The Year in Review - 2023
Anne & Stewart French

523 Seeport Drive
Allen, TX 75013


Here are some movies from 2023!

YouTube Videos

For the French family, 2023 was highlighted by Anne's 50th High School Reunion, our hiking trip to Iceland, Anne's trip to Clarinetfest, both of us joining the Joyful Noise community band, Stewart's release of two iPhone apps, a sister's trip to Door County Wisconsin, and a fun Thanksgiving in Houston.

In January Anne spent 3 weeks in Indianapolis to help her sister, Trese, after knee replacement surgery. Anne helped with Physical Therapy, assembling mobility aids, shopping, cooking, and cat care. She also got to spend some quality time with Trese enjoying old re-runs of Glee, new episodes of Ghosts, and visiting Eagle Creek Park.

During her flight to Indy Anne was caught up in the Southwest Airlines debacle. SWA cancelled her return flight and would have delayed her return a week. She flew home a day late at double the price with American Airlines and SWA paid for all of it. Yay!

Stewart held down the fort while starting a complete rewrite of his iPhone apps OneBigPlayer and CycleMusicTimer2. Our kittens Marley, Cooper, and SeaBreeze kept him company while running like maniacs all through the house before falling fast asleep in his lap.

Several times this year we got to visit with Anne's brother Glenn and wife Minako who live nearby in Frisco. We celebrated birthdays and Thanksgiving while listening to G&M's stories of home redecorating and acquiring a new piano for Mina.

We love musicals and have season tickets to both Broadway Dallas and to the Winspear Opera House. This year we got to see Hershey Felder as George Gershwin, To Kill a Mockingbird with Richard Thomas, Jerry Seinfeld, Moulin Rouge, Keb Mo', The Moth Mainstage, John Malkovich as The Music Critic, MJ The Musical, The Cher Show, and Les Miserables.

In March, Stewart finished his rewrite and released OneBigPlayer on the Apple iPhone App Store. It is selling briskly, given that he is selling it for nothing (giving it away). He has also posted all the source code online at Github so anybody can take it and change it to suit their need

In April, Anne led a group of 30 Newcomer Friends of Greater Plano (NFGP) on a visit to the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center. Anne is co-leader of NFGP's Arts & Leisure Group. They enjoyed a beautiful early spring nature walk and saw 8 raptors being rehab'd including a baby Great Horned Owl. Later in the year, Anne took another NFGP group on a hike at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney where another lovely day greeted us once our extended summer heat wave had subsided.

Our yearly trip to Kerrville for the Easter Hill Country Bike Tour got rained out this year. In place of EHCT, Emily & Andrew drove up from Austin and we toured the Dinosaur Company near our house. They make huge dinosaurs for use in movies that can move and roar. The warehouse is filled with dinosaurs, some animatronic, and it's only a 5 minute drive from our house.

Our first outdoor bike ride of the season was the Lancaster Country ride through the bluebonnet blanketed hillside around Ennis, TX. We joined several hundred other bikers on a beatiful Saturday morning for the challenging but gorgeous ride. Later that month, Anne attended a 60's party held by NFGP Arts & Leisure activity group. It was hiarious seeing everyone in their groovy outfits doing Karoake to 60s hits.

In May we hopped down to Austin to visit our buds Todd & Kim. We started making serious plans for our Iceland trip, watching "Iceland With a View" YouTube videos, trying to understand the language (we couldn't) and the money (we didn't need to!). Turns out everyone in Iceland speaks perfect English and we could get along fine with just our credit cards, no cash needed (they don't tip in Iceland). Kim & Todd took us to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center where we saw mama and 3 baby Great Horned Owls and lots of native landscaping. Todd exercised his barista muscles and made us superior Lattes while Kim serenaded us on guitar.

Back in January, Stewart (finally) sold his 2011 Lexus CT200h and drank the Kool-Aid, buying a plug-in hybrid Lexus NX 450h+. Now he drives with an eye on the gauges making sure he doesn't exceed the 40 miles of range. He doesn't want to add gasoline to the car but once every 6 months (or less!). When the gas engine does kick in he laughs like a hyena and waves his arms wildly. Now in May, Anne polished off the Kool-Aid and bought herself a fully electric car replacing her aging Honda Accord. It's a Lexus RZ450e. It's the nicest car she's ever owned, quiet, comfortable, and fast. She loves it when she accelerates away from a light and snaps Stewart's head back into the seat. Can you say Whiplash?

In June Anne attended her 50th High School Class Reunion. She met up with her sisters Kath and Trina at Trese's in Indy. Then on to Delphos, OH where Anne caught up with several of her high school classmates over lunch at Cabo's. Kath's friend Linda gave them a tour of their hometown, where they revisited all their old haunts. Trina & Anne went to the reunion dinner where they saw a magic show, The Magic Krendl, then had breakfast the next day at Anne's old high school job, Dick's Dairy Whip, now known as Jay's Diner.

While Anne was away Stewart attended the Apple World Wide Developer's Conference to see what Apple was up to in their software, and to get ideas for app updates and future ideas. This was a series of online proceedings and training sessions geared toward large and small development teams.

Then Stewart finished his rewrite and released CycleMusicTimer2 on the Apple iPhone App Store in June. He is also giving this one away to anybody who wants it, and has posted the source code on Github.

We had been training all spring and in June we joined a Backroads tour with our friends Todd & Kim from Austin to hike Iceland. This was an amazing 6 days of challenging hikes in the Icelandic lava fields and glaciers. There were many waterfalls, volcanoes, and several lifer birds (Eiders, Arctic Terns, Harlequin Ducks). We happened to land in Reykjavik the day before their Independence Day, so we hiked the city and celebrated with the crowds.

Summer in Iceland had temps in the 40s and 50s but the wind seemed to always be howling and it rained a lot. We had to pile on many layers and carefully prep for the days hikes. "Land of the Midnight Sun" was right. We were so glad to have brought along sleep masks to wear at night since it never got dark (that last pic is the sun at midnight out our inn window!).

By chance, one of the people in our tour group was Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post. Anne and Todd got to talk politics with her as she wrote an article while on the tour. For Kim and Todd's anniversary, at lunch one day, we all got serenaded by Hanna Mia, a native Icelandic folk singer. She sang a special song just for them. It was beautiful.

Turned out just two weeks after we flew out of Keflavik International Airport a huge magma eruption occurred just a few miles southeast of where we stayed. Tourists flocked to hike to the edge, which wasn't the smartest thing to do, eh? Can you say Sulpher Dioxide and melting shoes? (Todd and Anne would have done it!).

In July Anne spent 5 days in the Denver area attending the 50th ClarinetFest. 1700 clarinetists converged on 2 hotels. From 8am to 10pm every day there were concerts, rehearsals, presentations, performances and lots of meet-ups with Anne's Clarinet Transformation classmates and teachers. She has been taking Master Classes hosted by Michelle Anderson over Zoom for 2 years and finally got to meet several of them, including Michelle, in person.

In addition to meeting her clarinet class comrades, Anne saw her favorite clarinet/accordion combo perform live: Bridge & Wolak. She even got a group photo taken with them. Then she visited the vendor area where she got to meet Alcides Rodriguez, one of the headliners, who owns a clarinet shop in the Atlanta area. Anne had purchased her new clarinet from Rodriquez Musical Services during Covid when they had a "try by mail" option she took advantage of.

While Anne was away Stewart was glued to the TV watching the 2023 Tour de France bicycle race. It lasts all of July and is one of our traditions. We record it in the morning (European time) and play it back in the evening, fast forwarding through the commercials and boring parts. He had to explain all the details to Anne on the nightly telephone connect.

Back home, with temps over 100 degrees, Anne opted for an indoor activity with the NFGP A&L group. So this time they painted signs for their homes at Board and Brush in Plano.

Late in July Stewart woke up with some sort of problem with his left knee. His Dr prescribed Physical Therapy. They did an evaluation and attributed it to the Posterior Cruciate Ligament PCL. Stewart consulted with niece Emily, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, to verify the eval results and confirm the exercises. It was all good and Stewart completely recovered after 3 weeks of intense PT. PT is amazing. He still does the exercises in the morning along with ab work and weights.

We had lunch with nieces Brandi and Mia in August at The Yard in McKinney. It's a nice restaurant with a huge back "yard", enough to hold a hundred people, shaded by large Live Oaks similar to the Hill Country. It was here that we heard that Mia was going to move from Denton to Cedar Park near Austin. This would put her near her sister Emily, only 3 hours from us, and 3 hours from family in Houston. Plans were made.

Pumped by the group playing at ClarinetFest, Anne signed up with the Joyful Noise concert band in McKinney to re-learn playing in a band. This is a group of adults who have picked up their instruments again after putting them down decades ago. There are no try-outs, if you show up you can play. It was so much fun that she convinced Stewart to rent a Sax and give it a try. He had played Tenor Sax in high school and college. He practiced for a month on his rental then bought an Alto Sax and joined Anne in the band. Now we both travel together on Monday evenings to band rehearsals at Our Savior Lutheran Church in McKinney and have had two concerts. (In case you were wondering, we are getting better and better!)

Here is the Joyful Noise Concert Band 2023 Fall Concert, held 6-November-2023 at The Sanctuary Music & Events in McKinney, TX.

And just 5 weeks later, with 2 rehearsals, we had our 2023 Holiday Concert This one was at the Lutheran Church.

On September 8 our home air conditioning went out. For 3 days we waited for the HVAC company to order, receive, and install a new motor for the main unit. Those were the 2 hottest days in September, 106 and 108 degrees, out 55th day over 100 degrees this summer. We closed everything up, turned everything off except the fans, got big bags of ice, and the temps inside went up as high as the upper 80s. They eventually replaced the motor and everything returned to normal. It is now only an uncomfortable memory. We probably wouldn't be living in Texas except for AC.

In October Anne took another sisters' trip with Trina, Teresa, and Kathy to Door County, Wisconsin. She met up with long time friends Darryl & Ellen (Ellen took the 4 head shots of the sisters here) and talked old times before checking in to the VRBO in Sturgeon Bay, WI. First thing was a half day van tour of the whole peninsula where they saw everything and made plans for the rest of the trip. Then on to hiking in the state parks, visiting Death's Door Museum, and taking in a fish boil in Fish Creek. That was an insane fireball!

Later that month Emily & Andrew came to visit during the partial solar eclipse. We had tickets to a guided nature walk in Laura Bush's Native Texas Park at the Bush Presidential Center near SMU in Dallas. With our tour group we hiked the gardens and watched the eclipse. We were so lucky to see a butterfly banding going on in the garden (they actually use stickers). Afterwards we ate lunch at the Center's excellent restaurant, Cafe 43, while discussing astronomy and politics.

At Halloween this year we decorated to the hilt and had 244 trick-or-treaters. This is down a bit from last year but maybe that was because the Texas Rangers were busy winning the World Series! Our neighbors had the game projected live on their garage door, while all the parents watched the game and the kids walked the neighborhood. We haven't followed baseball for many years but this was so exciting we watched every game of the playoffs and the World Series. We got to know the players, the new rules, and technologies that make the game so much more interesting and quicker.

We took a 1-day driving vacation to Austin in November to drop off some furniture at niece Emily & Andrew's house. While there we all got to visit the Parker Jazz Club and see Kris Kimura play his many instruments, including giant flute, and a tiny saxophone.

Our niece Mia implemented the plan, packed up and moved from Denton to Cedar Park, down near Austin. We helped her find a moving company that packed her up one day and moved her the next day. It could not have been easier. We both have so many memories of U-Haul rentals, riding in the back of the truck, trying to get our friends to help move, pizza and beer, etc. ( What were we thinking?! )

Our long time friends Linda & Mike celebrated Thanksgiving with a Friendsgiving at their newly remodeled home. It was so much fun visiting with friends from TI and Raytheon that we both worked with so many years ago.

Thanskgiving day brought a quick trip to Houston where we gathered at niece Melanie's home while her husband Brad 3D-printed a dinosaur. We all had delicious food with Trina, Doug & Manasi, Russell & Glenda and their kids, Ev, Auggie, & Sophie, Brandi, Mia, Joanie, Casey & Josh with their son Chris, and Brad's dad Dana and grandmother Ethel.

After a neighborhood walk to work off the desserts, we drove to Friendswood to visit with Stewart's brother's daughter Meredith with husband Tommy, and sons Ben & Gabe, and meeting daughter Bridget. With Bridget's arrival in May, our great-nieces now outnumber our great-nephews, 6 to 5!

We took another 1-day vacation in December to Austin to visit with our friends Todd & Kim. We filled Friday with the Deep Sky show (James Webb Space Telescope!) at the Bullock IMAX theater at UTA, then later that evening we went back to the Parker Jazz Club for their Jazzy Christmas Show. We had front row seats in an intimate setting, almost able to reach out and touch the row of instruments. It was so much fun. Who knew Jingle Bells played in a minor key could be so terrifying?

Other interesting things -

We have had lots of fun dining with friends this year, meeting up with Maria several times for "dinner and a movie" (here with friend Trish); Vicky, Dave, JoAnne, & Jeff to watch and discuss bike racing and Raspberry Pi projects; Steve and Doris, up from Burnett, TX visiting family; our near neighbors Mike and Linda; and, Craig and Leigh, with buds Frank & CJ, to watch the Tour de France and discuss birds. We also have lunch every Thursday with our Raytheon work buds, coordinated by John, to discuss politics, the JWST, e-cars, biking Dallas, and the lunch specials.

We both continue to do Michele's Step Aerobics classes at LA Fitness in McKinney and Frisco. The holiday "Portrait", "Double Step", and "Circle Step" classes are challenging and mostly hilarious. Some athletes get flummoxed and go the wrong directions barely missing the Holiday Headbutt.

Anne has been taking a weekly international Clarinet class over Zoom for 2 years with classmates of widely varied abilities. She has developed close relationships with these folks meeting some of them at Denver's Clarinetfest. They all record pieces for critique, tips, and encouragement. Stewart often plays the piano accompaniment as she plays the Clarinet. This is so much fun with both learning to listen and stay synched as the pieces change.

We decorated the house for Christmas this year. It is so warm that we can comfortably sit on the porch and enjoy the neighbor lights, the kids playing, and watch the Amazon trucks delivering Christmas gifts to all the nice children.

On Christmas day nieces Mia & Emily, with husband Andrew drove up from Austin to celebrate with us. We had a wonderful dinner, conversation, some 10,000, then worked a 3-D "Book Nook" doll house puzzle. They even stayed late so we could get further on it!

Our kittens have grown into these fluffballs of furry fun. Marley, with her "tortitude", loves to chew on Anne's hair while she watches TV and bite hard on Stewart's neck while purring loudly. Cooper sits in Stewart's lap in the morning while he works his daily puzzles and helps both of us as we play our music. SeaBreeze chases his siblings around then falls deep asleep sunk in on Anne's pillows.

We hope everyone has a wonderful 2024! Be sure to watch the total solar eclipse in Dallas in April!