Santa Clara Valley Lives: Margaret Hill Smith's solar jam – a recipe ahead of its time

Robin Chapman/Special to the Town Crier
Jam cooked in the sun takes three to four days before it’s done. The recipe is from Margaret Hill Smith, whose husband Gilbert planted the Los Altos Civic Center Apricot Orchard.

You may think solar power is a 21st-century concept. But a Los Altos woman, born before the invention of the airplane, can still teach us a thing or two about it.

The late Margaret Hill Smith, whose husband planted the apricot orchard in 1901 that now surrounds Los Altos City Hall, loved apricot jam. But she didn’t like cooking it over a hot stove on warm summer days. Instead, she mixed her jam in a low pan and placed it outside on a table in direct sunlight, covering the pot with a piece of glass. The glass magnified the sun’s rays, which then cooked the jam. She placed four matchsticks at four different spots where the glass met the pot, to allow the air to circulate and cook the jam more evenly. Four days in the sun and the jam was done.

Service league celebrates 5 years of giving back

Courtesy of Stacy Peña
The Mountain View/Los Altos Service League of Boys recently completed its fifth year, donating 3,200 hours of volunteer work.

The Mountain View/Los Altos Service League of Boys (SLOBs) recently completed its fifth year of service to the community, devoting 3,200 hours of work.

With 175 boys attending 15 different middle and high schools, SLOBs is a philanthropic organization that initiates and promotes educational and charitable endeavors. The organization aims to foster community responsibility as well as strengthen the parent-son relationship.

Author sets series of mystery books in fictional town like Los Altos


Many have tried to capture the essence of the Silicon Valley in movies, TV shows and books.

However, author and former Los Altos resident Mary Feliz said these stories focus on the lives of the Silicon sultans and not the majority of those living here – average Americans. Feliz has set her series of Maggie McDonald murder mystery books in Silicon Valley – specifically in and around Los Altos – but the characters are “ordinary people here or who are extraordinary in their own way,” she said.

Los Altos museum exhibition highlights landmarks

The Los Altos History Museum merges local history with the work of local artists in its upcoming exhibition, “Paint the Town II: Echoes of Our Past,” on display Thursday through Oct. 7.

The exhibition’s title is an homage to the first “Paint the Town” in 1999, an effort led by Town Crier publishers Paul and Liz Nyberg that featured paintings created by local artists of the shops and businesses of downtown Los Altos.

Rotary speaker: Music improves seniors' memories

Steve Pomeroy/ Rotary Club of Los Altos
John Lehman speaks before members of the Rotary Club of Los Altos at their June 14 meeting.

Playing vintage music as memory therapy has yielded results in reviving the memories of cognitively impaired seniors, according to Senior New Ways Executive Director John Lehman, who spoke at the June 14 Rotary Club of Los Altos meeting.

Lehman, who also serves as director of operations for Televisit Inc., said he has tested 50 older adults over more than five years using music therapy and found the results “amazing,” with seniors who could not remember their own names stimulated to sing along with songs they had heard as teenagers 60 or 70 years ago. Many remembered the lyrics and even the entertainers’ names, he noted.

Veterans event commemorates 20th anniversary of Cradle of Liberty statue dedication

Town Crier File Photo
“The Cradle of Liberty,” a bronze statue standing approximately 8 feet tall, is the creation of Los Altos artist R.J. Truman. It is installed in a quiet area of Shoup Park near Adobe Creek. A 20th anniversary celebration of the statue is scheduled on the Fourth of July.

It was described as a bustling yet serene scene on the Fourth of July in 1998 – an estimated 1,000 people had gathered in Los Altos’ Shoup Park not to celebrate war, but to revel in peace.

They did so at the unveiling of a statue saluting the work of U.S. servicemen and women from all eras who protected the freedoms Americans cherish. “The Cradle of Liberty,” a creation of Los Altos artist Rebecca (R.J.) Truman, depicts an American soldier cradling an infant named “Liberty,” symbolic of keeping the U.S. safe for future generations.

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