The Year in Review - 2014
Anne & Stewart French

523 Seeport Drive
Allen, TX 75013


Hope everyone is having a fun holiday season. Here is our yearly brain dump. If you enjoy it, please consider sending yours to us. We love to get them!

Since we did last year's write-up in early December, we'll start this one with the 2013 holidays, beginning with our Christmas Eve tradition, Tuba Christmas. We took the train to Thanksgiving Square in downtown Dallas with Maria, Sami, Ethan, and Michael, to listen to and sing along with the low mellow tones of Christmas carols played on sousaphones, baritones and, of course, tubas. Look for one near you!

On Christmas day, Glenn, Mina, and Andrew hosted us at their house in Frisco, TX with great food and conversation, followed by a long walk on a trail through the beautiful woods near their house.

A few days later, our aerobics instructor Vicky held her annual Christmas party at her home. This is always a blast due to the gag gift exchange. Some examples included a guitar ornament that played Elvis tunes, a ceramic armadillo couple in western wear, and a guide book to sex after forty (hey! the pages were all blank :))

On a different note, the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth was hosting The Age of Picasso and Matisse exhibit and the new Renzo Piano Pavilion had just opened. We attended on New Year's Eve day and really enjoyed it, even discovering they have a Michaelangelo! Who knew?

On New Years Day, we rode in the "Happy New Rear" bicycle ride in Blue Ridge, TX. We rode the 40 mile route starting out in the 30's with strong winds and boy, was it cold! We were wrapped in arm and leg warmers, ear covers, long-fingered gloves. But it was all worth it at the end when we were served the traditional hot black-eyed peas and jalapeno cornbread.

Mid-January, niece Emily brought Mia back to college at Univ. of North Texas, staying overnight with us. Just enough time to try our hand at recovering the family "lost peach crisp" recipe. We think we're getting closer each time.

We hosted Mia at the house on her birthday in February, doing some shopping for new glasses, getting her hair done by Mya, and having dinner at Macaroni Grill with Glenn, Mina, and Andrew.

Can you believe Willie Nelson appeared with Asleep at the Wheel in February, at our own local Eisemann Center? We managed to get great tickets centered near the balcony front row! Willie was a bit "seasoned" but the music with brother Ray was great fun.

Mid-month, Anne scanned in some Cummings family slides from back in the early 60s. These were crazy nostalgic with some really funny ones of Tom as a toddler, Anne in her knit "swimsuit", and Trina in her cowboy hat.

In late February Anne traveled to Bangalore, India for work, passing through London both ways. Bangalore is a beautiful chaotic jumble of people, colorful architecture, traffic and vegetation. With just a few hours available on the return trip, she managed to pop in and out of the "tube" to see Big Ben, Picadilly Square, London Bridge, and other landmarks, without actually going into any of them! It was a hoot, and definitely worth a trip back.

March brought Tour Dallas, a bicycle rally that starts in downtown, heads along historic Swiss Avenue, then winds around White Rock Lake and back. This year was cool, crisp, and crowded, with lots of food trucks and festivities.

In March our Austin friends Todd and Kim came to visit, the "Joubert French Connection". We did a nice bicycle ride over Lake Lavon, had lunch at Snug on the Square in McKinney, TX, then hung out on the porch playing 10,000 (aka "Farkle"). Anne's sister, Trina, always has dice in her purse to play this game anywhere and we're fanning out the tradition.

In late March, Stewart released his first ever app to the Apple App Store, "Cycle Music Timer". It runs on both the iPhone and iPad and helps spin class instructors manage their music and drills. Go buy it and support your friendly, family app developer! Over the year Stewart has been approached several times, usually over lunch, by people interested in finding someone to write an app for their "really good idea". It's fun hearing the ideas, most of which would be really, really hard to implement.

In April, we had a fun time taking in a Texas Rangers baseball game with our friends, Jeanie and Chris. It was a great chance to catch up on the new players and hang out with our friends. How is it that the "new" ball park is almost 20 years old now??!

Our neighborhood celebrates First Fridays of each month from April through November with a picnic in one of the green spaces. This April they cranked it up for the year with a keg and gourmet food truck. Sometimes there's a bounce house, and always there are kids on every type of rolling thing circling the green (trikes, bikes, scooters, even a surrey now and then). Is this a great neighborhood or what?

April is prime wildflower season here in north Texas and the Lancaster Country Bicycle Ride is an opportunity to ride through the heart of it. The ride did not disappoint, as it was stunning, blanketed with bluebonnets, indian paint brushes, daisies, primrose, the weather was perfect with light winds.

Facebook has provided a nice way to reconnect with old friends. We got a chance to meet Barb and Arthur for dinner at Cafe de France and catch up after many years. Stewart worked with Arthur back at Mostek in the early 80s, right out of college. It was great getting to know them again, hearing about their family, work, plans, and making this reconnection.

After many years of challenging but fun technical work in Digital Light Processing, Anne was elected by colleagues at Texas Instruments to the title "Senior Member of the Technical Staff". Her ex-boss and co-worker Ron Barry returned from retirement in Colorado to proudly make the presentation in front of senior staff and management at the awards banquet.

Anne's sister Trina made some beautiful burnt wood art of us, our yard, and our cats Seebie and Tootzak. We have them displayed for all to see and we love them!

Each year, the Easter Hill Country Bicycle Tour provides a welcome, 3-day spring vacation of (hard!) biking and reconnecting with friends. This year we met up with our Austin buds Todd and Kim, Charisse, Niles and his harem, and from Iowa, our friend Dave and his friend Peg. Around some of the best cycling anywhere, we enjoyed dinner and live music under humongous live oaks at Salt Lick in Driftwood (a MAJOR Texas BBQ experience!), Farkle at the YO Ranch, beers at Dave's Place (a motorcyle dive on the Guadalupe), and a visit to the wildflower farm and winery tour in the rain.

In May we met some our buds, Jeanie, Chris, Linda, Mike, Deb, Doris, and Steve at Texas Land & Cattle in Fairview, TX to reconnect, dinner, and take in some live music at Splitsville, where Mike and Linda's daughter Kimberly was a nice surprice as she joined us at the table on the porch. We had dinner with most of this group again in October after which we moved to our porch, wrapped in quilts, to have a glass of wine and chat late into the evening.

Later in May, Anne and her friend, Lou Anne, hosted the Seeport Darlins, a neighborhood women's group (the homebuilder is Darling Homes). They meet monthly, rotating around homes, generally with a fun theme each month. Anne and Lou Anne's theme was Cheeseburgers in Paradise, with Jimmy Buffett music going, grass skirts, coconut bras, leis, and cheeseburgers for everyone. It was a hoot!

Mid-month, our niece Emily graduated from TSU! Congratulations, Emily! We headed to TSU in San Marcos to attend the ceremony, and got to meet up with Melanie for dinner at Gruene River Grill, another awesome Hill Country find. Mel drove over from San Antonio and we had a great time catching up on her teaching situation and life in general. The next day, we attended the graduation with Emily's boyfriend, Andrew, and her roommate, Lynda, dodging the rain as the graduates jumped into the Guadalupe. Emily drove back with us to Allen to pick up her sister Mia from UNT for the trip back to Houston.

Later in May, the Webbs hosted a graduation party for Emily in Houston at a local favorite restaurant, El Gallo. It was great to see Trina, Steve, Melanie, Brad, Manasi, Doug, Mia, Andrew and of course Emily.

It's been 12 years since Anne's mother, Esther, passed and she and her sisters had often talked about scattering her ashes on the Wabash River in Indiana, where Esther grew up and had many fond memories. They got it organized this year and made it happen in June. Anne flew up to Indianapolis and met sisters Trina, Trese, and Kath, brother Gil, and Kath's sons, Ben and Tom. They had a nice time visiting there and in Lafayette before holding the ceremony under a bridge while sharing many interesting mom stories.

Another bicycle ride in June, the Collin Classic, got the summer biking season going for real. This is another tradition for us as we follow them around year to year moving the course to accomodate the population growth in Collin county.

In late June, Anne presented her work in technology to 30 high school junior girls attending Physics Camp at North Dallas High School. She loves sharing the fun in this field and is hopeful more and more girls will take it up given that it's interesting, challenging and the pay's not bad!

This year, Anne's birthday coincidentally fell on the Saturday that our city, Allen, TX, held its annual 4th of July celebration (they always do this a week early). To celebrate we packed into the shuttle bus with Maria, Samantha, and Ethan and joined 100,000 of our closest friends to enjoy the really fantastic concert by Pentatonix and terrific fireworks show afterward. And, thanks to our cycling adventures, we knew the back way through the sidestreets around the high school shuttle drop off point, avoiding miles of backed up traffic. Sweet!

On the real 4th of July, we walked up the berm to the highest point in our neighorhood and were able to see nine different fireworks shows from the cities of Plano, Richardson, Garland, Lewisville, Carrollton, and others. A lot of our neighbors had the same idea and there was quite a party going on up there!

Several weekends in July and August found us prepping for our cycling vacation in September, riding local rides in east Allen with loops around Lake Lavon, long rides to White Rock Lake in downtown Dallas, and the Katy Flatland Metric Century ride in Katy, TX, near Houston. The night before the Katy ride we distributed Cooper Farms peaches to the families while enjoying a nice get-together at Russell and Glenda's. Can't believe how much their son, Everett, has grown, and such a fun little guy to hang out with. After a great ride around Katy with low wind, moderate temps, and good roads, we met up with Trina, Doug, Manasi, Melanie and Brad, at Russo's Pizzaria near our hotel. Cool tucked in venue and a nice visit.

Mid-August, Mia moved back to UNT. She'd gotten her driver's license (yay, Mia!) and a car but managed to sprain her ankle just before the trip so she couldn't put pressure on her driving foot. So Anne flew down to Houston and drove her up to her new dorm, the College Inn (with a swimming pool!). Stewart came to pick Anne up and we were all able to get together with Brandi for lunch at the Loco Cafe in Denton, our favorite spot. Brandi helped us move Mia in before the rain started and we later got a chance to see her new house, Carnage, her cat, and Penny and Charlie, her dogs.

Stewart had a unique opportunity this August. Our neighbors Karen and Brian across the fence planted special vines to draw Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies. We had _lots_ of chrysalis in our backyard stuck to the fence, the walls, the posts, everything! So Stewart setup his Raspberry Pi to make time lapse photos of the butterflies being born, and it worked! He also scotch taped a pi into the window out front to watch the plants grow, eventually getting a time lapse from April through November, every hour. You can check it out on YouTube.

September bought our much anticipated Backroads Vermont and Queubec bicycling vacation. We met Anne's college roommate, Inger, in Burlington, VT for a wonderful whirlwind visit of Burlington and the surrounding area. It was so great to catch up with her! The next day we met up with the Backroads guides and the other guests, shuttled to Stowe, VT, got fitted to our bicycles, did a quick ride around Stowe. Over the next 6 days we had the best bicycle vacation ever, biking the steep hills (!) of Vermont and Qeubec, ending up in Quebec City, Canada. Everything was spectacular, the biking, the people, the weather, the inns, and nothing prepared us for the beauty of Quebec City.

Later in the month Stewart got invited by Maria and Samantha to go on Friday to the opening day of the State Fair of Texas. We met at the Parker Road rail station and the train dropped us at the main entrance of the State Fair. We spent the 5 hours seeing exhibits, walking, eating, and riding the ride. Then in October, on a Saturday, Anne and Stewart both got the chance to go again with Maria, Ethan, and Michael. Dog shows, food exhibits, acrobats, BMX bikes, corny dogs, hollowed out trees, fried lumps, what more could a person want ?!

October is ushered in by the Wish 100 bike rally which is always a great time as the temperatures finally moderate. This year the ride started in downtown McKinney before wandering out into the countryside near Princeton, passing by Cathy's Critters, where one of Anne's former co-workers has an exotic animal farm! What a great suprise to just glance to the side of the road and see a kangaroo hopping along, then the llama and goats start to appear. Check it out for group events. We were also trailed by many monarch butterflies which have been scarce in recent years due to the many wildfires throughout their migration path. But they're back!

We also did several east Allen rides around Lake Lavon. The Lake is our primary water source in Collin county and it is disheartening to see the water level drop to record low levels, putting us in stage 3 water restrictions and approaching stage 4. Today it's at 46% capacity.

Halloween is always a big event since our house is next to an elementary school. This year we got 138 trick-or-treaters. Stewart had his vuvuzela out (he calls it his Gorgonzola) tooting blasts to draw attention so kids come up on the hill to our house. We lit the sidewalk with orange lights and had the projector running videos of ghouls storming the front window. We loved seeing all the kids' costumes this year: including Princesses, Frozen characters, Zombies, Ebola victims and a Hot Dog.

November 7th was dubbed "Weekend at Anne and Stewart's" with a big contingent of Houston-ites making the trip north. It was a blast with Trina, Doug and Manasi, Glenda and Everett, Emily, Andrew, Brandi, and Mia visiting for the weekend. We visited all the neighborhood parks, and spent lots of time on the back picnic table playing, you guessed it, 10,000. Everett is a major joy, giving Stewart's "gorgonzola" a try (before it was mysteriously hidden), landscaping the back yard with his toy backhoe while fighting off naps. Later in the day Glenn and Mina dropped by in time to see our neighbor kids Dayton, Channing and Drew give us a show ("Maddy the Elephant Does Tricks") so we lined up the porch chairs to give them a proper audience. Emily and Stewart tried their hand again at the "lost peach crisp" recipe. After the crowd left, more neighbor kids (Ryan, Natalie and Kylie) started a major bubble gun fight. Well, Ryan mostly doused everyone while Natalie and Kylie climbed the retaining wall over and over. Too much fun.

Thanksgiving this year was at our house with Glenn, Mina, Andrew, Maria, Samantha, Ethan, and Michael over for dinner. Stewart had promised to help setup the Spacewarp 10000, an erector set for a roller coaster with pliable tubing rails supporting large metal ball bearings that roll the loop-de-loops and spiral back from the bottom to the top to start over. Everyone pitched in, with Samantha directing, to assemble this thing while food prep was going in background, conversations going in all directions, and the cats watching it all from the background. The instructions were in Japanese so Mina and Andrew acted as interpreters while we tried to figure it all out. A nice walk and badminton game settled things before we dug into peach cobbler and ice cream.

We hope you have a wonderful 2015!