davis for an intensive six-month master-brewer program. Ironically, the class was held at Sudwerk. “Everything’s very cyclical at Davis,� he said. Held’s return to Sudwerk proved life-changing. A chef he had befriended while working at Sudwerk introduced Held to a manager named Roberta — the woman who would later become his wife. The couple were married in 2001 and have two daughters (Alison, 5, and Caroline,

ShopTalk ALISON BAKERY OPENS ... Alison Bakery at 4131 El Camino Real in Palo Alto has been attempting to create a stronger sense of community with its food and services since it opened in July. With the bakery sandwiched between a Subway and a Starbucks, owner Fred Alison recognizes that many similar products are offered nearby, he said. He hopes to rectify this by offering an on-site baker, Ken Wilson, who makes baked goods fresh every morning. The bakery offers muffins, apple fritters, cookies and brownies, and a selection of such dessert pastries as eclairs and slices of cake. Wilson also creates special-order cakes for events such as birthdays and business meetings. Alison Bakery makes sandwiches for lunch as well. The bakery is talking with the Palo Alto Unified School District for an upcoming event, hoping to serve up to 400 students. For more about the bakery, call 650-494-3900.

— David Ruiz PARIS IN PALO ALTO ... The international chain Paris Baguette recently opened at 383 University Ave. in

2), with a son on the way. Held returned to Willow Street Brewery from 1998 to 2001, leaving to become brewmaster of Gordon Biersch Palo Alto in 2002. He’ll celebrate 10 years there next May. The more than 15 years spent brewing both lagers and ales have turned Held into a true connoisseur. “Different times call for different beers. If I’m sitting on the beach or if I’m at a golf course, I may want to drink the lightest beer and drink a lot of them. Whereas if it’s a cold winter night I may want to sit by the fire and have a dark beer,� he said. Held cited Sierra Nevada and Firestone as two brewing companies he has developed an affinity for, aside from the Gordon Biersch selection of beers he has come to know so well. Held grasped his glass of Marzen, lifted it to his lips and took a long, steady gulp. “It’s been almost 20 years of doing this and I don’t see myself going to anything else. I like all aspects of it,� he said. N

Palo Alto. The location is managed by Toby Yi and Ted Kim, previous managers of the Santa Clara location for the past three-and-a-half years. Paris Baguette opens amidst a slew of coffee shops and bakeries in downtown Palo Alto; setting itself apart could prove to be challenging, but Yi said he has no worries. “We’ve had a strong reception,� he said, noting that customers are already regularly filling the new cafe and that the early feedback on Yelp has been positive. Paris Baguette will offer Ritual Coffee and an array of Parisian baked goods, including the typical croissants, choux cream pastries and egg tarts as well as the lesser-known conch pies and chocolate feuilletees. Go to parisbaguetteusa.com or call 650-838-0404.

— David Ruiz CPK 2.0 ...The Stanford Shopping Center outpost of the California Pizza Kitchen, once a “fast casual� version with a limited menu, reopened this week as a full-service restaurant. The menu is now complete with a few new additions, including crispy mac ‘n’ cheese, artichoke and broccoli soup, and caramelized peach salad, said Erin Murphy, director of public relations. To mark the expansion, the Stanford CPK will donate 50 percent of its dine-in sales during regular business hours on Oct. 11 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula in East Palo Alto. More about the chain is at cpk.com.

— Rebecca Wallace

Cover Story

The

greening of Palo Alto schools

Parents, teachers and kids boost bicycling rates and ‘zero waste’ lunch packing

alo Alto schools — often led by parent volunteers — have made systematic efforts to save energy and reduce waste over the years. Initiatives range from “zero waste” lunches to promotion of bicycling to a new program aimed at slashing schools’ utility bills. As schools this week celebrate human-powered transportation through “Walk & Roll Week,” the Palo Alto Weekly took a broader look at the greening of local schools. Behind many of the initiatives is Palo Alto mediator Walter Hays, grandson of the Walter Hays for whom the elementary

P

school is named and a grandfather himself. The “Sustainable Schools Committee” that Hays has led since 2003 has become a hub for individual school “Green Teams” comprised of volunteer parents, teachers and students at Palo Alto’s 17 campuses. As kids absorb environmental practices such as composting at school, they often take the knowledge home. “Sometimes the kids are really the key in helping the parents learn new habits,” said Federica Armstrong, a parent and volunteer at Walter Hays Elementary School. N

Veronica Weber

New ways of doing school lunch

Juice boxes, disposable water bottles are out, reusable containers are in

Veronica Weber

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iploc baggies and foil-lined juice boxes are out. Cloth sandwich wrappers and reusable containers are in. As kids at Walter Hays Elementary School ate lunch last week, it was clear — at least at this campus — that families have revolutionized their lunch-packing habits in the past few years. Hardly a Capri Sun or a packet of Goldfish was in sight as hundreds of children nibbled and chattered around picnic tables. Nearly every student ate from reusable plastic or stainless-steel containers or, in the case of hot lunches, thermoses. Some had the latest, colorful sandwich wraps and stainless containers available from shops like Live Greene in downtown Palo Alto. But most ate from inexpensive plastic containers made by Ziploc or Glad.

“Instead of bringing apple juice in a juice box, you should bring it in a container,” said Joseph, a first-grader. Across the table, fellow first-grader Caden munched on his sandwich, grapes and an apple from reusable plastic containers, neatly arranged in his lunchbox. Others ate hot spaghetti, rice or chicken casseroles from thermoses. Ethan, a fourth-grader, finished eating

his sandwich and stashed away a blue cloth sandwich wrapper with a Velcro fastener. “Hopefully we have a new generation of kids,” said a first-grade classroom aide, who asked to be identified only as Carolyn. “Very rarely do you see a bag of chips now.” (continued on page 42)

At top, a student at Walter Hays Elementary School places a foil wrapper in the recycling bin during “Zero Waste Lunch Day” on Sept. 29. Above: From left, Fale Tui a Ana Vainkolo, Katlyn Cary, Piper (last name withheld), Jessa Collins and Nicolas Dorrigatti check out their “zero waste” lunches at Walter Hays Elementary School. Far left: Reusable containers — including hot-pink plastic — are de rigeur at Palo Alto elementary schools, making most days “Zero Waste Lunch” days. *>œÊÌœÊ7iiŽÞÊUÊ"V̜LiÀÊÇ]ÊÓ䣣ÊU Page 39

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Two girls play outside at Fairmeadow Elementary School, in front of the poster advertising Wednesday’s “Walk & Roll� day.

‘Walking and rolling’ to school Growing numbers of student bicyclists defy trends — and traffic

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efying national trends and increasing auto congestion, a growing number of Palo Alto students are making their way to school each morning by bike or on foot. The fun of “walking and rolling� was celebrated this week as campus-

es across Palo Alto tried to boost the numbers and stress the benefits. Walk & Roll Week culminates Sunday (Oct. 9) with Bike Palo Alto!, a citywide event offering free bike inspections, safety tips and route maps. “This is an energizing event, re-

Gunn and Paly: Fall Bike Counts, 1985-2010 800 700 Bike Count (average)

REED GRADUATED WITH A BFA IN METALS AND JEWELRY FROM THE SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN (SCAD) AND RECEIVED HER MFA IN SCULPTURE/ ART CRITICAL THEORY FROM THE ART INSTITUTE OF BOSTON AT LESLIE UNIVERSITY.

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230

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11% 14% 10% 14% 15% 18% 24% 25% 31% 33% 36% Gunn 20% Paly 33% 25% 15% 11% 11% 12% 14% 17% 16% 22% 26% 30% 32% 40%

minding everyone of the simple joy of walking and biking to school, the health benefits of regular daily activity and the need for safe places to walk and bike,� said Penny Ellson of the Palo Alto PTA Council Traffic Safety Committee. Bicycling habits have been building among Palo Alto students for at least a decade, after falling somewhat between 1985 and 2000, according to schools’ annual bicycle counts and reports from students themselves. Palo Alto High School this month reported 862 bicyclists on a single day — nearly 46 percent of the student body — up from 220 in 1999. Gunn reported 696 bicyclists — about 37 percent of the student body — up from 180 in 1999. The number of kids bicycling to Jordan Middle School went from 333 in 2003 to 547 — nearly 56 percent of the student body — last fall. At JLS cycling numbers went from 200 in 2003 to 457 in 2010 and at Terman from 150 to 199 in the same period. “We try not to compare schools to each other because the variability of school commute routes and attendance boundaries is significant — and this affects the numbers,� Ellson said. “It is not a level playing field, and the trend line is what’s important.� Palo Alto’s trend runs counter to the nation as a whole, where just 13 percent of kids walk or bike today compared to 66 percent 30 years ago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Local parent volunteers, police and city officials have teamed with a national nonprofit, Safe Routes

Cover Story

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Bicycles are all lined up outside Fairmeadow Elementary School on Wednesday during “Walk & Roll Week.� to School, to promote walking and bicycling with an eye toward safety. During peak school commute times, the Palo Alto Police Department Traffic Team puts a priority on school routes, ticketing people who drive in bike lanes or commit other safety violations near campuses. The police department also funds 29 crossing guards at busy intersections. The PTA organizes bicycle education for elementary students and

traffic-safety representatives on each campus. Palo Alto Board of Education President Melissa Baten Caswell lauded the bicycle-promotion effort and asked community members to help create a safe environment for kids to bike. “Growing independent is part of growing up — healthy children need a community that encourages them to build skills and to venture out,� Caswell said. N — Chris Kenrick

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Cover Story

8:00 A.M., Wednesday, October 19, 2011 Palo Alto Council Chambers, 1st Floor, Civic Center, 250 Hamilton Avenue. Go to the Development Center at 285 Hamilton Avenue to review filed documents; contact Diana Tamale for information regarding business hours at 650.329.2144. 2080 Channing Avenue [10PLN-00198]: Review of a request by Sand Hill Properties for a Planned Community proposal for the Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center for the renovation of the three existing, Eichler retail structures, on-site relocation of one of the retail structures, construction of 10 new single-family homes, and creation of a 0.22 acre park. The Environmental Impact Report prepared for the project has been published and the public comment period began September 30 and will end November 14, 2011. A Planning and Transportation Commission public hearing for the EIR has been scheduled for October 26, 2011. Steven Turner, Advance Planning Manager

PALO ALTO CITY COUNCIL CIVIC CENTER, 250 HAMILTON AVENUE BROADCAST LIVE ON KZSU, FM 90.1 CABLECAST LIVE ON GOVERNMENT ACCESS CHANNEL 26 ***************************************** THIS IS A SUMMARY OF COUNCIL AGENDA ITEMS. THE AGENDA WITH COMPLETE TITLES INCLUDING LEGAL DOCUMENTATION CAN BE VIEWED AT THE BELOW WEBPAGE: http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/knowzone/agendas/council.asp (TENTATIVE) AGENDA- CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS The City Council Meeting of October 10, 2011 has been cancelled due to Columbus Day Holiday. STANDING COMMITTEE MEETINGS The Special City Council Rail Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 12, at 8:00 a.m. regarding: 1) Continued discussion of the July 19, 2011 Bay Area Council letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and potential Palo Alto City response, 2) Continued discussion of High Speed Rail Guiding Principles policy document, and 3) Discussion of next rail update to the City Council and presentation by Economic & Planning Systems (EPS) on economic impacts of Caltrain electrification and High Speed Rail in Palo Alto.

Veronica Weber

Veronica Weber

NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING of the City of Palo Alto Historic Resources Board [HRB]

Above left: What goes where? A sign displaying which lunch items can be placed in compost, recycling or garbage bins was displayed outside the lunch tables at Walter Hays Elementary School. Above right: Joyce Martha, a parent volunteer at Walter Hays Elementary School, shows students how to separate their trash into compost, recycling or garbage bins during “Zero Waste Lunch Day” on Sept. 29.

Doing lunch (continued from page 39)

Although the day had been designated a special “Zero Waste Lunch

Day” at Walter Hays, Carolyn said the minimal amount of trash was much like that of a typical day. An added benefit of reusable containers is that parents can see what their kids failed to eat when the

Palo Alto Unified School District REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATION OF BIDDERS PQ-11-FM FAIRMEADOW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MODERNIZATION & NEW CONSTRUCTION The Palo Alto Unified School District is inviting qualification information from General Contractors to provide Construction Services for the following upcoming construction project. Fairmeadow Elementary School: Construction of a new classroom building, addition to library, modernization to multiple existing buildings, site & landscape modernization. Contractors who were previously prequalified for PQ 11-01 Gunn High School New Classroom Buildings A&B, PQ 11-02 Gunn High School New Gymnasium and remodeling of the existing Gym and/or PQ 11-03 Palo Alto High School New Classroom & Media Arts and/or PQ-11-MS Jordan and Terman Middle School, conducted earlier this year of 2011 only need to submit Part I – Contact Information & Part III-E –Financial Strength to provide updated financial information. There will be a NON-MANDATORY prequalification conference on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 10:00 AM at 25 Churchill Avenue, Building “D”, Palo Alto, CA. The project and the Prequalification package will be discussed. All responses to this RFQ must be received no later than 10:00 AM Friday, October 21, 2011. Interested firms shall submit Qualifications as described in the Prequalification Package to: Palo Alto Unified School District Facilities Department 25 Churchill Avenue, Building “D” Palo Alto, CA 94306 Attn: Peter Tiwana Please direct any questions regarding this Request for Qualification (RFQ) to Peter Tiwana at ptiwana@pausd.org, or fax to (650) 327-3588. These are not requests for bids or offers by the District to contract with any party responding to this RFQ. The District reserves the right to reject any and all responses. All materials submitted to the District in response to this RFQ shall remain property of the District and may be considered a part of public record.

items come back home in the lunch box that afternoon. Parent volunteers at Escondido School were surprised to discover more than 20 pounds of completely uneaten food in a single day when they examined lunch trash as part of a “Green Team” project last year. “Beautiful sandwiches, lovingly made, were completely uneaten — and that doesn’t even count the partially eaten items,” said Escondido Green Team chair Kristen Anderson. Plastic water bottles, untouched Odwalla juice drinks at $3 each, whole pieces of fruit and nearly a dozen unopened containers of yogurt were among the items recovered. “I think parents would rather know about this, so they can ask their child what they would actually prefer to eat. With reusable lunch containers this is much easier,” Anderson said. Most Palo Alto kids are way ahead of their parents when it comes to composting. Unlike residential households, schools and businesses in Palo Alto enjoy compost pickup from the city’s waste hauler, GreenWaste, so kids learn to compost — at least at school — from an early age. Even the first-graders know that lunch leftovers, including paper napkins and used paper plates, can be put in the school compost bin. And nearly all of the containers from Palo Alto schools’ federally mandated hot lunch program, managed by contractor Sodexo America LLC, are compostable. “It does take time to change behavior, and I think with consistency and positive encouragement a lot can be accomplished,” said Walter Hays parent and volunteer Federica Armstrong, an organizer of the school’s Green Team. “Sometimes the kids are really the key in helping the parents learn new habits.” The Walter Hays Green Team plans to sponsor zero-waste lunch days — and track the garbage — on a monthly basis for the rest of the year. Similar efforts at other Palo Alto campuses vary depending on decisions made by each school’s Green Team. N — Chris Kenrick About the cover: Design by Shannon Corey

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Cover Story

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Rebecca Navarro, Palo Alto Unified School District’s new energy coordinator, stands in Palo Alto High School’s boiler room — a space due for improvements. Navarro is charged with lowering the district’s energy use, with the goal to reduce consumption by more than half a million dollars in the first year.

Prowling teacher aims to save big money for schools Former JLS English teacher investigates errant light switches in the dead of night

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an simple behavior changes by teachers — shutting doors, unplugging classroom televisions — save more than a halfmillion dollars in utility costs for cash-hungry Palo Alto schools? School officials think it’s possible. This fall, JLS English teacher Rebecca Navarro has switched jobs to become the district-wide energy coordinator, charged with making it happen. She aims to use “positive peer pressure” rather than commandand-control techniques. Navarro can be found prowling campuses at midnight or at 6 a.m., checking to see what might be causing random classroom lights to switch on at odd hours. She talks to former teaching colleagues about simple ways to save energy, such as unplugging chargers that are not in use and keeping classroom doors shut while the heater or air conditioner is running. Officials think such low-hanging fruit can slash $600,000 from the school district’s annual $2.4 million energy bill in the first year, $10 million over a decade — and educate kids and teachers to boot. The first $300,000 of savings from the energy program would go to Texas-based contractor Energy Education Inc., which has contracts

to help more than 1,000 school districts across the country — including 88 others in California — achieve energy savings. The rest is gravy. If savings aren’t achieved, Energy Education will cover the cost of Navarro’s salary. “Energy Education has an answer to essentially everything,” said Bob Golton, the Palo Alto school district’s co-chief business officer. “Any situation we might think is unique, they’ve seen it in North Carolina or Long Island or Chicago, and can answer it and quantify it.” For example, the annual electricity cost for the mini-refrigerators some teachers like to keep in their classrooms is estimated to be about $50,000. Navarro aims to “chip away at that number” by, for example, making sure the fridges are defrosted and unplugged during the summer. Navarro’s job is to take Energy Education’s techniques that have worked elsewhere and apply them across Palo Alto’s 18 campuses — two high schools, three middle schools, 12 elementary schools and Greendell, which houses preschool and adult-education programs. She makes presentations to school staffs on the basics and troubleshoots when things go wrong or seem too difficult. “A teacher might say, ‘How can I unplug my television when it’s so high up — that’s too scary,’ or ‘I don’t know how to turn off the heat in my classroom, so I just open the door,’” Navarro said. “My job is to help with that. A lot of it is education.” In cases such as high wall-mounted televisions, school custodians can do the job.

Navarro ventured onto the JLS campus at 6 one recent morning to investigate reports of lights in several classrooms switching on in the middle of the night. She’s still not positive as to the cause but theorizes that ventilation may be rustling papers, which triggers the motion detectors. “I think it was based on whether or not the teacher had a lot of papers displayed on the walls, or the placement of the flag in the room,” she said. “It could be a matter of adjusting the time the ventilation comes on.” Some of the easiest savings will come from reducing the number of hours that classrooms are heated and cooled — but Navarro is hypersensitive about overstepping her bounds. As a former teacher, she knows it can be touchy to tell someone her room won’t be heated for as many hours in winter. “Part of what makes this district so academically strong is the autonomy of classrooms, and it’s important to maintain that even when we do something uniform in the face of energy. Sometimes people feel, ‘Oh gosh, is this the start of a whole new way of the site operating?’” Navarro also has been practicing with water timers in school bathrooms. “I’ve timed how long it takes you to wash your hands, and 20 seconds is pretty generous,” she said. “Some of these faucets run close to a minute before they stop. “If someone wants to do a really good job of washing their hands and 20 seconds isn’t enough, they can always press it twice.” N — Chris Kenrick

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Palo Alto Weekly 10.07.2011 - Section 2