Journal Entries From Dakota

April 10, 2010

This morning we set off just a little after 7:00 am. We loaded my car so it was brimming. Our drive took roughly 14 hours – brutal. We headed up I-88 from Batavia and continued on through Wisconsin and Minnesota. On our way we happened to pass a car that was completely in flames. The family was sitting a few feet away from the car and were clearly distraught. Once we reached South Dakota we stopped at the Corn Palace which as you can imagine was thrilling.

The Corn Palace

When we were about 4 hours away from our destination we watched a bird swoop down and smack someone’s windshield – completely shattered. We eventually turned on to 83 or maybe it’s 38… one of these. Towns, lights, signs, and speed limits all disappeared. We thought at 80 mph most of the way we might make it by 8:30 pm, but to no avail. It was almost 10:30 pm when we arrived.

We met up with Jenny and headed to one of the only-two restaurants in town – Taco John’s. Jenny introduced us to her friends quickly and then we called it a night.


New Words We Learned – and yes, I am most likely misspelling these…

  • Wachichu (“wah-shee-chew”) ~ whitey, honky, what presumably is sort of a derogatory term for caucausians
  • Tatanka ~ Buffalo (Special thank you Kevin Costner and Dances with Wolves)
  • How kalo ~ Hello Friend
  • Kadoka ~ whole-in-the-ground also the name of a town

Enough learning for one night. Time to sleep.


April 11, 2010

We woke up and  headed to Big Bat’s Shell Station (and restaurant) which apparently the main hangout spot in Pine Ridge. One friendly, but possibly drunk guy approached our table and asked…

Random stranger – “Are you guys singers? Will you sing for me?”
Our table – “no, sorry.”
Random stranger – “Well you’ll be singing for me tomorrow because I’m putting ants in your pants, and you’ll be going ‘owwie! owwie! owwie!'”

After some brekkie we drove out to Mount Rushmore. There we hiked and got up close and personal with some wild mountain goats. After that we headed to Custer National Park where we saw Crazy Horse’s Memorial or what some have called the “middle finger” to Mount Rushmore :). It’s still in progress, but will eventually become America’s largest sculpture.

Crazy Horse

Afterwards, we headed through a wildlife loop. There we saw vultures, deer (so many), pronghorn sheep, antelope, and buffalo. We managed to get stuck in a heard of tatanka while we were driving through the park. It was sort of terrifying being so close to these guys. It didn’t help we started playing the “Hey Buffalo!” game (you get a point for every animal that turns their head in your direction when you yell out their species name). Antelope also response to “cantaloupe”  for your information 🙂


We eventually made our way to Rapid City and got some dinner and drinks at the Firehouse Brewery Company. We then headed home (it took about two hours…).


April 12, 2010

Hello again. We got up and met with Jenny. She gave us a tour of the school and the Heritage Center. We ate at the school cafeteria and played with the kiddliwinks. After that, we setoff to the Badlands. Last time I was in the Badlands I was probably about 7 years old, it was raining, and I managed to slip and fall into a giant puddle of mud. We took Notch Trail that led us deep into the Badlands. There were very few signs on the trail and we were led up some treacherous looking ladder that eventually ended at this awesome scenic view. Can you see the ladder we climbed?


When we finished up there we drove out to an indoor waterpark in Rapid City (after stopping by Wall Drug of course). We downed some margaritas at a Mexican joint and then drove home and discussed what our animal-spirit would be. They chose a deer or a hawk for me (two very different creatures…). Jenny got mother hen, Mike got  a monkey, Joe a dog, and Amanda a panda (of course).

April 13, 2010

Matakiosa ~ “All my family & relatives”

Today we woke up bright and early and headed out at 9:30 am for horseback riding. We were supposed to be there at 11:00 am, but were unfortunately late. Although the address said it was in Interior it was actually sort of somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. I got a horse named Festus who was a little finicky. It was ridiculously windy that day. The view was quite lovely and the family that took us out riding was very nice. We were led by an old Lakota man named Greg. He was sort of your typical kind of grumpy, dry-humored old horse-guy. His son was managing the ranch and told us a little about tribal politics and how money is being misused on the reservation.

This is Greg

When we finished our ride it became pretty overcast. It rained heavily on our drive back. We stopped by Wounded Knee and nearly got my car stuck on the muddy hill. Some of the graves were surprisingly well kept while others were barely intact. Overall Wounded Knee looks like it needs some more attention.

Wounded Knee

The best part of the day was when we returned to the reservation and took part in a traditional sweat ceremony. It’s customary for women to wear skirts to this so I had to borrow one from Jenny. We waiting while the locals worked to build a huge fire over stones. A faculty member at the school named Philamene told us about her life when she was growing up. She told us about how an uncle had joined the military and returned home one time with sodas and hotdogs. She said at first taste she thought they were disgusting (with good reason right?). She described some of the traditional fare which included praire dog, skunk, beaver, and much more. There is also a traditional healing recipe (barely-if-ever made) which includes male puppy as an ingredient. I know your first though is probably “ew” and/or something judgmental, but please bear in mind that of course your social norms and traditions are no-doubt different from the Lakota.

Sweat Ceremony

When the rocks were ready we all piled into this small tent and began the process. As rocks were carried in the water-guy – a clown shaman of some kind – threw some sweet grass on the hot stones. You were required to say “matakiosa,” when entering and existing the tent. Once all of the stones were in place, the light holes covered, and people seated we began the ceremony. After the flap was closed the heat intensified. We listened to two sun dance songs and then opened the flap and drank some water. That was the end of Part I of IV. It felt like forever and the heat was shocking. I had to put a towel over my legs and hands to block some of the heat. In the second and third round we each made prayers for family & loved ones while more songs were song. In part IV they cracked out the peace pipe (no, it doesn’t have what you think it has in there). The peace pipe is called a “Chalupa” and includes some combinations of grasses and ragweed (watch out allergies!). When we finished up the men left first followed by the women. As you walk out everyone stands in line and shakes hands or hugs. By this time you’re drenched in quickly evaporating sweat which is followed by a chill. We wrapped up our time together with a bonfire and you guessed it… Philamene’s favorite – hot dogs.

The Tent

Overall, the experience was good. The heat was almost unbearable. I can’t even describe how my face felt when they threw water on the rocks. I’m glad I got to experience that; although, from what the elders had told us many Lakota youth aren’t continuing the tradition. Apparently due to some rules in the constitution the Lakota weren’t permitted to practice their religion and and would be jailed if found performing their ceremonies. How funny that Americans fled Europe because of religious persecution only to begin inflicting the same requirements.

And that my friends, is brief coverage of my adventure to South Dakota! Next up is another quick follow up on my time in Paris. I would love to start planning the next adventure, but I can’t settle on where or when to go. Suggestions?

Lakota in Dakota I’m Coming for You!

Hi there everyone! Long time, no-post and all that.

Jenny and the Gang
Jenny and the Gang

So I am just going to write a quick one here tonight to let you all know I am heading off into the great blue yonder to visit my friend Jenny who is currently working for AmeriCorps. Here’s their X-mas photo.

Don’t know about AmeriCorps? Read about it here:

My dear friend Jenny is volunteering out in Pine Ridge, South Dakota at a Oglala Sioux Native American reservation. There she’s been driving a school bus and bringing kids to class, teaching them, as well as running their extra curriculars, and meanwhile has stayed in contact with our hometown in hopes of getting more volunteers and aid to the Lakota people. Currently amongst our churches Jenny’s family has collected over 100 boxes of books to be donated to the Pine Ridge schools and book fairs!

The Lakota of South Dakota
The Lakota of South Dakota

There is not too much I can tell you yet about Pine Ridge; although, from what I have heard thus far it is one of the poorest counties in the United States.  According to (take it for what it’s worth an’ all that), “The median income for a household in the CDP was $21,089, and the median income for a family was $20,170.” Here’s another little excerpt from you might like to know:

Although Pine Ridge is the eighth largest reservation in the United States, it is also the poorest. Unemployment on the reservation hovers around 80%, and 49% live below the Federal poverty level.[2] Adolescent suicide is four times the national average. Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water, or sewer. Many families use wood stoves to heat their homes. The population on Pine Ridge has among the shortest life expectancies of any group in the Western Hemisphere: approximately 47 years for males and in the low 50s for females. The infant mortality rate is five times the United States national average.

Famous Lakota Touch the Clouds
Famous Lakota Touch the Clouds

So although this may not be the happiest trip I have ever been on, I am sure it will be an insightful one. Depending on the availability of wi-fi and phone coverage (which I hear there is little), I would like to document some of my trip.

Oh Boy!
Oh Boy!

We’ll see how this goes. We have already made plans to visit some of the more tourist-y areas like Wall-Drug, the Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, etc. I was hoping we might be able to attend a sweat ceremony, but unfortunately we are still sitting in the burbs for the time being.

Well I should get to sleep seeing as I have to get up at 6 am tomorrow and drive all day (15 hours! ugh).I will keep you all posted and hopefully I might convince you to either donate some goods or time to the Lakota. Otherwise, at least visit them and give them your business.

Good night everyone and merry travels!

A Hodgepodge of Experiences

Costa Rica!
Costa Rica!

Adventure-a-week (it’s nerdy but fun!)

Okay well that’s Costa Rica on the hanging bridges… adventures each week aren’t that exciting or picturesque, but fun nonetheless!

So another fun little thing I have started in my life recently is – well the name is stupid – but it’s an adventure-a-week. My mom read about someone choosing to do this rather than setting your typical new years resolution. The idea is each week you do something you normally wouldn’t opt to do – or something you’ve been meaning to do but never get around to doing. I started my list off by cleaning and organizing one thing a day. Well, okay, I know that sounds really boring, but I organized my towel closet so now it’s easier to find what i need. I organized the laundry room so now my socks won’t get lost behind the machine.

What else have I accomplished so far? I went to a blues club (above), I’ve been to a heavy metal show, I have started learning to play the guitar, and I have also started crocheting. It’s just sort of a fun way of passing each week. There’s much more to come too. Here are a few I have in mind – feel free to tell me if you think of any others (my friends have: exhume a corpse, ride a mechanical bull, and stage dive…)


  • Paintball
  • Laser tag
  • Cosmic bowling
  • Order seed catalogues and plant a garden
  • Visit a mosque/synagogue/church I have no affinity with
  • Throw a summer party in winter
  • Take a cooking/beverage class
  • Try going to a shooting range
  • and more…


New Seed Catalogues!

Look how cute!
Look how cute!

I’m pretty excited about this one. So far I’ve ordered and received 3 catalogues! There are so many nice flowers and veggies available. It’s just hard to decide which ones to order. Most of these catalogues offer seeds in these absolutely adorable seed packets. I might save them and either enlarge and frame a few that I like or otherwise make them into tree ornaments for Christmas. They have very nice illustrations. If you’re interested in planning out your gardens for spring I suggest you check out this site:

If you click on the photo above it will take you to The Kitchn which has quickly become one of my favorite websites in my Google Reader! There you’ll be linked to a bunch of great places to order seeds from. So far I am thinking our house needs some butterfly mix and maybe a hummingbird mix. Some of these seed places also offer awesome little gift boxes too that include for example: Cottage Garden Seed Collection, Fragrant Flower Seed Collection, and Sweetheart Seed Collection. In any case, I just wanted to share this fun little find with you all. I’m excited for spring!!!

This is My Second One!
This is My Second One!

I Just Learned How to Crochet!

Another one of my “adventures” here: my friend Shauna has just taught me how to crochet. Unfortunately as would be expected, I kept dropping stitches on my first attempt. My scarf had tapered into nothingness so I had to start over again. Thanks Shauna!


Guitar Legend: I Think Not…


My Guitar


Okay, guitar I haven’t exactly been excelling. I know G. I could tell you there are 6 strings and there are a bunch of frets. So far my fingers are too weak to hold down the strings – specifically my pinky – baby! I’ve been trying to learn the Plain White T’s song “Hey There Delilah” which I happen to enjoy and which I’m also informed was written after:

“Higgenson met Delilah DiCrescenzo, a nationally ranked American steeplechase and cross country runner.”

Thank you wikipedia. You’re always there for me.

Any-who, so far no luck. I can play the very beginning of the song so long as I don’t have to move my left hand whatsoever. I did happen to stumble across this nice tabulator place that will play the music for you while also showing the leader bar moving through the tabulator.

Here check it out:


Alice in Wonderland

Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!” – Rabbit


Time to get back to work.  Happy adventures everyone!  Spring will be here soon. Get READY!

Dans la Nuit

Hello again ladies and gents!

Vivienne's Plane Meal
Vivienne's Plane Meal

This morning we woke up and went through our morning baby-breakfast routine and got ready for the day.  There is usually a small smiling face waking me up with some violently waving arms and legs.  After a little bit of preparation a delicious pot of mushy carrots or some sort of rice mix cereal comes flying towards the little hopper – which she’s not too quick to accept.  Vivienne has discovered how delicious “breakfast” cookies can be  especially with the addition of some youtube’d Elmo.  We have re-lived the yup-yup aliens of Sesame Street, danced with Feist in Yo Gabba Gabba, and unfortunately ended Lamb Chop’s “Song That Never Ends”.  So far my favorites have been clips from Disney’s Fanstasia.

Once we pulled the stroller down the stairs and strapped the little gal in, we headed over near the Pompidou (which has just recently opened back up) and did a little shopping.  I found these adorable leggings that were 30 euro at the BHV (similar to a Target or some well-known department store).  I thankfully bought my leggings for considerably cheaper.

Near Saint Eusteche
Near Saint Eusteche

We eventually made our way to this nice little brasserie.  I, of course, ordered steak with mushrooms and a delicious cheesy-potato mash combo (with Bearnaise sauce on the side – let’s not skimp on the tastiness).  This meal of course brought on the “meat-sleeps” and after a short nap, my brother and I headed off to the Louvre.

The Louvre!
The Louvre!

On Wednesday nights their hours are later (9:30pm), and we were able to cover most of the sections we were interested in.  We went through most of the Middle Ages, stopped by the Etruscans, sauntered through Napoleon’s apartment, and headed down to the Louvre’s original foundation.  Unfortunately I can’t find the cable for my camera otherwise I would be showing you all some very nice pictures… Instead I’ll show you some others from previous days.

Louvre Ceiling
Louvre Ceiling

It will probably sound ridiculous when I write this, but in Napoleon’s apartment I felt like most of my favorite pieces were sort of a challenge. I thought to myself  “I would like this in my home, but not that gawdy chandelier over there. I’ll bet I could make this ____.”  Of course, this is ridiculous – the man who created this ____ had years of practice and experience as well as having a country’s worth of resources to make this one silly little ____ (teapot, desk, lamp, you name it).   Like most art projects and grandiose plans, I make for myself I began thinking “ok. I could start by finding someone with a kiln or a metalworking shop and then just a few weeks of planning and gathering materials and easy peezy: here we have one perfectly rendered ____ (amazingly intricate silver water bowl covered in pearls and shells)…”

Louvre Dude
Louvre Dude

What’s the point in this story?  I ask myself…  It makes me happy that great pieces of work like these are treasured, saved and shared.  It makes me very happy to know that these pieces are available to the public and inspire people – even if they probably won’t hop right into a marble carving project. Oh lovely art.  How I love you so.

When we had finally exhausted our urge for art we hopped the metro and got off near Montmarte. We found another little brasserie right below Sacre Coeur. There I ordered a Croque Monsieur and a Pelforth Brune. It was pretty tastey; however, our service was awful. There was a soccer game on and a band playing downstairs so our server was completely distracted. Finally by about 11ish at night we reached Sacre Coeur and MAN is it BEAUTIFUL! I don’t mean just the building itself but the location. We were standing on the edge of this wonderful hill where you can see Paris’s entire skyline. We could see Notre Dame and our neighborhoodFrance! far off in the distance as well as the Eiffel Tower all lit up for the evening. It’s one of those views you just have to see atleast once during your lifetime. I am not even going to try to find a picture that will prove to you how nice this place is.

Now I have finally made it back home (home for now) and I am writing to you loverly friends and readers.  This was a very enjoyable day!

Vive La France!

The Post-iest with the Most-iest

Me and Amy
Me and Amy

Hello All!

Which of course is mostly just me thus far.  Here is my first deliciously bloggy post –

are you ready?

So I am here in Paris in the third quarter drinking some mint tea and obviously computing away. I have been living in this somewhat uncomfortably small but beautifully decorated little flat with my brother, sister-in-law, and relatively new little niece. The space is an issue, but the location is perfect! We’re close to pretty much everything!  It really is awesome here – despite the space constraints or the missing appliances…  So far we have hit Notre Dame, the Concorde,  the Grand Palais, the BHV (lol), the Eiffel Tower, and the Sorbonne. It is pretty amazing! I have been able to eat, see and do so many things since arriving. Neil and Amy have been so gracious in bringing me with on their trip.

The Illustrius Tower
The Illustrious Tower

My favorite meal thus far was a steak with bearnaise sauce I had near the Sorbonne at this great Brasserie Balzar. Amy, Vivienne, and I stopped at this little place around the corner from the Sorbonne before a free performance. The music was Baroque (or to the untrained ear “broke” har har har) and I know my dad would have loved it. That delicious steak was accompanied by another of my favorites – perfectly buttered pomme puree (mashed potatoes – which surprisingly enough our new little mouth, Viv, detests).

One of my best photos (in my opinion) so far was on the back end of Notre Dame on my solo expedition.

Notre Dame's Fine Behind!
Notre Dame's Fine Behind!

Some of my best shopping experiences so far include a great find at a thrift store called “Free P*** Star” – yes, you fill in the gaps. I’m pretty sure it means what I think it means – and no they don’t sell clothes related specifically to that profession. The other great finds were discovered while perusing France’s largest flea market. Awesome goods! I have so many knickknacks and brick a brack that I think I am set for life – or at least one apartment’s worth of decorating. I will post later, but I discovered these great old prints/postcards of Sacre Couer and Montematre taken in somewhere around 1915. I also walked away with this great older lovers postcard with a full love letter written on the back, a little muchoir (kerchief) that is tres jolie! and some great kitsch. The shopping here is right up my alley – but that really isn’t too hard to accomplish!

In any case, since coming here I have been keeping a written journal – as a reminder to myself all of the details of the trip and possibly for aiding future family members in planning their trips. I will have to type up those entries as well since they are all part of the Parisian goodness I have been lucky enough to experience.

So for now just to serve as a brief introduction to my blog and to catch up on events thus far, here are a few random and favorite pictures from our trip.

Thanks all and merry travels – if not that then at least holidays and future journeys!

Another of my Favorites!
Another of my Favorites!