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

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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
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

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Bigfoot spotted along Ellis Road

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

Elementary Students Send Veterans on Honor Flight

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.

Mail Call
Mail Call!
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Presenting mail to the Honor Flight Committee.

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!

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Providing the funds to the Honor Flight Committee and the Veterans in attendance.

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”!

2018 Youth Empowerment Conference

This blog post is actually from an interview with my 12 year-old-son, JR, on his experience at his first-ever African American Youth Think Tank event.  He is sharing his thoughts, and he also took the photos you will see below.  I think he did pretty well for his first time assisting with a blog post and trying to use a camera on subjects in constant motion!

The 4th Annual Youth Empowerment Conference was held on February 16 at the Roosevelt Middle School in Cedar Rapids.  The event was attended by local schools in the area, with the Iowa City region also busing students up for the event.  This year’s theme was “Everyone Has A Purpose; What Is Mine?”.   JR says his purpose is to be a foreign-exchange student and visit other cities around the world.

The morning consisted of inspirational speakers; an explanation of what the Think Tank is (a way for people to discuss current issues, hold seminars, and provide inspiration for our youth); and several sessions with local leaders Dr. Carols Grant, Kim Fitten, and Dr. Okpara Rice.  JR’s favorite speaker of the morning was Miss Iowa and KZIA 102.9 Radio Personality, Jenny V.

The keynote speaker of the conference was Jason Sole, PhD, from Chicago.  Check out a previous post about Jason here.  JR enjoyed this speech and was impressed with how Jason turned his life around to go to college after being in a gang.

Local businesses offered a career fair for the youth to dream and plan for what they want to do in the future.  JR’s favorite business owner was John Grant from Chameleon Candy.  John’s business serves “Little Jimmy’s Italian Ices” at local events, and he can also be booked for private parties and corporate events.  Check out his website here.

At the end of the event, local artists provided a live concert for the kids.  Rapper Jordan Burgett from Cedar Rapids performed first.  Dizzy was up next, and Buddha was the final rapper.  Buddha was impressive with all of the big words he was able to rhyme.  The concert closed with R&B artist Alicia Monee, whose beautiful voice filled the auditorium.  JR’s favorite song was her performance of “The Man In The Mirror” by Michael Jackson.  Everyone was up out of their seats and dancing along!

Alicia Monee
Alicia Monee 
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Buddha

The Youth Empowerment Conference is a free, annual event to support youth in our area.  For more information, see the African American Youth Think Tank Facebook page.