Happy holidays, everybody! Hope you had a great 2004. Here's some stuff we did and, yes, since some of you have asked, we did go to work too.
During the holidays last year, Anne's sister, Trina, and her husband, Steve, went up to visit Steve's grandparents in Oklahoma. This gave their girls, Melanie and Brandi, a chance to stay with us. We immediately put them to work, Brandi sewing Velcro onto screen material for our backyard drive-in movies, Melanie running wires through the wall for Anne's new HDTV tuner. It was a joy for us to have them work for, errrr, I mean visit us! And our cat, Louie, enjoyed the visit too since the less attended doors gave him the opportunity to run out and inspect the pool.
Also during the holidays, Trina's boys and their girlfriends came to visit. Doug and Manasi, Russell and Glenda lucked out since their sisters had polished off our project list, so we took the DART rail to the West End checked out the Dallas Alley and street performers like the fire painter, and later strolled the Nasher Sculpture Garden.
At the end of January, we got to see Melanie's drama group perform Pirates of Penzance in Houston. It's amazing how talented these high school kids are.
February brought an actual snow storm to the Dallas area, so we got a chance to have lunch with Alan and Maria and the bundled up Samantha and Ethan, who were more than happy to return Stewart's snow ball shots. We had enjoyed our traditional Tuba Xmas and a wonderful Christmas brunch with them and the Moore family, so this extended the holiday feel.
In May, Anne & Stewart celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary, in the traditional way: attending a B52s concert at the intensely crowded Taste of Addison, with our buddies, Julie and Richard. It was a once in a lifetime memory, mainly because "we" will never go there again.
June brought both Stewart's folks 50th wedding anniversary and Stewart's Mom, Maxine's, 80th birthday. Stewart and his brother Morgan arranged a 2-day backyard picnic at their house to celebrate. The French family celebrated on Saturday, the Milby family on Sunday. Although the weather was rainy and overcast early in the week, it turned out spectacular on Saturday and Sunday, cool, clear, and dry! We all had a wonderful time with good conversation and fine picnicky food. We had a slide show going in the garage with lots of pictures of Morgan and Maxine from the 1940s through the 90s. Each day Morgan T. made a nice speech and we heard many a story about Morgan and Maxine in the early days, and a few stories about others ("Dog Eggs", Ed?).
In August, Stewart made a trip to his folks in Kentucky to meet Iris Chang. Iris was the NY Times best-selling author of "The Rape of Nanking" and "The Chinese in America". Iris was doing research for another book and she wanted to interview Stewart's Dad and others in the area on their experiences as POWs during WWII. This did not turn out well. Iris arrived in Louisville and had some sort of mental breakdown. She was not able to meet with any of the ex-POWs in Kentucky. Stewart had some e-mail correspondence with her after that and it seemed she was recovering and thinking about continuing the research. However she was plagued by depression and, in November, she took her own life. It was very sad both from a human point of view (she had a husband and a small child) and due to the loss of the story. She was a very capable author and could have captured their experiences in a unique way.
We celebrated the birthday of Anne's brother, Glenn, in November with a brunch at their house in Frisco. Minako served up excellent food as we heard all about Andrew's recent trip to Japan and Glenn's experiences as he re-introduced himself to flying.
Stewart and Anne made another trip to Kentucky on Thanksgiving. Anne and Stewart's mom, Maxine, each wanted a special broom made only at the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, an old Shaker community turned state park near Lexington. Stewart's Dad worked and played there as a child after the Shakers left but before it was renovated and turned into a park. We ended up with a trunk full of brooms (so if you get a fancy broom as a Christmas present, now you know!). We had Thanksgiving dinner with aunt Roxie, cousin Joyce, and her friend Rob. We ate out at a restaurant for dinner. Although the line at Ryan's went out the door, the wait was short, the service good, and the food excellent. On Friday we stopped by Arnold's Coffee Cafe again for mocha. Sure enough, there was Tyler behind the counter! He's been there every time we visit, no matter what month or year. And he always remembers our drinks!
House and Home
The City of Plano decided that our street, Bronze Leaf Drive, needed new drainage. So in January the city held a community meeting to discuss it (of which only a very few of our neighbors came!). Over the period February through June they completely tore out Bronze Leaf drive, the median containing our mailboxes, the sidewalks, and several feet of turf in our front yards. The entire street was closed for months. It was an adventure first trying to locate our mailboxes, then, having found them relocated across the street, wondering where the mail went as the boxes remained empty for days on end. Just as we got used to regular trips to the Post Office, we found the entrance to our alley blocked and another one opened up. The trip home from work suddenly included scenic jaunts down neighboring back alleys. Eventually, they replaced the water lines, sewage lines, sidewalks, and installed a 6-foot diameter drainage pipe under the street. Then they re-paved the whole thing and re-installed our sprinkler systems. It was a terrible dirty mess for months and months.
Our friend Maria brought her kids Samantha and Ethan to watch the Cat 330C Hydraulic Excavator which Samantha really wanted to see, and already knew quite a lot about! Once complete, the road is great and the drainage is much improved, and we learned a lot about how the utilities work.
In October, street construction behind us, we replaced all our old carpet with tile. We had heard from friends at work that wood or tile floors are much easier to keep clean and would make a world of difference for allergies and cleaning up the "donations" of our two aging cats, Murky (now 19) and Louie (just 13). As you might expect, the salesman said it would three days, and the installer, Juan, said it would really take 5 days. Juan was right. This had the side benefit of making us pack up everything in our house and put it in storage. We left most of it there since then and keep a list of what we need to retrieve. The list is only about 5 items long! Who knows if we'll ever bring all that junk back from storage? The house looks so uncluttered now... And Murky is very excited because the tile has really enhanced the concert hall effect of her 3am musical stylings.
Fun and Friends
Anne and Stewart made their way to the Monterey Jazz Festival again this year in September. Our hotel was in downtown Monterey within walking distance of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and a 10 minute drive to the Jazz festival fairgrounds. We had a great time hearing Bill Charlap, Chaka Kahn, Bobby McFerrin, Uri Caine, many others. Clint Eastwood made an appearance (cool!). As is our habit/obsession, active vacations, we also took aerobics classes every day at the Monterey Sports Center. That was fun. It just so happened that the "Cherries Jubilee" car show was in full swing so we also got to check out the hot rods lining Cannery Row, including the Batmobile!
In February West Plano Athletic Club closed. We had been going there for 20 years, seeing it through 4 different name changes. We had to say goodbye to our aerobics buddies and favorite teachers when everyone went their separate ways to 24-Hour Fitness, NVision, Lifetime Fitness, Presidents, and other health clubs in the area. It was like losing family. But we settled on splitting our time between Lifetime Fitness (which has awesome spin classes) and re-acquainting ourselves with the small athletic club at Anne's work site.
Biking this year was interrupted by a lot of rain. We did make it to the Easter Hill Country tour in April. We did a great ride on Friday, the Willow City Loop through the hill country wildflowers. Then it rained on Saturday so we headed over to San Marcos and visited with Russell and Glenda at Texas State University. After a tour of the beautiful hilly and treed campus, snaked with waterways, we goofed off at a great toy store and then visited the Balcones fault line cave at WonderWorld, where at the end, we ascended an elevator to an observation tower smack in the middle of a wind/thunderstorm! It was great fun!
We also biked the Wild Ride in Richardson, Mesquite Rodeo Ride, Peach Pedal, and the Goatneck 100, many with our friends Richard and Julie. Anne managed to bust her bike all to pieces and parts flew off at the starting line of the Madder'n Hell, so while we waited the month it took to strip it down to the frame and replace the derailleur hanger, we resurrected her old touring bike. We continued to bring it along after the Trek 2120 was repaired, scavenging it spare parts for Stewart's bike, a twin Trek 520. In the fall, we rediscovered White Rock Creek trail and did some rides from our house down and around White Rock Lake and back, with the weather finally cooperating on weekends.
In October we went to Austin to ride with Lance Armstrong in the Ride for the Roses, a fund raiser for cancer survivors. Although we didn't actually get to talk with Lance, we saw him, Sheryl Crow, Robin Williams, and Will Ferrell at the starting line (waaay over there... !) along with 6000 other people. We also attended an interview with Lance at the Austin convention center, hosted by Ann Curry from the Today Show. They took questions from a group of cancer survivors and talked at length about how to get treatment and survive. Work
Not much changed at work this year. Stewart continued on the F-16 program at Raytheon, and Anne continued the Digital Light Processing (DLP(tm)) program at Texas Instruments. Anne did get to attend InfoComm in Atlanta this year, a quick trip to check out lots of projectors and TVs, then on to the David Lee Roth concert (what??) and home again. Is it just me, or are those concerts getting louder? That's it for this year. Here's hoping you have a great holiday season and a fantastic 2005.