The Valley Line: A Dickens of a good time

Christmas day was magical for me because I spent it with my 7-year-old granddaughter, Catherine, and her four-year-old brother, Ryan.

Santa was the man of the hour, which began at 5 a.m. because the kidlets just couldn't sleep any longer. They crept into the living room and came running back to my bedroom to announce that Santa had left a mountain of presents. With squeals of delight, they insisted that I absolutely had to get up immediately.

So their mother, who was wiping the sleepy dust from her eyes, and I in my kerchief, stumbled from our beds to see the wonder of it all. We managed to settle them down for a few minutes with a cup of hot chocolate and much speculation, on their part, about what might be in the packages wrapped in the pretty paper.

There were no "misfit toys" under our tree and we soon had growing mountains of torn paper as each Santa treasure was discovered by them. It turned out to be a pajama day for all of us. Both my daughter Heather and I were Scottish fashionistas in our Napier tartan nightshirts.

It was a lazy and fun day as Catherine dressed her new doll in many stunning outfits and Ryan drove his little cars through the highway he created through the discarded wrapping paper. Later in the day we played board games of several kinds — certainly a challenge for us all.

Once we emerged from this Christmas-tree magic, we dined at our fancy table on perfectly cooked prime rib with all the trimmings — we were a happy group of people.

I hope your Christmas day was a good one too. Now we are full speed ahead toward a new year. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to year 2010, as it passed by so quickly. The kids, meanwhile, have already begun counting the days until next Christmas.


There has been much holiday cheer in and around our town recently and it looks like it might continue a little longer.

Several valley residents attended the annual USC Thornton School of Music "Charles Dickens Dinner," held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. This historic hotel was so festively decorated for the holidays. Bright red poinsettias, held in lovely pots, were placed in every nook of this beautiful hotel that was built in 1923 and was the site for the first Academy Awards event in 1927.

Liz Argue, along with Bonnie and Dick Cook, all three La Cañadans, were on the Dickens dinner committee, which was co-chaired by Valerie and Ronald Sugar.

Robert Cutietta, dean of the Thornton School of Music, and his wife Mary Beth, who wore a beautiful midnight-blue velvet gown, greeted guests as they sipped cocktails and chatted before the traditional feast of roast beef.

The dinner was held in the famous Crystal Ballroom with its magnificent hand-painted ceiling, carved columns, glittering mirrors and exquisite Austrian crystal chandeliers.

The curved second-story balconies, draped in luxurious fabrics, were spotlighted when music-school students, dressed in Edwardian garb, serenaded guests from these high perches.

Honorees for the evening included Maestro James Conlon, music director of the Los Angeles Opera, philanthropist David Bohnett and businessman John Herklotz.

Thornton School of Music student scholarship winners, who performed that night, included Joseph Morris and Marina Harris.

A final toast from Dean Cutietta and wishes for a very happy new year sent guests on their merry way to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

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