Thesigns of spring are finally appearing! Just this week alone we have had rain, hail, and then snow. With everyone being cooped up inside and unable to do much due to the coronavirus, it is good to get out in nature again.
The ponds at Methwick are no longer frozen, and the koi fish look beautiful in the clear water. With people not out and about so much, water sources are less polluted right now.
Along the top ridge of Shawnee Park, deer love to play in the woods at dusk.
The daffodils in full bloom at Noelridge Park, just in time for Easter.
Tree budding in Noelridge Park.
A tree budding at the Dairy Queen on Johnson Ave. NW:
Note: This visit to Dubuque occured before the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020. Please note many of these places may not be open to the public for a couple of months.
The City of Dubuque is only about an hour from our home in Cedar Rapids. We spent a day there visiting some unique sites.
We started out by attending a vintage market. The Antique Spectacular Show is held in Dubuque, IA, twice a year in March and November.
The market is located at the Grand River Center at 500 Bell St. The event is produced by Kimberly Schilling, who also features shows in Cedar Falls and the Quad Cities. Admission is $8 for adults; children under the age of 14 are free with a paid adult.
Our kids did not want to believe we could go to 3 states in 15 minutes! No, they said, it would take at least a day! So we just had to cross the Mississippi River bridge into East Dubuque, IL, and drive across the Wisconsin border to show them it could be done! Here is the view of the Mississippi River coming from Wisconsin back into Iowa:
Backwater views of the river:
A quick stop at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Dubuque gave us a chance to pay our respects for those who have served our country.
We putzed around downtown for a little bit. We had to check out the Ice Cream U Scream shop at 198 Main St. and the Candle Ready Cakes bakery which now has gluten-free items at 197 Main St.
After walking around downtown, we decided to stop for dinner at the Barrel House, 299 Main St., for burgers, pizza, and tacos. Many gluten and soy free choices for the kids here!
Off the beaten path, we found this fun little indoor flea market called Shaggy’s on 175 N. Crescent Ridge. Whatever you can think of, they have in there! It is worth the stop to check it out!
And finally, on our way out of town, we stopped at the Mines of Spain Recreation Center. It was really muddy out, so we were not able to do much there. We will definitely have to go back another time to check out this park!
The trail leading up to the Julien Dubuque Monument was closed, so we were not able to get a very good picture. We’ll come back to hike up there during the summer.
The Mines of Spain is about 1400 acres of wildlife area next to the Mississippi River. Canoeing, kayaking, hiking, hunting, snowshoeing (in the winter), and fishing are all popular activities here.
Best Wine Bar: Della Viti–have you been to their new location in New Bo?
Best Beer and Ciders: Parlor City
Best Margaritas: Caucho
Best Martini: White Star Ale House
Best Steakhouse: Rube’s in Montour. They now have a burger night as well!
Best Coffee House: Dash. I love their selection of organic teas and my kids love their Unicorn Hot Chocolate! Dash is 1 of 2 coffee shops in town that we have found with soy-free hot chocolate for those of you with food allergies. And their Avocado Toast is simply awesome!
Best New Restaurant We Tried This Year: Bo Mac’s
Best Indoor Place for Kids to Play: Speedez–have you been to their new location on the SW side of town?
Best Outdoor Place for Kids to Play: Cherry Hill Park
This year we spent most of our fall hiking at Palisades-Kepler State Park in Cedar Rapids. Palisades is located on Highway 30, between Cedar Rapids and Mt. Vernon. The first time we went was a cold, blustery Iowa fall day, so only a few pictures turned out. Plus my hands were freezing so it was hard to hold the camera! The second time we went, we took “the littles”, our two youngest kids. But they are no so little anymore! This day was a beautiful, sunny day which makes you fall in love with the season.
This limestone lodge was built in the 1930s.
The trail behind the limestone lodge.
The “jagged” tree down by the Cedar River.
Look closely….there is a house across the Cedar River. What a beautiful view they have!
Looking across the Cedar River.
I love this view from one of the trails.
The Gazebo at the top of one of the hiking trails. Notice the 4 wheel truck to the left of the first picture. It is very common to see hobbyists running their 4 wheelers up the trails here!
The view looking out by the Gazebo.
A fuzzy-wuzzy caterpillar hiking along the trail besides us.
We finally had a break from this crazy cold winter and thawed out enough to attend the 41st Annual Sportshow at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids. The annual winter sports show is being held Feb. 8-10, 2019. My husband and his family are avid fisherman, so this is always a fun event to check out local and regional spots! Several fishing seminars are planned throughout the event as well.
This year our main interest was a place in Missouri called Mark Twain Lake. We have relatives that just moved there. We were excited they had a booth at the show, and what’s this? A huge waterpark for the kids at Mark Twain Landing in Monroe City. It’s only about a 3 hour drive from us, so it will be added to our bucket list for sure. The complex has RV hookups, a motel, cabins, condos, and tent camping.
Check out all the fishing equipment at the show!
Hobie Pedal Kayaks
There was a great selection of RVs here. I hope next year the show can get an Airstream trailer in!
Plenty of boats to look at as well! We spent quite a bit of time here as my husband and father-in-law are ready to start looking for a new fishing boat to trade up into.
This was a nice surprise! An African Safari trip! We will definitely be checking into this further!
Local outfitter Palo Outdoors had a great display, including this hunting equipment.
Another surprise was these electric bikes at the Kelly’s Auto Center booth. I would like to ride around town in one of these!
If you go:
Cost of tickets is $6.00 for Adults; Kids 12 and under are free. Look for a $1 off admission coupon at your local Casey’s store. Hawkeye Downs is located at 4400 6th St SW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
We love to share our favorite places and food finds with other people! Here are our favorites from 2018!
Best Bike Trail: Along the Cedar River, whether you are on Ellis Road, going downtown, or on the southwest side of town
Best Park for hanging out: Ellis Park. You have the river, the pool, the basketball court, the playgrounds, the golf course, Shakespeare’s Garden, and all the little off-set areas to explore in as you drive around the park grounds.
Best Event or Fair: We loved the Bohemian Betty Flea Market held in September. It was a bit unusual and had really unique items.
Best Pizza: Mellow Mushroom in Coralville (they have a great gluten/dairy/soy free selection!)
Best Burgers: The Map Room
Best Non-Burger Sandwich: Voodoo Chicken at Zepplin’s
Best Wings: Quinton’s in Cedar Rapids
Best Mexican Restaurant: El Paraiso The staff is wonderful! We have been coming here for so long they remember us not only in the restaurant, but also out in the community when we see them!
Best Chile Verde: El Pariso (It is spicy!)
Best Wine Bar: Tie between Winestyles and Della Viti. Della Viti is more trendy and you can have partial glasses of wine; Winestyles is more cozy.
Best Beer and Ciders: Parlor City
Best Margaritas: El Paraiso (we love this place!)
Best Martini: White Star Ale House
Best Steakhouse: Rube’s in Montour. Worth.The.Drive.
Best Indoor Place for Kids to Play: Skyzone
Best Outdoor Place for Kids to Play: Cherry Hill and Ellis Parks and Pools
Best Free Activity for Kids: Coder Dojo at the Geonetric Building
What are your favorite places? Tell me about them in the comments!
The What Cheer Flea Market is one of the top 11 Can’t Miss Flea Markets in the Midwest! It is located at the Keokuk County Fairgrounds in What Cheer, Iowa. The Flea Market is held 3 times annually (Spring, Summer, and Fall). There is truly something for everyone here, and our kids love coming along with us to find treasures.
The Fall Market for 2018 runs from October 5-7. There is an Early Bird Market on Thursday, which has a $5 admission fee. Friday and Saturday admission is $2, and Sunday is FREE! There is a full concession stand and several smaller food/snack vendors.
This weekend was a muddy, rainy, mess of a weekend! Follow our escapades at the Saturday market, and check out our scores from wet, soggy dealers really to wheel and deal! Because of the rain, admission this Saturday was free.
We were lucky enough to be able to park on a side street this year. Usually these spots fill up, and people pay to park in the neighborhood yards (most homeowners charge $5 for parking). A quick drive around the neighborhood was filled with obstacles as people were stuck in mud in the yards—no thank you! We didn’t have our 4-wheel drive with us today so we didn’t want to risk it. We found a free spot on a side road close by. Note: Never park right on Highway 21! It is a tow-away zone and we have seen a whole crew of tow trucks called in to tow dozens of vehicles away in the past!
Plenty of indoor vendors filled the fairground buildings as long as you could navigate your way through the muddy walkways. Stained glass, coin dealers, jewelry, books, Pyrex, video games, dolls, and more filled every available space.
Outside some dealers were still on the race track with bigger items like reclaimed wood, doors, sheet metal, and all kinds of implements.
It did not actually rain in the afternoon while we were there, but it was windy and slightly cold. Many dealers were offering specials of 20-50% off.
Many of the dealers in the grassy area of the pit ended up stuck, like this RV that had to be pulled out by a tractor.
Here are the great deals we got, minus a couple of items that will be gifts for family members later this year. We got excellent deals on Pyrex, Ball canning jars, cigar boxes (for making cigar box guitars), an old gas can, and hedge apples to keep the spiders away. The sprinkler knobs will be re-purposed into towel hooks in our bathroom.
We enjoyed our day at the Flea Market just as much as if it had been a sunny, beautiful day, since we got to actually talk with dealers more and get some really good deals. The What Cheer Market is still open on Sunday, and plan to attend next year!
Do you have a favorite flea market? Tell me about it in the comments!
Now that the chilly, gray winter is over, our family FINALLY! got out to ride our bikes on the south side trails in Cedar Rapids. This day was extra special because all four of our kids were able to join us! You see, our oldest boy turns 21 in a few weeks and will be moving on in the world.
Our first stop of the day was at the new restaurant at 302 3rd Ave SW called Local Pour Street Food. The poutine here is delicious! The corn dogs are literally a foot long, the gyros are fantastic, and everything is exactly what you would expect to find from a food truck. Ask them about their secret menu….
Next we rode over to Czech Village and caught the trail over to the Cedar River.
Construction is in progress to expand the Cedar Lake area.
We were excited to see signs posted announcing a new pedestrian bridge that will be built in the near future to allow access across the river. Check out Project Connect CR here to learn more about the “Sleeping Giant” that will be a magnificent addition to the riverfront.
Mt. Trashmore rises in the distance…..
Critters on the trail going out to Tait Cummins Sports Complex.
All this riding made us thirsty. Gotta stop at Kickstand for a Smith and Forge Cider at 203 14th Ave SE for the adults. (Water and pop for the kiddos!)
After a quick stop at Quentin’s Bar and Grill at 450 1st St SW for some of the best wings in town, we ended our day at Blue 42 (629 Ellis Blvd NW) for burgers and pizza. Seven hours later, we arrived home. Tired, sore, and already planning our next outing. Where should we go next? Leave your suggestions in the comments!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Hilaria tackles tough issues of active moms: there just is not enough time in the day to do what we need to do! Squeeze in some mini-yoga workouts when you can (she even does them while walking her kids…..with the stroller for balance!), make subtle changes to your diet, and make time for your family (she is married to super-busy actor Alec Baldwin, so their schedule is constantly changing). Hilaria has great food tips in her book. While she is vegan, and we are Paleo, I found I could easily adapt many of her recipes for our needs. I have also noticed that since I started to pull out my yoga mat at home for a few stretches, or to listen to a few minutes of guided meditation, my kids are doing the same. They pull out my yoga mat, and they listen to the apps on my phone, especially when they think I am not watching!
Little House Living: The Make Your Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self-Sufficient Life by Merissa Alink
I first picked up this book because Merissa had some allergy-friendly recipes that we could use in our house. I was pleasantly surprised to find some great recipes to make our own body butter and body scrubs, avoiding some of the harsh ingredients in commercial brands that irritate our skin. While we won’t be as frugal and self-sufficient as Merissa, we will definitely use several of her suggestions in our own home.
Camino Island by John Grisham
A great beachy read as you get ready for summer! A group of thieves pull off one of the greatest heists in history as they steal priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton University. A former college professor turned author is presented with an opportunity to infiltrate a curious local bookstore scene on Camino Island in Florida, where her grandmother once lived. Her adventures take us into an underground world of book trading, and smuggling of the manuscripts into Europe. My favorite scene was the unveiling of how the manuscript got smuggled out of the country. This is a suspenseful book, taking many twists and turns you don’t see coming.
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The compassionate students at Madison Elementary School carried out an amazing feat last week….raising money for our Veterans! It all began with an idea inspired by one of the 5th grade teachers’ father. She talked with her students, and a plan began to take shape. They were going to donate money to send Veterans on the Honor Flight!
Veterans from several wars visited the school and shared their stories. Alan Stekl, President of the Eastern Iowa Honor Flight, spoke to them about what the Honor Flight was, and where the recipients visit when they arrive in Washington, D.C. The students brought in all their spare change to school for several weeks and placed it in a big bowl.
The students brought in pictures and stories of the Veterans in their families to build a Hall Of Fame. They also created 200 cards for Mail Call, which Veterans will read on their way home from their visit to Washington, D.C.
The 5th graders applied for a grant and won $250 to provide groceries and toiletries to homeless Veterans. They secured some matching funds for the Honor Flight from MH Equipment and the Madison PTA. When all was said and done, they had raised over $2000 to send 4 Veterans on the next Honor Flight!
These students have a big heart, and we are so proud they used their time and resources to say, “Thank you, Veterans, for your service”!