What I Read in 2020

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First, let’s start with a pick for older elementary/middle school kids. My daughter and I read this together: Black Star, Bright Dawn by Scott O’Dell

Scott O’Dell wrote this great book about a teenage-aged Eskimo girl from Alaska, Bright Dawn, who spent her young life learning to hunt bearded seals with her father. When a hunting accident forces her father to give up his livelihood, the family is forced to move from their village to a small Alaskan town. While living there, Bright Dawn and her father learn to race dog sleds. Her father receives a sponsorship to race in the Iditarod. When he becomes injured again, Bright Dawn takes his place. Follow her struggles and triumphs as she runs the race of her life.

Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

In America, we like to think we are open-minded, and are not prejudiced against other cultures. But sometimes we are. Especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against our country. We took out our frustration on Muslims living in our own neighborhoods. Amani describes what it was like to grow up as a Muslim girl in America. She has heartbreaking stories about the way she and family members were treated. We can’t change the past, but we can most certainly do better in the future.

Red Hill by Jamie McGuire

I do not normally read Zombie Apocalypse books. It is not my thing. I am not even sure why I picked up this book (maybe it was a dare from one of my kids?). Once I started reading it, I just had to finish. I really enjoyed the story line of this book. The Apocalypse starts as an infectious disease and an offbeat reference to flu vaccines….which is an eerie parallel to what we are facing now! I did finish this book right before coronavirus took over our lives, but man there are a lot of comparisons I am making to the book and what we are going through now!

Believe Me by Yolanda Hadid

Have you ever been horribly sick, and no one believed you when because you seemed fine on the outside? Inside your body was being ravished by a disease doctors could not pinpoint. This is the story of Real Housewife star and model Yolanda Hadid and how she suffered from Lyme Disease for years before doctors figured out what was making her so sick. Along the way, she learned that conventional medicine did not always have the answers and she turned to some alternative medicine to supplement her healing. Yolanda is a brave, beautiful soul. She has a very kind heart that is rare among celebrities.

Looking for more reading suggestions?



The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

True friendship is hard to find. A group of friends that lasts a lifetime is even harder to find. Five young mothers gather in a park in Palo Alto in the 1960s, discovering a love of books. Encouraging each other, they start writing. At first it is pretty basic journal writing. Soon they become each other’s harshest critics as they tackle difficult subjects. They rally around each other through illnesses and marital crises. Several of the women become published authors, and they all end up on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show”, leaving Johnny speechless at their antics! The bonds of the women in this book are exceptional, and you feel like you are a part of their group.

The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy

If you are a history buff you will like this book. The Beilski Brothers, Tuvia, Asael, Zus, and Aron, saved approximately 1200 Jewish lives during World War II by hiding in the forests near what is now Belarus. They beat incredible odds to stay alive and constantly moving through the forest to avoid the Nazi Germans. But the Nazis were not their only enemies. Some of the local gentiles and even some members of the Russian Army (who they were helping out) turned on them, making their lives even more difficult.

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

Are you a Foodie? Do you enjoy watching cooking shows? I do not, but this lovely novel about Augusta “Gus” Simpson and her antics was a fun read! Imagine you are about to turn 50, and you are the darling of a food network. Suddenly, you are in danger of being replaced by younger hosts, beauty queens, and 10 minute internet videos. What crazy ideas would you come up with to save your show? Find out how Gus reacted!

Kinda Like Grace: A Homeless Man, A Broken Woman, and the Decision That Made Them Family by Ginger Sprouse and Thomas Nelson

For several years, the residents of Clear Lake, Texas helped out Victor, a homeless man on a busy street corner. A little bit of help here, a little bit of help there, but he always kept slipping through the cracks as there was nothing the authorities could really do for him. One day, Ginger drives by Victor’s corner and feels a pull of some unexplained force to help him. She leaves; God just keeps putting Victor back in her path. With all that she has done wrong in her life, how can she possibly be qualified to help him? She has just re-built her own life, and now God wants her to help Victor? She accepts the path the Holy Spirit gives her, and dives in headfirst to help get this man the help he needs.

What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments below!

The Storm of 2020

Who said 2020 was going to be easy? After tip-toeing around all the shutdowns and issues from Covid-19, our city was decimated in a terrible storm called a Derecho on August 10. It’s basically an inland hurricane without all the water and flooding. These photos are from my neighborhood:

While over 700 miles of the Midwestern Plains were hit by the storm, Cedar Rapids suffered extensive damage. We lost much of our tree canopy, many people lost their homes, schools were hit hard, and nearly every home and business in the city was damaged in some way. Our family went 13 days without power and 3 weeks without internet.

It took four days just to clear our street so we could drive through:

The Iowa National Guard came in to help with clean-up:

So many people came to help us out. Electric crews and tree services from all over the US came. The crew that restored our power was from Canada! Samaritan’s Purse, Red Cross, Operation BBQ Relief, and so many others helped remove debris, trees, feed people, and tried to get us back up and running. Thank you so much. We are forever grateful.

My kids learned so many life skills this year that I am sure they can now survive a Zombie Apocalypse! They learned how to wait in line for hours for basics like gas, ice and food. They learned how to drive an hour or more away to get to ATMs and grocery stores that had power (and an hour of wi-fi!). Cash was King with so many stores trying to stay open with no power or internet to run their registers and credit card machines. They can now run a chainsaw and fuel a generator safely (and how to secure it with a logging chain so it doesn’t get stolen!). They learned how to work with their neighbors to clear trees and make sure the elderly had food. All the debris in the roads meant our vehicles got flat tires–and they learned how to change them. We were sad when friends’ home burned down from various storm-related issues. And when every high school in our district was too damaged for kids to safely re-enter them, even for hybrid schooling, they learned how to adapt to virtual schools with hotspots and community stations for families to go for internet support.

The restaurant one of my kids used to work at:

The damage here in Cedar Rapids is extensive, and it will take several years for us to recover. We Iowans are resilient; we will come back.

Signs of Spring

The signs 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.

Budding Tree

A tree budding at the Dairy Queen on Johnson Ave. NW:

Dairy Queen bush

Shakespeare’s Garden at Ellis Park:

Tree in Spring

What places have you visited this spring?

A Day in Dubuque

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.

Event Show

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.

More information and $1 off admission ticket coupons may be found at www.antiquespectacular.com

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:

View from Bridge

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.

Candle Ready Cakes

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.

Mines of Spain3

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.

What areas have you visited this spring?

Best of 2019

We love to share our favorite places and food finds with others!  Here are our favorites from 2019!

Best Bike Trail:  Along the Cedar River.  You can cycle along Ellis Boulevard, downtown, or on the Southwest side of town.

Best Park for Hanging Out:  Ellis Park.  It is centrally located in town.  Ride your bike along the river, swim in the pool, have a picnic in Shakespeare’s Garden, or look out over the bluffs.

Best Event or Fair:  What Cheer Flea Market.  This event is now held 3 times a year!  May, July/August, and October.

Flea Market Find
One of our finds at the What Cheer Flea Market.  We planted strawberries in here to keep them from taking over our small garden.

Best Pizza:  Roscoe’s on Edgewood Rd NW.  Our favorites are the Mambo Combo and the Linda Lou!  Gluten-free pizzas are available.

Best Burgers:  The Map Room

The Map Room

Best Sandwich:  Voodoo Chicken at Zepplin’s

Best Wings:  Quinton’s

Check out last year’s favorites for more ideas! https://funinthecorridor.com/2019/01/19/best-of-2018/

Best Mexican:  El Paraiso

Best Chili Verde:  El Paraiso.  So spicy!

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!

Avocado Toast
Avocado Toast on Gluten-Free bread from Dash

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

Best Free Activity for Kids:  Coder Dojo in New Bo

What are your favorites?  Let us know!


Fall Scapes 2019

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.

Trail Opening

The trail behind the limestone lodge.

Jagged Tree

The “jagged” tree down by the Cedar River.

House in Rock

Look closely….there is a house across the Cedar River.  What a beautiful view they have!


Looking across the Cedar River.

Across the Bank

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!

Colorful Trees

The view looking out by the Gazebo.


A fuzzy-wuzzy caterpillar hiking along the trail besides us.

JR Skipping Rocks

JR skipping rocks on the beach.


Sportshow 2019

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!

Fish Eqip



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!


Golf, anyone?

Golf Cart

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.



Best of 2018

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

Cedar River 2
The Cedar River as seen from the southwest side bike trails

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

Saigon Burger from 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

Bigfoot spotted along Ellis Road

What are your favorite places?  Tell me about them in the comments!

What Cheer Flea Market Fall 2018

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.


The Flea Market as seen from the corner of Highway 21.

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!

Entrance to the fairgrounds.

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.

Dealers outside on the race track.

Outside some dealers were still on the race track with bigger items like reclaimed wood, doors, sheet metal, and all kinds of implements.

Flood in the pit area of the race track.  People actually had kayaks out in this pond earlier in the day!

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.

RV stuck in the mud…..John Deere to the rescue!

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.

Our Haul!

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!



City Bike Trails

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.

Local Pour

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.

ConstructionConstruction 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

Mt. Trashmore rises in the distance…..


Critters on the trail going out to Tait Cummins Sports Complex.

Photo Credit:  JR Lauritsen

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!