The Woodlands Fire Department

One interesting benefit of living in a community like The Woodlands, where land use and infrastructure are designed for optimal effectiveness and aesthetic appeal, is that generally things run so smoothly we are seldom aware of its working parts. Foundational services for public welfare, for example, are often taken for granted. Until we need them.   

The Woodlands Fire Department (TWFD) is one such entity. Born humbly in the early ‘70s with a handful of volunteer firefighters working from a trailer on Grogan’s Mill Road, the organization has continually risen to the many challenges of a changing industry and flourishing population. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. 

Today’s TWFD is a model emergency response task force, highly regaled and fully prepared for any need in the community. In fact, on the ISO (Insurance Services Office) scale of 1-10, which is the recognized measure of how well protected a community is by its fire department, TWFD has held the highest rating of ISO 1 since 2013. A feat less than one percent of all fire departments in the U.S. can claim. Less than one percent!  This level of achievement requires excellence in staffing, training, communications, community outreach, as well as strong, continued support from civic leaders.  

The Woodlands Township has long understood the importance of providing residents with the best possible emergency response services. “With an ISO 1 rating, The Woodlands Fire Department continues to be one of the elite departments in the United States,” says The Woodlands Township Chairman, Gordy Bunch. “Achieving this goal has not only kept pace with our growth, it helps hold our residential and commercial property insurance premiums at a manageable level. This is just one of many reasons The Woodlands is so special,” said Bunch. 

Line personnel at TWFD number well over one hundred these days, and they are no longer just firefighters.  They are career men and women of the highest caliber, cross-trained as EMTs, paramedics, and fully equipped with Advanced Life Saving technology and gear. They are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Additional department teams specialize and train for response to hazardous materials calls, collapse, heavy, and high-angle rescue, swift water and trench rescue. Bolstered with a gleaming fleet of specialized engines, trucks, ambulances and rescue boats, TWFD is prepared for any fire, medical or rescue emergency. And with eight fire stations now in The Woodlands, typical response time is a reassuring 4.71 minutes.     

Station One on Grogan’s Mill Road is the communications hub for TWFD, as well as Montgomery County 911. Twelve round-the-clock dispatchers field emergency calls. During large community events like The Woodlands Marathon, or natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, Station One’s large Fire Com room becomes command central. Numerous computers and large, elevated television screens with live feed from multiple locations allow emergency managers to work alongside one another, monitoring and directing conditions in real time. 

A 20,000 square foot, state-of-the-art Emergency Training Center near I-45 and Highway 242 facilitates the continually honed expertise of our firefighters. It is also the location for public education. Because safety begins with citizens, TWFD offers regular CPR, first aid, and fire prevention instruction to the community.   

Strong leadership by a succession of five fire chiefs has been key to the department’s success. After fourteen years of stellar management and direction, Chief Alan Benson retired earlier this year. A nationwide search for his replacement is underway, however Deputy Chief Doug Adams currently serves as Interim Fire Chief. 

Just as life these days is not as simple as it used to be, neither are our emergencies. TWFD Battalion Chief Jason Washington says, “We don’t get cats out of trees anymore, but if your house is on fire, if you think you’re having a heart attack or whenever there is a life at risk, The Woodlands Fire Department is fully prepared to respond.”

Photography Courtesy Derrick Bryant

Non-Traditional Holiday Celebrations

Courtesy of The Woodlands Hotel Management Co.

Whether you have family in town visiting or are just looking to start a new tradition this holiday season, here are some fun non-traditional ways to celebrate in The Woodlands during the holiday season. Consider escaping your home and getting away to a local hotel for your next family gathering where you can enjoy time with loved ones and make memories without all of the stress and distractions of hosting.

Holiday Traditions and Elf Tuck-ins at 
The Woodlands Resort
Celebrate the holidays at The Woodlands® Resort beginning with our annual Grand Illumination Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, November 29th. Enjoy an evening of family-friendly holiday cheer with live music and kids’ activities including a visit from Santa. Take your family photo in one of our holiday photo booths, and marvel at the lighting of the Resort’s exquisitely decorated 20-foot tree. Other community events include Breakfast with Santa and holiday brunches in The Woodlands Dining Room and Robard’s Steakhouse. Make it a holiday staycation, and weekend guests will be delighted with holiday movies, ornament decorating, letter-writing to Santa, and roasting s’mores. Treat the little ones to a special Elf visit to tuck them in at bedtime complete with storytelling, and milk and cookies. Visit WoodlandsResort.com to discover more.


Spectacular Rooftop Event Space on The Waterway
The new rooftop terrace on the pool deck of Como Social Club is one of the most chic and unique venues in The Woodlands. Overlooking the stunning Waterway, the stylish setting captures the ambiance and allure of Lake Como, Italy, and is the perfect backdrop for your next special event. Choose from an array of handcrafted cocktails, a selection of wines from our award-winning sommelier, and exceptional cuisine created by our acclaimed chef. From dream weddings and intimate family gatherings to holiday parties and corporate receptions, the skilled team at Como Social Club can help coordinate an event to remember. Call 281.419.4300 to book your site visit today. ComoSocialClub.com

Holiday Recipes: Festive Accompaniments

Courtesy of Charbonneau Interiors

Looking for the perfect side or cocktail to spice up your festive celebration this year?
Try one of these delectable recipes from local Woodlands establishments to liven up your Holiday.

Spiced Bourbon Manhattan

Courtesy of Robards

• 2 oz Maker’s Mark

• .5 oz Sweet Vermouth

• .5 oz Orange Liquor

• Dash of Ginger Bitters

  Pinch of Cinnamon

1. Stir the bourbon, vermouth, liquor and bitters well with cracked ice.

2. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a pinch of cinnamon.

Enjoy!

Blue Cheese Chips

Courtesy of Jasper’s

• 5 oz Yukon Gold Potato Chips

• 4 oz Danish Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

• 2 oz Danish Blue Cheese Crumbles

• 1 oz  Chives

Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Courtesy of TRIS, Chef Austin Simmons & His Team

• 3 large Sweet Potatoes

• 1.25 oz Lemon Zest

• .5 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• 1 tsp Kosher Salt

• 1 tsp White Pepper

• .5 can Coconut Milk

• Scallions or Mini Marshmallows for garnish

1. Wash & peel sweet potatoes.

2. Cook them in simmering water until a skewer can push through the other side.

3. While hot, use a whisk to smash and add in seasonings and coconut milk.

4. Garnish with toasted mini marshmallows or scallions.

Fairytale Pumpkin Soup

Courtesy of The Kitchen, Chef Austin Simmons & His Team

Available Seasonally at The Kitchen

• 12 oz Butter unsalted 

• 6 oz Shallots sliced.

• 5 oz Garlic sliced

• 4 sprigs Thyme

• 2 tbs Salt

• 2 tsp White Pepper, finely ground

• 7 grams Sugar

• About 5 lbs cleaned and diced Fairytale Pumpkin

• 2 qts Chicken or Vegetable Stock

1. Melt 4 oz butter in large 1.5 gallon pot, add shallots, garlic, thyme (tied in a sachet), salt, pepper
and sweat out, DO NOT caramelize. Shallots should be clear but still retain a small crunch but
not raw tasting.

2. Add butternut squash and toss with the cooked shallots, add stock and bring up to a simmer and
cook at a simmer until butternut squash is fully cooked.

3. Once butternut squash is cooked, remove the thyme and transfer soup to a blender.
Add the remaining butter to the soup while blending.

4. Garnish with toasted Pumpkins Seeds, Brown Butter and Chervil Pluches.

Holiday Treats to Bake and Give

Courtesy of Bake at 350, Bridget Edwards

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season is to bake up some sweet treats to give to friends and neighbors. Honestly, I’m always hoping to receive some as well!

Baking in large quantities can feel overwhelming, especially when your calendar is full of Christmas concerts, parties, shopping, and travel plans. With a little planning and a few simple recipes, putting together boxes of baked goods can be a joy. 

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Here are a few tips:

1. Plan to gift a variety of baked goods.
Include your family holiday favorites (snowballs, gingerbread, spritz) and a few simple, but delicious treats, such as a Ritz Cracker Toffee or Chocolate Ginger Cookies. 

2. Make ahead and freeze what you can.
Most cookies will freeze beautifully, including those fancy decorated cookies with royal icing.
Make a batch when you have time, then freeze until you’re ready to start packaging.

3. Bake your favorite quick bread for easy giving.
Find mini paper loaf pans at Container Store or Sur La Table.

4. Stock up on treat bags and ribbon.
Treats look nice when they’re in a variety of packaging within a box or basket.
They’ll stay fresher in smaller packaging, and opening them all is more fun!

5. Use gift tags to label each treat.

6. Always make a few extra for unexpected giftgivers who might show up at your door! 

Bridget Edwards and her family have lived in The Woodlands for over a decade. In addition to writing about all things sweet on her blog, Bake at 350 (bakeat350.net), she develops company recipes and contributes to The Pioneer Woman website. Her recipes have been featured by Martha Stewart and Bon Appetit, and she has appeared on the Today Show with Kathie Lee & Hoda.

Elevate your Holiday Décor

Courtesy of Charbonneau Interiors, Nancy Charbonneau

Typical holiday colors are always nice to use in your holiday décor, but incorporating a mix of beautiful metallics can add a touch of glamour and sparkle that will make your home feel more lavish this holiday season. Copper, bronze, warm gold and antique silver are beautiful metallic tones to bring in to complement autumn colors. Adding in metallic elements adds to a surface for subtle reflection, warmth, and sophistication.

This table highlights warm colors of bronze, copper and antique silver. Candles immersed in metallic glitter set the tone for a beautiful table of fresh greens and flowers in the season’s colors.

This mantle, done in silver, gold and a metallic champagne are a soft reflection of the season. A touch of crystal was brought in to reflect the metallic surfaces. Adding in metallic ribbons and the lights from the garland enables the mantle to sparkle even more brilliantly. Take metallic accents outdoors also! This outdoor living mantle garland was adorned with silver metallic leaves and a fun metallic banner.

A Christmas tree adorned with silver and gold is a classic pallet for a beautiful reflection of the season, and can tie into other metallic elements in the home such as furniture pieces and lighting fixtures. Layering a combination of metallics together on a tree adds dimension and depth to the tree by providing a reflective source for light to play on.

We hope your season Sparkles!

Nancy Charbonneau is an award winning ASID interior designer who is passionate about connecting who her clients are to how they live in a beautiful and personalized way. Nancy has been involved in the field of Interior Design for over 25 years and has worked on numerous design projects around the world with her talented team. Nancy calls her trademark style eloquent, and is passionate about weaving grace and ease into every design.

Designing the Perfect Holiday Menu 

Article by: Chef Ruben Campos, Jasper’s The Woodlands 

Prime Rib for the Perfect Holiday Menu

Prime Rib is something that is not too traditional, but is a great way to impress, and feed a hungry crowd. Horseradish Sour Cream is a must.  I like to build around that with more traditional sides. Seasonal vegetables are a great start. I like to go with root vegetables in the winter (brown sugar glazed carrots, roasted parsnips, loaded baked potatoes) Getting the kids involved and teaching them family recipes is something to look forward to. We always had tamales in my house. Not so traditional, but a staple in my household, being from Houston, and the kids love to help with those. 

Setting the table with items passed down from generations is something special. Grandma’s placemats, table runners, crystal, were all things that I have seen that were passed down and at the table for the holidays. 

A centerpiece made with Poinsettias, small votive candles and maybe even adding some pinecones (also a staple in most of our yards) are great to use to give the table that traditional Christmas feel.  With the red already there, just adding some gold accents and some of those family heirlooms will make the table come together. 

*Content provided by Jasper’s The Woodlands

From The Woodlands to Broadway

Straight from suburban Houston to New York City, Mallory Bechtel began living her dream on the Broadway stage at the youthful age of 18. And she always believed she would be there, because she simply loved the art of musical theater. “For me, because I started out so young – I don’t remember not considering Broadway as an option,” Bechtel shares. 

Raised in The Woodlands, Bechtel experienced a traditional childhood and education, but at a young age she began taking classes at a local theater company, Class Act Productions. She performed in shows in the heart of Houston at Theater Under the Stars in elementary school through their youth program, Humphrey’s School of Musical Theater. “I have always loved singing. All of my idols were on Broadway – that’s what we listened to in the car,” she recalls. As a professional actress and student, young Bechtel spent countless hours training with instructors, attending rehearsals and auditioning while still attending The John Cooper School, and would participate in her school productions when she was able. “They were always willing to work with me, to help me pursue my dreams,” she says.

Chairman of Performing Arts at The John Cooper School and Bechtel’s high school theater teacher, Mary Rotella, believes that Bechtel’s professionalism and humility made a huge impact on her success. Watching her grow as an actress, Rotella says, “Mallory is interesting in that she is pretty low-key and takes things in stride, but she is intense in her approach. She’s a smart actress that pays attention to detail and understands the importance of authenticity when acting.” Continuing to be involved as both a student and performer at school, Rotella recalls it was important for Bechtel’s overall well-being. “With her talent and credits, Mallory could easily have been intimidating to her peers, but she was always supportive and encouraging. She truly lifted her fellow actors up and helped them to reach their fullest potential on stage,” remarked Rotella.

Her first love was singing, and she always seemed to connect to singing as a character in musical theater productions. She recalls that acting and nailing auditions didn’t always come easy to her, however, Bechtel was willing to work hard to improve in those areas. As she continued fine-tuning her skills with the help of Houston area instructors and theater venues, her status as a triple threat with unique talents in singing, dancing and acting sent Bechtel on her way to making her dream a reality. “Houston has such a great theater scene. I feel lucky to have grown up so near it,” Bechtel says.

Bechtel had the vision of making this her career, but she never dreamed she would be quite so young when she entered the Broadway scene via Tony award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. At 17, she auditioned to be a vacation understudy for the lead role of Zoe and was offered the job. However, the opportunity never arose to perform on stage as the understudy. But in 2018, just after high school graduation, Bechtel was thrilled to accept the full-time role of Zoe at New York City’s Music Box Theater.

The two-show days can be tiring, but she is kept energized by her fellow actors who have so much passion for what they do. She claims it has been exciting working alongside such amazing talent. “It’s always fresh, always new. People are always changing it up. It’s just what I love to do so the best part of it is getting to do it every night,” states Mallory. 

 

Dear Evan Hansen began with quite the buzz when it debuted in 2016 and was a Tony Award winner for Best New Musical in 2017. It has continued with a strong fan base and began conversations of meaningful themes presenting both an entertaining and emotionally complex musical. “It’s about a teenager dealing with anxiety and depression which is very relevant right now. I feel very lucky to be a part of a show that has helped a lot of people,” she says. Following much hype and success, the show began touring in the fall of last year, making the award-winning musical available to far greater audiences. After completing her performance in Dear Evan Hansen ending her contract this summer, Bechtel has chosen to pursue other outstanding opportunities after her success with the musical and her debut on Broadway. 

Raw talent alone didn’t get her to where she is. She only realized her dream of making it to Broadway by devoting countless hours and effort, not to mention the support from her family including her parents and three siblings. “They never doubted me. And they did force me to do things that maybe I didn’t want to. They are very supportive. I’m grateful for that,” Bechtel says. 

Her plans for the future? “For actors, it’s hard to say. I would love to stay in New York, but it depends on what comes along.” No matter what lies ahead, Bechtel has paved her way with plenty of hard work and grit, and it seems she’ll continue in that direction. There is no easy route, she claims, but her passion for music and theater made the ride more enjoyable. Bechtel’s motto for pursuing any dream is revealed in her own path, “Put the time in. Take advantage of every opportunity. Keep putting yourself out there.”  

Volume IV of The Book The Woodlands

We are excited to introduce the 6th Issue of The Book The Woodlands!

The new cover of The Book and new companion The Wish Guide were unveiled last night at the exclusive launch party. A heartfelt thank you to our presenting sponsor, Jasper’s for the amazing food and hospitality, and our event host, Market Street for the fantastic site! We are truly grateful to all of the Ad Partners and guests that joined us to celebrate this beautiful publication that provides funding for Interfaith’s many programs and services. Be on the lookout for your copy of The Book which will be arriving in mailboxes within the next week.

Woodlands Weather Dude

I enjoy weather forecasting and communicating weather risks to people and I have made a career out of it over the last 25 years. In late August 2015, almost on a whim, I started posting about local weather interests on Facebook and Woodlands Weather Dude was born. At that time, the closed group contained only a few dozen members. Now over three years later, the group has grown to over 9,000 followers spread out across The Woodlands and Montgomery County. Although I would like to take full credit for the popularity of the group, I believe there are some larger things at play here that are responsible for this growing popularity.

 

First off, whether we know it or not, the weather touches our lives on a daily basis.

According to a recent Power Research Center study, weather far outpaces other daily news topics on a local level. Over 70% of adults in the Houston area say that the topic of weather is “important for daily life”. In second place was the news topic involving Traffic & Transportation at 52%. Even Government and Politics were only at 26%. Let’s face it; people want to know if the weather is going to have an impact on their kid’s birthday party, commute to work or on their weekend camping trip. Having a cell phone with weather apps or social media, including Woodlands Weather Dude, makes it easier than ever to have access to current and future weather at your fingertips.

 

Secondly, the weather hasn’t exactly been boring around here. In my 27 years of living in Houston, I believe the most active stretch of significant weather occurred here recently over the last few years. Hurricane Harvey (2017) and the two 2016 Floods both had huge impacts on our community and has stirred even more personal interest in the weather, especially during the tropical season.

Finally, I believe the popularity of the WWD Facebook page may also be an unfortunate byproduct of storm anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to Dr. Asim Shah, a Baylor College of Medicine mental health expert, “Close to a year after Harvey, we are still seeing [patients with] depression and anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as well”.  Although I don’t interact directly with most of my followers, I have had many conversations with fellow co-workers who have been directly (or indirectly) impacted by Harvey or prior storms.  Some of them still suffer from insomnia and storm anxiety and have admitted to becoming obsessed with the weather, especially during thunderstorms.

Weather in Texas can be very scary for many in our area. What I attempt to do on my Facebook site is to provide my own unfiltered view on how a certain weather event is going to pan out.  And I always try to do it without any needless hype, although I have to admit some of our recent weather events over the last couple of years warranted some more serious weather language. During quieter times, I sometimes like to have forecasting contests. So if you have a good idea on when we will see our first 100-degree day or when we encounter our first freeze of the year, give me a follow! If you are a successful forecaster, you could even win a small prize. -WWD

Jeff Royed graduated from the University of Oklahoma where he received his B.S. in Meteorology. Jeff has lived in The Woodlands with his wife and two boys for over eight years. In his spare time, he enjoys running and biking on the local trails. He also likes taking his boys on short camping trips.

 

 

 

 

The Woodlands Christian Academy Celebrates 25th Anniversary – The Silver Ball

The Woodlands Christian Academy celebrated 25 years of providing exemplary Christian education and service to the community at the elegant Silver Ball, their annual auction and gala at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott. The Silver Ball, sponsored by Woodforest National Bank and chaired by Alison and Vernon Veldekens, is one of the largest fundraising events of the year for The Woodlands Christian Academy (TWCA).

The proceeds from the gala will go toward the final phase of the school’s newest academic building which is slated to open in the fall of 2019. The state-of-the-art, 63,000 square-foot building will include 15 classrooms, an art studio, science and robotics labs, and an atrium-style, 363-seat lecture/performance hall.

The glamorous evening was filled with incredible live and silent auction items led by Sponsorship Chairs Christin Allphin and Brandi Watterson, including a guided tour through South Africa, Ritz-Carlton private residence package in Grand Cayman, A Day in the Life of Tilman Fertitta, and a Summer Bash at the Ambler Ranch among others. The auction in conjunction with the sponsorships and donations helped raise an astonishing $2,085,000 for The Woodlands Christian Academy. DJ Men-Yo, former personal DJ for First Lady Michelle Obama, provided entertainment and kept the crowd dancing until late into the evening.
The Woodlands Christian Academy is a PreK – 12th grade college preparatory school that integrates learning with biblical faith and challenges students to reach their highest potential – spiritually, academically, physically and socially. For more information visit www.twca.net

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