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Eric and Daphne Bernicker

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Sharing the Faith

Chef’s Corner: Rebecca Masson Holiday Events Desserts To Go

by Jennifer Oakley

Shopping Safety Tips Shopping With Kids in Tow – Or Not Fun With Gift Wrapping Houston, TX

Cooking Buzz: A Sweet Party

Permit No. 2047 PAID US Postage PRSRT STD

Back Porch: The Gift of Experience


PUBLISHER’S NOTE As 2016 draws to a close I’d like to thank everyone – readers, writers, photographers, advertisers, vendors and the Buzz team – for another great year. We could not do it without you. Our print deadlines come fast and furious every 30 days, and we now have digital deadlines every day. The year 2016 was a busy one for us. In print, we introduced Dai Huynh’s popular new column, Chef’s Corner. Online, you can find timely blogs and exclusive, online-only, local articles, photos and videos on schools, books, safety tips, restaurants and more. See, and be sure to connect with us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) for all things “Buzzworthy” every day. This month, we focus on the holidays, including blended-faith families, gift-wrapping parties, seasonal events in Houston and Galveston, holiday-season travel and avoiding shopping-center crime. Plus, check out our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide, full of local gift ideas. Have a happy New Year, and we’ll see you in 2017.

THE BUZZ MAGAZINES BELLAIRE • WEST UNIVERSITY • MEMORIAL • TANGLEWOOD/RIVER OAKS Published by Hoffman Marketing & Media, LLC 5001 Bissonnet, Suite 100, Bellaire, Texas 77401 • p: 713.668.4157 • f: 713.665.2940 Follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter Editor Publisher Associate Editors Design Manager Staff Writers

Contributing Writers Vice President, Sales Account Managers

Sales Associates Fall Intern

Joni Hoffman Michael Hoffman Cheryl Laird Jordan Magaziner Steinfeld John Duboise Tracy L. Barnett Sharon Albert Brier Andria Frankfort Angie Frederickson Todd Freed Cathy Gordon Michelle Casas Groogan Dai Huynh Annie Blaylock McQueen Jennifer Oakley Cheryl Ursin Rania Mankarious, Vanessa Stabler Russell Weil Jay Janecek Andrea Blitzer Leslie Little Kim Montgomery Amber Lewis, Helen van Rensburg Kelly Engler

On our cover: Eric and Daphne Bernicker have been married 25 years. He is Jewish, and she is Methodist. Cover photo by Nikky LaWell, The Buzz Magazines has made all reasonable attempts to verify the accuracy of all information contained within. Advertising claims are solely the responsibility of the advertiser. Copyright © 2016 Hoffman Marketing & Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any portion of this magazine by any means without written permission is strictly prohibited. Printed on recycled paper. Please remember to recycle.



Your letters, thoughts, opinions Photographer-as-subject is happy As a print photographer, I am particularly interested in how my pictures reproduce in various media. Sometimes, it can be disappointing. Not so with The Buzz. Last month’s piece, The Life of a LIFE Photographer [Behind the Lens, November 2016], looked great. The story by Cathy Gordon was very well done, and the [Memorial] cover by colleague Michael Hart: superb. How blessed it was to have top professionals make me proud! Bob Gomel Editor’s note: Thank you, Bob, for trusting us with your historic photos.

Band of Brothers story a blessing We have talked about little else in the days since Margaret died, and the wonderful article and tribute blog [that] were published. So many people have shared with us how much they enjoyed the story about our family and The Band of Brothers [The Wedding Singers: Band of Brothers keeps it in the family, by Jennifer Oakley, November 2016]. The story and the conversations it has sparked have truly been a blessing to the Frazier family as we continue to process the joy of Margaret’s life and legacy, and the grief of her passing. Thank you, again, for the special care with which you treated all of us, and for the amazing and wonderful article and covers. They are such a gift. Claire Frazier Editor’s note: Getting to know the Frazier family was a treat for us. We were so sorry to hear of matriarch Margaret’s passing. Jennifer Oakley’s blog post, “Margaret Frazier’s Legacy,” is at

Anyone remember? Anyone remember the circus-themed restaurant on Westheimer? The roof was made to look like a red and white striped tent, and there was a large elephant outside. Who could forget Sonny Look! He was a master of greeting guests in outlandish, gaudy dinner jackets. He made everyone laugh and served wonderful steaks. My parents double dated often with Sonny and his wife before any of them married. Old Mexico on West Gray had a gift shop in front with a parrot who talked all the time. We were used to Felix’s in the village, but learned to love Old Mexico with its lovely courtyard. Ye Old College Inn was another favorite. There was a seafood restaurant on a shell road, which I believe was an extension of Fannin, where I had lobster thermidor for the first time. Got curly fries, root beer and A.C. in the little window for a few minutes at Stuart’s before driving across the way to eat a Prince’s hamburger! Prince’s limeades came with a scoop of lime sherbet … sooo good! Becky Brenham Editor’s note: Thanks, Becky, for leaving this comment at under our November 2014 Restaurant Memories story. You definitely will want to check out Russell Weil's More Restaurant Memories in this issue. Send letters to Please include your name, address, phone number and email address for verification purposes. Letters are subject to editing for clarity and space. Views expressed in letters do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Buzz Magazines, and The Buzz takes no responsibility for the content and opinions expressed in them.

Story created new family memories It was such a blast for the Band of Brothers to be featured in The Buzz. We were so fortunate to have our late Mom be a part of the story and photo shoot, as she and our Dad shaped us into the guys we all are. And, of course, her untimely passing between the interview/photo shoot and release of the issue made our story so much more poignant. We have heard from lots of friends who all loved the story, and even from the barista at my Starbucks this morning! Bob Frazier

What’s your story? We are looking for residents for upcoming articles who:

Party like rock stars Chris, Noah and I have spent the last couple of weeks feeling a little bit like rock stars. Andria Frankfort’s article in the November issue about our Thanksgiving-leftover party [Always a Party: Making leftovers new, November 2016] has garnered us so many positive comments and compliments from friends and family who read it. Andria did a great job capturing the spirit of the festivities, and we were flattered to be included in the issue. Thanks to all at The Buzz, Melanie Herz Promecene TANGLEWOOD/RIVER OAKS BUZZ DECEMBER 2016 6

• Have funny stories about their dog. • Have connected with an elderly neighbor. • Have an interesting passion or hobby. • Know a compelling neighbor to profile. • Have a travel story to share. If this sounds like you or someone you know, please contact us at or 713.668.4157, ext 12.


NEIGHBORS by Andria Frankfort, staff writer

It’s a Wrap When that holiday task is a treat


hey say you should never judge a book by its cover. But how about a Christmas present? For years, Barbara Kimzey carefully wrapped and labeled her family’s gifts to lie in wait until the unwrapping frenzy of Christmas morning. “We celebrate with a lot of fanfare,” the travel agent and math tutor says, “including decorating a 13-foot live Christmas tree with hundreds of lights and ornaments. The packages are put under the tree to make a total tempting sight.” But at some point, Barbara realized the sight was a bit too tempting for her thenteenaged children. Someone had been “previewing” the presents. “They were very good,” she says of her three now-grown children, two boys and a girl. “I knew one of them was opening the presents. So I decided I’d catch whoever the little goblin was.” That year, instead of labeling gifts with names, Barbara numbered each one. “I listed the numbered gifts with names on my master list,” she says. “I thought this well-thought-out idea would resolve the [problem of the] snooping early peeker. But on Christmas morning, I could not find the master list with the numbers and names! “I thought I had it in a drawer in the kitchen. I just knew I had a secret spot, but I just had to give up because it was time to open presents. We turned it into a pass-around. Guess who the present was for! There was a lot of giggling.” She never did find the list. “I thought I was being so clever, but it turned out the trick was on me. I don’t recommend it. “Even though we don’t always sit around the same tree anymore, they still talk about this crazy Christmas surprise.” Wendy Burks has turned wrapping Christmas gifts into an annual get-together. Each year, she hosts a “Wrappan Happen” for friends, where she supplies the house, the wrapping paper and the food, and everyone brings their own gifts to wrap. “I started it when my boys were little [they’re now a sophomore at Ole Miss and a senior at Lamar High School],” says Wendy, who owns Big Data Energy Services with her husband. “My neighbor said her sister did a wrapping party and we should do it. So we started with neighborhood moms when the kids were little, and you’d

WRAPPING WITH FRIENDS Each Christmas, Gaylon Gullquist, Wendy Burks and Sissi Easterling (from left) get together for Wendy’s “Wrappan Happen” to wrap gifts and catch up with friends.

have presents all over the house.” The moms would convene at night, all wearing PJs. “The first time we did it, there were probably six or seven of us there who all lived in a four-block radius. We were there so long, we looked at the clock and it was 4 a.m.!” That get-together turned into a fundraising sign-up party at Mark Twain Elementary when Wendy’s boys were students there. “And then we moved, and I found all this wrapping paper in my attic,” Wendy says. That revelation – some 14 years ago – was the spark of an idea, and today Wendy hosts up to 150 women each year at her annual party. “People come and go all day long, starting at noon and ending around midnight,” Wendy says. “I provide ribbon, wrapping paper, tape, scissors and tags. I buy most of the ribbon at Sam’s, and the best paper at good prices is at Hobby Lobby. I also always make sure I have Hanukkah paper for my Hanukkah friends.” To make it a party, Wendy hires a bartender and someone to serve finger sandwiches, cheese and dips. “I do make everything, and I’m not a very good cook,” she says. “People don’t want a


whole plate, just something to pick up and eat. One year I did soup, and that didn’t go over very well. I just always make sure I have protein because people are drinking. “As you get older, you have different friend groups. Some are really serious about wrapping, and some might come and help other people wrap. The group changes year to year, and a fun thing is that now the moms will bring their daughters who are home from college. “Now that the kids are bigger, the gifts are smaller and fewer. There’s a lot more wrapping paper left over now.” Wendy also has added a charitable facet to her party. “Last year everybody brought a Toys for Tots toy,” she says. “This year it’s Beanie Babies for orphaned children in Guatemala. I put it on the Evite. It feels like I’m doing a little something good. “This is my favorite thing all year!”

MORE ONLINE See this story at for Wendy Burks’ milk punch recipe, a popular cocktail at her annual “Wrappan Happen” party.



Safe Shopping Avoiding holiday-season crime

by Rania Mankarious, contributing writer

Rania Mankarious is executive director of Crime Stoppers of Houston and a blogger for This month, she shares holiday-season safety tips.


love this time of year. But consider. You are busier than normal. You will spend more than normal, which means you have credit cards and probably more cash in your wallet. I don’t want you to be a victim, but you know who else doesn’t? Buzz resident Gail Stalarow, a vice president and financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. This April, Gail was robbed at gunpoint – in daylight – at a Meyerland-area shopping center. “I just pulled into the spot, ready to get out, opened the door, and there was a thief holding a gun,” Gail said. “The second I opened the door, she was there. And she demanded everything.” The robber held a gun to Gail’s stomach, took her purse (with keys, wallet and phone), watch, wedding ring and mother-in-law’s wedding ring – which, thanks in part to Gail’s detective work, was eventually recovered, along with the watch. Gail and I are teaming up to make sure all of you take steps to make yourself less a target. Think concentration, not location. In Gail’s case, she parked in the first row, right at the strip center, but off to the side and in a less concentrated area. Now, when Gail parks, she doesn’t care about a shorter walk but seeks to make herself a less desirable target by parking in a busy part of the lot filled with other cars, pedestrians and good lighting. The way you pull in matters. In Gail’s case, she pulled in nose first. The robber easily creeped up to Gail’s driver-side door, coming from the parking lot, without being noticed by others. As the door opened, the criminal slid in, and the door blocked the view from others. Gail feels that had she pulled in back first, it would have made her car a less desirable target. The criminal would have had to walk to the door from the store-side front. As the door opened, it would allow full view for those walking into and out of stores. Think about where you have more visibility when you open your door. Think about what you wear when you shop. Intentionally think through the jewelry,

STAYING SAFE Buzz resident Gail Stalarow (at left) was robbed at gunpoint and is working with Rania Mankarious (at right) to share holiday-season safety tips. Mankarious is executive director of Crime Stoppers of Houston.

emotionally priceless and designer items you are wearing. The more you wear, the higher value your items appear, the more you have to lose and the greater target you become. Keep a journal with photos of your jewelry at home. The phone issue. Gail said many assumed she was distracted by her phone, but she wasn’t on it. Beyond that, she doesn’t feel like being on your phone automatically makes you a target. I agree, as long as you are attentive, making eye contact with others and remain aware of where you currently are as opposed to being lost in conversation. Walk intentionally. Shop in peak hours. Don’t be paranoid, but be vigilant. Walk with focus, make eye contact, be aware of your surroundings, hold your purse close to you and keep it closed. Try to shop during daylight. If at night, ask if personnel or security can walk you out. In some cases, I have purposely waited for another shopper to exit, so there was someone else with me walking out. Criminals want easy targets.

What if the unthinkable happens? Stay calm. Remember everything. Gail made a point to look at her robber’s face, when it was safe to do so. She stayed quietly in her car until the woman walked away, but she watched the whole time. Gail was able to describe the assailant and tell police which way she exited the parking lot.


Know what’s in your wallet. In an effort to contact all the necessary people and companies, you need to know what was in your wallet. Make copies of everything, including your license, and keep those copies in a safe at home. Immediately surround yourself with good people. Call police immediately and allow yourself to get support from your family and friends. This is nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty for. Safely help law enforcement. Gail worked with law enforcement to solve her own case. She canceled all credit cards but mistakenly missed one. That said, purchases on that one card caused her to call the credit-card company and learn where the criminal was using the card. She and the law-enforcement investigator got camera footage, and Gail pointed out the robber in the video. The suspect was arrested and put in jail awaiting trial. It turned out the suspect had a male counterpart tasked with selling Gail’s items to a pawn shop. An anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers assisted in the arrest of that person. Shop, live and enjoy this wonderful time. Just do it all with vigilance.

MORE ONLINE Rania Mankarious shares safety tips and perspectives on what’s going on in the news every Sunday morning at

NEIGHBORS by Jennifer Oakley, staff writer

Twice Blessed Dual-religion couples talk faith and family


very December, Daphne Bernicker carefully unwraps a golden Nativity scene from its delicate and time-worn packaging and arranges the figurines the same way she has since she was a child. Every December, her husband, Eric Bernicker, takes out the antique menorah that he recited blessings over as a boy during Hanukkah and places it next to the gilded creche. Although they are two different symbols of religious faiths, in the Bernickers’ River Oaksarea household, a creche and a menorah coexist and are celebrated equally. The Bernickers – she is Methodist, and he is Jewish – just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They say their dual religions have made their marriage and their family richer in tolerance and understanding. “We respect each other’s faiths and have always believed that each of our faiths is right for us,” says Daphne, founder of HumanAim, a leadership-consulting firm that specializes in emotional-intelligence development. “Eric and I met and fell in love, discussed religion and how our kids would be raised. We are very lucky that all four of our parents have always been very supportive of us.” “We really could not have been more fortunate,” agrees Eric, who is the director of thoracic medical oncology at Houston Methodist Hospital. “My mother-in-law remains a devout Christian of deep, great faith, and she has never given us anything other than profound support.” For Daphne, the creche is a direct connection with her mother (also named Daphne) and her childhood, and a reminder that faith takes on many forms. “In 1942 when my mother was 12 and moved from Jamaica to mostly Catholic Trinidad, she saw a creche for the first time,” says Daphne, who was raised in Pointe-à-Pierre, Trinidad. “My mother was enchanted with this depiction of the Holy family and bought it herself. From then on, we always had this creche in the house.” With Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukkah falling on the same day this December, dual-faith families will have a lot to

celebrate. The Rev. Gregory Han, director of interfaith relations at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, says that interfaith couples bring unique perspectives together. “Using a pretty broad definition, the 2014 Pew A m e r i c a n Landscape Study found that almost four in 10 Americans – 39 percent – who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group,” says Han. “Different faiths in a family can be a source of richness, but it does take work. More than having different KEEPING THE FAITH Eric (holding menorah) and Daphne Bernicker (holding bowl religious traditions of ornaments) just celebrated their 25th anniversary while also celebrating each other’s faiths. He is Jewish, and she is Methodist. Inset photo: Daphne's childhood creche is in a family – and I placed next to Eric’s boyhood menorah. could argue that School. We thought they would have fun.” every family is an interfaith family, as no two Eric and Daphne did indeed have fun that parents believe the same things exactly – an night and eventually fell in love. The Bernickers atmosphere of openness, curiosity and respect is were married by a rabbi and say they have conkey. Seeing the world from multiple vantage tinually supported each other’s religions. points is a great skill and gift.” “Daphne always accompanies me to Bellaire residents Gisela and Igor Cherches – [Congregation Emanu El] synagogue, and and I she is Catholic, he is Jewish – were the ones who always go with her to [St. Luke’s United set up Daphne and Eric on a blind date. “Igor Methodist] church,” says Eric. “Part of being a and I were going bowling, so we invited a bunch spouse is to support your partner on their faith of our school friends,” recalls Gisela, who is the journey – even if it is a different faith.” community relations director at St. John’s The Rev. Han says interfaith relationships School. “Daphne was my roommate at Rice, and work well when communication is open and Eric was Igor’s classmate at Baylor Medical


honest. “Talking and sharing one’s faith, religion and beliefs needs to be part of any healthy relationship, so as a relationship gets more serious, a couple needs to have those hard – and rich – conversations about what is at the core of each person’s sense of purpose and meaning,” he says. “What gets each one up in the morning, what inspires awe and wonder, what are those core tenets of one’s ethical core? Make time for those conversations.” Bellaire residents Sharon and Mark Chetty say communication and compromise are key to their dual-faith marriage. Originally from Durban, South Africa, Sharon is Hindu, and Mark is Catholic. And even though there was a spark between the two of them, Sharon says that when Mark asked her out on their first date 20 years ago, her initial reaction was to turn him down. “Crazy to say this, but it truly was love at first sight – there was something there,” says Sharon, now a stayat-home mom. “I refused because we were from different religious backgrounds, and I did not want any issues later in life. I did not want to convert.” For his part, Mark refused to accept Sharon’s refusal. “He laughed at me and said that he was only asking me out – not getting married,” says Sharon, “but also, if it ever came down to that, it would be my choice.” Ultimately, Sharon chose to go on that first date and recalls that they had a terrific time in spite of the fact that Mark ordered a delicacy to share that was not to her liking. “It was at a seafood restaurant in Durban [South Africa]. Unknown to me, Sharon was not an adventurous diner,” recalls Mark, a principal consultant for Systems Application Product, an inter-enterprise software company. “I had ordered escargot, as I enjoy them and I offered Sharon one to taste. She took a bite and chewed – then said it tasted good. After we were married she told me that she hated it and did not want to come across as being a ‘fussy eater,’ so therefore she accommodated me.” Sharon laughs at the memory: “Compromise started right from our very first date: boy oh boy, those escargots were just yuck!” Sharon says their first date was indicative of what works for them in their interfaith marriage. “Sixteen years later, we have a marriage that is solid and strong,” she says. “We have never had issues in our marriage due to our different faiths. We have made compromises in everything we have done. My husband and I were brought up with completely different religious beliefs; however we have both made it work and it’s only brought us closer.” A prime example is their wedding day, when they had not one – but two – religious ceremonies. “My dream since I was a little girl was to have a traditional Hindu ceremony, and my amazing husband was happy to oblige,” Sharon says. “We had a traditional Hindu wedding at a temple on Saturday early in the morning. I was able to have my dream come true in so many ways. I dressed as a traditional Indian bride.

IN GOOD FAITH Mark and Sharon Chetty support each other’s faiths in their dual-religion marriage. Sharon is Hindu and Mark is Catholic.

After the wedding, my husband went off to his home, and I left to mine to change and prepare for the Catholic wedding. I felt so blessed that we embraced both traditions and pleased both families. We ended the night with a reception with about 400 guests – it was a long day, but the happiness and love was so worth it.” In December, and throughout the year, they make sure to celebrate both of their religious holidays. “Decorating the Christmas tree was always a huge event in my family,” says Mark. “It has become more significant since becoming parents.” Sharon and Mark share both of their faiths with their 11-year-old son, Rushil. “We have brought him up to be spiritual more than religious,” says Sharon. “We both agreed that we were not going to push him into any religion but expose him to both so he could learn that mom and dad are different in some ways but still learn to live and love together. Growing up with parents who are following different faiths has certainly taught Rushil acceptance – he is embracing of all cultures and races.” Similarly, the Bernickers chose to share both of their faiths with their children, Lily, now age 23 and a recent Yale University graduate, and Carl, age 20, a junior at The University of Texas

at Austin. Ultimately, Lily chose to be Methodist like Daphne, and Carl chose Judaism like Eric. Daphne went to church with Lily, and Eric tutored Carl for his Bar Mitzvah. “While Carl and I eventually decided upon different religions, we spent the majority of our formative years unaffiliated and thus practiced our faith in the same ways. We said the same prayers with our parents before bed, we both went to synagogue on High Holidays and church for Christmas,” says Lily, who is an associate with Foundation Strategy Group in Washington, D.C. “So our experiences with religion were very much the same until I was 12. When I made the choice to be confirmed as a Christian, I didn’t feel as if I had to give up or discard any of the beliefs or practices that I had shared with my father or brother – just adapt them.” Daphne smiles when she looks at the creche: a mix of memories of faith and family. “When I was a little girl, I would play with the figurines like a dollhouse. I always have arranged the figures the same way, and baby Jesus goes in last, in the center,” she says. “This is very special to me. I love it for its religious significance, and it really connects our family to my past, to my childhood and to my mother’s childhood.”


NEIGHBORS by Kelly Engler, contributing writer

Holiday Events Galveston Historical Foundation/Illumine Photographic Services

What to do this season


pread holiday cheer by rounding up your friends and loved ones for some once-ayear fun in Houston and Galveston.

Houston Ballet’s The Nutcracker Wortham Theater Center, downtown Now-Dec. 27 Journey with Clara and her Nutcracker through the Land of Sweets with Tchaikovsky’s ballet. The Houston Ballet presents this holiday classic with its iconic, stunning set. Admission: $19 and up The Alley Theatre’s A Christmas Carol The Alley Theatre, downtown Now-Dec. 29 Follow Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey of redemption as he learns about the spirit of the holiday season in the Alley’s annual performance of this classic tale. Admission: $30-60 2016 Magical Winter Lights Gulf Greyhound Park, La Marque Now-Jan. 8. 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 3-11 p.m. Fri.-Sun. The holiday festival includes large lanterns shaped like landmarks and landscapes from around the world, international performances, food, carnival rides and holiday shopping. Admission: $13-22; children under 4: free Zoo Lights Houston Zoo, Hermann Park Now-Jan. 16, 6-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 6-11 p.m. Fri.-Sun.; Closed Dec. 25-26 The Houston Zoo is transformed into a wonderland of colorful lights, holiday music and animal sculptures. Admission: $10-20; 1 and under: free. The ICE at Discovery Green Discovery Green, downtown Now-Feb. 8 Discovery Green will host a 7,716-square-foot ice-skating rink, holiday music and hot beverages throughout the season. Admission: $14 includes skate rental

BACK IN TIME Dress up in Victorian clothes for half-price admission to Dickens on the Strand in Galveston Dec. 4-6.

Holiday in the Park Bellaire Town Square Dec. 1, 6-8:30 p.m. Santa, holiday music, the official tree lighting, rides aboard a kiddie train, holiday crafts, pony rides, moon bounces and a petting zoo. Highlight: 40,000 pounds of snow, with two snow slides. Admission: Free The Annual Mayor’s Holiday Celebration Hermann Square at City Hall, downtown Dec. 2, 6-8 p.m. Ring in the holiday season with the Mayor’s Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting presented by Reliant. Holiday music, Santa, fireworks, a lit holiday tree and more. Admission: Free Very Merry Pops Jones Hall, downtown Dec. 2-4 Listen to new arrangements of classic holiday tunes, including Jingle Bell Rock and Carol of the Bells, played by the Houston Symphony and conducted by Steven Reineke. Admission: $25-138


Christmas Concert and Coffee Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, 6003 Memorial Dr. Dec. 5, 10 a.m. Enjoy bites and beverages while you listen to the ROCO Brass Quintet perform holiday favorites in the Spiegeltent, “tent of mirrors.” Then, take part in an exclusive tour with portrayals of Ima Hogg and Santa. Admission: $55 28th Annual West U Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony West U Community Building, 6104 Auden St. Dec. 5, 5:30 p.m. Get in the holiday spirit with the West U Tree Lighting Ceremony. Holiday activities and photos with Santa. Admission: Free It’s A Wonderful Life with the Houston Symphony Jones Hall, downtown Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. Frank Capra’s holiday classic, It’s A Wonderful Life, just got even more wonderful. The film will be played with live accompaniment from the

Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

LIGHT IT UP Join the rest of Houston getting into the holiday spirit with the Zoo Lights display at the Houston Zoo.

Houston Symphony. Admission: $22-115 6th Annual Rudolph Fun Run CityCentre Houston, 800 Town and Country Blvd. Dec. 10, 7:40 a.m. Benefitting the Firefighters Helping Firefighters organization, the Rudolph Fun Run includes the Rudolph 5k Fun Run, a Dasher 10k and a Cupid 1k. Costume contest, pictures with Santa and holiday decorations. Admission: Prices vary. The Heritage Society’s Annual Candlelight Tour The Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park, downtown Dec. 11, 4-8 p.m. Take in Houston’s history through 19th-century houses and notable characters. Learn about Houston’s early residents and customs with a cup of cocoa in hand. Children’s activities in Santa’s Workshop, plus performances. Admission: $5-10; children 5 and under: free 2016 Gingerbread Build Off Hermann Square, downtown Dec. 12-16, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Architects will build gingerbread houses. More than 3,000 are expected to cheer on the teams and view the edible masterpieces. Includes a kids’ construction zone and Santa appearance. Admission: Free; team registration to participate: $125 Houston’s 12k of Christmas

The Wortham Center, downtown Dec. 17, 7-11 a.m. Run with Santa and his elves before they venture back to the North Pole. Finishers will receive a medal and a T-shirt. Costume contest, food, drinks, music and more. Admission: Prices vary.

Down in Galveston 15th Annual Festival of Lights Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd. Now-Jan. 8, 6-10 p.m. More than 1 million lights within 100 soundenhanced animated light displays, live entertainment, ice skating, the Arctic Ice Slide and photos with Santa. Admission: $11 (includes ice skating) Ice Land: Ice Sculptures Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd. Now-Jan. 9, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Using 2 million pounds of ice, ice carvers have designed the ultimate Caribbean Christmas, including dolphins, sharks, tropical fish and more. The new Shivers Ice Bar will be serving holiday drinks. Admission: $11-27 Island ETC’s Winter Wonderettes Island ETC, 2317 Mechanic St. Dec. 1-3 and 8-10, 8 p.m. Enjoy this 1960s holiday musical at Galveston’s professional repertory theater company. The musical features a holiday party, a missing Santa and four lovable, talented women

determined to save the day. Admission:$25-30 Dickens on the Strand 2300 Strand Dec. 2-4. Times vary. Travel back to 19th-century Victorian London in this annual holiday street festival. Parades, entertainment, strolling carolers, musicians, bagpipers, costumed vendors, crafts, gift items. Admission: $7-15. Attendees in Victorian costume are admitted for half-price. Everyone free Friday night. Santa Train Galveston Railroad Museum, The Strand Dec. 10, 10 a.m.-noon All aboard! Santa is coming to the Galveston Railroad Museum. Enjoy holiday lights and decorations, and learn about railroads. Admission: $5-10 Cirque Joyeux Noel Dinner and Show Moody Gardens Convention Center, 7 Hope Blvd. Dec. 16-25, 6:30 p.m. Sit down to enjoy Moody Gardens executive chef Felipe Gonzalez’s cuisine and then revel in a one-hour holiday circus spectacular. Tickets include admission to the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights. Admission: $15-95

MORE ONLINE See this story at for more details, including maps and direct links to event websites.









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2016 Holiday

Gift Guide Unique gift ideas for even the hardest to please

ME 2 Houston’s only teen and tween salon offering hair, nail, makeup and facial services using cruelty-free, organic, paraben-free products including Verb, john masters organics, EVOLVh, Cate McNabb, Honeybee Gardens, YonKa and butter LONDON. Book your appointment or get a gift card for your special girl! ME2Beauty Bar, 2031 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, Texas 77056, 713.622.8336,

Hue Do You Love? Papaya Bunny, Ocher Bear or Cerulean Owl? Babies love these soft velour animals with weighted bottoms and crinkle ears. Find these and other toys that encourage imaginative play for all ages at your neighborhood toy store. Tomfoolery Toys and Books, 4844 Beechnut Street, Houston, Texas 77096, 832.879.2461,

A Quality Gift Quality Life Fitness offers cardio, weights, trainers, classes. A clean, top-of-the-line, upscale gym located around the corner from the Junior League of Houston. Mention this ad for a $0 initiation fee! Quality Life Fitness, 4543 Post Oak Place Drive, Houston, Texas 77027, 713.621.4300,

Sparkle Delivered Houston's own jewelry subscription service amazes monthly with its on-trend box of sparkle containing 3 amazing pieces + bonus accessory or beauty product. For only $36 a month give a fabulous gift or send a surprise to yourself!

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Under the Radar Luxury Hammitt is an American made handbag line attracting customers of all styles. Providing both functionality and iconic silhouettes. Gift a Hammitt for someone’s hip…or your own! Once you start you can't stop! Raspberry Rose (located in Rice Village), 2434 Rice Blvd., Houston, Texas 77005, 713.529.2260, Instagram: @shopraspberryrose TANGLEWOOD/RIVER OAKS BUZZ DECEMBER 2016 16

Suede meets sporty chic. Featuring classic suede construction, cotton laces and ready-for-anything athletic inspired soles, these booties are like your favorite sneakers, but even better. From daily tasks to weekend wanderings, these fringe boots are ready for wherever life takes you. Minnetonka Venice Bootie, $59.95. Swoon Apparel + Accessories, 5886 San Felipe, Houston, Texas 77057, 713.781.7966,
















Photo: Social Sell


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Cork It This Corkicle Tumbler is no joke when it comes to keeping your beverages cold or hot! This is the perfect gift this holiday season for your mom, sister, boyfriend or BFF. It comes in two sizes, tons of different colors and it looks great with a monogram! The Monogram Shop, 5860-H San Felipe, Houston, Texas 77057, 832.251.8771,

Right On Target Starting at $69 per month, you can gift an Executive Membership to Athena Gun Club. As a member you'll experience one of the finest shooting experiences in the industry, priority lane reservations, complimentary handgun rentals, and twelve 15-minute sessions in our live-action virtual training simulator. Best of all, range fees are waived for all Executive Members! Athena Gun Club, 10814 Katy Fwy. (at Beltway 8), Houston, Texas 77043, 713.461.5900, Pictured: Wilson Combat Classic Supergrade

The Gift of Conservation! Your Gift is in the Bag Vibrant colors and patterns add personality to this classic, everyday bag. Order with a monogram for the ultimate personalized gift. Available in multiple styles, starting at $145. Visit our Houston studio full of items for you and your home. Renovate, 7413 Westview Drive, Suite C, Houston, Texas 77055, 713.291.1171,

Special Holiday Offer: 1-year membership for only $75. Give a Houston Safari Club membership to your favorite outdoor enthusiast and support conservation, education and hunters’ rights. Offer expires 12/31/2016. Contact HSC today at 832.804.8959,

Off the Charts Give the gift that keeps on giving… music! Black Dog Records has a fantastic turntable with built in speakers for only $99. Purchase this along with records of their favorite artist. Black Dog Records, 4900 Bissonnet Street, Bellaire, Texas 77401, 713.522.6001,

A Clean Gun is an Accurate Gun Don’t know how to properly clean your firearm? Don’t have the time to clean your firearm? We are the premier firearms cleaning and maintenance professionals in Houston and a full service firearm retail shop. Gift cards and gift packages available. The Gun Cleaners, 1022 Wirt Road, Suite 316, Houston, Texas 77055, 281.888.6856, TANGLEWOOD/RIVER OAKS BUZZ DECEMBER 2016 17

DINING by Russell Weil, contributing writer

More Restaurant Memories Stories from Houston’s dining past

Lost Houston by William Dylan Powell

Lost Houston by William Dylan Powell


wo years ago, I wrote a story on iconic restaurants from Houston’s dining past. The article remains so popular that I am still receiving mail about it – and learning new stories. One reader wrote in asking about an Italian restaurant. “Does anyone have any recollection of Vincent’s Sorrento located on Bell St.? It opened in 1949 and had patrons such as Frank Sinatra.” In doing some research on Sorrento – located at the corner of Fannin and Bell in what is now Midtown, where new apartment homes are being developed – I found out they had gained notoriety soon after opening. In town for the grand opening of The Shamrock Hotel on St. Patrick’s Day in 1949, Frank Sinatra went to dine at Sorrento as the guest of then-Mayor Oscar Holcombe. Sinatra, who was married at the time to his wife Nancy, brought movie actress Ava Gardner along as his date. The couple was spotted by a local photographer from The Houston Post, who approached them to get a picture. According to Kitty Kelley’s 1986 His Way; The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra, Frank became so angry that he started to smash the man’s camera. Ava screamed while hiding her face in her mink coat, and the restaurant owner, Anthony “Tony” Vallone Sr. (Tony’s owner Tony Vallone’s father), rushed over, and the photographer left without taking his picture. But that didn’t stop the incident from going public, and the story appeared in the next day’s paper, picked up by the wire services. According to Kelley, this incident made the secret 18-month affair of Frank and Ava public for the first time. While the 1940s and ’50s brought glamour and glitz to the Houston dining scene, the 1960s saw an explosion of themed restaurants along South Main Street as the Astrodome took center stage. One of these, Look’s Sir-Loin Inn at 9810 South Main, was notable for the “knight in shining armor” atop a white horse greeting diners as they entered the parking lot. The owner himself, Sonny Look, was perched upon that horse on many occasions. Hailing from Brenham, Look was quite the showman in his bright sport coats, and his larger-than-life persona was evident at his English-themed restaurants.

HOUSTON PAST Top photo: Taken in 1920, this is one of the earliest photos of Ye Old College Inn across from Rice University. It originally opened in 1918 as The Owl. Bottom photo: The San Jacinto Inn’s seafood buffet drew admirers for years. Here is an early photo of the restaurant on land that is now owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

You could have a photograph taken after your meal in a castle-like setting, complete with a throne and oversized furniture. In my family photo, we are sitting on an ornate sofa. After my article and photo appeared in The Buzz, I received a nice email from Andrew P. Biar, sonin-law of the late Sonny Look, who passed away in 2003. “I married Sonny Look’s daughter, Elizabeth. We were both excited to see that you included him in your recent article about restaurant memories. I think my mother-in-law Carole has a chair that matches the seat you all are sit-


ting on in the picture. It makes you feel like a king when you sit on it. It was a treat to see your article and the picture.” Look’s restaurants closed their doors in the late 1990s, but a few local restaurants have continued to stand the test of time, including Christie’s Seafood, which opened in 1917 on Galveston Island. With its Westheimer location still serving classic dishes from the sea, Christie’s remains the oldest family-run restaurant in Houston. Owned by the Mickelis family, the beloved Cleburne Cafeteria in (continued on page 20)

LOOKING SHARP Restaurateur and community leader Sonny Look, owner of Look’s Sir-Loin Inn and other restaurants, was also known for his flamboyant jacket collection. Family members still treasure this “throne” from Look’s Sir-Loin Inn. (Inset photo, from left) daughter Elizabeth Biar, son Gary Look and widow Carole Look.

Lost Houston by William Dylan Powell

FELIX’S Owner Felix Tijerina poses with Felix Mexican Restaurant staff from many of the chain's locations in the 1940s. During peak years, Felix had six locations in Houston and Beaumont. (continued from page 18) West

University was another local long-standing family-run restaurant, opening in 1941. Many still wonder where the name Cleburne comes from. Longtime Houstonians may remember that the cafeteria’s original location was downtown on Cleburne at Fannin. Cleburne suffered a devastating fire earlier this year, but is rebuilding, and plans are for a March 2017 re-opening. Other family-run restaurants were also inspired to name their establishments based upon location. Opening in 1919 across the street from Rice Institute (now Rice University) at 6545 Main Street, Ye Old College Inn originally started out as a snack stand called The Owl, a local hangout where kids would come for a burger or a soda. Owner George Martin had a bigger vision, and he opened up a full-fledged restaurant in 1921. With familiar arches and a tiled roof, its design was similar to that of some of the buildings on the Rice campus. William Dylan Powell’s book, Lost Houston, explains that this was no coincidence, as both were designed by the same architect, William Ward Watkin. Ye Old College Inn was famous for char-broiled steaks cooked “the way you want,” large baked potatoes and bourbon-pumpkin pie. A destination for Rice University coaches, as well as sophisticated international diners, Ye Old College Inn received accolades in the 1950s as one of the 20 greatest restaurants of the world, according to the book Historic Photos of Houston by Betty Trapp Chapman. While Rice students, alumni and athletes kept the varsity-themed dining room popular for years, Ye Old College Inn was razed after 60 years in business to make way for St. Luke’s Hospital expansion in the early 1980s. A book of

recipes, Ye Old College Inn Recipes, which George Martin released during the restaurant’s popular days, can still be found by searching online. Dining out in Houston didn’t always mean a neighborhood favorite. My family enjoyed road trips to visit the San Jacinto Monument and the Battleship Texas. After a tour of Texas history, our next stop would be San Jacinto Inn, established in 1919 by Jack and Bertha Sanders. Many don’t remember that the restaurant’s original location was by the south end of the Lynchburg Ferry near the Houston Ship Channel. The Sanders would catch the seafood themselves, and would also make fresh preserves to serve with their homemade biscuits. It wasn’t until business picked up a few years later that the decision was made to move their restaurant to their iconic location in the shadows of the San Jacinto Monument. Seasonal favorites included iced crab, fried fish, shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half-shell, as well as my favorite fried chicken. And the best part was that it was an all-you-can-eat buffet. The San Jacinto Inn had a good run. Among the signatures in its guest book were Greta Garbo, Elvis Presley and astronauts from NASA. But it was plagued with a string of bad luck. The place burned to the ground in 1926 and had to be rebuilt. The Sanders later divorced, and a new owner sold it to a corporation in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the restaurant started sinking below sea level, and the parking lot was often to be found underwater. Subsequently, the decision was made to demolish the building and construct an exact replica in its place. This new version of the San Jacinto Inn was short-lived, closing its doors for good in 1987.


Mexican restaurants have always been popular with Houston diners. One reader wrote in after reading the Restaurant Memories article. “Not sure how you could write this without mention of Felix’s.” Felix Mexican Restaurant was part of the Houston restaurant scene for 60 years, after opening in 1937 by Felix Tijerina, the son of a migrant farmworker. Longtime Houstonians would go nowhere else for their Mexican food feast. According to William Dylan Powell’s book Lost Houston, Felix’s iconic Montrose location on Westheimer, now Uchi, was built in 1948, and dinner there would cost 50 cents. The book says Felix created the first dishes in Houston that would become known as Tex-Mex. This concept became popular and competitive by the 1970s and 1980s, as national chains entered the market. Without Tijerina, who passed away in 1965, Felix began to lose customers and was never quite the same. It served its last order of fajitas in 2008. The legacy of Tijerina is captured by author Thomas H. Kreneck in his book Mexican American Odyssey: Felix Tijerina, Entrepreneur and Civic Leader, 1905-1965. Do you remember any of these places? Or do you have stories of others I don’t mention? We’d love to share your dining memories. Comment under this story at our website or email

MORE ONLINE Find the original story that started all this fuss at; search for Restaurant Memories. Also, see our website for more photos about this month's More Restaurant Memories and a link to “Sonny Look: A Humble Showman,” published in Houston History Magazine in March 2012.

bakery | coffee shop | ice cream

Call or swing by to place your holiday cookie orders! Milk & Cookies 3636 Rice Blvd. 713-352-3086




by Sharon Albert Brier, staff writer

Women only. The Tangle Lane Women’s Cocktail party, held every fall, was hosted by Delia Stroud at her house. It was NO business as usual, with cocktails and appetizers. In the sweet and salty mix were 22 smartly dressed ladies swapping vacation stories and news of grandchildren. Some of the guests were Pam Cagle, Michelle Hosko, Delia Stroud, Susan Wise and Jennifer Van Arsdel, and newcomers to the street were Wrennie Knust (husband Gary) and Sherrie Kaplan (husband Richard). Take a hike! When Galleria-area resident Lana Armstrong moved from Spring, she kept up close ties with a neighbor of 18 years, Megan Franks. They go on an annual camping trip that has evolved to a 50-plus camp outside Lake Tahoe called Echo Lake Camp. Lana, Megan and seven friends got back to nature with no electricity and a tarp for sleeping quarters; their sleeping bags were on top of air mattresses. The gals layered with long johns and used flashlights to find the bathrooms and showers about 50 feet away. College students served their meals in a dining hall, and they did work up an appetite. They accumulated 26 miles in their three hikes and kayaked Echo Lake. The shades of blue at Emerald Bay along Lake Tahoe were worth the hike. Hard decision. How does one choose what to bid on between tickets to the 59th Annual Grammys, an Astros First Pitch Experience and Diamond Level tickets or tickets to NYC Fashion Week? Many more exotic choices were available at the Children’s Museum Mad Hatter Gala. Surrounded by an Alice in Wonderland setting, co-chairs Elva and Truett Akin and Monica and Greg Meeks were grinning like Cheshire cats as $955,000 was raised. Looking for the rabbit hole were Claire and Jack Blanton III, Leslie and Jack Blanton, CMH president Geoff and Shelley Bracken, and Bill and Courtney Toomey. Future outdoors man. Clyde Winston Overton was born on Oct. 16 to Mark and Rebecca Overton in Caribou, Maine. As Clyde sleeps in his nursery among decorated sage-green walls of trees and woodland creatures of foxes, owls and raccoons, he dreams of hiking, kayaking and snowshoeing adventures. Grandparents

Jenny Antill

Rumor Has It

BLUE BAYOU Dressed to the blues for the Bayou Preservation Association’s rhythm and blues-themed 20thanniversary party beside the Buffalo Bayou are (from left) Travis and Brittany Cassin and Susan and Dick Hansen.

Ewing Byron and Sandra Stroman and Harline Lockhart look forward to taking Clyde on a stroller ride. The baby watch dog, at 7 months old, is Chihuahua puppy Pinto, who loves to keep an eye out for his baby human brother. Outdoor Oktoberfest. A tradition for 11 years now, St. George Place has offered a beer and bratwurst party to the residents. It started at Lucette and Richard Reiger’s nine years ago as Richard wanted to recreate the fest he celebrated in his original hometown. The party now travels to other homes, and the menu also varies. The fest hosted 50 partiers at Gay and Ron Lott’s outdoor patio, decorated with twinkle lights and pink tulips. Spicy chicken, bratwurst, sauerkraut and brisket were the main attractions. Stephanie Ladobruk helped with the emails, Dr. Fayaz and Maribel Bhojani assisted with the grilling, and Bartt Shelton implemented the new PayPal option. Most of the guests walked on over. No calls were needed to Uber. Whale of a good time. Dr. Steve and Adriana Rosenbaum and Julian and Fran Koch enjoyed a two-week New England and Canada cruise that left from New York. Aside from seeing the changing of the leaves, Adriana ate lobster almost every day. A visit to admire Marble


House and The Breakers in Newport left them charmed, but the whale migration with at least 30 whales and hundreds of gray seals was a moment of awe. Speaking of big, they were unexpectedly treated to a sighting of the Aurora Borealis as the Northern Lights cast a green aura over the water and skies of New England. Blues on the bayou. More than 350 bayou lovers wore blue and swayed to rhythm and blues music at the Bayou Preservation Association’s 50th Anniversary bash held at the stunning Buffalo Bayou frontage home of Colleen Holthouse and co-chaired by Lindley Arnoldy and Brittany Cassin. Twinkle lights glowed as projected designs flashed among the trees. Servers dressed as the Blues Brothers passed a Memphis-mule signature cocktail while guests enjoyed buffet stations featuring Gulf Coast, Memphis and Cajun cuisine. Scotty Arnoldy and hostess Colleen thanked event goers and gave them a brief history on the bayou-side estate. The event raised more than $175K.

MORE ONLINE See Rumor Has It at for additional photos. Have some good news to share? Email us at

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BELLAIRE WEST UNIVERSITY MEMORIAL TANGLEWOOD RIVER OAKS To advertise in The Buzz Magazines, contact us at 713.668.4157, ext. 19 or




by Annie Blaylock McQueen, staff writer

Buzz Baby

Shopping with kids in tow

Buzz Baby is a column about life with babies from the perspective of a first-time mother.


hristmas Day 2015 was approaching, and Rice Village stores were bustling with holiday shoppers, including momof-two Patrice Heins. Along for the ride were her two tiny helpers, son Henry (then 2) and daughter Evelyn (then 5 months). The multi-tasking mom tried to make the logistics of bringing two kids shopping as streamlined as possible. She skipped a bulky stroller and large diaper bag. “I had Henry in an umbrella stroller and Evelyn strapped to my chest,” she said. She felt ready to conquer the task at hand. “We went to a few stores,” said Patrice. “I was trying to get my shopping done on the last day of The Holiday Card.” (The discount-shopping card benefits The American Cancer Society.) After visiting multiple stores, Patrice decided to end the outing on a sweet note. She wanted to be a “fun” mom that day and treat Henry to some crepes for being such a good boy. The plan was perfect. Then, it would be time to head home for naps so she could wrap the gifts. “I could tell that we were just hanging on by a thread before the kids needed their naps,” said Patrice. “But Henry started falling apart.” The trio walked into Sweet Paris Crepêrie anyway. Patrice felt the eyes of patrons – most quietly sipping coffee and catching a second shopping wind – watching her as she quickly made her way to the register to order. “It was just after lunch time, and all of these couples were sitting together, and in we march with literally a dozen bags hanging from the stroller handles,” she said. As she walked through the café, her shopping bags bumped into tables. “We ordered, and they both started really losing it, just hysterics,” recalled Patrice. “I couldn’t figure out if we should wait for our crepes or not. I started to leave, and two of the employees ran after me with my crepes.” As Henry entered full-tantrum mode, baby Evelyn started crying in her BabyBjorn carrier. Suddenly, the empty stroller crashed over from the weight of the shopping bags. “Things were rolling away, and I was just try-

ing to pretend that it was all fine and cool,” said Patrice. “These sweet ladies helped me collect everything, and I finally made it to the car and loaded up the kids and bags. “This year, I’ll hire a babysitter,” she said, laughing. Toddlers can be known for their curiosity and brutal honesty. A shopping trip with one of them can bring these character traits to the forefront. Claire Noel, chief of staff at AIG, took her daughter Sage for some holiday shop- SUPERMOM Patrice Heins took children Henry and Evelyn Christmas shopping last ping last year at year in Rice Village. This year, she plans to hire a babysitter. Nordstrom. She “A very elderly woman walked by with big, was almost 2. “She’s my errand and shopping Southern white hair and a bright red dress and buddy,” said Claire. “She’s particularly interestlipstick on,” said Claire. “Sage, in pure silence, ed in women’s shoe sections and likes to try on pointed to her and said, “Santa! It’s Santa!” the heels and walk in them.” Claire quickly turned around to see her While walking around the busy department daughter pointing at the elderly woman. She store that day, Sage started playing a word was mortified. “Sage’s audience was laughing, game. “She was pointing out things she saw but fortunately [the woman] did not hear her. that were words she knew, or asking, ‘What’s I’m not sure how amused she would have been that?’” said Claire. by the association.” Claire continued to shop while Sage observed Shopping with babies and toddlers is not an everything around her. “She is extremely outgoeasy task. But just remember, parents, that you’re ing and noticed some people around her who not alone this season. I’ll see you out there, with were laughing at her excitement. She was my 2-year-old twins in tow. encouraged to continue finding more things to show them,” said Claire. The mommy-daughter duo made their way to For more baby stories, see for a quieter area of the store. Sage continued to loudwriter Annie Blaylock McQueen’s column, “Mommy ly report her findings to any audience she found. Moments.” If you have stories to share, leave a com“She was pointing out things very loudly [like] “a ment online or email cow, a cow!” or “flowers! flowers!” said Claire.




TRAVEL by Tracy L. Barnett, staff writer

Travel Buzz Holiday travel with the family


oing to great lengths to be with loved ones over the holidays is a time-honored tradition – but some people go much further than others. Take the Seth family, who packed up the kids and the parents and headed to India. The Matta family don’t have to go quite as far, but their native Puerto Rico is a quite bit further than the “over the hills and through the woods” of holiday lore.

The Mattas The Mattas – Gisselle, Eduardo and daughter Elena, now 9 – have traveled to Puerto Rico, the island of their birthplace, for three of the past four winter holidays. They’ve gone together before, but as Gisselle said, “When you’re home for the holidays, you spend a lot of time visiting extended family, rather than visiting new places.” So in 2012, they decided to change that. Instead of staying in the metropolitan area, where their extended family lives, they rented a large house with some friends and family on the opposite side of the island. They celebrated Christmas at home in Bellaire, and then headed off to the island, where all of them, including those who live on the island, headed off to Cabo Rojo. The trip was the beginning of a new tradition: spending the holidays together. The next year, one of her nieces in Puerto Rico wanted to join friends on a ski trip in Vail, so they rented apartments in the snowy resort town and tagged along. The next two years it was back to the island. This holiday they’re planning another sojourn out West – this time to Arizona, where Eduardo’s brother moved recently. Now with four New Year’s holidays behind them, they’ve developed a routine when headed to the island: They fly into San Juan on a red eye and arrive early in the morning. They spend that first day visiting extended family, and then head off to a more remote location. In 2012, when they rented a house in Cabo Rojo, everyone stayed in the same house. They took the kids kayaking, stand-up paddling, to the beach, the nearby lighthouse, and to the Mayagüez Zoo. In 2014, they went to the east coast of the

island: Palmas del Mar, in Humacao. One family’s parents already had a house at the resort, and they rented another house to be near each other.” They rented golf carts, quickly commandeered by the teenagers. Gisselle enjoyed runs on the beach. On New Year’s they ushered in 2015 at the Beach Bohio, a tiny restaurant. They all lined up to see the fireworks over the ocean. Last year they circled back to Cabo Rojo, but this time they rented a couple of apartments. Eduardo’s sister and her husband have a boat so they took advantage of that to navigate to different beaches around the area. They went to the beach of Boquerón and to Desecheo Island, a small, uninhabited island off the northwest coast, listed as a wildlife refuge. Desecheo was previously used by the U.S. Army during World War II as a testbombing range, and later used by the U.S. Air Force for survival FAMILY TIME Gisselle, Eduardo and daughter Elena Matta travel to Puerto Rico training. The public is or another vacation destination with their extended family every winter holiday. not allowed to set foot keeps on giving. “Elena is 9 now, and she has on the island, but the nearby reef is popular for learned to appreciate the trip more than a toy that diving and snorkeling. They also explored the she may get tired of,” said Gisselle. “We try to learn little villages in the mountains, where country about the place where we are going, and help the restaurants serve traditional Puerto Rican food. kids ask relevant questions, help them think outThe family welcomed 2016 in La Parguera, a side the box. Sometimes the experience is more small fishing village in the town of Lajas. enriching than a nice gift.” The Mattas think of the trips as the gift that


TRIP TO REMEMBER The Seth family coordinated a trip to India during the holidays in 2012 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sandeep Seth’s parents, Prithvi and Kanta Seth.

The Seths When Holly Thankful married Sandeep Seth, she knew that travel would be a part of life. The couple had taken their two children – daughter Hasanthi and son Vikram, now 22 and 18, respectively – to India several times to get to know their father’s native land and their Far East family. Still, the holidays of 2012 marked a watershed when the entire Seth clan of Texas decided to coordinate a trip together to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Prithvi and Kanta Seth, Sandeep’s parents. It was important to Prithvi and Kanta to have their grandchildren visit the place where they grew up, see their culture first-hand and visit family they had never met, said Holly. “Instead of a big party, they wanted a family trip that all the kids could remember their entire lives. It would be everyone’s Christmas gift to each other.” The trip turned out to be epic. Besides Sandeep and his family, there was his brother Vineet and his wife, Sarah, who live in San Antonio. They had a young daughter of 9 months. There was Anita, his sister, with her two college-age boys, who live in Katy. And there were Sandeep’s parents, who live in Alief. “Even though we’d been there before, we hadn’t done the usual touristy things,” said Holly. “We were always visiting family. This time we wanted to hit the major tourist attractions, to see the sights that come to mind when you think of India.” Together, with family in India, the group grew to 25, so they rented a whole bus to do the Golden Triangle: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

Home base was a big empty house owned by a relative in New Delhi. From there the group saw Delhi and headed off to Agra to see the famed Taj Mahal, and on to the “Pink City” of Jaipur. In 1876 the buildings were painted a deep pink to prepare for a visit of Prince Albert. The family spent Christmas – and Vikram’s birthday – at the Taj Mahal, making it the most majestic birthday of his young life. In Jaipur, they saw the Amber Fort, City Palace and the Jantar Mantar Observatory, and celebrated New Year’s Eve. “We wanted to have a celebration for my in-laws’ anniversary,” said Holly, “so we ended up taking over the hotel’s New Year’s Eve party and made it our own.” The celebration was like a standard New Year’s in Houston: a live band, dancing, dinner, champagne and countdown. “For my kids, the most important aspect was to spend time with their cousins. As they get older and go off to college or their careers they won’t have a chance like that.” The family spent about a week in Delhi, taking in the Akshardham and Laxminarayan temples; Indira Gandhi’s house; Qutub Minar, the world’s tallest brick minaret; the Red Fort Complex, named for its massive red sandstone walls; and Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, dating to the 1600s. Delhi is fascinating but it’s a northern city, and temperatures can drop near freezing in the winter. “Most homes don’t have central heating in India, so at night, you’re always huddled around a little space heater and sleeping with five blankets,” said Holly. “Being spoiled to Houston weather, we would freeze all night till

the sun came up and then warm up a bit.” So the family made an impromptu decision and headed south to the port city of Kochi, on the Arabian Sea in the state of Kerala. Kochi is famous for not only its beaches but also its backwater wilderness of canals, rivers and traditional hamlets, and a tradition of houseboat rental has sprung up to give visitors the opportunity to explore. The Seth family rented one, hired a cook, and set off for the time of their lives. “The kids loved it. It’s an adventure totally different from anything we’ve done before.” From there they went to the resort town of Kovalam, reminiscent of beach towns of Mexico, with little restaurants and hotels on coconut palm-lined beaches of the Arabian Sea. The kids played on the beach and swam in the pool. Then it was back to Delhi for four more days – a full week in the Indian capital, sightseeing and spending time with family. “It was very eye-opening for the teenagers in terms of how the rest of the world lives,” Holly said. Her son, especially, was sensitive to the class differences. “The big house where we stayed has a house boy, and he’s only 13 or 14,” Holly said. “He doesn’t go to school; his job is to cook, clean and keep the house, and that’s going to be his job his whole life. My son was the same age at the time we visited. For him to see something like that – he was saying, ‘Oh, he’s my age and he works for a living. He’s not going to have the chance to go to college – he’s not going to have nice clothes or an iPhone.’ It’s a huge lesson in how lucky we are.”


The Junior League of Houston

FOOD by Vanessa Stabler, contributing writer

Cooking Buzz La dolce vita dessert party Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.


id you know “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts?” Looking for an easy no-stress holiday get-together? Host a holiday dessert party. In this busy season, your guests can stop by after other holiday parties, it’s something different from every other party, and an all-dessert party can certainly also be kinder to your wallet. Hold the party a little later than usual so guests have time to eat dinner (or stop by those other parties) beforehand. Make sure you tell them in the invitation that it’s a dessert-only party and to “save room for dessert.” My favorite traditional holiday dessert is a Yule log cake roll. I add Yule log touches – chocolate shavings to resemble bark and colored marzipan shaped into holly leaves and berries – to the Chocolate Roll from the Houston Junior League Cookbook. For those who don’t like chocolate (or even sweets), I also make sure to include other options. For a festive non-chocolate dessert, I make a La Ciambella. Featured in Peace Meals, it’s a quick and easy Bundt cake that looks harder to make than it is. With the Strawberries Eric (also from Peace Meals) and fresh mint on top, it makes a pretty centerpiece on the sideboard. For those who prefer savory to sweet I make sure to have a large cheese and fruit board too. It’s also fun to offer some desserts with a “punch.” The Bite–Size Bourbon Cakes from Peace Meals, which can be made from storebought angel food cake, are easy to prepare and can be made a day beforehand. I add sprinkles in holiday colors to the gingersnap-pecan mixture to make the cakes more festive. Another of my favorites is the Irish Trifle from Stop and Smell the Rosemary. Scale the serving size down and serve them in clear mini pedestal cups to show off the layers. For a holiday-themed beverage, the Spiced Apple Cider from the Houston Junior League Cookbook will match the sweetness in your desserts or can even serve as a dessert itself. And

for an extra kick, it also tastes great with bourbon. If you have an insulated coffee carafe, it can help to keep the cider hot and is easy to refill. This holiday season, keep things stress-free and experience the sweet life.

La Ciambella From Peace Meals 3 extra large eggs 1¼ cups sugar 2¼ cups flour HAVE A SLICE La Ciambella is an easy-to-make Bundt cake that you can serve ½ teaspoon salt with Strawberries Eric. 2 teaspoons baking strawberries in a large bowl, pour the juice mixpowder ture over the berries, cover and refrigerate for 1 cup heavy whipping cream several hours. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (may sub almond or lemon extract) Tips for the perfect cheese board Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour a Courtesy of Central Market as featured in Peace Bundt or ring pan. Beat the eggs until fluffy. Add Meals the sugar and beat until light yellow. Mix the Five different cheeses is a good minimum for flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl. an interesting assortment of taste, color and texAdd the dry mixture to the egg mixture, alterture. Include one triple crème, one hard, one nating with additions of the cream. Mix well. blue, one goat and one mild semi-soft. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the batter into the preAllowing cheese to come to room temperapared pan. Bake for about 35 minutes or until ture brings out the full flavor and makes it easier the edges pull away slightly and the center is set. to handle. Do not overbake. Allow the cake to cool slightly If slicing, slice cheese just before serving to and invert onto a wire rack. Serve topped with keep it from drying out. dusted powdered sugar and Strawberries Eric Plan on two ounces of cheese per person as (recipe below). Serves 8 to 10. an appetizer/dessert. Serve with an assortment of quality breads Strawberries Eric and crackers as well as a mix of apples, grapes, Juice of ½ an orange figs and pears. Juice of ½ small grapefruit As a final touch, scatter your cheese board Juice of ½ a lime 1 with nuts such as pistachios, Marcona almonds ⁄8 teaspoon saffron and spiced pecans. ¼ cup chopped fresh mint or basil 2 pints strawberries, rinsed, tops removed and halved See for other recipes menThis recipe requires advance preparation. Mix tioned in this story. To buy a Houston Junior League the juices together in a small bowl and add the cookbook, see or call 713-871-6608. saffron. Add the mint or basil and stir. Place the





by Dai Huynh, staff writer

Rebecca Masson

Find out about your favorite chefs, and where they like to eat, in our Chef’s Corner column. This month, restaurant writer Dai Huynh interviews chef Rebecca Masson.


pened last May, Fluff Bake Bar is a delicious addition to the vibrant Houston food scene, snagging this year’s Favorite Bakery award from My Table magazine. That’s not surprising when the creative mind behind this dessert destination is the Sugar Fairy herself: Wyoming native Rebecca Masson. After her stint as a season 2 Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant, this feisty redhead decided to take on the challenge of opening her own shop. Typical of the Sugar Fairy, she did it her way and on her own terms. She raised $53,000 in seed money through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site where artists, inventors, chefs and other creative types solicit money from friends and fans. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Rebecca realized her childhood dream when she opened the Midtown, 1,200-square-foot Fluff Bake Bar (314 Gray Street), a brand she launched in 2011 when she supplied bake goods and custom cakes to top restaurants, specialty markets and coffee shops around town. A fan, I’ve chased her desserts for years at these various locales – most notably Revival Market in the Heights. The former apprentice of famed star-chef Daniel Boulud has a rare ability of giving homey classics an upscale and often unusual twist. Her creations bring to mind goodies you might have tasted in Grandma’s kitchen, but elevated to new heights. Recently, Rebecca dusted flour off her apron and sat down to chat about what else? Luscious sweets. One of your most popular signature desserts is the Couch Potato, a chocolate chip cookie swirled with potato chips, pretzels, corn flakes and marshmallows. Now this may sound like a bad accident waiting to happen. But the cookie tastes amazing. How did you come up with this crazy combo? We saw this trend of snacks going into cookies and ice creams, so we decided to give it a try.

I took a bunch of cookies as inspirations and threw in all the ingredients I liked best. I have been using pretzels for a long time, like my chocolate pretzel tart. I’ve always enjoy that sweet and salty flavors. The fast-growing national chain, Shake Shack, recently opened in Galleria Mall. Along with great burgers, I heard that one of your desserts will be feaFLUFF BAKE BAR Pastry chef Rebecca Masson garnered a loyal following tured in their famous using the best ingredients for her updated classic treats. frozen custards. You also can’t go wrong with the pork belly The Veruca Salt devil’s food cupcake with saltkatsu, karaage fried chicken or the pork belly ed caramel buttercream, pretzel and milk chocodon with rice. late crunch. Apparently before the Shake Shack Your first gig was at the legendary Hotel opened, they were on a secret mission, going to Le Bristol in Paris. The City of Lights the various bakeries around town to sample the remains a favorite vacation spot. Now, many goods. Afterwards, they emailed me to send a box people consider the famous and varied macof pastries that I thought would be delicious in a arons from Pierre Hermé as the gold stancustard. They chose the Veruca Salt! dard. Where do you go for desserts and macFluff Bake Bar is across from the renovated arons when in Paris? Midtown Park, surrounded by shops and I always go to Gérard Mulot on Rue de Seine. restaurants. To this day, since 2000, he has made my favorite This area is made for progressive dining. It’s macarons. In the U.S., Big Gay Ice Cream in pretty walkable. You can easily park and graze. New York City is delicious. I love what they’re Of course, you would end at Fluff for coffee doing, the snarkiness of it. The flavor combos and Sugar Hooker Oreos. But where should are fun. You get to eat the Bea Arthur (vanilla we start? ice cream with Nilla Wafers and dulce leche) Oporto Fooding House & Wine (125 W. Gray and the Salty Pimp (vanilla ice cream with sea Street) for tapas. I like the batatas, smashed fingersalt and chocolate chips). ling potatoes with tomato chutney and garlic aioli. We’ll also order the pizzette with smoked broccoli Editor’s note: Buzz dining columnist Dai Huynh and ricotta cheese and the bife a portuguesa, a beef is a James Beard food-journalism award winner and tenderloin with fried egg and potatoes. longtime Houston-based restaurant writer. My second stop would be Izakaya (318 Gray Street), my neighbor. For sure, I would order the mochi and bacon, which is Japanese rice cake See for wrapped in bacon. Yum! I just love it there; it’s restaurant listings. Use the restaurant finder to a lively atmosphere. I love sitting at the counter. search by area, cuisine and price. Leave a comment You can’t call it a sushi counter because they online or write to with don’t serve sushi; they serve poke. I love watchyour dining stories and suggestions. ing the chef cut up seafood for the fish salads.


Julie Soefer Photography

Chef’s Corner




by Dai Huynh, staff writer


he holiday season is in full swing, and after shopping for groceries and gifts, you may not feel like baking. This year, treat yourself, your hosts or your guests to desserts from some of Houston’s finest bakeries, shops and, even, restaurants. There’s a dessert course for every palate, from chai pies from Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop and toffee brownies from Central Market to tres leches from El Bolillo Bakery.

Dessert Gallery Shortbread cookies, when correctly made, are rich, crumbly and impossible to resist. They taste mostly of sweetened butter in their simplest form, so owner Sara Brook of Dessert Gallery knows to get the best butter she can lay hands on. During the holidays, Brook sells thousands of handpainted cookies at $3.95 apiece, along with apple pies and signature fudge pecan pies. Open daily. 3600 Kirby, 713-522-9999, Riviera French Bakery For brothers Louis and Robert Wu, the buche de noel is a source of nostalgia. Raised on the French island of Madagascar, the Chinese brothers learned the pastry trade in Paris before immigrating to Houston. During the holidays, for 38-plus years, they have baked countless, moist, whimsical, yule log cakes filled with buttercream along with chocolate éclairs, cream puffs and powdered sugar-topped Napoleons. Open early daily for breakfast, closing after lunch at 3 p.m. 3100 Chimney Rock Road, 713-783-3264. Central Market Central Market churns out lovely desserts every day. Along with a cookie bar platter, the foodie hub has an assortment tray with toffee brownies, lemon bars and chocolate brownies. For $40, it serves 20-25 people. The tartlet platter, for $70, comes with fresh fruit, pecan, key lime and coconut 3-inch tarts. It’s an impressive bejeweled display for 20 or so guests. Open daily. 3815 Westheimer Road, 713-386-1700, Moeller’s Bakery We credit Shade Bowers for turning us onto the bite-sized petits fours at the oldest family-

Dessert to go, please

owned bakery in town, Moeller’s Bakery. Preciously decorated with roses and other flowers, these beautiful confectioneries are almost too beautiful to eat, almost. Often, we come across dry, leaden petit fours. But not these. These featherweight cakes are moist, and their vanilla or chocolate icing is luscious. Open daily. 4201 Bellaire Boulevard, 713-6670983,

Julie Soefer Photography

This Month in Dining

DESSERT GALLERY The Dessert Gallery makes lots of hand-crafted and decorated holiday cookies this time of year.

Three Brothers Bakery Since 1949, generations of Houstonians have lined up for Three Brothers Bakery’s old-fashioned gingerbread men (regular and miniature). This beloved Houston landmark is revered for its gingerbread houses, from precious traditional cottages to majestic grand mansions. They start at $39 but can go up to hundreds of dollars for more elaborate creations complete with twinkling Christmas lights. And if you’re in a bind and need Christmas or Hanukkah cupcakes, they’re readily available behind the display through the holidays along with the bakery’s famous German stollen dotted with dried fruits and tender rugelach stuffed with cream cheese and either cinnamon, chocolate, apricot or raspberry. Open daily; hours vary by location. Three locations: 4036 S. Braeswood Boulevard (713-666-2253), 12393 Kingsride Lane (713-4642253) and 4606 Washington Avenue (713-5222253), Michael's Cookie Jar Michael's Cookie Jar brings to mind Grandma's kitchen – full of familiar fragrances and flavors. This shop features soft-baked Americana cookies and European-styled shortbread cookies, or chef Michael Savino can bake a dozen or more of your favorite gourmet cookies with advance notice. Open Mon.-Sat. 5330 Weslayan St., 713-771-8603,


Houston Pecan Company Another family-owned business to go nuts over is the Houston Pecan Company, which has been scooping up dried nuts and mixes since 1942. Freshly roasted mixed nuts, from pecans to cashews, put this company on the map, but it also boasts a wide variety of dried fruits that are better than any you’ll find in grocery stores. Open Mon.-Tues. Longer hours in December. 7313 Ashcroft, Suite 212, 713-7726216, El Bolillo Bakery El Bolillo is known for its 12 varieties of tres leches, but truthfully, any reason is a good reason to visit this colorful bakery in the Greater Heights area and down the street from the Canino Produce farmers market. Bustling with customers – morning time especially – hundreds of fresh Mexican pastries and breads are constantly being replenished. Open daily. 2517 Airline Drive, 713-861-8885,

MORE ONLINE You'll also want to check out the honey-toasted and chocolate-covered nuts at Fredlyn Nut Company and the colorful macarons and little cakes from Bite Macarons, plus the elegant desserts with Indian spices at Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop. For more on them, see this story at




by Todd Freed, staff writer

David Shutts Photography

SportzBuzz I

n a season in which the Episcopal Knights dominated virtually every opponent, there was one final hurdle they couldn’t quite clear, as Episcopal dropped a 57-39 heartbreaker to Fort Worth All Saints’ Episcopal in the SPC 4A championship football game. “We had an incredible group of seniors who were great teammates and tremendous leaders,” said Knights head coach Steve Leisz. “Even though injuries were a big part of our season, our guys came out of the blocks and battled hard each and every game. We put up a lot of points and beat some really good teams this season, including some big UIL public-school programs.” Senior quarterback Gavin Geib threw 32 touchdown passes this season, while junior receiver Jaylen Waddle scored 30 touchdowns for an offense that averaged an amazing 55 points per game. Defensively, Jack Graham led the way with four interceptions. “We also had so many guys step up, especially with all the injuries,” said Leisz. “Camden Miller did an outstanding job at running back when we lost Jake Levrier for several weeks.” Liesz also had high praise for 6-7, 300-pound offensive tackle Walker Little. “Walker was just sensational. He not only blew defenders away on offense, but Walker also played a lot of defense for us. For a big guy like that to dominate on both sides of the line of scrimmage is pretty impressive. Our kids just played hard and left everything on the field.” It wasn’t a championship victory, but it was a special trophy presentation following the Kinkaid Falcons’ decisive 42-9 win over St. John’s in the 66th annual meeting between these tradition-rich rivals. The inaugural McMillan-Lee Trophy, which was named in honor of the two legendary coaches of the respective schools, was proudly accepted by the Falcon players after the victory. “Those are two great men who created this rivalry,” said current Kinkaid head coach Nathan Larned. “Coach McMillan is a legend at Kinkaid and a mentor to me. He’s a coach I truly love and respect. For us to bring this trophy home with his name on it is special.” The Falcons dominated the game itself despite

PROUD FALCONS In the 66th meeting between the two schools, the inaugural McMillan-Lee trophy was awarded to the Kinkaid Falcons with their 42-9 victory over rival St. John’s Mavericks.

being without two of their best offensive weapons in quarterback Matthew Maggi and running back Johnathon Thomas, who were both sidelined with injuries. Sophomore running back Josh Williams led Kinkaid with four touchdowns on the night while also making several big plays in the defensive backfield as a two-way starter. “Josh pounds the ball, runs hard, and has great agility and vision,” said Larned. Meanwhile, junior quarterback Zach Evans played a flawless game while stepping in for Maggi. “Zach did a tremendous job managing the game. Really, it was an all-around great team effort.” Despite a move up from UIL Class 5A to 6A, the Stratford Spartans girls cross country team proved that it can more than hold its own against the state’s top teams. Stratford, which finished fifth in the state in Class 5A last season, dominated the District 15-6A meet before finished a strong third at the UIL 6A Region II meet. The Spartans missed out on second place by a mere four points. “Our girls welcome the stronger competition,” said Spartans girls cross country coach Jennifer Clouse. “It’s actually made us a better team. They’re actually pretty fired up to run against the state’s best.” Leading the way for Stratford this season has


been sophomore Grace Custer, who finished fourth overall at the regional meet in a time of 18:47.19. “The thing about Grace is that she’s just such a competitor,” said Clouse. “She pushes herself to the limits and just gives 110 percent every single time she races.” Finishing behind Custer at the regional meet was freshman Hope Sage in a time of 19:51.72. The rest of the Stratford runners included junior Sydney Lawrence, freshman Olivia Hirst, freshman Faye Gibb, sophomore Ella Gibb and junior Maddie Harms. “For us to finish in the top three without a single senior on the team is pretty exciting,” said Clouse. “We ran three freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors at regionals, which is pretty amazing. We’re still learning how to run in those really big races, but our girls set their goals and have been up to every challenge.” Editor’s Note: Todd Freed is the Emmy Awardwinning co-host and producer of the KUBE SportsZone, which airs Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. on Channel 57-KUBE. To submit high school sports news for possible inclusion in SportzBuzz, please email












Are you allergic to Christmas trees? The Christmas tree you buy each year is at the end of its long journey. Having grown up in Oregon, it is harvested and placed on a flat bed truck for its cross country journey. Once every few stops, the trees are watered down to keep them moist and fresh. Just make sure that the beautiful Tannenbaum you invite into your living room doesn’t make your allergies worse. Although an artificial tree is best (if you rinse off the dust it collected in the attic), here are some tips if you decide to go with a real tree: 1. That continual watering promotes mold growth. Make sure to spray your tree with a garden hose and let it dry off completely before bringing it inside. This also helps rinse the pollen off the tree. Although pine trees aren’t a major source of tree pollen, they can trigger hay fever if you get a big dose of the powder right in your face. 2. Take your allergy medicine before trimming the tree. 3. Your ornaments may have spent the off-season in the attic with dust and mold. Carefully clean them off in a well-ventilated area. After Christmas, pack the ornaments carefully in sealed plastic bags to make next year’s job a bit easier. 4. Keep the living room well-ventilated. The aromatic resins that impart the pine scent can act as non-allergic irritants. Rinsing the mold spores off the tree before bringing it into the house will reduce but not eliminate the mold. 5. Don’t forget to take the tree out of the house on December 26 before more mold grows. Along with cheerful holiday gatherings come colds and flu. How does

your doctor keep from getting all those bugs? We wash our hands with hot soapy water or Purell all day long. Careful hand washing can prevent transmission of respiratory germs and viruses. What else does your doctor do to minimize the chance of getting sick each winter? Flu shots. Flu season usually doesn’t hit Houston until January, so you still have time to get your flu shot for the 2016-17 season. Recent evidence suggests that the FluMist (the inhaled flu vaccine) doesn’t work – do NOT rely on this for protection against the flu. Allergic to eggs? Ovalbumin contents in today’s flu shots are so low that all egg-allergic people can safely receive the vaccine. Stay well and happy holidays from The Allergy Clinic, your allergy and asthma specialists! No one nose allergies like we do.™ Note: Information contained in this article should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified allergist to address individual medical needs. David B. Engler, M.D., The Allergy Clinic, 7707 Fannin, Suite 100, Houston, Texas 77054, 713.797.0993, *1200 Binz, Suite 180, Houston, Texas 77004, 713.522.9911,, *Operating as Houston Allergy and Asthma Clinic




by Angie Frederickson, staff writer

SportzBuzz, Jr. W

elcome to SportzBuzz, Jr., a column spotlighting neighborhood athletes in elementary and middle school.

Setting up to travel Texas Elite U15 volleyball players (top photo) are geared up to start a new season as a travel team. The 13 year olds, who attend Memorial Middle School and Spring Branch Middle School, will play up in an older age group for the second year in a row. Several of the girls have played together for five years, and the team attended the Texas A&M volleyball camp together last summer. Coached by Christy Rees and Bobbi Evans, each of the players is also on her school A-team. They change from teammates to rivals when MMS and SBMS play against each other. Coach Rees attended last season’s competitive game between the schools, and did a pretty good job of staying neutral. The players are (top row, from left) Claire Justice, Madeleine Dukes, Lindy Haas, Alexandra Pappas, Camille Smith, Vicky Chiravanich, Lizzie Gissel and Jada Gibson; (bottom row, from left) Ainsley Kurtz and Ruby Kate Singletary.

Future varsity players John Kafka, Isaac Richardson, George Gring, Anthony Voinis, Leo Befort and Aidan Zu (middle photo, from left) enjoyed Spring Branch-Memorial Sports Association (SBMSA) Night at Tully Stadium. The Frostwood Elementary second and third graders attended the event with their entire Tigers freshman tackle football team. SBMSA tackle and flag-football teams were invited onto the field as the high school players took the field for their varsity game. The rest of the Tigers, who are led by coaches Jason Gray, Chris Halaska, Justin Nichols, Scott Wischoff and Jeremy Goebel, are Hayden Halaska, Ben Robishaw, Jake Nichols, Brendan Wischoff, Myles Goebel, Julian Jung, Justin Stubbs, Blake Iversen, Edward Gray, Parker Madsen and Colin Josephson.

Champs at the net The undefeated Memorial Middle School 7A volleyball team (bottom photo) defeated Spring Branch Middle School to win the district champ title. Coach Lauren Simpson prepared the team for a great season, and their hard work at early-morning practices paid off. The girls played weekly games and also participated in a three-game tournament. In addition to playing for the school team, many of the girls also play for Skyline and Houston Juniors club teams. The championship team is (top row, from left) Lucy Gaines, Victoria Gong, Madeline Merritt, Brooke Brenton, Evelyn Green, Cecilia Rizo-Patron and coach Lauren Simpson; (bottom row, from left) Audrey Russell, Courtney Frederking, Sydney Shelton, Samantha Cousins, Megan Xie and Alyssa Guo.

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Editor’s note: Send your best high-resolution photos and behind-the-scenes stories about young local athletes, in both team and individual sports, to SportzBuzz, Jr. at Include all contact info, names, ages, grades and schools. Featured athletes must live in Buzz-circulation neighborhoods. Items will be published on a space-available basis.

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CONDITIONING John Parani, a sophomore at Lamar High School, found motivation from lacrosse to work hard in all facets of life.

KIDS by John Parani, age 16

Buzz Kidz L

Lacrosse and life goals

acrosse has been a big part of my life since my freshman year in high school. Coming out of middle school, I was out of shape and didn’t have any plans to strive to be the person I am today. Within a year, I cultivated a passion for a sport and shaped up in strides. Prior to joining and playing lacrosse, I didn’t participate in many activities. Lacrosse is not easy to pick up and requires a lot of attention and conditioning. One needs to be dedicated and put in effort to improve in lacrosse. At first I was indifferent and really only played on the team because it would look good on my resume, but as the year went on I started to see my physical and mental condition improve. I was motivated to bolster up and enhance myself by becoming infatuated with lacrosse.

I realized that I wanted to be the best I could possibly be and started going to the gym and practicing lacrosse on the wall. Every day I would bike 30 minutes to the YMCA downtown to work out on my cardio and physical condition. After that I started looking forward to lacrosse practice and would try to run extra hard. I learned to enjoy seeing improvement and got in better condition than I had ever been in. Later on in the summer I gave up drinking soda and kept to drinking only water. This had been a problem, because I used to have sugary drinks every single day, but I eventually got used to it. When I looked in the mirror after one year of lacrosse, I realized that I owed a debt to it for turning me into someone that strives to be the best and works every day to be productive and

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care about my future. My lackluster life transformed into one that I can be proud of and it’s all thanks to lacrosse. I’m forever in debt to lacrosse, and I pay that back by staying dedicated and focused on advancing in the team and seeing genuine progress in the sport. Want to be a Buzz Kid? Email approximately 350 words, a high-resolution photo and caption to Or mail it to The Buzz Magazines, 5001 Bissonnet, Suite 100, Bellaire, Texas 77401.

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Miss Maizie Christmas, age 13, West Highland Terrier, Townplace St. Hi! I was truly a Christmas gift, and that’s why my name includes “Christmas.” My family has always owned Westies. Their first two Westies came home with them from Scotland where they had lived for several years. The rest is history. I am now their fifth. They love me, and I love them. Playing with other dogs is a favorite pastime for me, so you may see me at the local dog park or walking near my home, including window shopping at shopping centers. Yes, I walk and window shop! I love to travel, especially road trips. Here come the holidays, and I love to dress up for all the holiday festivities, especially parties celebrating Halloween, Christmas and my owner’s Day of the Dead party. I get to attend all these celebrations. I think I may be the perfect “cocktail pup.” Got a cute critter? Email a picture of your pet with approximately 150 words to or mail it to The Buzz Magazines, 5001 Bissonnet, Suite 100, Bellaire, Texas 77401. Featured pets receive two passes to Rover Oaks Pet Resort. Each pass can be redeemed for one day of lodging in a Bunk House Suite, 25 percent off your next grooming appointment or 25 percent off one obedience training class.


Many clients ask me, “Where will my divorce take place?” Jurisdiction and venue issues arise most often when one party has moved to another county or state and the other party remains in the marital residence. The Texas Family Code provides that you or your spouse must have resided in Harris County for the preceding 90 days and the state of Texas for the preceding six months prior to the filing of the petition if you desire to file your divorce action in Harris County, Texas. Obviously, if there are multi-state issues, this can become quite complicated, but the Texas Family Code has codified Uniform Acts that provide some guidance for potential jurisdiction dilemmas. If there are jurisdiction questions in your case, do not hesitate to contact an attorney, as these issues can become quite problematic if not resolved according to the law. Maisie A. Barringer is a partner at Jenkins & Kamin, L.L.P., a full-service, boutique, family law firm specializing in divorce, child-custody modifications, grandparent access, paternity, adoption, and premarital and postmarital agreements. Maisie A. Barringer has been recognized as a Texas Rising Star by Texas Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters service printed in Texas Monthly magazine for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Jenkins & Kamin, L.L.P., Maisie A. Barringer, Partner, Board Certified in Family Law, Two Greenway Plaza, Suite 600, Houston, Texas 77046, 713.600.5500,












Retirement plans and probate IRAs and other retirement plans are complicated. There may be three people on the planet who understand everything about them that matters. I am not one of those three. December 31 is the deadline for any required minimum distribution. The penalty is 50 percent of the required distribution. The IRA provider must inform you when a distribution is due, and will calculate the amount on request. If asked, most providers will set up automatic distributions, and even withhold federal income tax. Some investors wait until the end of the year, and request excess withholding to cover the tax bill for their non-retirement investments. That’s a fun game, until disability overtakes them and they forget to request a distribution. It’s best to make automatic distributions and withholding part of your personal disability plan. For extra credit, give your spouse power of attorney, and confirm it with the IRA provider. Thoughtful IRA beneficiary designations can give your family important options to defer and minimize taxes after your death. The lawyer that prepared your will should have very specific instructions. Follow them. Is your spouse more than 10 years younger than you? If you named the trustee in your will as primary beneficiary, you must give a copy of your will to each plan administrator and IRA custodian prior to April 1 of the year after you reach age 70½. If you are the executor for someone with IRAs or other retirement plans, be aware of three deadlines. Nine months after death is the deadline for a qualified disclaimer, a technique to shift the IRA from one beneficiary to

another. September 30 of the year following death is the deadline to determine the designated beneficiary, which accommodates other techniques to remove “bad” beneficiaries. December 31 of the year following death is the deadline to create separate accounts, which may lower the younger beneficiaries’ income tax bill. Finally, consider a trusteed IRA as an alternative to a testamentary trust. They are inexpensive, flexible, and powerful. You pick the trustee and transfer the IRA in your lifetime. Your heirs cannot change the trustee, and have to follow your rules. For more information about retirement plans, see IRS Publication 590, and anything by Natalie Choate. Her site is a great resource. This article was not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. We write wills and go to probate court. We offer no-obligation initial interviews for estate planning and administration, so it costs nothing to hear specific recommendations that suit your needs. Foreign nationals and international families welcome. Russell W. Hall, J.D., LL.M. (Tax), Board Certified – Estate Planning and Probate Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization, 6750 West Loop South, Suite 920, Bellaire, Texas 77401, 713.662.3853,


Daniel Ortiz



by Annie Blaylock McQueen, staff writer

Buzz About Town

The couple chose a classic Southern style for their fall wedding. Hadley Walker wed John William Black III in a custom Carolina Herrera gown at The Forest Club. Guests were greeted with trays of champagne garnished with blackberries. Some made their way to the Johnny Walker Black whiskey-tasting area. The groom wore a white dinner jacket with a blue and white-checkered bow tie and cummerbund set from High Cotton. The bride works in the book-publishing industry, so she chose her favorite books to be used as décor throughout the club. In lieu of a traditional guestbook, the bride displayed coffee-table books for guests to sign. One of the books chosen was about Central Park, where the couple met. At the end of the reception, Statue of Liberty hats were passed around as the band played New York, New York and Empire State of Mind. They honeymooned in Italy.

construction of the first Crime Stoppers headquarters, which will open this January, as well as the building’s namesake, Dave Ward, who is celebrating 50 years at ABC-13. Ward announced that his final date on the anchor desk would be Dec. 9. Tilman Fertitta introduced Mayor Sylvester Turner, who was honored for his contributions to public safety. Keynote speaker was Michael Rezendes, senior investigative reporter with the Boston Globe Spotlight Team, who, with his team, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. Rezendes’ work was the basis for the award-winning movie Spotlight (Michael was played by Mark Ruffalo). Gala coordinator was Laura Ward. Fertitta also introduced NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, a friend of Dave Ward, who presented a speech in his honor. Seen in the crowd were Charles and Jill Talisman, Rock and Trish Morille, Mike and Carol Wilson, Gary Becker, Tama Lundquist, Marge Lundquist, Tena Faust, Carol Sawyer, Roula Christie, Paula Goldstein, Camille Andrews, Sloan Andrews, Joan and Ricardo Rizario, Jan Duncan, Lou Pelz, Paige Cokinos, Don DeGabrielle, Trisha and Michael McGaw, Steve and Joelle Mach, and Ellen and Paige Cokinos.

Celebrating history More than 500 supporters including Mike Wilson, Carol Wilson, Don DeGabrielle (pictured, from left) attended the Crime Stoppers of Houston gala, which brought in more than $435,000 for Crime Stoppers’ Tip Line and other crime-prevention programs. They celebrated TANGLEWOOD/RIVER OAKS BUZZ DECEMBER 2016 42

Legacy of literacy The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s Young Professionals Group hosted its second annual black-tie gala celebration at The Dunlavy. In the mix were YPG Executive Committee members Christopher Miorin and his wife Sarah (pictured). The Jungle Book-themed event was hosted by Lizzie Andrews, granddaughter of First Lady Barbara Bush. Approximately 200 guests enjoyed an evening featuring drinks, light bites, a silent auction and dancing, with live music by DJ J.J. Essen. Also in attendance were Neil and Maria Bush, Lucas Somoza, Andrews, Pierce Bush, Morgan L. Relyea, Austin Boatwright, Dr. Julie Baker and Ron Finck, Melissa Williams, Arabella and Jamie Roswitha Vogler

Eric Kelley

A Southern wedding

Hibbert, Alexa Bode, William Finnorn, Iman and James Farrior, Laura and Ben Messier, David and Frani Denenburg, Sarabeth Melton, Kristen Oesch Stubbs, Kevin O’Sullivan, Robert Derrick, Sheila Martinez, Emily Smith, Amanda Tenzer, J’aime Quick, Morgan Stauzenberger and Fernando Somoza.

Animals and art

African adventure The sparks from the campfire ascended into the Tanzanian air as the Crosswell family gathered at the end of another day on a 2-week African safari. All 12 of the cousins, ages 11-21, huddled around, telling stories and laughing. The family

Butler, Victoria Gray, Braeden Ho, Conner Chica, Vesko Lekovic, Joshua Rassin, Harrison Jones (in the dark shirt), Sebastian Vethan (in back), Chandler Vrba, Mahmoud Amin (in back) and Addyson Smith.

The Fonz speaks Daniel Ortiz

Lillie Robertson (pictured, at left, with artist Dawn Siebel) hosted a fundraising event at the Houston Zoo. Good energy along with portraits of some Houston Zoo animals brought zoo supporters together. Siebel paints endangered species, each with its own distinct personality. Zoo keepers visited with guests, and a screech owl and an enormous tortoise had everyone talking about the zoo experience. A portion of the proceeds will benefit conservation programs at the Houston Zoo. Seen in the crowd were Anne Duncan, Mary Cullen, Candy Elkins, Les and Marty Greenberg, Melissa Ellis, Alina and Bill Schrom and Janet and Mike Odom.

traveled from Mount Kilimanjaro to the border of Kenya. They saw village dancing, spear throwing with the Maasai, and animals and birds of the Serengeti, and they took a hot-air balloon over the land. Their four safari drivers felt like family. Pictured (below) are the grandchildren of Emily and Holcombe Crosswell, including (front row, from left) Hudson McLeroy, Clayton Crosswell, Ligon Crosswell, Mary Grey McLeroy, Hollings Crosswell, Emily Stone, (second row, from left) Chapman Crosswell, Holcombe Crosswell, Connor Stone, Greyson Crosswell, Henry Stone and Will McLeroy.

Tennis and teamwork The Lamar High School varsity tennis team, with new coach Alvaro Robledo, were all smiles at the district tournaments. Lamar played Bellaire High School, Westside High School, Chavez High School and Heights (formerly Reagan) High School and placed first, taking home gold medals. The winning team included (pictured, above, from left) Darby Vrba, Elizabeth Zhanov, Rohini Chahal, Natalie

Raghda Henthorne and Vicki Fullerton (pictured, from left), along with more than 840 people, mingled at The Nancy Owens Memorial Foundation 15th annual luncheon at the Hilton Americas-Houston. The luncheon raised $205,000 for breast-cancer research and featured celebrity guest speaker Henry Winkler. Winkler delivered a heartwarming speech as he shared his own life struggles with dyslexia and how that made him the person he is today. Winkler’s wife, Stacey Weitzman, a two-time breast cancer survivor, was also at the event.

Teaming up for TIRR John Nicholson, Bob MacIntyre, Shaw MacIntyre and Matt Herring (pictured, next page, from left) teed off at the TIRR Foundation’s 2016 Tee It Up With TIRR golf tournament. The event (continued on page 44) TANGLEWOOD/RIVER OAKS BUZZ DECEMBER 2016 43

(continued from page 43) welcomed 36 teams of

golfers to BraeBurn Country Club. Chairs Bob and Shaw MacIntyre saw a record number of golfers turn out to support the TIRR Foundation and its neurotrauma-research program, Mission Connect. With more than 25 raffle prizes to win, many of the golfers left with more than their clubs. TIRR golf committee members were Kristin Abello, Andrew Bean, Andy Beaupre, Jaime Brochu, John Carter, Genny Gomez, John Harrell, Kay Holmes, Janet McCarter, Louie McCarter, Trey McCord, Robert Walker and John Ware. Others in attendance were J.J. McDermott, Dan Flournoy, Vince Ford, Fisher Trigg, Dan Moody III, Pam Holm, Janet and Louie McCarter, Robert Ross, Gretchen and Ross Coleman, and Melinda Chernosky.

A family affair It was a mix of fun, family and football at the Texans vs. Lions football game. Pictured (back

row, from left) are Garrison Smith, Campbell Hendee, Kennedy Smith, Bradley Marks, (front row, from left) Hudson Hendee, Sam Hartland, Conrad Hartland, Michael McNair, Calhoun McNair, Robert McNair and Reagan Hendee, all grandchildren of Charlie Hartland. Charlie has a suite for the season. The kids love to fight over who gets to sit next to grandfather and are excited when the ice cream cart comes to their suite. They love to participate in all the chants, and when the Texans get a first down they all yell “first down.” The Texans' final game this season is on Christmas Eve against the Cincinnati Bengals. The family is hoping for a gift: a win.

their support for Houston Police Department officers at the annual Houston Police Foundation True Blue Gala. Dinner chair Laura Ward and the night’s master of ceremonies, Dave Ward, were recognized for chairing the annual fundraiser. The event was sold out and raised more than $700,000. The funds will provide equipment and training for the Houston Police Department. In the crowd were Kristina and Paul Somerville, Don and Laura Sanders, Alice and Keith Mosing, JoLynn and Gregg Falgout, Jim Crane and Whitney Wheeler, Danielle and Lawrence Berry, Twilla Cater, Joni Baird, Laura and Bob Beauchamp, Dancie Ware, Hannah and Cal McNair, and Tissy and Rusty Hardin.

Happy Birthday, BG

Back the blue More than 700 Houstonians gathered at the home of Paige and Tilman Fertitta (pictured, at right, with Texas Sen. John Whitmire and Mayor Sylvester Turner, from left), to show

The Briargrove Elementary community came together for a fun-filled fall carnival celebrating the school's 60th birthday. The emoji-themed event featured rides and games along with the annual Dad's Club grilling. Kids were spooked in a scary haunted house. Everything had emojis on it – T-shirts, prizes and more. Head party planners were carnival chairs (pictured, from left) Joanna Rissmiller, Tricia Smith and Ashley Ball. Be seen in Buzz About Town. Send your high-res photos and community news to Items are published on a space-available basis. Also share your upcoming-event listings on TANGLEWOOD/RIVER OAKS BUZZ DECEMBER 2016 44



by Andria Frankfort, staff writer

Back Porch

The gift of experience


n this season of gift-giving, we thought we’d consider the gift of experience. Unlike things, experiences actually become a part of who we are. They forge bonds. They create character. And they create memories, stories we tell again and again. Here are a just a few of those stories, as told by our neighbors.

Carrie Vallone, River Oaks area “We gave our son Luca a surprise trip to Disney and Harry Potter World for his ninth birthday,” Carrie says. “He was reading Harry Potter at the time and totally obsessed with it, so we thought it would be great in lieu of a party or gift. The first part of the surprise was a scavenger hunt that morning that led him via clues to his packed bags. Then, we headed to the airport, and the second part of the surprise was seeing his friend and his family who were joining us for the trip. Fantastic time, memories made and one happy little boy!” Anita Gaylor, Memorial “I have an exercise ‘habit,’” Anita says. “One of my favorite things to do is spin. I spin at The Houstonian and have done so since the beginning, like 20 years. Several years ago, my instructor friend Joie Didow, at my request, did a Houstonian spin class on my birthday and played 100-percent Michael Jackson music and videos. [Michael Jackson is] another ‘habit’ I have. I filled the class with friends, and it was one of the best gifts I have ever received!” Tina Pyne, River Oaks “I wanted a horse as long as I could remember, ever since I was born, it seems,” Tina says. “When I was 12 years old, there was a box under the tree for me. I opened the box, and it was full of horse poop. My brothers and sisters laughed and thought that was horrible. But I was overjoyed, because I knew that my mom, with her great sense of humor, had bought me the horse.” Susie Davidson, West University “My sister has given me two amazing birthday experiences,” Susie says. “First, she gave me tickets to the French Open about four years ago. My

goal is to see all four Majors! And for my 50th, she flew me to New York and took me to see Hamilton with the original cast. She is the most generous and thoughtful sister. I am taking my mom to see Barbra Streisand when she is in town on Nov. 27 – a perfect gift for my mom, who celebrates her birthday on Nov. 30.”


Scott Evans, TIME OF MY LIFE Sometimes, the best gifts are the kind that take us to new places West University and encourage us to try new things. “My husband Suzi and Etan Weinstock, Bellaire gave me the most amazing trip for our 20th “Spending time together … keeps our family anniversary ... a surprise trip to Paris,” Scott says. strong,” Suzi says. “Most of the gifts that our “He told me to pack for cold. I didn’t find out children receive are family experiences. Our hiswhere we were headed until the pilot tory includes experiences like iFly, a submarine announced it! I appreciated all of the time and ride in Honduras, surf camp on the coast of energy he put into planning every detail, and Barcelona, lunches at the sculpture gardens in then I was able to spend uninterrupted time Montrose, trips to spend time with family living with him for nine days. He even brought an in other states or volunteering together at empty suitcase so I could antique at the Parisian Evelyn’s Park. We have always lived our lives flea markets. It was lovingly planned, and I’ll this way. Our resolve was strengthened after our never forget it!” home was destroyed by the Memorial Day flood in 2015. We lost so much, but [we] recognized Wendy Gold, Bellaire rather quickly that the stuff we lost was no “My brother bought my husband and me a match for the experiences we’ve had together, pair of tickets to the Diamond Club to watch and that a flood couldn’t take away our fun the Astros,” Wendy says. “My husband is a memories or love for each other or future family huge baseball fan, and I don’t really care about memories on the horizon.” sports. However, the Diamond Club was such Wishing you wonderful experiences and lasta great experience that even I am looking foring memories this holiday season. ward to going back. You can watch the game on huge screens or go outside, where we had Editor’s note: Have you ever gotten or given a amazing seats behind home plate. In fact, special gift of experience? We’d love to share your Nolan Ryan was sitting two rows in front of us, memory. Email or and we got his autograph. To top it off, the comment under this story at Astros won.”



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The Tanglewood/River Oaks Buzz - December 2016