family at the Biltmore Estate
Asheville, North Carolina

Dear family and friends,

First we want to thank you all for your concern for us during Hurricane Sandy… it was greatly appreciated!

This year we were delighted to be able to enjoy time with the entire family on several occasions.  It started in January, when we all (including Susan, Steve, Tanya, Oliver, and Peter) got together in Orlando, Florida to celebrate Brigitte’s birthday.  Peter, a Florida resident, regaled our group with tours of the tropical gardens and greenhouses of the Central Coast/Melbourne area.  We also got to see his latest home renovations, including the flame angelfish breeding lab he set up this year.

In June, we all met again, this time in North Carolina to visit Susan and Steve’s newly built art studio.  With beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the outskirts of Asheville, the hub of ceramic art in the US, it was a dream come true for the two of them.  In October they hosted their first show there, together with 3 additional artists.  To see Susan’s work: www.SusanClusener.com

In stark contrast to the drive down south and back (15 hours each way) our next vacation in mid-October was a lovely cruise up north that conveniently took us right from Manhattan, up the Hudson, and to Quebec City, Canada, and back.  The timing was perfect and we could enjoy the colorful fall leaves at their peak.

Two weeks later Hurricane Sandy took its toll in our area.  Since a high tide coincided with its scheduled landfall, we were bracing for the worst.  Flood waters did end up reaching within a couple hundred yards of our company building, and downed power lines throughout our area left us without electricity for 14 days, but we were grateful to have been spared greater harm.  Many of our neighbors had giant trees come down on their properties, and some had damage to their homes and vehicles.

Because all the local stores were sold out, Peter shipped us two gasoline powered generators from Florida.  However, because there was a gas shortage, we could only use them sparingly.  Repair crews poured into our area from all over the country to help restore power quickly, but just one week after Sandy, there was an early snowstorm that created even more problems.  Since the trees were not accustomed to bearing the weight of both leaves and several inches of snow, many collapsed under the weight to cause still more damage to power lines, and once again they blocked streets.

When all is said and done, we consider ourselves fortunate.  While it may have felt like an inconvenience to have been deprived of the computer, a phone, or the television to follow the presidential election, we did enjoy pleasant hours by the fireplace, just like in the good old days.

This summer, Brigitte visited Germany for a large family reunion.  The trip was somewhat undermined by hip discomfort, and in November, the same day as the snowstorm, she underwent hip replacement surgery.  The recovery is going well, and Peter came to visit and help out for a few days to help organize things and decorate for Christmas.  He returned to 80F Florida weather yesterday.  Here in Manhasset, it was 38F.  In a couple of days Susan and Steve are coming to visit for Christmas.  We are looking forward to it.

Business was good this year.  Sales were up from last year with one third of our business going to China alone.  We reciprocated with the purchase of Apple equipment – Made in China.

My 80th birthday (April 16th, just like the Pope) we are planning to celebrate in Rome with the whole family.  Brigitte and I traveled there for the first time in 1969, shortly before we were married.  Making plans at my age is a bit risky, but as George Burns (who lived to be 100) said, “I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”

We wish you much health, prosperity, and all the best in 2013.

Gerhard and Brigitte

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