Searching for a Santa substitute: Rhyme on My Hands

Ah, the office Christmas party! Where, according to legend, anything goes. Well, at the party where this column’s poem was first recited, there was no booze and it was mid-morning in a conference room in the late 1960s. And, after what would essentially amount to a long coffee break, we all headed back to our desks.

A few months prior to the party in question, my wife, our three children and I had returned from an overseas assignment in the developing world. Like many advisers in those days, I came home with something no other member of the family could bring back – I cleared customs with a beard. Rejoining my old office gang, I soon learned that Elizabeth – a beloved colleague who was a maiden lady a dozen years my senior – hated the beard.


Take a dive into the holiday archive

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Town Crier staff made a quick cruise back through the newspaper's archives to find some late-December reading as inspiration for eating, drinking, decorating and more:

Beloved holiday books build the spirit of the season and staff at Los Altos’ Linden Tree Books, 265 State St.,  pointed out some favorite picks. 

Town Crier food writer Barbara Gillingham always celebrated Christmas Eve with a Swedish cookie platter when she was a child.

"We six small children peered out the front window, our noses reddening as we pressed against the cold glass, scanning the dark apricot orchard for our first glimpse of jolly ole Nick," she writes. "I found out later that it wasn't always so jolly behind the scenes. My grandfather reluctantly played the part, grunting and struggling to don the traditional Santa suit which, by that time, was probably at least a size too small."

Read her whole story and try your hand at a Swedish Christmas cookie recipe.

 Los Altos Hills resident Sue Jarvis let the Town Crier create a video tour of her massive holiday decoration, and shared tips for any ambitious householder looking to spend an afternoon decking their halls.

Town Crier food writer Christine Moore offered up a vision of Christmas Eve California fusion last year with her story of holiday traditions from tamales to Christmas pudding, and the paella she's settled on as a one-pot meal for a modern feast. 

And this year, she reimagined the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as 12 drink-related treats, with an assist from local cookbook author and blogger Erin Gleeson and Laurie Lindrup, director of business development and senior assistant operations manager at Beltramo’s Wines and Spirits.  

For many years, Los Altos residents Jerry and Jean Jensen have shared the spirit of Christmas by setting up a Nativity scene in their Brentwood Street front yard. But this year, their neighbors joined the story. The Jensens, now in their 80s and using walkers, are no longer physically able to put up their holiday decorations. Nearly 30 nearby residents worked Dec. 7 to set up the Jensens’ decorations and Nativity scene, which has become a neighborhood landmark.  

Overwhelmed by the latkes, nogs and baked goods making local tables groan? Last year the Town Crier's food writers collaborated on an omnibus vegetable edition, offering side dishes fit for feasts throughout the winter.

Two mercantile stories to send you off into the night: Travel writer Eren Goknar's Christmas gift recommendations for the traveler on your list and the story of a young Los Altos couple spreading the holiday spirit by delivering preordered, pre-lit Christmas trees to neighborhoods in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills

Rotary marks 25th anniversary of AIDS project

John Hammerschmidt/Special to the Town Crier
Celebrating the anniversary of the Los Altos Rotary AIDS Project are, from left, front row: Greg Hoblit, Dude Angius, Mary Prochnow and Robin Young. Back: Greg Betts, Joe Renati, Roy Lave, Bob Berka, Dick Hasenpflug, Jean Newton, Dick Henning and Wyatt Allen.

Many local residents remember the time when people shunned those they suspected suffered from AIDS or HIV.

That was 25 years ago. Attitudes about the disease have changed from fear and ignorance to empathy and new hope for victims, thanks to medical advances.


Retiring Los Altos dog trainer shaped the lives of many owners

Rosalie Alvarez, left, Los Altos Hills’ own dog whisperer, receives a thank-you kiss from Maria, center, and Jack Caffey’s West Highland White Terrier, Murphy. Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier

Rosalie Alvarez knew she had a special relationship with animals when she began training chickens, ducks and calves on her family’s ranch in Ukiah at the age of 5. By her early teens, Alvarez realized that communicating with animals was her calling in life.

Over the next nine decades, Alvarez not only bonded with hundreds of canines and other animals, but also fostered the attributes of good dog ownership in hundreds of people who approached her for help.


Neighbors lend hand with Nativity scene

Courtesy of Jerry Moison
The close-knit neighbors of Brentwood Street, Brentwood Court and Brentwood Place mobilized to help Jerry and Jean Jensen put up their Christmas decorations, including their Nativity scene.

For many years, Los Altos residents Jerry and Jean Jensen have shared the spirit of Christmas by setting up a Nativity scene in their Brentwood Street front yard.


Girl's donation to Town Crier Holiday Fund touches the heart

A young girl hopped up the stairs to the front desk of the Town Crier last week with an envelope. Inside was 20 quarters totaling $5 – her donation to the Town Crier Holiday Fund.

Seven-year-old Grace Bishara’s contribution wasn’t the largest, but it may have been the sweetest gift this season. Grace, who came up with the idea to give on her own, offers a reminder that the spirit of giving encompasses all ages. The Town Crier sends a special thank-you to Grace.


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