The Minnesota Traveler- A Dream Come True for Jennifer Mergen

The day I met Jennifer Mergen, I knew she would be one of those people I would like forever. She sparkles, she shines, has more energy & enthusiasm in her pinky than I do in my whole body…and she has the Best.Laugh.Ever.
The Minnesota Traveler
Jennifer has always been ambitious and I love her spirit and “go get ’em” attitude. I’ve watched her gracefully navigate a series of adventures including acting and even being a business owner, but this Sunday, I know her ultimate dream is coming true.
This Sunday is the first episode of her new television series, The Minnesota Traveler-a dream come true for Jennifer.  She’s shared little tidbits of this journey along the way, but the project has been “hush/hush” for months.
Jennifer Mergen
Frankly, the suspense was killing me 😉 But today she was kind enough to email me (and others)to share the details!
“The Minnesota Traveler is an exciting show about all the fantastic things to do across the state of Minnesota! The show airs on FOX Sports North & FOX Sports Wisconsin throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Northern Iowa. Each episode airs Sundays at 8:30 AM and then 2-3 additional times each week. Check out the website for specific details. You can also watch online the following week. Check out our pilot episode on the website now! Oh! And tomorrow I will be interviewed live on FOX 9 morning news about the show! You can watch online if you don’t have access to a TV.”
Knowing she is “in her element” when in front of a camera, I asked Jennifer what she liked best about her new project, and this is what she had to say; “Oh my goodness! Everything! Mostly that I have never felt more alive or enjoyed life more than when I am on camera, ” she replied. “And strangely to most other people, I feel more comfortable & confident on camera :)”
The Minnesota Traveler
If you would like to follow The Minnesota Traveler on Facebook, here’s the link.

Go get ’em, Jennifer! Can’t wait to see you SHINE!


Free Meals for Kids this Summer in the Brainerd Lakes Area

The generosity and kindness of this area never ceases to amaze me.

This week, while taking a stroll around Kiwanis Park, we decided to take a break to let the 9 year-old play in the playground area. A few minutes later two young girls approached the three of us and asked if we wanted a sandwich.

Caught off guard I remarked that I didn’t have any money on me to which she answered, “It’s OK, it FREE.”

That’s how I learned about Operation Sandwich.

Operation Sandwich

“Operation Sandwich is a grassroots program that exists to end childhood hunger by feeding kids during the summer months when free and reduced meals are not available through the school system.”

Thanks to the mom of these girls I got the scoop on a very unique, and very needed program that is running this summer in the Brainerd Lakes Area.

Did you know that 42% of total school population is on free and reduced meal program? Read more stats HERE.

This poses a serious problem when school is not in session and many families are struggling to make ends meet.  Operation Sandwich is run with the support of volunteers and the support of the United Way and ISD 181. Volunteers get together at First Lutheran Church to create simple bag lunches for kids in need in the community  four times a week: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The simple meals will consist of  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit and granola bars. Thursday’s bag will contain a few more items to bridge the weekend.

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg

2015 Delivery Locations & Times
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays
June 8 – September 3
There are no income  requirements, no collecting of names, and lunches are free to the community.
All are welcome!
     Brainerd Locations
Lowell Elementary                                 11:45 to 12:10 pm
Garfield Elementary                      12:15 to 12:40 pm
Harrison Elementary                            12:45 to 1:15 pm
Oscar Kristofferson Park, Baxter 12:00 to 12:30 pm
Kiwanis Park                                            12:40 to 1:10 pm
Operation sandwich
I tip my hat to Brainerd Public Schools, United Way and all the volunteers who help make this program a success. pass the word! To learn more go here or go here to see how you can volunteer.

25 Ways to Explore the Brainerd Lakes Area this Summer Printable Checklist

25 Ways To Explore The Brainerd Lakes Area as a Family This Summer Printable Checklist (2015)

Created by the Lake Area Mom Squad

Visit a Zoo! Our area has two wonderful zoos in a 30 mile radius. Check out the Pine Grove Zoo in Little Falls and Safari North Park in Brainerd.

Get Your Art On: The Franklin Art Center and Crossing Arts Alliance has wonderful programs and events happening all summer. They also have great programs for kids including Art Camps.

Learn More About Trains: The Northern Trackers Club in Crosslake has depictions on display of historic and contemporary railroad heritage of the settlement and economic development of north central Minnesota from the early 1900’s to the present. Things to see at this museum includes a 1/2 scale replica of the William Crooks loco and cars, operating model railroad layouts, museum (artifacts, photography and interpretative displays and exhibits

Croft Mine: Mining is a huge part of our area’s history and the Croft Mine Historical Park is built on 17 acres of the original Craft Mine. This park includes an interactive underground mine tour and museum.

Go Down on The Farm: The Farm at St. Matthias offers wonderful events, growing and picking opportunities, and even the Celtic Festival.

Check out some Bike Trails: Our area has several paved bike trails including The Cuyuna Lakes Trail and the Paul Bunyan Trail. The Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association exists to promote, create, and maintain paved bicycling trails connecting various communities in and around the area known formerly as the Cuyuna Iron Range.

Crow Wing County Fair: The Fair is coming! Mark your calendars for August 4- August 8, 2015. The fair began as an agricultural event for the purpose of providing a place for county residents to exhibit their products. Youth projects such as 4-H and FFA were able to enter and compete for prizes. While many aspects of the fair have changed over the years, the main philosophy remains the same, to provide opportunity for our patronage to touch base with the agricultural heritage of Crow Wing County.

Attend a Music Event: There are many chances to hear live music outside this summer in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Check out events like Bands in the Park – Pequot Lakes Trailside Band Shelter, Crosslake Outdoor Music Series 2015 at Crosslake Town Square, Iconic Music Fest and Lakes Jam.

See An Outdoor Movie: The US Army Corps of Engineers – Crosslake Campground will be the site for outdoor movies in Crosslake this summer! Bring a blanket or lawn chairs and enjoy a different family friendly movie each month. Movies like The Lorax, Ice Age, A Christmas Story and The Great Outdoors are all on the schedule (subject to change).

Experience the Pine River Duck Races: Pine River Duck Races dates are July 10 (1:30pm – 2:30pm) and Fridays June 19 through August 14, 2015 Registration starts at 1:30pm with races at 2:00pm

Mini Golf and Go Carts: If you are in the mood for some mini golf and go cart racing, there are several option to choose from. Pirates Cove Golf and Billy Bones Raceway is right on highway 371 North. Close-by is another attraction; Northland Kart Kountry. Northland Kart Kountry also has water wares and climbing walls to keep everyone active and busy!

Go Camping: Pick a campground…any campground! This area is blessed with many quality camping area. Check the listings HERE.

Pig Races: The Leader Pig Races are back! Check out the full scoop on this incredibility fun and unique event HERE.

Explore our Many Area Parks: Check out the DNR’s Park Finder or check the websites of area parks like Crow Wing State Park, Mille Lacs Kathio, Father Hennepin State park and Charles Lindberg State Park.

Join a Summer Reading Program: The Brainerd Public Library has many fun things going on during the summer months and one is there Summer Reading Program. Round up your little bookworms and get the full scoop on the activities HERE.

Learn the History of our Area: Crow Wing County Historical Museum The Minnesota Military Museum at Fort Ripley and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum are both great ways to learn about culture and history as a family.

Attend an Art Fair: Fun events like Bean Hole Days, Arts in the Park and the Little Falls Craft Show are great places to see the work of local artisans.

Explore our area Lakes: There must be something in the water! Our area is blessed with many local lakes and public beaches. Check out this list of all of our area lakes and companies like Boats & Beyond Rentals, Lake Fun Rentals and Dave’s Sportland Bait, Fun Rentals & Storage help family make their lake time even more enjoyable.

Join The Northland Arboretum: “The Arb” always has wondering family-friendly events including the Country Sampler Pinic, Gardening 101 classes and Enviromental Summer Camps for kids.

Grab a Movie: Check out these places to grab a flick: Bear Pause Theater – Hackensack, Falls Cinema – Little Falls, Grand Makwa Cinema – Onamia,Lakes 12 – Baxter,Sunset Cinema – Pequot Lakes.

Go Thrifting: Sometimes, it’s the “thrill of the hunt!” can make for a fun day of adventure! Go snooping and shopping for treasures to be had at these local thrift and second-hand stores: Cast-offs (Pequot Lakes), Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Common Goods, Goodwill, The Salvation Army and Second Time Around are all great places to hunt for treasures.

Disk Golf: Combine the sport of Frisbee and golf and you have a day of super-fun action. There are two Disc Golf locations in the Brainerd Lakes area. Lum Park has a robust Disc Golf course and so does Central Lakes College or check out the site for more places to enjoy this sport.

A Fun Day at The YMCA: Our local YMCA has tons of great programs and day camps just for area kids. Members can also participate in swim lessons and summer sport classes.

Go Fishing: Not only is this area abundant with lakes, the lakes are full of fish! Fishing is a great sport that any family can enjoy. If you need a little guidance, check into book a pro angler to guide you and your family on a day of fishing fun to remember!

Paddle Boarding: Paddle Boarding is a newer sport that is taking this are by storm. A fun experience for all ages, families can scor3e paddle boarding lessons, equipment and opportunities thanks to local companies like, and The Gull Lake Yacht Club.


**Did I miss any? Email if you can think of something to add to the list! (

**Lakes Area Mom Squad was not compensated for this post in any way.

Summer is here and our kids are doing the happy dance at the thought of summer vacation, no school and freedom.
I predict that will last roughly two weeks, then the whining, boredom and bickering will set in. :(
BUT, as always, the Flansburg Crew will be engaging in our annual No Bummer Summer Quest. This quest involves finding new adventures, crafts and activities (preferably ones that involve the out-of-doors) to help temper the long days of summer.
This summer, we are trying something new. We are trying a creative, affordable alternative to pricey summer camp, this 8-week eCurriculum called At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum.

At Home Summer Nature Camp

This eCurriculum is packed with ideas and inspiration to keep your kids engaged and happ.y all summer long. In one easy-to-follow PDF, parents will receive eight kid-approved themes, each including ideas and tutorials for: outdoor activities, indoor projects, arts & crafts, recipes, field trips, books & media, and more. Every weekly theme is packed with summer nature fun our family can have right in our own backyard! Learn more, or plan your summer fun here: At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum.


Racin Bacon! The Leader Area Pig Races are BACK!

Welcome to Summer! Fun, frolic, quality family time, chances for adventure, the official start to several months of MOM being head of the Entertainment Committee.

This will be the Flansburg’s 4th year of creating what we call The No Bummer Summer.

The Leaders Area “LA” Pig Races have been a part of the Brainerd Lakes Area for years and they are so much fun! But I get a little frustrated as the the lack of information available about this event. It’s a shame because it is truly something that needs to go on everyone’s summer TO DO List. We were at the Pig Races in 2013 and I am anxious to go back this year.

This is what I know:

  • In the video, the MC (the guy in red shirt and cowboy hat) has more energy in his pinky-finger than I do in my whole body. His spirit and enthusiasm is a true asset to this show. When we were there, he paused to encourage all of the little kids to come down to the arena to sing and dance to Tim McGraw’s 1,2,3 Like am Bird I Sing. Absolutely adorable. I believe his name is Gary and I also heard a rumor he used to be a Principal in Pillager. He is someone I would LOVE to interview!
  • The pig races are every Friday and Saturday night. They start at 7pm-9pm, General admission is $3 and VIP is $5.
  • The LA Pig Races are hosted by The Bear’s Den in Leader Minnesota and every Friday and Saturday between May 20th and Labor Day. This event is geared towards kids without not only the famous “LA Racing Piggies” but plenty of other fun activities like hula hoop contests, jump rope, bouncy horse races and more. The humor gets a little adult later in the evening…but it’s still fun.

LA Pig Races

  • Colorful fabric collars are around the piggie’s necks and a corresponding wooden pig is randomly handed out to kids in the audience. The child who holds the same color of pig as the one that crosses the finish line first wins a little bag of goodies.

I know the LA Piggies typically come to the Crow Wing County Fair if you don’t want to make the drive to Leader.  Check out The Bear’s Den Facebook Page HERE.

LA Pig Races


Story Scraps: Local Author Candace Simar

story scraps

Many times when I create an article for one of the several magazine that I write for, I run out of word count before I run out of information. By that I mean, if the story I am creating is limited to 800 words, it’s usually hard for me to write ONLY 800 words. There’s usually so much more I want to add, but can’t because of the word count I am limited to. So that gave me an idea. Story Scraps are blog posts that will share these “leftover” facts, tips, details and quotes that didn’t make it into the original article.

With that in mind, not too long I created an article for Lake Country Journal for the November/December issue; an article about our Homegrown Writers. People may not be aware but this area is bursting with amazing talent and experienced authors. As I created profiles on local authors Candace Simar, Quinn Nystrom and Shelly Boyum-Breen it became clear that 800 words could not contain this talented bunch. Here are one particular Story Scrap that didn’t make the final cut.

Candace Simar

Candace Simar

::Excerpt from the article: “If I was to give any advice to new authors and writers I would encourage them to do three things; take as many writing workshops as they can, write every day and read extensively in their genre to study how other authors have made their novels work,” Candace shared. “I’ve been honing my writing process for years and I am still learning. I strongly feel my best work is yet to come.”-Candace Simar

Candace also shared some incredibly sound advice writing.

“I usually do my best writing in the morning. I get up, do some journaling, do my prayers and then go right into writing. I have a One Minute Rule; meaning I need to work on my project for at least one minute every day. The reason I do that is that the first minute of writing is sometimes the hardest. One you can get past that first minute of writing, it becomes easier because you become immerse in your project again and the creative mind will begin to flow. I also always believe that the creative mind needs quiet and isolation, and that is hard to find. That is why I try to schedule and attend as many writing retreats as possible, especially during those “first draft” stages of a project. I can write from my home, and do most of the time, but I also find myself succumbing to the distractions of home. All-in-all, I spend 1-2 hours a day writing. Writing is word by word, stone by stone. It can be a tedious, depressing, exhilarating and exhausting process all at the same time.”

AND {On keeping your stories close to the vest} “Don’t release the “fizz” of your project by talking about it too much. That’s why I don’t talk to much about my projects until they are done.”

Learn more about Candace and her books HERE.


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Freelance Freedom

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This e-book is a great “first step” for any mom/parent looking to start earning an honest living from home…AND…on their own terms. Go HERE for more details or to snag your copy. I offer some pretty cool bonuses too so don’t delay! Your work-from-home life is waiting!


Round-Up Your Little Buckaroos! It’s Time for the Bike Rodeo!

**Taken from the official Essentia Health press release with permission

Essentia Health Hosts Bike Rodeo June 6

Teach, Test, and Reward bike safety

Children are invited with their parents, to the Bike Rodeo from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 6 at the Brainerd High School’s lower parking lot. And don’t forget to bring your bike and helmet!

Bicycling is a favorite past time for all ages, but understanding safety first is the key to staying safe and having fun! Children and their bike will visit various stations for a review of bicycle safety rules, a bicycle safety check, and be checked for a properly fitted helmet. Then they will put the knowledge they gained to the test by riding a mock course. Once complete, they will be awarded with a certificate of completion.

If a child does not have a bike helmet or the one they have does not fit properly, they will receive one from Essentia Health. “We are excited to bring this event to our community,” said Naomi Mowers, Trauma Coordinator at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center. “Learning bicycling safety at a young age will stick with someone for life, just like riding a bike.”

The Bike Rodeo is open to riders of all ages free of charge. The event will be held rain or shine and is brought to you by: Essentia Health, Crow Wing County Passenger Safety Coalition, Baxter Police Department, Brainerd Parks & Recreation, Brainerd School District 181, Brainerd Lion’s Club, Easy Riders Bicycle and Sport Shop, Dairy Queen, and Trailblazer Bikes.

“This (Bike Rodeo) is an opportunity for us to provide the community with injury prevention,” said Mowers. “It’s a way to actively engage kids and inform them of some of the things that they can do to prevent injuries while riding a bike.”

2015 Bike Rodeo is

Essentia Bike Rodeo

Saturday, June 6 from 10:00 am 12:00 pm

Click here for the official flyer and information.

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