Ten minutes before I left for France in October, my mom insisted I buy a ticket home for Christmas- and I am ever so happy that I heeded her demand suggestion.

And as if I didn’t need any more incentive to come home to my wonderful family, Michigan really out-did itself this year with the snow.

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Whenever anyone in France asked me what I was looking forward to most about going home for the holidays, I replied unabashedly, “I’m excited to see my puppy.”

Please, dear readers, meet my beloved Zoe. Isn’t she darling?

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Full disclosure – it took me about 10 shots to get this one of her posing nicely in front of the garland. And you’re lucky I didn’t make a GIF of her playing tug-of-war with her favorite monkey toy.

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Coming home to Michigan means so many things: soy chai latte trips with my baby sister, going out for Lebanese with my brother and failing at painting in my mom’s art studio (she’s an amazing artist but I inherited none of her talent!)

But coming home for Christmas is extra special; try as you might, you just really can’t replicate this atmosphere in a hostel.

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So for Christmas Eve dinner, we invited over my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin, Katie.

Katie brought along her good friend, Rebecca. Being from China, it was Rebecca’s first American Christmas so we tried to make it extra special for her.

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(Rebecca was an absolute doll, but I had a slight face-palm moment when I innocently asked her, “So, how many siblings do you have?” D’oh.)

Seeing everyone together laughing, telling stories and drinking pinot just warmed my heart. I really do adore my family.

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Meet Lou, my wonderful, fellow Francophile step-grandfather who recently turned 85, and my future 13 year-old future DIY and beauty blogger little sis, who we all call Bee. She steals my clothes.

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Anyone who knows me (or reads the comments on my blog) knows how close I am with my grandmother, June, who is an Alabama-born professional jazz pianist and all-around rock star. She is currently writing a book as well as juggling play-writing, acting and her music career- she’s such an inspiration!

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You may remember my dad from posts such as this one, but let me just give him a little shout-out too. My dad, who we affectionately call, “Mr. Fun”, is kind of the coolest dad of all time. And he, like the rest of my family, has also been more than supportive about my adventures and encourages me to keep learning and exploring. P1070026

And then things got a whole lot sweeter – my Aunt Suzanne shipped us a delicious coconut layer cake all the way from Georgia! I love having southern relatives.

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On Christmas Day we had some snow to enjoy!

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Zoe joined in on the fun as well. She strangely is kind of obsessed with snow, despite her 8-pound size and tendency to be shorter than the snow drifts.

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If I’m most thankful for one thing in 2012 it’s being able to spend the holidays with my family. May you and your families all enjoy health, happiness and adventure in 2013.

Love,

Ash

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Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel blogger and freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21, traveled the world for a year and now lives in Denver. She's usually in pursuit of skiing, languages and perfectly ripe cheese. Her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
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