Baseball games, Saturday mornings at the Farmers’ Market, late night expeditions to explore the capital & sunny summer days.
A glimpse into the past few (crazy) weeks courtesy of my iPhone.
The library has always been a place that I feel at home. Regardless of my age or geographic location, I’ve always felt much more at ease and able to think surrounded by towering rows of books. When I was in elementary school, I was allowed to check out more than the generally allowed number of books each week – most likely because I was averaging two to three trips a week. Then in high school I worked at a public library and essentially got paid to do what I would have done for free: hang around, peruse books and put them back on the shelves.
Though I probably should be, I’m not ashamed to admit that I am the proud owner of not one, not two, not three but four library cards. So naturally during my first semester at Drake, I found myself on a DART bus, headed to the Central Branch of the Des Moines Public Library.
Now that I’m spending the summer in Des Moines, I’ve already made half a dozen trips to the library. My “must read” list has always been a bit eclectic but I love recommendations. Read anything good lately?
Steelroots by Steve Tobin
Morton Arboretum, 2010
While cleaning my apartment this afternoon I happened to come across a pile of old photos, most of things I had completely forgotten about doing. So, in an effort to relive past adventures and be inspired for future ones, I’ve decided that once a week I will post a photo flashback – some snippet or random moment of a previous escapes.
This photo was taken two summers ago at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, on an afternoon that was much too hot for hiking, in wildly uncomfortable shoes no less, with one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
I’ve been dreaming of Americana’s Bombshell Brunch for a long time – basically ever since I learned that it included a grilled cheese bar. So now that I work 40+ hours a week at a grown-up job, a Sunday morning adventure in search of classy brunch seemed appropriate.
What I ate: Everything. Ok, maybe not everything but it was pretty close (see: crepes, quiche, parfait, fruit, danish, bacon…more bacon, et al). And mimosas.
The verdict? At $25 a person, the all inclusive brunch is definitely a splurge but it’s also totally worth it. The staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating, and I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon with some equally fantastic friends.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and profess my profound love for breakfast. If I could – and really, what’s stopping me? – I would eat breakfast food for every meal of the day. With the exception of anything involving mushrooms, I have truly never met a breakfast item that I didn’t want to instantly devour. The only thing standing in my way is that, generally, I’m not a very hungry person early in the morning. And that, my friends, is the beauty of brunch.
Brunch is one of those fantastic occurrences that combines two of my favorite things: food & weekends. From steaming coffee to freshly cut strawberries and lightly buttered toast, there are few times I’m more content than eating Sunday brunch. Unsurprisingly, I’ve accumulated quite a list of brunch spots that I hope to try out into the summer and beyond. Stay tuned!
Americana Restaurant & Lounge, 1312 Locust Street, Des Moines
As corny as it sounds, I strongly believe that there is nothing that says summer quite like a baseball game. I have never really been one for watching sports extensively. Yes, occasionally I’ll tune in to the Bears, peak in on the Hawks to see how they’re doing or even, on a rare instance, get roped into watching the PGA tour with my dad. Strangely baseball is the one sport I can watch unfailingly. It can be slow-moving, technical and last what can feel like an eternity, but there has always been something so raw and unique, some rare quality that has drawn me to the game.
What I’ve always loved most about baseball is the atmosphere. Sure, I’ll watch games on TV or occasionally even stream video online, but the atmosphere inside a baseball stadium is a phenomenon I’ve yet to find anywhere else. Nowhere in the “real world” do hundreds, even thousands, of people clamor for fly balls, essentially the rejects, for a scrap of a major (or minor) league hero. The distinct calls of each of the vendors in the stands – whether their wares include beer, hot dogs or Cracker Jacks – each has their own special cry. “Hooooooot dawgs,” declares one throaty yell. “Beer here, Miller, Old Style, beeeer” is thrown into the crowd by another, each it’s own distinct rhythm and timber.
I am, in truth, a Cubs fan. One of those lowly Chicagoans who holds out hope that this will, in fact, be the year. And since my summer adventures have led me away from the Windy City, I’ve settled upon the Iowa Cubs to fill my Wrigleyville void. Last weekend I ventured over to Principal Park with a few friends for a Chicago-style hotdog and a double header – the perfect official start to summer.
I first heard about Zombie Burger last fall during my semester in Barcelona. While there’s a lot of delicious food to enjoy in Spain, the Catalan people aren’t exactly known for the quality of their cheeseburgers and I was having some serious cravings. Once I was stateside again, I vowed that I would make eating at the restaurant, which had quickly become a local favorite, a top priority.
So naturally, six months later, I finally had my first Zombie Burger experience – and it was glorious.
What I ate: Raygun burger [Monterrey jack cheese, fried jalapenos, caramelized onion, bacon, guacamole & chipotle mayo], a side of French fries & a Chocolate Cake Shake
The verdict? Love at first bite. Though I was tempted to try one of the more nontraditional burgers (I still can’t get over how genius putting fried mac and cheese on a burger is), I’m glad I went with a fairly tame standby. While my tab was just under $15, I definitely got my money’s worth and ate enough food to put me in a fairly substantial food coma.
And let’s be honest, who couldn’t love a restaurant that offers alcoholic milkshakes?
Zombie Burger, 300 E. Grand Avenue, Des Moines
If there is one thing to know about my father, it’s that he absolutely loves New York style pizza. Yes, I’ve spent my entire life in Chicago, where not liking deep dish is a cardinal sin. But with both of my parents being native East Coasters, it’s no wonder that pizza is a touchy subject around our house.
Always in search of the best thin-crust pizza, I finally believe that we’ve found an adequate, local substitute. So on Thursday, after I picked my dad up at the airport, we headed north to Chicago’s Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood for a slice at Santullo’s Eatery.
Everything about the pizza was phenomenal: the perfectly melted cheese, the light, airy crust, down to the pie’s thin layer of sauce. I realize that it’s a bit strange, the way that my family obsesses about different types of pizza. I grew up in a fairly pizza-deprived household – delivery or otherwise – mostly because my parents couldn’t fathom settling for Pizza Hut or Papa John’s. Now, as a fairly competent person living on my own, I find that I don’t share my parent’s obsession with the perfect pizza. But – like my father – I can certainly still appreciate one.
Santullo’s, 1943 W. North Avenue, Chicago
Along with the same soft spot that I have for Chicago, I have an equally profound love for the city’s history. From city planning to legends of hauntings and favorite mob boss hang-outs, I can’t get enough quirky factoids about my hometown.
Consequently, my mom absolutely loves to buy walking tour Groupons – generally with the intention that I’m going to be the ones using them as both walking and organized touring don’t usually appeal to my dad or brother. So naturally since I was in town for a few days we decided to embark on an urban adventure and explore the twisting tunnels of the Chicago Pedway.
Under the direction of a fabulous guide from Chicago’s Finest River Walk Tours, we set out across the Loop to see what the elaborate tunnel system had to offer.
Though I’m not the largest fan of enclosed spaces or underground structures, I absolutely loved the random bits of trivia that we collected along the way. For instance, I now know that prior to the building of the Michigan Avenue bridge, the north part of the famous thoroughfare was named Pine Street because of the large number of pine trees in that part of the city.
While I don’t have many days left in Chicago, you can rest assured that there will be another walking tour waiting for me the next time I come home. Still to come: a chocolate tasting tour and a expedition to try some of the best cupcakes in Chicago.
Like any true lover of adventures, I am a large fan of road trips. I love the quirky attractions, the unique town names (I’m looking at you, What Cheer) and finding the perfect compilation of music for the open road. So what better way than to start the summer with a much needed road trip back to my hometown, before any real summer responsibilities kick in.
For the next week you can find me bumming around the western suburbs, or even the city itself, playing with my puppy, catching up on some much needed afternoon napping and taking full advantage of my parents’ free washer and dryer. In all honesty though, Chicago is one of my favorite cities and I’m slightly crestfallen to be missing out on its many summertime charms. So in the wake of NATO summit preparations, dentist appointment and family obligations I plan on taking advantage of every Chicago Tribune I can get my hands on and savoring glimpses of my favorite skyline for my window when at all possible before heading back to Des Moines on Sunday.
Maybe it’s the sudden freedom from schoolwork and responsibility and everything else that would normally be weighing on me. Maybe it’s the fact that this morning I didn’t set an alarm for the first time in I can’t even remember how long. Or maybe it’s the absolutely perfect feeling that can only come with a summer night, driving in the car with the best people – listening to not always the best music – and remembering what it means to really stop and enjoy life.
Whatever the reason, summer has always had an indescribable quality of reminding me what I really love: popsicles, early mornings, late nights, live music, well-worn library cards, home-cooked meals, laughter and old friends.
So before life invariably gets away from me – and all of my summer obligations officially begin – I decided it was necessary to write this tiny ode. If for no other reason than to remind myself to enjoy every little thing. To remember that summer is no time for routines or monotony, and that every day can – and should – hold a new adventure.