Merry Christmas 2015
Sharene and Harrison’s Annual Update from Amsterdam
This year started out with a bang! The first week of January Sharene got hit in the head by a champagne bottle that came flying out of an overhead compartment on a flight home from Vienna. Ouch! But things went up from there and 2015 turned out to be another fabulous year — one of the best years of our lives.
We only had 16 sets of overnight guests this year — slow for us! — but all were fascinating in their very different ways. We got them on bikes and canal boats, took them to King’s Day celebrations, tulip fields, museums, concerts, and picnics, and we always dragged them outside to our new garden for a glass of wine! We had four sets of friends from Hawaii bring us lots of aloha. There were friends from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, California, and Washington, all with truly fascinating conversations. In October Harrison’s cousin and his wife from Iowa were here; it meant so much to us for them to make the trip.
All of our “Swiss family” — Sarah, Amelia, Isabel, and Hallie — came to see us (Sarah came twice!), which was the most special of all. We still wonder why they love us, but whatever the reason, we’ll take it! We will spend Christmas with them in Switzerland this year after hosting them in Amsterdam in 2014.
Sweden, Norway, Berlin, Vienna, Switzerland, England, with a “toe dip” into Hungary were all on our European itinerary this year. But the two travel highlights for Sharene were her annual Girls’ Trip with her three best friends — this year at a fabulous house on the coast of Maine — and a quick trip to Kansas City to see her brother and his family and her sister from California who met her there. The Kansas City Royals happened to be in the baseball playoffs that week, so having been away from the mainland USA for 15 years and having zero interest in sports, she felt a bit like a fish out of water. But seeing her family made up for it and Kansas City is gorgeous.
We try to support local musicians as much as we can. We’re often at the Concertgebouw near our home or at a little venue called the Pianola Museum, and we also hosted two Gypsy Jazz private home concerts this year with new friends we have met in the music community.
We continue to meet the most fascinating people here! After living here for three years we still marvel at our good fortune in finding a place that is such a perfect fit for us. We spend a lot of time with our two closest friends, Eva and Martin, and we have taken some fun trips together to one of the islands off the Dutch coast, several other charming places in Holland, and to Hungary. Of course Frank, Hanneke, and Tanja — friends we have known since the first day we arrived — are still very much in our lives. We continue to meet new friends all the time but we do our best to stay connected to those we have known for many years. (It’s true, Facebook helps!)
We had lots of dinner and garden parties. We redid our garden in the spring and we spend as much time out there as we can when the weather is nice — and when it’s not we tell our guests to put on a sweater! It stays light until 10 pm in the summer so it’s great to be outside. It’s not the 3-acre oceanfront garden we had in Hawaii but it’s much more manageable! And the scenic beauty we experience every day just by living here is extraordinary.
Important note: If you’ve made it this far, you have read our letter and seen the small photos. But in case you haven’t already figured it out, you can roll your mouse over any photo to see the caption, or click on any photo for a slide show of full-size photos. (Some computers, tablets, and smartphones may operate differently.)
Our eclectic, well-dressed 2015 Christmas tree is a perfect reflection of our life in Amsterdam. We are truly grateful every single day for the healthy, happy, extraordinary life we have. Our wish for 2016 is that the people we love will know the same joy we have found.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas season and hoping you can create your own dream lives in 2016.
Harrison and Sharene