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!

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.


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!

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!

Mail Call 2.jpg
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!

Honor Flight.jpg
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 


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.