The Valley Line: A holiday dinner and a musical extravaganza

I've so enjoyed the rainy, gray days of the past week because it has been a perfect time to enjoy my Christmas tree, a cozy fire in the fireplace, the soft glow of candles and remembering Christmas celebrations of long ago.

This time of year will always be full of wonderment for me. The baby doll that was given to me as a child has secured her diva-like position under the tree. I know it sounds strange, but she has never had a name — she is just "Baby." Over the many years that she has been mine, she has made several trips to the doll hospital. During her last visit, which was about two years ago, she had a little beautifying work done. Hmm, I could use some of that. Anyway, she is as good as new. Her beautiful blue eyes open and close, and when I tip her forward, she still cries "ma-ma." She is a sweet baby girl and it just wouldn't be Christmas without her.

I hope that your Christmas celebrations will also be full of wonder and joy.

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It was a joyful holiday party and fund-raiser recently for Hillsides, a Pasadena-based foster-care charity. The party, sponsored by Hillsides Guild, was held at the Parkway Grill Restaurant, which is owned by former La Cañadan Gregg Smith. Smith was there to greet the more than 120 guests, along with Maureen Staley, president of the Guild.

Co-chairing the event was Beth Yale, Aline Kuhnle, Nancy Snyder and Barbara Robison. Nearly $4,000 was raised to enable the Guild to support the foster-care children's charity through its various enriching activities. Some of the guests also brought toys for the charity, while other children's gift wishes were granted by guests wanting to be Santa's helpers.

The restaurant was beautifully decorated with pine garlands and glittering Christmas ornaments. Everything was so festive.

Guests first gathered in the bar area of the restaurant to sip wine and taste a wide assortment of the Grill's famous wood-fire gourmet pizza slices.

Later on, dinner was served and included the Grill's signature bread basket, Cabrales bleu cheese organic field-greens salad with red-wine-poached pears and candied pecans. A mesquite-grilled filet mignon was the entrée. Cooked-to-perfection meat was accompanied by mashed potatoes, baby carrots and port cherry vinaigrette. The dessert was a hazelnut chocolate-mousse pie.

After dining, guests were entertained by the renowned Citrus Singers choral group singing Christmas carols. An added musical treat were two songs that were performed by the bell chorus.

This is always such a lovely evening, and one that is always well attended by those wishing to support the work at Hillsides. The Hillsides Guild membership is open to adults who want to take an active role in improving the lives of foster-care children and at-risk youth. And, yes, they always welcome new members to share the mission.

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Christmas week began Sunday afternoon with a musical holiday extravaganza by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles at the Alex Theatre. The concert, which has become a holiday tradition, was sold out. This is the 17th year that the Alex has hosted this concert and for me, it was a first.

I was so thoroughly entertained that I can hardly wait for next year's GMCLA's Christmas program. What a performance it was — it was hilariously funny, and also so poignantly beautiful that I cried. It was a surprise Christmas gift that absolutely sets the tone for this year's holiday season for me.

Guest star for last Sunday's concert was two-time Grammy award winning singer LeAnn Rimes, who played to an enthusiastic crowd. She rocked the audience with her up-tempo "Rock Around the Christmas Tree" and "All I want for Christmas is You." She also brought the audience to tears with her soulful rendition of "The Rose." Rimes tearfully dedicated this song to the young people who have lost their lives, either by the hands of others or by their own hands, after being bullied.

The chorus is made up of nearly 200 voices and this is its 32nd year as an organized chorus. It has two more shows to its season — "A Mighty Voice" on March 26 and 27 and "Totally! Our '80s Show" on July 9 and 10. Show information can be found at http://www.gmcla.org, Facebook.com/G.M.C.LA and twitter.com/gmcla.

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