Merry Christmas everyone!! I'm here in Connecticut for my family Christmas vacation. It's great being here with everybody and I'm having a lot of fun with my cousins. It didn't snow this morning, in spite of our efforts of cutting out snowflakes and watching "White Christmas." But it's still very wintery outside and the muted pastels of the New England sky behind bare branches make it a postcard Christmas anyway. It's strange taking this break away from my life in Lyon. I feel like I've already forgotten my French and that my whole life there was just some fantasy I made up. But I'll go back and then this side of the mirror will seem like the dream. Maybe I'll get visitors one day and then the worlds can combine a bit... Today is the wonderful culmination of a Christmas season that included the Festival of Lights (Fête des lumières) and a hot wine and ginger cookie party to christen my new place. The Festival of Lights is a huge three-day lighting of the town of Lyon. It's rumored to attract 3 million visitors per year. There were fantastic displays all over the city, including a giant Ferris Wheel at Place Bellecour; 3D projections on a church in Old Lyon; and grand arches all over the Rue de la République. But mostly the atmosphere was fantastic, with everyone out and about, drinking hot wine and eating roasted chestnuts. Though seriously lacking money, I really wanted to invite people over to my new place. Hot wine and ginger cookies were reasonable and it made for a very festive atmosphere. My friend Kaci and I spent the day before making snowflakes for my window too. I wasn't able to fit a ton of people into my studio, but the eight of us were still relatively comfortable and talked about our plans for the holiday and our countries' Christmas traditions. My voyage here was probably one of the worst in my life. But as it's Christmas I don't really feel like recounting it. It just involves being very sick and unhappy for about 12 hours. But, as cheesy as it sounds, seeing the smiles on my cousins' faces make it worth it. Seven and nine, they both received an absolutely incredible pile of presents. Really, they've played with a new one at least every hour and haven't gone back to the last one. But my older sister and I have been playing quite a bit with their toys too, so they're not the only guilty ones. It's so great that my two cousins are finally old enough to interact with. I feel like I've been waiting so long. But now I can ask them questions and get meaningful responses. It's going to be so interesting to see what kind of people they will grow up to be. These are really the only children I've ever known, except the ones I grew up with. Well, it's about time to open the stockings, so I'd better not keep them waiting. Merry Christmas everyone. May the presence of family be more comforting than the presents of Christmas.