Life and Arts

The Valley Line: It’s party time! Festive decorations, great food and camaraderie abound at area events

Enjoying the Flintridge Riding Club holiday tea on Saturday, Dec. 7 are, from left, Peggy Klump, Debbie Tickham, Randy Strapazon and Uz Branson.
(Jane Napier Neely/La Cañada Valley Sun)

The busy party season is here and everyone is making merry. Good cheer abounds and our city is so very festive as lights line rooftops and are wrapped around trees and fences. Santa, accompanied by the missus, paid a visit to Memorial Park last Friday for our Festival in Lights. There was even some (manufactured) snow!


The Hillsides Guild of the foster care nonprofit Hillsides opened the holiday season with its annual party on Dec. 5. Gregg Smith, owner of the Parkway Grill Restaurant in Pasadena, was the gracious host welcoming guests to his restaurant for this special event. Also greeting guests at the party was Joe Costa, Hillsides’ chief executive officer, Carrie Espinoza, Hillsides chief advancement officer and Jackie Broxton, director of planned giving.

The restaurant was elaborately decorated. Nearly 150 guests gathered to nibble on Parkway’s famous flat bread, pizza bites and beverages of the season before being seated for a lovely dinner that featured a salad of organic field greens, cabrales bleu cheese, red wine poached pears, candied pecans and raspberry vinaigrette. The entrée was a perfectly cooked filet mignon with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, wild mushroom ragout and marsala veal reduction sauce. Dessert was a crème brulee Napoleon made of crisp phyllo squares layered with vanilla bean custard and caramel sauce.

Ellen Semler and Diane Russell attend the Hillsides holiday event at the Parkway Grill.
(Jane Napier Neely)

After dinner was served Donna De Mond, Hillsides Guild president and her co-chair Patty McAllister welcomed all in attendance and introduced the entertainment for the evening, the noted Citrus Singers of Citrus College. The Singers have made an appearance at this dinner for nearly 20 years. Their performance is always enchanting.

Patty McCallister, left, and Donna de Mond, chairs of the Hillsides holiday event held at the Parkway Grill, flank Joe Costas, president and chief executive of the organization.
(Courtesy of Hillsides)

Traditionally the last song of their repertoire is “Silent Night.” The singers place themselves around the tables, join hands with guests and encourage them to sing along. It is always such a sweet ending to a truly beautiful evening of joyful songs.

Jerry and Sue Tutt join the festive evening at Hillsides holiday party.
(Jane Napier Neely)

Just some of the attendees from the Foothills were Rose and Don Manning, Diane Russell, Dee Fisher and Mark Martinez, Linda and Stephen Gill, Patti and Paul Wickersham, Ellyn Semler, Suzanne and Jerry Tutt, Mary Dee Hacker and Steve Nishibayashi, Annie, Paul, Casey and Sally Pontrell, and Claudia Sysock.



The rain that fell on the area last Saturday didn’t keep guests away from the Flintridge Riding Club’s annual holiday tea. In fact, they had a record crowd of more than 70 people. Chairing the event was Erin Gershik, who did a magnificent job. She also created some of the seasonal fun by wearing her own version the silly Christmas sweater and an elf ear cap.

The historic clubhouse was gaily decorated with two Christmas trees and tables covered with red cloths.

The tea table was not only a feast for the eyes but for the palate. Tea sandwiches stuffed with savories of all kinds, tasty miniature quiches and all sorts of other good things were there for the taking. There was a gorgeous presentation of decorated cookies that looked like Christmas trees, gingerbread men and cookies filled with jams.

The big roaring fire in the river-rock fireplace was a wonderful place to get warm. One of the club’s cats also enjoyed the crackling fire and loved receiving attention from guests.

Some of the guests participated in the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” contest. The joint winners of the competition were Melanie Hoffman, Victoria Bye, Wendy Hodgin and Joy von Wolffersdorff.

Wearing Christmas sweaters at the Flintridge Riding Club’s tea are, from left, Melanie Hoffman, Victoria Bye, Erin Gershik, Wendy Hodgin and Joy von Wolffersdorff.
(Jane Napier Neely)

It was a delightful afternoon and so much fun to chat with neighbors and even meet new people. My daughter, Heather, trained and stabled her horse at the club for many years, so it is always fun for me to return to this place, which was like a second home for Heather back in the day.

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