People of the Year Honoree, Jim Siebert, Chief Meteorologist Fox News 26

Steering Houstonians through Hurricane Harvey

Katy Magazine, December 2017

Written by Gail G. Collins

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The iconic opening to A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens could’ve described the Houston area during Hurricane Harvey. The cataclysmic event of wind and water tested the Bayou City and surrounding communities, spawning powerful stories of heroism, help and the human spirit.

Be Alert, Be Calm, Be Wise

Leadership is paramount in times of trial. Throughout Harvey, people needed information, direction and support. Fox New 26 Chief Meteorologist and Katy resident Jim Siebert provided it through television broadcasts, Facebook Live dialogues and Twitter Q & A. Alongside weekend and morning forecasters, the team worked in eight-hour shifts to cover air time and engage the public personally. “Hundreds of thousands on Facebook needed help with specifics for their areas, and we offered feedback,” says Dr. Jim. The overriding message on every front was:  Be calm, be alert, be wise.

A Hurricane Brewing

A week before Harvey hit, the meteorologist sat in his home office, mulling over computer weather models. His wife, Debbie, came in, and was disturbed by what she saw in his face. “I knew it would be bad,” says Dr. Jim. “None of the solutions for the path were good ones.” Stalling was the great fear. “No one anywhere had covered a storm like Harvey. Allison was devastating, but the areas impacted were limited. Every storm has its unique set of hazards,” he admits. “Harvey will go down in the history books.”

Foreseeing trouble, Dr. Jim booked into a hotel near the news station for a week and aimed for six hours of sleep a night. Fox 26 is prepared for extreme situations and can actually house employees for a month. There are cots and supplies, including generators and fuel. Dr. Jim kept up with family through texts. “The worst part of my job is leaving my family.” The Sieberts have a plan to stay safe, and friends support them in the Dr. Jim’s absence.

Social Media

Social media played an integral part in spreading information and personalizing support efforts throughout the hurricane. It also allowed Dr. Jim and team to talk to people in their homes and offer the latest news. Sometimes, bad information was posted by trolls, like the photoshopped shark on the West Park Tollway, but at other times, it was more subtle. This created some fear and skepticism. “The good far outweighed any bad,” he says.

In the storm’s aftermath, one Katy family with horse property near George Bush Park had no electricity or access. They made a Facebook plea for help. A friend of a friend of a friend connected and brought a boat to help with the family and horses. The family, then turned around, and assisted others. “It’s so very Texas, and there are thousands of stories like that,” says Dr. Jim.

Continue reading “People of the Year Honoree, Jim Siebert, Chief Meteorologist Fox News 26”

Snappy’s Faithfuls: The Rebuilding of a Beloved Katy Landmark

After extensive damage due to Hurricane Harvey, staff members, friends, and city officials roll up their sleeves to rebuild and re-open the iconic cafe in historic Katy on October 30, 2017.

Katy Magazine, November 2017

Written by Gail G. Collins

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston on August 25th, it was a double-whammy for Snappy’s Cafe & Grill. The breakfast and lunch spot is a landmark in the original downtown with a wide range of customers from city officials to industry workers and including Katy Magazine.

The flood waters rose to more than four feet, and partners Bobby Katsabas and Alex Tsounakas faced a rigorous recovery. It was the second time in as many years that Snappy’s had suffered flood damage. The first event was Tax Day 2016. Several inches of water saturated the premises then, but Harvey dealt a brutal blow.

“Everything was destroyed,” Bobby says. “We had to throw everything out, start from scratch and rebuild.”  With only the inspections left to complete, the good news is that the go-to place for biscuits and gravy is slated to reopen on October 30, 2017. Once open, Snappy’s would like to let the community to know that the restaurant will now be 100% smoke-free.

Snappy’s regulars to the rescue

In a storm so fraught with destruction, the best of the city responded, especially diners to whom Snappy’s has become as familiar as family.

Mayor Chuck Brawner and wife Marcy were among the first arrive, followed by a steady stream of regulars.  All wanted to check in with the owners, but stayed to dig in with gloves and trash bags in the clean-up effort. “The Katy Train,” a Katy High School Facebook group also showed commitment to Snappy’s in a big way. Katy is a wonderful town, Alex feels, where everybody knows everybody. “Thank you to all for coming and helping,” the partners say. “The support was tremendous.”

Continue reading “Snappy’s Faithfuls: The Rebuilding of a Beloved Katy Landmark”

REUNITED: Katy’s LaBounty Family Finds Lost Dog After Three Years

This Katy family had given up hope on ever finding their beloved rescue pup, Beau. Three years after he disappeared, they got a call they never expected.

Katy Magazine, October 2017

Written by Gail G. Collins

When Michael LaBounty’s home phone rang around 10 p.m. near the end of July, he felt annoyed. He was sure the 800-number on the caller ID was a sales call. Then, his mobile phone rang, and he picked it up. A woman identified herself and spoke about a micro-chip for dogs. “I don’t want a chip,” Michael said, confused. But this wasn’t a sales call; it was the call the LaBounty family had waited more than three years to receive. Their dog, Beau, had been found. Michael couldn’t speak. “It was full stop, silence,” he said, “And it was a ‘deer in the headlights’ look from my wife, Leslie.”

A lucky match at CAP

The family had owned two dogs when they moved to Katy in 2005, but they grew old and passed on.  Sons Andrew and Collin, of course, missed their four-legged friends. “In January 2012, after a year of grieving, and another year of nagging from the boys,” Michael said with a laugh, “we got another dog.” The LaBountys visited Citizens for Animal Protection, a private, non-profit outfit that offers shelter, foster care, adoption and other services. They chose Lucky, a three-month-old pup, believed to be a mix of Rhodesian ridgeback and chow. They renamed him Beau.

It was instant affection all around, especially for Collin, still in grade school. “He was so attached—they were like brothers—and he found comfort in Beau,” Michael said. The smart puppy was quickly housebroken, and learned to sit and shake hands. Beau was skittish of bad weather and new people, and this fear explained how he could become lost and stay lost for so long.

Blown away by the storm

Beau was an inside-outside dog, and on Friday, March 28, 2014, the family went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. They left the dog in the yard, but an approaching storm blew open the gate. A neighbor saw Beau bolt, but couldn’t retrieve him. She was frantic when the LaBountys returned.

“A cavalry of friends spent a weekend looking for Beau,” Michael said. They posted on Facebook and Lost Pets, hung flyers, visited shelters and called around. It was an intense search, but Beau was truly lost. Then, calls came in to report a dog. Each time, Michael’s heart leapt, and he dropped everything to follow up. He spent hours searching shelters and areas where the dog had been spotted. This continued for two years. After a year, Andrew and Collin began an earnest campaign for another dog. The family visited Special Pals, Houston’s longest running no-kill shelter and adopted a 50-pound black lab. Zeus was a year old.  Soon after, the phone rang with the happy news about Beau.

Continue reading “REUNITED: Katy’s LaBounty Family Finds Lost Dog After Three Years”

Katy’s Culinary Artists

Katy kitchens boast many culinary wizards, who’ve honed their passions for flavor and flair to create success on a plate.

Although these chefs display their talents by cooking food found around the world, they have all worked hard to get to where they are today. They show that perseverance and consistency can bring you to new heights and make goals a reality.

Katy Magazine, June/July 2017 Foodie Issue Cover Story

Eric Aldis

Agave Rio

With 5 siblings, cooking was simply part of Eric Aldis’ family chores. “I have a heart for cooking,” he says.  The Katy Taylor alum graduated from the Art Institute of Houston’s entrepreneurship program. To further his education, Aldis worked gratis for some of the best restaurants in town. His culinary career began at Four Seasons Hotel Houston and advanced to the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas and the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans before returning to Houston at Midtown BBQ and Corner Table. In fact, Aldis opened three locations in three months in 2016 with a focus on Agave Rio Restaurant & Patio Oasis. The evolving menu combines American and South American-inspired dishes. Katy is home again to Aldis with four children of his own, and he is teaching them to work, whether it’s running a nonalcoholic bar or turning those pots. He says, “Sitting down together is the best, and whatever meal were eating, it’s my favorite.”

Christo Batsios

Sapore Ristorante Italiano

It’s hardly surprising that Chef Christo Batsios would own and operate an Italian restaurant with his father Georgio. As a Greek-Italian immigrant, Georgio owned three restaurants in Michigan, where Chef Christo grew up. Generations before him had run restaurants, and at 4 years old, Batsios sat on a milk crate peeling potatoes and onions. After a culinary education and work in Italy and Greece, Batsios joined HEB to butcher and progressed with the company. His dreams soon turned to longing for a restaurant, and Georgio emerged from retirement with Landry’s. An Italian brasserie with a struggling menu was found and infused with legacy recipes, like Pomodoro sauce and slow-roasted beets with lamb shanks. “I love to feed people, and every guest is coming to our home for dinner,” Batsios says. His goal is overachieving in flavor—sapore—with service and presentation of rustic dishes dressed in signature sauces. Getting up before dawn and prepping is a joy. The journey from his humble roots to technical cooking skills is satisfying, and new wife Cassie supports his passion.

Raul Carrillo

The Cellar Door

This chef trekked from El Paso to Katy in the search of the best job and life. Raul Carrillo finalized a culinary education at the Art Institute in 2004.  Explaining his career shift, he says, “I liked cooking, and everyone like the way I cooked.” His grandmother and mother appreciated the kitchen arts, and Carrillo still calls his mom for recipe checks. He is hard at work when everyone else is playing though—weekends, celebrations, and holidays—so he never cooks at home. “My wife says my food isn’t simple, and I use too many pans,” he jokes. The humble chef doesn’t seek glory, and is happy to know people relish the food and will return. Like most chefs, he delights in chatting with patrons and collects honest feedback to improve the menu. The interaction is a return to his Cooking Connection days at HEB. Perhaps, that is the secret to recent success all around. The Cellar Door needed a kitchen revamp, and Chef Raul advanced to executive chef and turned it around. The family establishment showcases the wine, and Carrillo’s cuisine compliments it wonderfully.

Paul Friedman

Peli Peli

Paul Friedman was born into South Africa’s version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, inextricably linking him to the food industry. After family training and a trial by fire, Friedman owned his first restaurant at the age of 21, crafting the open kitchen idea. In 1978, he drove across America in a Volkswagen bus and arrived in Houston. Now, after 35 years invested professionally in a string of international accomplishments, he returned to his roots with the flavors of fruit and fire, many people know as Peri Peri. Combining hot and spicy with guava, passion fruit, papaya and mango, Friedman utilized the Mozambique term of Peli Peli to name his restaurant model. His series, From a Jew to the Stew, includes three cookbooks, and numerous awards crowd his 58th restaurant, including first place at Katy’s Sip and Stroll 2017. Still, Friedman’s four grown children make him most proud. The CEO Chef enjoys meeting diners table-side and says, “We’re creating a culture of happiness, taking care of guests and our staff.” That kindness will soon expand with a location in Austin and a winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Solé Lynds

Aromas Latin Cuisine & Wine Bar

Chef Solé Lynds’ admiration for the service industry began while studying international business at university in the UK. She worked in cafés and revived a culinary passion. Her Venezuelan family was immersed in the dining trade, and she played restaurant games as a child. Through international job moves, she met her American husband in China, and they had a son. Lynds focused on wine and garnered a Wine and Spirit Education Trust certification to consult with restaurants in Australia, and then the US, to pair wine with food. Still, she yearned to combine her own food and wine angle, so started cooking with a mission. Her restaurant was conceived with strong Latin and European influences in wine, alongside dishes that reflect a wine’s inherent qualities. Today, Lynds’ hands-on training presents a pretty plate, which she excitedly serves up in the inspired setting built through supportive family and friends. “I love creating amazing food to wow people,” she says. KM

Bio:  Gail G. Collins writes for magazines with three books on international life, believing people’s stories best explain world around us.

Katy Fit Couples

Working out as a couple offers time together, accountability, and ultimately, success for these dynamic duos. Four couples share their motivation and advice on how to get fit and stay fit, despite demanding careers, kids’ activities and life’s obstacles. They have found fitness maintains the best quality of life.

Katy Magazine, June/July 2017

Written by Gail G. Collins

Healthy Commitment

Jeremy and Clarissa Browning

Ages: Jeremy 40 yrs.; Clarissa 35 yrs.

Children: Boston 1 yr.

Favorite workout moves: Jeremy – squats and squat cleans; Clarissa – power cleans

In 2015, when Jeremy and Clarissa Browning took a hard look at themselves, they saw the exact opposite of everything they used to be. Jeremy had played college baseball and coached, while Clarissa once danced ballet. “We were lethargic, restless, and fueling our bodies poorly, which affected our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional selves,” says Jeremy. The couple vowed to become their best and healthiest selves.


That commitment led them to investment in six Iron Tribe Fitness franchises, stressing proper nutrition and intelligent fitness for sustainable change. High intensity interval training provides them with a safe, fast-paced, varied workout. While coaching others, Jeremy lost 43 pounds, and Clarissa regained her strength with optimal body fat composition, even after pregnancy. They find inspiration in wanting to share a long life with their son, Boston. “We both feel it is a sign of gratefulness and self-respect to eat clean and workout consistently,” says Clarissa.




A Healthier and Happier Couple

Matt and Meagan Clanahan

Ages:  37 yrs.

Children:  Ryan and Quinn 7 yrs.

Favorite workout moves:  Matt – jump rope double-unders; Megan – burpees, push-ups


Consumed with life after the birth of her twins, Meagan stopped exercising. Despite having been a collegiate athlete, she panted her way up the stairs. When the children headed to kindergarten, she found a nearby gym and no more excuses. Matt had consistently worked out at home, but they joined as a family pledge. Now, they crave the workouts, scheduling partner sessions as friendly competition when possible. “It’s one hour we can have that’s just for us,” says Matt, and it fuels other areas of their busy lives.

The couple has gained lean muscle mass and improved their eating habits, yet find balance—no Cheetos, but a nice glass of wine. Accountability is vital and goal-setting—like finishing a quarter-marathon for Meagan and more energy for Matt’s demanding job—drives them. “We are a healthier couple, but also a happier couple,” she says.



Staying Healthy for their Children


David and Kristen Hewitt

Ages: David 42 yrs.; Kristen 41 yrs.

Children: Olivia 9 yrs.; Garrett 7 yrs.

Favorite workout move: David – box step-ups, planks; Kristen – deadlift, kettle bell swings


David and Kristen Hewitt lost their fathers when the men were in their 50’s. The couple needed to stay healthy for their children, so they joined a gym. Classes with cardio and strength components that change and challenge them, while emphasizing form and mechanics, are their favorite. These include modifications for Dave—who lost his leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident followed by knee and hip surgery—to expand his mobility and technique. This improved Dave’s gait with a prosthetic limb and lessened his medications. In the past seven months, he lost 25 pounds, and Kristen traded in 20 pounds for a leaner body and ramped up muscle. Big changes in food and family activity accompanied their fitness regime. “Eighty percent of it is diet—make small changes that stick,” says David. Kristen adds, “We have more energy, we are sleeping better, and just feel better overall.” Accountability and togetherness assured their success.


Building Friendships and a Healthy Lifestyle

Chad and Brittani Morales

Ages: 29 yrs.

Children:  Kipton 1 yr.

Favorite Workout Moves:  Chad – cleans, squats, gymnastics; Brittani – anything with a barbell


Chad and Brittani Morales are fitness coaches and compete in Crossfit competitions, but they face the same obstacles to a healthy lifestyle as everyone else. “You can’t out-work a bad diet,” says Brittani. “To see results, you have to make some sacrifices, have a plan, and stick with it.” Weekly, she organizes meals ahead to avoid inevitable time-crunches.

Working out has been part of their relationship from the get-go, building more togetherness. They enjoy partner or team workouts and chippers, which link several series of timed movements. “We both have the same goal to be healthy, but working out as a couple also allows us to motivate and push each other,” says Chad. Through their Crossfit competitions, they have created lasting friendships in the community, too. As coaches, they have applauded the inspiring and difficult journeys people have made to regain health. Overall, fitness maintains the best quality of life. KM

Bio: Gail G. Collins writes for magazines, has authored three books on life abroad and believes meeting people is the best way to understand the world.

Breaking the Mold

Dr. Linda Yancey excels in the male-dominated medical world of infectious disease

Katy Magazine, April 2017

Written by Gail G. Collins

When a Texas A&M undergrad in biology signed up for a rusty professor’s microbiology class, her life’s work came into focus. Today, Dr. Linda Yancey is a rarity, where only a handful of the women studying internal medicine go on to become infectious disease specialists (IDS). She also holds a position as chief of staff, where the demographics of executive positions have been slow to shift to women.

Dr. Yancey graduated from medical school at Texas Tech in 1996 and did her residency at Arizona’s Mayo Clinic. She returned to Texas for a fellowship at Baylor after the birth of her first child. The new doctor moved down the street from her in-laws and had three more children, calling Katy home.

Dr. Mom

“The work-life balance is most challenging, and more so for female physicians,” says Dr. Yancey. “Doctors don’t have the option of closing the clinic because their own child is sick.” Her husband, Lanier Ripple Jr., is a software developer and works from home. It has been a major win for their family as childcare issues often fall to the mother, and Yancey praises his career support.

What children see in their home life is normal, and often it is enlightening and funny. When Yancey’s oldest daughters were 5 and 7 years of age, they were together in the car traveling from a baby shower, rife with female physicians. The older daughter wondered aloud if men could be doctors. Before Dr. Yancey could speak, the sister answered in a tone that implied it was stupidest question she had ever heard, saying, “No, only girls are allowed to be doctors.” Dr. Yancey burst out laughing before she could confirm that, despite the recent evidence, both men and women can be doctors.

Continue reading “Breaking the Mold”

U.S. Marine Veteran Jerry Waxman and Inveterate Designer

The longtime Katy resident served his country in WWII and helped his community preserve that memory through the Katy Veterans Memorial Museum

Written by Gail G. Collins

“If we build it, the memorabilia will come to fill it,” Jerry Waxman says of the Katy Veterans Memorial Museum. As a member of VFW Post 9182, Waxman had a vision to honor American veterans and preserve any and all items related to their service. The G.I. Joe style military museum resulted, housing artifacts temporarily loaned or bequeathed to the museum.

To War

Born in 1925, Waxman grew up fast and joined the fight to protect the U.S. after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He marched to the recruiting office, passed the tests, and he was in. With his ability to play a few instruments, the recruit discovered it was the Marine Corps band, not the war, he was in. He declined, aiming to fight the Nazis. Waxman was told, “You’re a Marine, and we’re not fighting the Nazis; we’re in Asia fighting the Japanese.”

Next, Waxman boarded ship, headed to Asia, where first-time crossers, called pollywogs, were hazed on occasion. Finally in Asia and ready to fight, Waxman was plucked from the ship and ferried to Pago Pago, American Samoa to finish a mural in the Officers’ Mess. Once aboard ship again, Waxman was surely bound for war. “Nope,” he says with a laugh, “this time I was sent for training in Oregon and worked on the camp newspaper.” After that, Waxman arrived in Quantico, Virginia, where part of his artistic project entailed burning script. He worked on a table protected with butcher paper. Beneath it was a map, outlining possible strategic war plans, which the charring process destroyed. “Fortunately, it wasn’t needed,” he says.

Continue reading “U.S. Marine Veteran Jerry Waxman and Inveterate Designer”

Roosevelt Alexander’s Lasting Impression

Katy School namesake and education Icon has
made a lifelong career teaching generations of students

Katy Magazine Oct/Nov 2016

Written by Gail G. Collins

Before Roosevelt Alexander graduated high school, he knew educating children was his calling. He answered the call with 35 years of service to Katy ISD. Alexander taught, advanced to assistant principal, and then, served as principal of Katy Junior High School for 12 years. “I have taught a lot of kids in my life and been rewarded by their returning to tell me how much they were helped,” he says.

From a family of teachers

His father died of a massive heart attack at age 36, leaving seven children between the ages of 3 and 14 for his mother to raise single-handedly. Alexander was the youngest and watched four siblings graduate college, earn masters degrees, and teach. With careers in Brookshire, Angleton, Franklin and Hearne, plus Houston, his sisters and brothers tallied more than 140 years of experience between them. Continue reading “Roosevelt Alexander’s Lasting Impression”

Katy Lacrosse

Squaring up the facts on the lacrosse game in Katy

Katy Magazine,  Oct/Nov 2016

Written by Gail G. Collins

 There are currently two Katy lacrosse clubs:  Katy Cavaliers, a Division II team, which merged with other clubs in recent years, and Seven Lakes Lacrosse, playing in Division I. The Cavaliers offer youth programs from kindergarten through high school plus girls’ teams of all ages.

When Kai Knight-Turcan moved from Canada to Texas at age 14, he brought his love of lacrosse with him. Building on seven years of the sport, he continued through high school and went on to play for Southwestern University. “Lacrosse is growing exponentially in Texas and nationwide,” he says.

Kurt Knight-Turcan’s sons play lacrosse and he now oversees fiduciary duties for Seven Lakes Lacrosse. “They love to have a stick in their hands,” he adds. Continue reading “Katy Lacrosse”