The Scoop on Brainerd Online Garage Sale Sites

I love going to garage sales, however I am not a fan of HAVING a garage sale. That is a task I usually reserve for my hubby who, for whatever reason, seems to like hanging out all day selling out stuff.

Garage Sale

Needless to say I was not bummed this year when the annual Flansburg Garage Sale was cancel due to lack of time, interest and stuff. Having no big-ticket items to sell to offset the cost of running an ad etc, we opted to try our hand at selling some of excess stuff via the many Facebook Brainerd Online Garage Sale Sites. Though not without a hiccup now and then, using these sites has been immensely beneficial and one that I would recommend to others. Here are some facts you should know about these sites:

Cash is King: Cash is the only acceptable form of payment, unless the seller you are working with agrees to something else. I now always have change in the form of ones and fives on me at all times. Which brings me to another point:

Bring Exact Change: Just out of sheer respect for those you are doing business with, bring exact change whenever possible. Don’t hit someone with a twenty for a three dollar item.

Meet in a Public Place: Target, Hardees, Gander Mountain and McDonalds East are all favored places for buyer and seller to meet.

Group your Meets Together: Whether you are a buyer or a seller, try to group your “meets” together so you are doing more than one at a time or in conjunction with other errands you are running so you don’t find yourself making special trips and eating up your profits.

Reveal and Disclose: If something has a rip, tell the buyer that. If something has slight damage, reveal that. I once bought a coat that the buyer claimed was “in great shape,” but when I met with her I discovered (once I got home) that both sleeves were shredded. Nice. I opted to chalk it up to a lesson learned rather than raise a stink about it. Non-smoking homes is another biggee these days since so many people are sensitive to cigarette smoke.

Don’t Expect Refunds: Unless something is truly defective, don’t be requesting or expecting refunds. This is not Wal-Mart folks. If you agree to buy to purchase a medium-sized shirt from me (and I disclose that it is medium) but you are an XL, that falls into the “not my problem category” if you get it home and discover it doesn’t fit.

Pictures are a MUST: Not only do all of these sites require a photo with every listing, quality and clear pictures will work wonders for getting your item sold. I just use my iPhone to take pictures, but I usually include 2-3 photos for each items I am selling. If you are selling clothes (or anything for that matter) try to present your item in the best light possible. You wouldn’t buy items that are wrinkled, faded or dirty, why would you expect someone else to?

garage sale site1

OBO: Sometimes, to move your item to a quicker sale you may want to include “or best offer.” This is especially true on bigger ticket items.

ISO: “In Search of.” Not too long ago I was in need of an extra hand-held recorder for my freelance work, but was too cheap to spend the $40 at a retail store. I posted an ISO on one of the sites ( along with a picture so people knew what I meant) and within an hour had a gorgeous $10 recorder in my hot little hand. And someone was $10 richer :)

PM: “PM me” means that someone will private message you via Facebook for more details about the transaction. Please note that, if you are not connected as friends on facebook, the message may end up in your “other” message box. PM is a great way to work out details, share addresses etc. without the world seeing.

Stellar Descriptions: Create a listing description as if you were selling something one eBay. “Purple jeans, size 12″ may not get a sale but “Like new purple Abercrombie Skinny jeans with adjustable waistband and zip/button closure. Size 12, 100% cotton, comes from smoke-free home, multiple sites, must meet in ___(town)” may garner a quicker response.

Delete Pictures of Sold Items: Just out of respect for the site and other buyers, type your name in the search box, locate the sold items and “delete” to keep the feed filled with only viable items for sale.

Garage Sale Site

Sellers, Send an Reminder: After being stuck several times with “no-shows” due to the fact they “forgot” (It happens. Life moves fast) I now try to remind them before our meet time. This also give people a chance to reschedule if they need to. I also highly encourage everyone, whether you are a buyer or seller, to make a list of your meets that include details like place of the meet, the item in question, the buyer/seller’s name and also what sort of vehicle they will be driving. This prevents “forgotten” meets and confusing situations.

First to Respond, Wins: Anyone who is wanting what you are selling will respond in the comments something along the lines of “want” or “interested.” If you are slow on the keyboard, but still want to get in line in case the first buyer falls through, many will respond “In Line.” “@” tagging a friend does not constitute committing to the item or holding your place in line. Read all of the groups rules and guidelines before listing your items.

Be Polite and Respectful at All Times, But Stand Firm: This would be my #1 piece of advice. Treat people as you wish to be treated. Know when to be flexible, but also be firm. It should go without saying that buyers should NOT ask for a cheaper price AFTER they’ve committed and especially not at pick-up time. These sites are a huge benefit for buyers and sellers and operate on the respect and honor system. Yes, occasionally a turd gets into the pool, but I’ve noted that Admins from other groups will work together to weed out or block spammers or those who can’t seem to behave properly.

Commit and FOLLOW THROUGH: For those of us who sell, there are two main issue that are highly irritating: 1) No-shows 2) Those who commit or say “want” and then disappear. As a buyer commit, set a day and pick-up time and show up. As a seller, if this happens to you simply wait for 12 hours for the person to surface, then move on to the next person.

Hold it For Me? From my personal experience, “holds” rarely work out. If you chose to “hold” an item for someone longer than a week, just know there’s a 90% it won’t work out (again, this is based on personal experience) so save yourself the time and aggravation by having your meets and pick-ups within a week’s time. This applies to people who repeatedly need to “reschedule” and drag out the transaction for weeks. Know when to stand your ground, politely cancel the transaction and move on to the next buyer.


Here are the four sites I currently use and have had great luck with:

Brainerd Area Men’s & Women’s Online Garage Sales This site is for adult items only please. NO infant, toddler or children items allowed!! There are other sites for those items.

Drama Free Brainerd online garage sale site: This one is my absolute favorite and it run very well and very professionally by the three Admins. The rules are strict, but necessary and this group runs a tight ship. This group also has over 4,000 member which is like GOLD. No drama at the Drama Free site and the Admins are on top of all problems or issue. LOVE.

Plus Sized Girl Clothes: Specifically for women looking for nice clothes in larger sizes. Great group and well run as well.

Brainerd Area Kids, Babies and MOMS: Great site for those of us who are selling or looking for baby or kids items.


Good luck and happy selling!


Essential Health Offers Reach Out & Read Program

Earlier this week, Essentia Health announced it was excited and proud to offer Lakes Area kids a new program called Reach Out & Read. This new program shares the importance of reading books to children highlighted during well-child check-up at Essentia Health, Reach Out & Read program brought to the Lakes Area through collaboration.

From their official Press Release:

Importance of reading books to children highlighted during well-child check-up at Essentia Health
Reach Out and Read program brought to the Lakes Area through collaboration

Last month the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy specifically emphasizing that early literacy promotion – beginning in infancy should be an “essential” component of primary care. In the same month, infants and children in the Lakes Area began benefiting from the Reach Out and Read program; thanks to a unique collaboration.

Reach Out and Read is a national early literacy organization that reinforces the parent’s role as the first and most important teacher, and gives parents the tools and techniques to help their children succeed. The proven Reach Out and Read program introduces and reinforces the value of reading to both parents and children by a trusted authority, their primary care physician, who gifts a child age 6 months through 5 years with a book at each well-child visit.

Caption: Essentia Health Pediatrician Jane Winter is looking at a book with Abigail  Salonus, age 4 of Longville, that she received during her well-child visit at the Essentia Health St. Joseph’s – Baxter Clinic through the Reach Out and Read program. This book is a gift from the Essentia Health Care Team provided through collaboration with the St. Joseph’s Foundation, United Way, Initiative Foundation, ISD 181, Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition, and Reach Out and Read.

Caption: Essentia Health Pediatrician Jane Winter is looking at a book with Abigail Salonus, age 4 of Longville, that she received during her well-child visit at the Essentia Health St. Joseph’s – Baxter Clinic through the Reach Out and Read program. This book is a gift from the Essentia Health Care Team provided through collaboration with the St. Joseph’s Foundation, United Way, Initiative Foundation, ISD 181, Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition, and Reach Out and Read.

This will be done verbally as well as through modeling during the well-child check-ups with Pediatric and Family Medicine physicians and advanced practice clinicians at the Essentia Health Clinics throughout the Lakes Area. “As a partner with parents in caring for the children in our community, through more than 4,000 well child visits annually, we were excited to bring this resource to our families,” said Wendy Frosile, RN & Operations Manager for Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Women’s Specialty Clinics at Essentia Health.

To ensure that Reach Out and Read has the greatest community impact and avoids duplicating other programs, a unique collaboration of partners came together including: United Way of Crow Wing & Southern Cass Counties, Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition (BLAECC), ISD 181, Initiative Foundation, St. Joseph’s Foundation, Reach Out and Read Minnesota, and Essentia Health.

Tammy Filippi, Early Childhood Associate at the Initiative Foundation states “we have been committed to early childhood literacy for over ten years and Reach Out And Read is a perfect example of an early literacy model that works. It not only is exciting for the child to receive a book but the physician also engages and models to the caregiver the importance of reading to their child.”

A natural partner for bringing Reach Out and Read to the community was the United Way of Crow Wing & Southern Cass Counties. Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of United Way, brings the knowledge and expertise on the functionality and strengths of the Imagination Library program, which is similar in nature to Reach Out and Read. She also helps ensure that the two programs avoid duplication and rather complement each other to meet the needs of those in our community. Imagination Library, currently serving 1,600 children in Crow Wing and Cass County, will be able to focus its efforts on targeting children who would not otherwise be able to afford a mini-library of their own books by enrolling them through referrals from collaborative workers in schools, county human services, and other organizations.

“By participating in Reach Out and Read we will be able to expand the number of children and families who are receiving books and emphasizing the importance of reading,” said Smith.

The content of the books selected to be given to each child was determined by partnering with the Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition (BLAECC). In 2013, the Coalition’s research revealed similarities in what students coming into kindergarten lacked and what area businesses were lacking in the workforce. The overlap identified was social emotional skills or soft skills.

“Research tells us that our children aren’t learning how to cooperate with others, share, or self-regulate by the time they are entering kindergarten and weren’t always learning these skills by the time they enter the workforce,” explained Shannon Wheeler, Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition (BLAECC) Coordinator. “This means area businesses have a difficult time finding people that show up on time, know how to communicate with customers or let their boss know if they can’t make it in to work that day.”

“I was excited to apply what we learned from recent community research in identifying books that teach about social and emotional skills. The variety of topics these books cover include: Being a Friend, Feelings, Accepting Others, Problem Solving, Self Confidence, Good Behavior and Relationships,” said Wheeler.

Understanding the impact of Reach Out and Read’s mission locally was critical to the group as well as funders which include: Initiative Foundation, St. Joseph’s Foundation, United Way, and Reach Out and Read Minnesota. ISD181 early childhood screening measures literacy and social emotional skills of each child. The annual summary report of these measures will serve as the baseline and be tracked over the next three years to understand the impact in both literacy and social development the Reach Out and Read program is having in the Lakes Area.

ulie Salonus shares a book with her son Hayden, age 2 from Longville, that was received during his well-child visit at the Essentia Health St. Joseph’s – Baxter Clinic through the Reach Out and Read program. This book is a gift from the Essentia Health Pediatrics Care Team provided through collaboration with the St. Joseph’s Foundation, United Way, Initiative Foundation, ISD 181, Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition, and Reach Out and Read.

ulie Salonus shares a book with her son Hayden, age 2 from Longville, that was received during his well-child visit at the Essentia Health St. Joseph’s – Baxter Clinic through the Reach Out and Read program. This book is a gift from the Essentia Health Pediatrics Care Team provided through collaboration with the St. Joseph’s Foundation, United Way, Initiative Foundation, ISD 181, Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition, and Reach Out and Read.

“Efforts to develop a community-based solution to implement and sustain Reach Out and Read will shape the state-wide program for years to come,” said Lynne Burke, State Director, Reach Out and Read Minnesota. “The Reach Out and Read National Center is also keenly observing this collaborative as a possible model for program expansion nation-wide.”

Reach Out and Read was founded in 1989 at Boston Medical Center by a group of pediatricians and educators who recognized the profound significance of infancy and toddlerhood in setting the stage for achievement, given that 90% of brain development occurs between birth and age 5. In Minnesota, 150 hospitals, health care centers, and clinics implement the Reach Out and Read model, with more than 92,500 children participating statewide. However, there was a void in the Brainerd Lakes Area, until recently. To make an appointment for a well-child visit at Essentia Health call 218-828-2880.


Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf and Billy Bones Raceway Review

Brainerd Lakes area is such a beautiful place. I think when you’ve lived here all your life like we have, you tend to forget some of the great resources that are available to you.

Billy Bones Raceway and Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf are two examples of rockin family fun in our own backyard.

Pirates Cove Golf

Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf.

Test your skills on our two lavishly designed 18 hole courses–the Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Challenge Course, where the adventures of infamous pirates come to life! Putt your way through mountain caves, over footbridges, and under cascading waterfalls. Read storyboards as you go, and learn about the seafaring outlaws that plundered their way across the seven seas.

All throughout Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf you’ll find pirate booty, skeletons, cannons and other relics from the bygone days of piracy. Swashbuckling fun for the whole family!

Billy Bones Raceway
For more adventure, visit Billy Bones Raceway next door–the area’s finest go-cart complex. Zoom past pirates and buried treasure as you speed along the twists, curves and dips of our three specially designed go-cart racetracks. Designed for pirates of all ages!

I have to say, these pictures do not do this place justice. It is simply beautiful. I would play mini golf again just to hang out by the waterfalls, flowers, and pools. Both Billy Bones Raceway and Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf were immaculate, clean, and well maintained. And the staff! Wow. I love good customer service and they had it across the board. Super polite, super friendly, and very professional.

Here are some pics of our wonderful and fun day.

Pirates Cove Golf







To learn more about Pirate’s Cove Golf, go HERE.



Have a Heart for HART!

Heartland Animal Rescue,  or HART, has been a huge part of the Brainerd Lakes Area since 1987. HART’s mission is, and has always been, to build compassionate relationships between people and animals through quality education, sheltering and adoptions. HART is also in the middle of a HUGE renovation to their existing facility on Dellwood drive and though the building will not increase in size, the much-needed updates will include major things like improved air exchangers and ventilation systems.


Executive Director Donna Wambeke is a long-time friend of mine (I bought my first Cocker Spaniel “Spanky” from her over 20 years ago) so I was able to have an awesome chat with her regarding this renovation and also the upcoming pet adoption Fair on June 28th  and 29th.

“Our renovation started in May and is scheduled for completion sometime in September,” Donna revealed. “We are working with local contractors and service providers on this build and the HART staff and countless volunteers have also been amazing. Our Dellwood Drive building is still being used for impound situations and also for animal intake, while the adoptable animals in a temporary location at The Farm on highway 25. HART’s impound service covers 18 municipalities, has been in existence for ever 25 years and take in roughly 2200 animals a year. HART is considered a ‘open door’ shelter, meaning we rarely will turn animal away, but at the moment, we are at capacity and have to limit what animals we take in. Along with our usual menagerie of cats and dogs, we currently have an adorable white rat named Butters and a male ferret. As you can imagine this renovation, and also maintaining two facilities comes with a hefty price tag. Any monetary donation help the community can provide would be very appreciated right now.”


Donna also informed me that “kitten season” is late this year, but the kittens and pregnant mother cats have started to roll in. Because of that HART is in desperate need of any kitten food donations at either location (Pease note they do not need adult cat food). They are also still in need of fosters for young kittens, so if you are interested in doing that please call HART (829-4141) and ask for Alesha.

HART also has two upcoming adoption events coming up on June 28th and 29th. Saturday the 28th will be the adoption event at ALCO in Pine River. HART will bring several animals there to visit with and hopefully to get adopted! Sunday June 29th will be a Fun at the Farm adoption event in Brainerd. All dogs will be outside for visiting and adoption, cats will also be available for adoption, there will be a free prize drawing, snacks and the opportunity for people to check out the farm and see what HART is up to.  Both events will be a great chance for people to meet the dogs out of their kennels and find out more about upcoming HART events along with Operation Renovation. Please check out both events, and SPREAD THE WORD! (The address at the farm is 12119 Hwy 25 Brainerd).

Photo: SHARE IF YOU CARE! This is Gunner, a 2 year old mixed breed who  is looking for a forever home. Gunner is a very friendly, sweet dog who will wiggle his entire body when he's excited! Gunner seems to be well trained and very rarely messes in his kennel. He loves to be outside and loves to snuggle and he is a bit of a staff favorite. If morning cleaning gets done early sometimes Gunner gets to roam around with staff as they finish up the morning routine. His adoption fee is $150 and he would be a sweet and fun companion for any family. Please share this post to help him find a home!

You can also visit HART’s site and Facebook Page for more info.

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

Our Safari North of Brainerd Adventure

We love zoos. Every summer marks at least two zoo adventures for this animal-loving family. So you can imagine how giddy we were when we saw this Safari North of Brainerd sign go up south of town last Fall.

newest of park 001

Now Safari North is OPEN and this post is a recap of our recent trip recently to visit our newest and more exotic zoo.
In a nutshell; we loved it. It’s an amazing place and very well done. Here are some of the highlights from our visit;


This handsome devil’s name is Puzzle and you can feed him. I swear his tongue is about 10 feet long!
Safari North
Safari North
Buying a cup full of carrots to feed Puzzle was an extra charge but I honestly didn’t care. How often in life can you tell people, “hey, I hand-fed a giraffe today…”


Honkin BIG bears too!
Safari North


We got to see things we’ve never seen before like Munjak Deer, Hyenas and an adult male Baboon. I was close enough to look right in his eyes. There was some real intelligence behind those eyes. Most of these cages you can get very close too and even pet the animals.


They have camel rides as well (we didn’t do that-we all chickened out).


Safari North


The Parakeet cage was a blast. You can buy sticks of bird seed for a buck and, once you hold them out for the parakeets to see, you will suddenly have an armload of birdies. Really fun time :)
Safari North
Unfortunately half-way through the tour my iPhone ran out of battery so I missed getting picture of other awesome things like our daughter falling in love with a tiny Munjak Deer (“She’s so sweet. Can I take her home, Mom?”) and getting super close to cool animals like Kinkajous, Leopards and amazing old Tortoises.


I found this great video on You Tube that does a great job showing the philosophy of this project and also the passion.


Points We Admired

The pathways are well-groomed and easy to follow.

newest of park 028

Most of the exhibits were marked with very informative plaques sharing information about the animal and it was also noted if it was a threatened species or not.

There are plenty of places to sit down and rest and I saw at least one Satellite Potty. We stopped at the Snack Shack, grabbed some muchkins and I took a break while Sara enjoyed the play center.

Safari North


We liked their Gift Shop as well and it had some fun, unique and reasonably priced items in it. Sara chose a stuffed tiger and Jake found a really neat stuffed Hyena. And mom did not go broke buying either one ;)

General Info

2014 Season: May 23 – Mid October
Hours: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm, daily
Parking: Free

Guest Services

  • Wagon rentals available
  • Please do not leave items unattended
  • Smoke Free Park
  • First Aid is located in Gift Shop
  • Hand stamp for same-day re-entry available in Gift Shop
  • Please turn in or check for lost and found items at the Gift Shop
  • For the safety of our animals and guests, there is ABSOLUTELY NO PETS ALLOWED IN THE ZOO. Certified service dogs are welcome, but some restrictions apply.
  • Bathroom facilities are located at the main entrance

For Rates go HERE. I would highly advise getting a season pass because it’s such a better deal. There are coupons for the season passes on B-Bay (subject to change or being sold out)

I highly recommend adding Safari North in Brainerd to your list of summer fun!

An Awesome Book for Summer Reading :Pink Fire Trucks by Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri

Through my work-at-home travels I have encounter many, many amazing people. Gladys Elizabeth is one of those people
I “met” Gladys while being the project manager for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri has been an elementary school teacher for almost 20 years.  She loves to teach beginning reading and every night makes wishes when the stars come out and dance. She is also a bilingual children’s author and has written several delightful books including Pink Fire Trucks.
Pink FireTrucks
I have to say Pink Fire Trucks absolutely charms me to my core especially the, “My Daddy says I can be whoever I want to be!” line in the book. I can just picture my own 8 year-old as Gladys Elizabeth in this story.
Pink Fire Trucks
This is what the author had to say about her book, Pink Fire Trucks.
amazon snag
Pink Fire Trucks is a personal favorite because of the crazy occurrences that have happened around this story. The main character is Millie (my bff since 1981) and her father Juan Vázquez, a Puerto Rican man who was also a father figure to me.  Millie has been involved in politics since high school, she was president of San Diego State and was a legislative aide in her 20′s. Now she is vice president of Planned Parenthood here in Los Angeles. When you read the story you will better understand her character.  
Also, I got the story idea when I took my then 5 year-old niece to the fire station. I read this story at a local bookstore this past July and a mommy asked if the female firefighter was based on a true person. It was, but I felt weird acknowledging that due to privacy purposes. That mommy later emailed me informing me that the female captain had recently passed away.
As you can see, this story has been tragic and beautiful at the same time. These serendipitous coincidences blow me away. I couldn’t have written them even if I tried. This is why I love this book, not so much because of the story, but the background story.  
Pink Fire Trucks

Side note: PINK FIRE TRUCKS is a finalist in the category for “Most Inspirational Children’s Picture Book -Spanish/Bilingual.”

You can connect with Gladys Elizabeth on her blog:


Twitter: @chuchosbooks

Please also check out Gladys’ other bilingual children’s book Rubber Shoes HERE.

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