Christmas Tree Expedition

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It’s never too early in the Butenhof family to pick out a Christmas tree. That’s why we set out on our tree-scouting expedition the day after Thanksgiving, while we were able to get, for however briefly, the whole family in one place.

Finding a Christmas tree is an intricate, highly ritualized practice for our family. Christmas tree farms don’t seem to last for very long these days, so every few years when our favorite closes down, we have to shop around at maybe five different potential-replacements until my mom finally finds one that meets her standards.

If you happen to live around New England, our current go-to is Lahti Tree Farm in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. My little sister gives every tree a pretty intense scan, checking for scent, sharpness, fullness, color, personality, god-knows-what-else. It’s a lot for one pine tree to have to live up to, but nearly every tree at Lahti’s passed her test.

Anyways, I love that we pick our tree so early, because it’s never really Christmas until the tree is up and the ornaments placed. Whatever day the tree comes home is the day my Christmastime officially starts, and the more Christmastime, the better! 🙂


Thanksgiving Goes International

Thanksgiving celebrates the original Thanksgiving feast, at which pilgrims and Native Americans dined together for three days to give thanks to God for guiding them to the New World and giving them such a successful harvest. As such, understandably, Thanksgiving is primarily a North American custom.

But it turns out that while Thanksgiving commemorates a North American historical occurrence, it is actually celebrated in many different places   world wide!

Although also North American, Canada celebrates a Thanksgiving Day, or ‘Jour de l’Action de grâce’, which takes place on the second Monday of October, rather than the fourth Thursday in November. The Canadian Thanksgiving remains pretty much identical to the US version; it marks the end of a successful harvest and involves turkey and cornucopias. A fun fact about Canadian Thanksgiving though is that even though the actual holiday falls on a Monday, the dinner is eaten on any day of the preceding weekend, although Sunday is most common.

A Thanksgiving feast is also observed in the West Indian island nation of Grenada. Although the holidays share the same name and the same general placement on the calendar, the two are, unsurprisingly, unconnected. Grenada’s Thanksgiving actually marks the United States-led invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, in 1983. I don’t know much about the politics of Grenada (population 100,000), but the Invasion of Grenada was led to restore constitutional government after a military coup for years previous. The Invasion seems to be a point of debate, supported by the US and parts of Grenada, but condemned by the United Kingdom, Canada and the UN. Either way, the event is now marked by a Thanksgiving celebration on October 25th.

The Netherlands also celebrate Thanksgiving, as many of the pilgrims who travelled to Plymouth Plantation, the site of the original United States Thanksgiving feast, came from the Dutch city of Leiden.

But in my opinion, the most interesting Thanksgiving celebration takes place in West Africa, in the country of Liberia. If you’re initial reaction to a Thanksgiving feast in Liberia is confusion, you’re not alone. It is in fact linked with the North American Thanksgiving and occurs every year on the first Thursday of November. Liberia was founded by freed slaves from the US, so they have maintained many ties with American culture, including, apparently, a Thanksgiving feast. The Liberian Thanksgiving menu consists of roast chicken, green bean casserole, mashed cassavas and a whole lot of cayenne pepper. I’ll stick to turkey and sweet potato, but to each his own. 🙂

Radio City Christmas Spectacular


reindeer rockettes

Last week I was pretty excited to find out that I was number  one on the list (my friend later informed me this is merely  because the list was in alphabetical order, but whatever, I  want my moment) of students who’d won the raffle for  tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular! I mean, the  Radio City Christmas show is one of the staples of  Christmas in NYC, like checking out the tree in Rockefeller   Center or the display windows at Macy’s. Never mind that it  was still a week before Thanksgiving; apparently NYC firmly believes it’s never too early to get into the Christmas spirit (I’ll have you know that the tree is already up, the window displays out, buskers playing Christmas tunes, wreaths on the buildings and light-up snowflakes dangling above the streets).

Anyways, ever since I can remember I’ve had this vague picture of Radio City and the infamous ‘Rockettes’, who I always sort of envisioned as a classier, holiday version of The Pussycat Dolls. I knew there was dancing, short skirts and eye-high kicks that looked nigh physically impossible. That being said, I think my vision of The Rockettes was skewed as everything I knew about them I learned from Val Clark of A Chorus Line (Dance ten, looks three!).

So when I took my seat in that gigantic theater, I was expecting some showy, glitzy dance numbers, something like Chicago meets The Nutcracker, but instead what I got was this watered-down clockwork concoction, too insipid to hold the attention of any person, child or adult, I know.

I think the number one problem is that while I love dance, I’ve always viewed it as an art form, using movement as a canvas to portray emotion and passion. But the Rockette style of dance, famous for its precision, revolves more around executing repetitive dance moves one after the other rather than actually using it as a medium for any sort of expression.

But despite the fact that over half the choreography consisted of synchronized walking and perfectly-unified tap step tap step’s, there were a few moments of genuinely inspired and impressive dance-movement, especially in one of the initial tap numbers.

Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City

Image via Wikipedia

It was more a combo of the story and the music  that really did the show in. I don’t know if you’ve  witnessed the ‘thrilling’ new second act in which 3-D is incorporated into the story with absolutely no purpose or effect, but I’d  consider myself lucky if I hadn’t. This new installment  involves dressing The Rockettes up like green Christmas bugs to march in formation for twenty minutes and repeatedly pretend to zap 3-D fairies, all in order to help a mother and her daughter re-grasp the spirit of Christmas and meaning of family by playing a good old-fashioned video game together. This is the 2010 version of family bonding.

As hard as Santa tried to convince me that it was Christmas spirit and not boredom overtaking me, he wasn’t quite compelling enough. Even as the mother of the story serenaded the audience, belting passionately something about how, “All I wanted was to find an awesome toy, but then Santa brought us here, and now I have Christmas joy!” Or something like that. You get the idea. The strongest emotions I could conjure up was an intense pity for those poor, poor Rockettes, once mighty symbols of success and poise, prancing around the stage dressed as green Power Rangers, throwing dance-punches at 3-D gingerbread men. I know Val would be just as disappointed as I was.


Video of the Week

I showed this video to my little sister about a year ago and it launched an obsession of epic proportions. Just warning you; once you start watching, you might not be able to stop.

So, he puts up a lot of gaming-related videos, but what first caught my notice were his ‘literal trailers’. The gist is he takes a trailer for a video game or movie and sing-narrates everything that goes on along with the background music in a particularly amusing fashion. 🙂

This is the first one my friend showed me, and also, my personal favorite:


But you should check out the others too. 🙂 Not gonna lie, some are kind of lame, but some are pretty awesome. And my sister has most of them downloaded on her iPod, so, that should tell you something. Definitely check it out!


– Amy

Ghost Towns


This week’s song is beautiful and haunting (fitting, considering the title). I love absolutely everything about it, especially when it kicks into the chorus. I really don’t have much to say about it, you just have to listen: the drums, the guitar, the lyrics, the voice, the… I think it’s a harmonica? Whatever it is, it’s all beautiful, and perfect for when I get into my angsty/introspective moods and need a fitting song on my iPod to go trouncing around campus with.

The song is Ghost Towns, and the band is Radical Face.


One More Thing

That’s right!!!!! 11/11/11!!!! Aaaah! I hope you all made your wishes. 🙂 But if you missed it, you’ve still got 11:11 PM 11/11/11 to make it happen!

It’s gonna be a really good day, I can feel it! 🙂 I already got a pretty quality time I’m on my 2k test this morning for crew, and I had a wonderful breakfast and am preparing for a wonderful lunch, and I’m going shopping and I’ve got a party tonight and, oh yeah, I auditioned for Glee (again) ! You should probably check it out. 🙂

It was just a good week overall! I don’t really have much to update you on, but I’m just in a really good mood right now. 🙂 Counting down the days to Thanksgiving!!! Family and good food, what could possibly be better than that?

I am super-bummed I’m missing my little sister’s show this weekend back in NH. :\ She’s Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I’m sure it’s going to be supercalifragilistic, but unfortunately I’ll be up here freezing in NY. 😦

Do you know what the history behind 11:11 is?

Neither do I. But my friend down the hall says that he thinks it derives from Armistice Day being 11/11, and somehow that translated to wishes of peace which became make a wish at 11:11. I don’t know if that really makes any sense, but I’ve heard crazier . 🙂 Anyways, because I’m on a bit of a sugar high and probably not making much sense right now, I’m just going to end this post where it is and wish you all a incredibly wonderful 11/11/11. 🙂

Till Monday,


Untranslatable Phrases


My thesaurus.

I love words. For as long as I can remember I’ve dreaded math class but awaited English with eager anticipation. My number one rule for writing  is always have a thesaurus on hand, because I firmly believe that for every different combination of emotion and motivation or intent, there is one perfect word. It’s not just about the meaning of the word when you’re writing, it’s about the sound, how it flows with the rest of the sentence.  The components of writing aren’t isolated like that; it’s all connected.

English is a beautiful language; it’s malleable, the words easy to shape  into the messages I need to get across. But every once in a while, it fails me; English is a vast language, but there are still portions of the expansive human range of emotion that it sometimes can’t cover. That’s why I have such a love for untranslatable phrases from other languages, those words that just don’t have an English equivalent. So today I’m going to share some of my favorites with you! 🙂

1. Schadenfreude – One of the most famous untranslatable phrases (even has a song dedicated to it!), schadenfreude is that German word which describes ‘enjoyment obtained from the trouble of others’. Pronounced ‘Shaw-den-froy-duh’.

2. Torschlusspanik – Another German word pronounced ‘Torsh-la-pawn-ik’. The fear of closing opportunities in life as we grow older.

3. Duende – A Spanish word which refers to that prickle-down-the-spine, inspirational feeling you get when you see a piece of art that really moves you. Pronounced ‘Doo-en-day’

4. Tartle – Scottish word meaning to hesitate when introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name. Pronounced like you’d expect. ^_^

5. Shnourkovat Sya – A really useful Russian term for those  obnoxious drivers that keep switching lanes for absolutely no reason. Pronunciation: I honestly have no idea.

6. Épater la Bourgeoisie – This French phrase could be used as a battle cry for punks everywhere (although maybe it doesn’t quite have the edge they’re looking for). It means ‘to shock the Bourgeoisie’, or the middle class. Pronounced ‘ay-pah-tay la bour-jwa-zee’.

7. Creerse La Ultima Coca-Cola en el Desierto – A Spanish phrase used in Central America that literally means ‘to think one is the last Coca-Cola in the desert’. It’s a particularly wonderful way to call someone full of themselves. 🙂 You can pretty much sound this one out!

8. Jayus –  An Indonesian term used for those occasions when someone tells a joke so painfully unfunny that you just have to laugh. Pronounced ‘Jie-oose’.

9. Zeitgeist – Another well-known German phrase meaning ‘the spirit of the times’, referring to cultural, social and political movements. Pronounced ‘zite-guy-ste’ ( <– I know that’s not exactly the most proper way to depict pronunciation, but it’s right! ^_^ )

10. L’Esprit de l’Escalier  – My favorite, a French phrase meaning ‘the spirit staircase’. It’s used to describe that moment when you walk away from a situation and suddenly the perfect comment or comeback pops into your head, but it’s too late to use it. Pronounced ‘less-pree der less-cal-yay’. 🙂

So there you go, your vocabulary has now been expanded by that much, as well as your worldliness. 🙂 Go forth and spread these wonderful phrases through the nations!