Gray’s Lake

So, it’s springtime! Well, I guess it technically has been for a while, but now it finally feels like it. The Drake campus is happy, warm, and bright. And people are out and about. Which is great. Love those people. In my earlier days at Drake, I would lounge on the grass outside of my residence halls in warm weather or hang out with friends outside of the library. We’d talk, study, read, and well, mostly talk, to be honest.

As wonderful as all that was, these days, in my oh-so-mature years, I often find myself needing a little peace and quiet to think and get stuff done. That’s not to say that I still don’t spend time with others enjoying the spring, going to ball games, eating ice cream, and everything, but there is something very appealing in the idea of a solitary escape to nature every now and then.

I guess my version of nature is still not exactly “natural,” but it is outdoors, and it works for me. This past week, I took some time and went to Gray’s Lake. It’s kind of an urban-feeling park just a few minutes from campus, and connected by bike trails to downtown Des Moines. There’s people parasailing, sail boating, running, walking dogs, playing with kids. There’s even a beach with sand where people can lay out and go swimming in the lake. I know it sounds like I’m describing a George Seurat painting or something, and actually, I guess I kind of am.

Gray’s Lake is an idyllic spot in a lot of ways. It seemed like the whole Des Moines community was there the other day, and yet, I still found a spot under a willow tree, in the grass, near the bank of the lake to relax and read and just be. It was the kind of spot that made me want to recite Keats and read Wordsworth. The kind of spot that made me want to drink some lemonade and just take a nap. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it was refreshing to be outside on a beautiful day. Not exactly a revolutionary statement, I know. But a powerful one nonetheless.

Pros and Cons of Drake Relays

So, it’s done. I’ve celebrated my last Drake Relays as a student. I’d like to think I’ll be back in future years to once again join in the festivities, but for now, I think it’s important to reflect upon what has passed and the glorious—and not so glorious— moments of the Drake relays season. So, here’s my list of the Pros and Cons of the Drake Relays.

Me and my buddies soaking in the Relays craziness at Drake Stadium.

Me and my buddies soaking in the Relays craziness at Drake Stadium.

Pro—Everybody’s here!                                                            Alumni, parents, family, friends, future Bulldogs, plus all those world-class athletes…campus pretty much triples come Drake Relays season. And it’s wonderful. It’s the best time of the year to catch up with classmates and see friends who have graduated. There’s events going on every day of the week, and no matter where you are, you’re bound to see people you know.

Con—Everybody’s here.                                                                    I mean, people are great and all, but this campus can only hold so many. To be honest, by the time Relays are over, I’m definitely ready for the crowds to disperse… and for people to give me back my parking spots.

Pro—I actually care about track events                                     This is the one week of the year when you can talk to me about the triple jump or ask my opinion on a pole vaulting champion and I will give you an enthusiastic response. I mean, I really get into it. Seeing world records getting broken at Drake Stadium and people pole-vaulting over the street’s of downtown’s Court Avenue makes a crazy track fan out of me. And though I’m still not super sure what a steeplechase is or how people defy the laws of physics to high jump, I’m a huge fan nonetheless.

Con—I forget to care about school                                                                                                                                       The thing is, for some reason, they don’t cancel classes for Relays. School moves on…but I don’t always move on with it. When there are concerts, gatherings, and track events going on constantly, it’s really hard to focus on homework, projects, and papers. So I didn’t. Now, this week, reality is hitting home and I’m left to pick up the pieces from past Abbey’s negligence.

Pro—WE LOVE DRAKE!!!                                                                                                                                                     Relays is undoubtedly the most spirited time to be on Drake’s campus. We’re all filled with so much joy, noise, and Bulldog pride that it’s honestly kind of crazy. But we’re in it together. Seeing everyone around Des Moines in their Drake gear all week, you know you share a bond with these people.

Con— I’m so tired.                                                                                                                                                                   All that spirit and joy is great, but it’s also a lot. This week, I’m honestly left a little emotionally drained. I mean, it’s a lot of work screaming and supporting and being enthused all the time. I guess it’s just my burden to bear, though.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore

It’s almost hard to believe that when I first came to Drake I could barely use a hammer. Okay, to tell the truth, I still miss my nail about 50% of the time, but that’s improvement. The point is that before I arrived on campus, I had no idea I would become involved with Habitat for Humanity, much less become co-president of the Drake campus chapter. But these days, my work with Habitat is one of the most important, rewarding parts of my life.

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This past weekend, I got the opportunity to delve into one of my favorite parts of one of my favorite organizations with a trip to the Greater Des Moines ReStore. Habitat’s ReStore is what I like to call a mixture between Lowe’s and Goodwill. It consists of tons of donated home improvement and décor items, sold at discount prices. And all the funds from the store go right back to Habitat to help fund their work in the local community.

So, on Saturday, I went with a Drake Habitat group to volunteer at the Restore. We hung up giant area rugs for display, assisted customers, painted carts, took apart sink hardware, and even moved refrigerators and other large appliances. Pretty impressive, right? More so, it was a lot of fun to lend a hand and talk with members of the Des Moines community and Habitat staff. Plus, as it turns outs, I’m a pretty fantastic area rug salesperson. It’s always nice to have a fallback plan.

Joe Biden Visits Drake

So this week, Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, came to Drake University. The occasion was filled with majesty, grandeur, and a thriving political and economic discourse. Okay, so full disclosure: I was not there. But I heard it was great.

Sorry to disappoint everyone as I know you were counting on my firsthand political take and detailed economic analysis of the Vice President’s message. But I do have an excuse as I was in class and at work during VP’s appearance. Ah, yet another example of how the American political system keeps the working class down. Just kidding!…Well, kind of.

The point is that I saw the Vice President’s secret service SUVs, network news crews, and a whole bunch of important people in suits roaming around campus this week, and honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I know that sounds disrespectful, but what I mean is that over my four years at Drake, I’ve gotten to see some pretty important people here on campus and in Des Moines. I’m talking about individuals like Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter, and, Diane Sawyer hanging out on campus. I met Rashida Jones and Adam Scott and heard Tim Gunn speak. And the night before President Obama got elected for his second term, I went downtown to hear him speak and listen to the Boss play. (That’s Bruce Springsteen, for you youths out there.)

What I’m saying is, we’re kind of a big deal. And though I’m used to the rotating cast of politicians, celebrities, and world leaders rolling through campus, I’m never gonna stop appreciating just how cool it is.

Doughnut Tour of Des Moines

This weekend, some of the best athletes in the nation have reached the pinnacle of their profession. After years of training and studying, injury and sacrifice, they’re playing in the Superbowl, the peak of American athleticism. Meanwhile, I too have achieved greatness this weekend. Like my comrades in the NFL, I’ve trained for years, and was able to showcase my skills in the best possible way: A Donut Tour of Des Moines. I know. Pretty impressive, right?

The thing is, I was craving a doughnut, but wasn’t quite sure where to go. So, like any good American, I just decided to eat all the donuts, to experience all that Des Moines had to offer in the field. I grabbed my roommate and we set off on a noble quest for fried dough. We decided to eat one doughnut at each place, and to keep going around the city until either time and/or sickness stopped us. And though we didn’t make it very far, we did experience some great, delicious, and unique doughnuts in the city of Des Moines.

They look pretty good, right?

They look pretty good, right?

Donut Hut

The first stop on our journey was also probably the best. A family-owned shop filled with homemade doughnuts, you really can’t beat the fun, community vibe of the Donut Hut. I had a Cookie Dough Donut and it may have been the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. It was good. The owners were really lovely, friendly people, and just made it an awesome experience. But honestly, even if they were terrible people, it would be worth it for those fresh homemade doughnuts.

Donut King

Our second stop on the grand tour took us to the Donut King. Majestic, right? Despite the royal name, Donut King was actually a really adorable, down-to-earth place. It’s set up like an old school diner with a long bar, swivel stools, and an old-fashioned cash register. Oh, and the doughnuts? They were pretty great too. My red velvet concoction was definitely worth the trip to West Des Moines.

Mahalo Mini Donuts

Our third, and sadly last, stop brought a little fun and diversity to the Des Moines doughnut experience. Not only does Mahalo serve batches of mini donuts, but they have island-inspired flavors and toppings like coconut, blueberry, and s’mores. Through the setting inside Jordan Creek Mall isn’t as charming as the other two shops, the donuts themselves were actually really good and fresh.

By this point, we were pretty full, I’m not going to lie to you. Although we had grand ambitions to survey the entire Des Moines doughnut market, alas, this was not the time. Nonetheless, we found some great new doughnut spots, and got a dose of inspiration for Doughnut Tour II, coming soon.

Internships @ Drake

Internship. It can be a scary word for college students. One that conjures up images of coffee-fetching, menial drudgery, or the strategically worded resume. We’re often told that you can’t go anywhere post-grad without some successful internships under your belt. And though I think that philosophy is perhaps a little dramatic, it’s not entirely untrue. In fact, probably the main reason I came to Drake is because I knew there was a plethora of internship opportunities to give me real world experience before I even left college. Being situated right in the heart of Des Moines, means Drake is connected to massive industries just minutes from campus. And to be honest, most college towns just simply can’t compete with those resources.

I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of Drake’s location and connections for some incredible internships in my college career. I spent a year at the Meredith Corporation working for and alongside some of the biggest names in magazine publishing. Then I spent the summer pursuing my dream of non-profit communications. This year, I’m working as a marketing and communications intern with the Boys & Girls Club of Central Iowa. In this position, I get to travel to the different Boys & Girls Club sites in the Des Moines area, write stories and take photography to illustrate the stories of club kids, and work on social media promotion. Essentially, I get to do what I love while hanging out with some really awesome kids. Sorry if this sounds braggy, but what I’m saying is that my job is kind of the best.

Some of the Boys & Girls Club kids. Who wouldn't wanna hang out with those cuties?

Some of the Boys & Girls Club kids. Who wouldn’t wanna hang out with those cuties?

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Drake has been entrenched in my internship experience from the very beginning. Not only did I get the job because my future boss came to speak in one of my classes, but I often work in a club site right across from campus, and collaborate with Drake students and alumni in the Boys & Girls Club organization every day. And maybe the best part? There’s nary a coffee run in sight.

Obviously I talk about myself quite a bit, but my experience is definitely not unique. Every Drake student I know has had at least one internship experience, and perhaps more importantly, at least one truly meaningful internship experience with real responsibilities and learning opportunities. So I’ll revise the previously stated internship maxim. It’s not that you can’t go anywhere post-grad without some successful internships under your belt. It’s that you’ll go so much further and be much so better prepared if you have completed meaningful internships. Although I’m just now figuring this out, I guess Drake has known it all along.

Fall Festivites in Des Moines

Did y’all know that pumpkins grow on these long stems and you actually have to pull them out of the ground? I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. I got a chance to witness the whole earthy process this weekend when a group of friends and I trekked out to Center Grove Orchard, about 30 minutes away from Des Moines.

And though I joke a little, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen pumpkins on stems in the fields like that before. Let me tell you, it was incredible. Though I was the subject of many “city girl discovers the simple life” jokes from my friends, I really was fascinated by all that Center Grove had to offer. I’ve talked before about how Des Moines is this awesome cultured, urban area, but by venturing out past the city a little, Des Moines has also given me the opportunity to experience the farm life that I’ve only ever seen in Footloose.

It's the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

It’s the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

It really was this kind of refreshing foray into nature for me. After spending time soaking in the blue sky and the sight of these beautiful fields, I came back feeling better, happier, clearer somehow. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m basically Thoreau.

But besides the soul-cleansing benefits of the orchard, it was just a lot of fun. We took a hay ride around the farm, got to visit with some baby animals, spent time literally picking our own pumpkins, and then got to drink some awesome apple cider at the end. Plus, I saw approximately 3 different babies dressed in pumpkin outfits. You can’t tell me that’s not the cutest thing in the world.

And by the end of the day, maybe I even became a bit of a farm girl myself. I mean, I did drive a tractor while at the orchard. Okay, to be fair, it was a pedal operated tractor meant for children, but I’ve got to start small. I’m not Kevin Bacon.

Best Food in Des Moines

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting lovely Des Moines to catch up with friends, eat, set up a new apartment, eat, and also do some eating. Honestly, I didn’t realize how much I missed the food of Des Moines until I came back into the fold over these past couple days. Now I’m no culinary expert, but I have seen some Top Chef in my day, and let me tell you, the ‘ol DSM can dish up some meals worthy of the flawless Padma Lakshmi. I’ve listed some of my current favorites below, but what are your top DSM restaurant picks? Where do I still need to try?

Best Pizza Joint- Gusto

Though it might not technically be in the Drake neighborhood, Gusto really is the perfect local pizza place. With cool Italian-inspired pizza combinations (like my fav The Stallion) and perfect location just minutes from campus, it really has become my weekend go-to. One time I even saw a professor and her family there, so if that isn’t cute I don’t know what is.

Best Ice Cream- Snookies

Okay, so ice cream may not formally be considered food, but to me, it’s the most important food there is. And Snookies does it better than anybody. An old-fashioned malt shop with awesome dipped cones, the place is a Drake neighborhood must. In fact, it’s one of the earliest places I visited with my FYS during welcome weekend my first year. Seeing the families, students, kids, and even dogs all hanging out eating ice cream together made me know I made the right college decision.

The awesome, quirky back deck at Centro. Just kidding! It's Mullet's.

The awesome, quirky back deck at Centro. Just kidding! It’s Mullet’s.

Best Fancy Dinner- Centro

I’m not gonna lie to you, this place is not exactly budget friendly (unless you have the budget of a midwestern James Bond). But it is the place to celebrate big occasions or simply splurge a little on incredible food. And now that I’ve finally figured out how to pronounce “Centro”, I’m excited to go back. Wait, it’s “chen-tro”, right? Oh, no. I’m still not sure.

Best Game-Day Food- Mullet’s

The game in this case is baseball, but really, Mullet’s is good anytime. It’s a quirky place with a beautiful outdoor deck overlooking the river and Iowa Cubs stadium. And while all that is nice, it’s not as nice as the delicious sweet potato tots you can get there. Oh, and did I mention the copious photos of mullet-clad gentlemen that line the walls?

Best Location- Dos Rios

I know this makes me sound a little basic, but you really cannot beat Dos Rios chips and guac. Seriously, they’re the best. Plus, there’s nothing like sitting out on the patio in the heart of downtown Des Moines’s Court Avenue district with all the people, all the restaurants, and all the guac.

Des Music of Des Moines

This weekend marks the annual 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines. While I sadly will not be able to make it this year, somehow the festival has found the strength to proceed without me. And I couldn’t be more excited for/jealous of my friends who will be there. It’s a great lineup of musicians I’ve loved for years (Dr. Dog, Best Coast, The Envy Corps, Conor Oberst, Cake…), and local artists I’m just now falling in love with (MAIDS, Max Jury, Parlours, The River Monks…).  I mean, come on; it’s gonna be great! If you’re telling me you didn’t jam out to “First Day of My Life” back in the day, then you are a boldfaced liar, cause that stuff is indie gold. As is the whole lineup, actually.

Last year’s 80/35 was no different. I caught a really cool mix of local artists and big-time acts. Some of my favorite times were listening to the incredible Dustin Smith then heading over to catch the equally incredible Yeasayer followed by the David Byrne and St. Vincent show to end all shows. And all of this music set against the beautiful downtown Des Moines skyline? It’s perfect.

But 80/35 is not just a one-time phenomenon. In fact, the festival is symptomatic of something that all us residents know to be true: Des Moines is consistently an incredible music city. It’s a small enough town that great artists get a chance to grow and you get to see them do it. But the city’s also big enough to host tons of festivals, showcases, and music venues. I’ve seen jazz, rock, metal, hip-hop, indie, folk, and more all within the city. So while Nashville’s great and New York has a lot going for it, the best place to check out music in this fair United States might just be Des Moines, Iowa.


Best Places to Watch the World Cup in Des Moines

It can be lonely being a soccer fan in America. You fruitlessly explain to friends that the game is not just for second graders in a YMCA league. You wake up on Saturday mornings, all alone, to catch the latest Premier League action. You fight to describe that David Beckham is not why they call soccer “The Beautiful Game”…although he might be a contributing factor.

But every four years, something magical happens: the World Cup. Suddenly, for one month in the middle of summer, people actually care about soccer. We come together as a global community to celebrate the triumph of sport and glory of nations. It really is a beautiful thing. For soccer fans, the World Cup brings the joy of sharing the game with others. And for non-fans, the Cup means a chance to experience just how emotional soccer can be. Since the World Cup is an experience meant to be shared, why not get out there to watch and celebrate with friends, family, and complete strangers? If you’re in Des Moines, I have the perfect spots for you to do just that:

The Royal Mile

A classic English sports pub in the middle of Des Moines Iowa may seem like a bit of a contradiction, but The Royal Mile pulls it off.  They do a mean weekend breakfast during the Premier League season, and will undoubtedly be stepping up their game for soccer’s biggest month. While the Mile is externally situated in one of the hippest areas of Des Moines, once you step inside, it’s a journey to the cozy Britain of yore. So enjoy a pint, some fish and chips, and cheer on the good old USA… or I guess England. Whatever.


Okay, so Jethro’s isn’t exactly known for it’s soccer fandom, but it is a Drake neighborhood staple with some of the best barbeque around. While football is usually the Jethro’s sport of choice, I’ve actually had some pretty good times watching MLS futbol with the crowd. And with the joint’s copious amounts of TVs tuned to sports all day, ev’ry day, you know the World Cup will be featured this next month. So why not watch the world’s most impressive athletes compete as you shove excessive amounts of BBQ and fried snacks in your mouth? It’s what being an American sports fan is all about.

The Keg Stand

You want real soccer fans with all the chants, cheers, and general rowdiness of World Cup fandom? Look no further than the USMNT celebrations at The Keg Stand hosted by the Des Moines chapter of the American Outlaws, an organization that supports U.S. soccer. I know that “keg stand” and “outlaws” sound like a controversial occasion, but it’s all much milder than that. Unless the U.S. wins that is, cause then, look out…