Have y’all recovered from the whirlwind of the holidays? Guests departed, decorations put away, new workout/diet regimes started, resolutions made and maybe even broken? I honestly can’t believe that as you read this, we would already be two weeks into 2016.

Who did what on New Year’s Eve? I know Sevala and Terry Benton hosted a lively group of friends at the Kingwood Country Club while Lynn and Jack Fields entertained a different group at a raucous celebration at Pete’s Piano Bar downtown.

We worked a fantastic masquerade-themed New Year’s party hosted by Mandy Sampson in her gorgeous home. The buffet included bloody Mary shrimp shooters, meatloaf sliders, Texas cheesecakes, stuffed mushrooms, twice baked potato bites, pineapple meatballs and chicken teriyaki skewers. 2015 was capped off with an awesome private fireworks display at midnight.

Emily Benigno and William Benter, M.B.A. students at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., will be graduating in June while also planning a fall 2016 wedding in Houston. Will and Emily’s parents, Brenda and Michael Benigno, worked really hard to put as many personal touches to their engagement party from personalized napkins to signature cocktails – Will’s bourbon-based “Gold Rush” and Emily’s tequila-based “Lady Bird.” We worked very closely on crafting a menu that featured dishes from the various countries that the couple has visited since their graduation from the University of Texas where they both received their undergraduate degrees – beef chapati bites with mchicha sauce from Tanzania, mini chicken souvlaki pitas from Greece, piri piri chicken on patatas bravas from Portugal, sanguche de chicharron from Peru and pulled pork sliders from Texas. Reflecting the bride’s Italian heritage, dessert was a display of mini cannoli and mini tiramisu. Brenda and Michael hosted the event at their home in Kings Point. The party was attended by Emily's siblings, Matthew Benigno and his wife, Maria Valenti Benigno of Austin, Stephen Benigno and his fiancée, Kimberly Myers, and Andrew Benigno of San Antonio. Will's parents, Bob and Carol Benter of Burton, Texas, and Linda and John Zvara of Houston, as well as Will's brother, Matthew, joined in the festivities. Ginger and Byron Bertrand, Paula and Robert Beck and their daughter, Courtney, Emily's maid-of -honor, also joined in the celebration. Guests also included members of the wedding party and close friends of the bride and groom from their days at U.T, as well as close family friends. Out-of-town guests included aunts and uncles of the bride who traveled from New Orleans for the occasion.

Raffa’s was THE place to be last Thursday night as Cynthia Calvert, Gina Remmes and I, on the way in, ran into Leslie Raffa. Boo Odom and her lovely daughter, who was trying to stave off jet lag after arriving from a trip to Sydney stopped by (Roll Tide, ladies), Cynthia introduced us to local banking empresario Johnny Brooks, we stopped to say hello to Bill Robbins and had a chat with Jill and Christopher Curran.

What’s on my calendar for the last couple of weeks of January?

The Annual Family Time Hearts of Gold Gala will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Downtown on January 23. This year’s Women of Achievement will be honored – Deborah Wedekind, The Arts; Robin Robinson, Education; Jen Sitton, Volunteer; Hilary Bush, Homemaker; Diana Van Horn, Women’s Advocate; Emily Stander, Human Services; Lynne Jennings, Visionary; Nikole Davis, Entreprenour; Janie Branham, Community Activist; Christine Zenker, Business; Dr Elaine Scott, Medical; Tammy Broussard, Spirit of Family Time; Eileen Booher, Special Recognition.

The Lake Houston Area Chamber celebrates 92 years with the installation of their new board chair and board of directors. The Extravaganza will begin with an honoree reception celebrating the past year's outstanding volunteer leaders and accomplishments featuring the presentation of the Haden McKay, M.D., Citizen of the Year Award to State Representative Dan Huberty, outgoing Board Chair Melinda Stephenson, Spirit of the Chamber Award, Chairman's Award, and the Rising Star Award. Also honored are the 2015 board and committee leaders. The emcee for the event is Emmy award winning reporter, Sally MacDonald who anchors the Fox 26 weekend morning news every Saturday and Sunday from 5 to 8 am. The Lone Star EMMY Chapter has awarded Sally for her work during Hurricane Ike, and the Texas Associated Press has also honored Sally with awards for her work during Hurricane Rita and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. 

I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year and I look forward to seeing many of you Out and About throughout 2016!

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