Look for Books in Specially-Marked Cheerios Boxes

General Mills announced today that for the first time in the 11-year history of the  Cheerios® Spoonfuls of Stories®program, the company will include books for older children in specially-marked boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios cereal.

As it has for the past decade, Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories will provide 8 million bilingual children’s books free inside specially marked cereal boxes. In addition, 3 million chapter books for older children will be included in specially marked boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios® for the very first time.

“Over the last decade we’ve seen how excited young children are to discover picture books in a box of Cheerios,” said Meredith Tutterow, Cheerios marketing associate director.  “That’s why we’re thrilled to expand this program to reach older children with chapter books in Honey Nut Cheerios. We hope parents and children will simply spend time together enjoying these books.”

Under the umbrella of General Mills, the Cheerios team is also making a $300,000 donation to First Book. First Book is a nonprofit organization that recognizes that lack of access to books is the greatest barrier to success in school and in life. Since Spoonfuls of Stories’ inception in 2002, Cheerios has distributed more than 70 million free children’s books inside boxes and donated more than $4.1 million to First Book.

The four chapter books included inside specially marked Honey Nut Cheerios boxes are part of Academy Award winner William Joyce ‘s “The Guardians of Childhood” series:

  • “Toothiana, Battle Is Waged”
  • “Toothiana, Tooth is Lost”
  • “Toothiana, Panic Sets In”
  • “Toothiana, A Queen Takes Flight”

The six titles now appearing in boxes of Cheerios, Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Frosted Cheerios, and Chocolate Cheerios have been printed in both English and Spanish. This year’s in-pack book offerings, appropriate for children ages three to eight and all from Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, are:

  • “Dream Away” by Julia Durango
  • “Where is Home, Little Pip?” by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
  • “Digby Takes Charge” by Caroline Jayne Church
  • “Say What” by Angela DiTerlizzi
  • “All the Water in the World” by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson
  • New Author Contest winner “The Lost (and found) Balloon” by Celeste Jenkins

Beginning in May, General Mills is accepting manuscripts for its New Author Contest, which Jenkins won with “The Lost (and found) Balloon” in 2011. Authors can submit their original children’s book May 1 through July 31, 2013 at www.SpoonfulsofStories.com. The winning book could be featured in specially marked boxes of Cheerios in 2015; the author has a chance to be offered a publishing contract with Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing and win $5,000.

To learn more about Spoonfuls of Stories, this year’s in-pack books, or to donate to First Book, go to www.spoonfulsofstories.com.

Freshening the House for Guests

The spring and summer entertaining season has arrived. From Mother’s Day brunches and Father’s Day barbecues to bridal showers and graduation parties, people host an endless string of events in their homes during this time. However, busy schedules can often make it difficult to prepare for guests and give the house a thorough cleaning from top to bottom.

To help hosts get their homes in order, BISSELL partnered with home and lifestyle expert Evette Rios to share quick and easy tips that will have a house guest-ready and fresh in no time.

“I love entertaining family and friends in my home, but with my busy work schedule, it’s tough for me to commit to an all-day cleaning marathon,” Rios said. “I want everything to feel fresh and clean without sacrificing too much of my free time.”

Rios advises starting with the following tasks: do the dishes, make the bed, clear clutter, and vacuum and sweep high-traffic areas, like the kitchen and living room, to clear up dirt, crumbs and hair. For added “oomph” when vacuuming carpets, she suggests using Febreze™ Carpet Deodorizing Powder. Simply sprinkle the powder on carpets, wait for a few minutes and vacuum as usual. Not only does the powder clean up to three times better than vacuuming alone, it also eliminates odors and leaves behind a light fresh scent.

“While these tasks may seem very small, they make a huge impact on the home’s appearance and create a sense of order,” Rios said. “It will give the impression that you’ve spent a lot of time and energy on chores when you’ve only used a few minutes of your day.”

Everyday household items can also double as effective tools for cleaning and freshening. Old socks, pantyhose, cotton swabs and vanilla extract are just a few of the items that Rios cites as her must-haves when she needs to tidy up quickly. An old sock is great for dusting blinds; inexpensive pantyhose from the drug store wipe away residue that collects on decorative candles; and a cotton swab dipped in vinegar cleans hard-to-reach grime in window tracks.

“Some of these tips may seem unconventional, but they really work wonders,” Rios said. “One of my favorite tricks to freshen a room is to put a few drops of vanilla extract on an unlit light bulb. When it’s turned on, the bulb heats up the extract and lets off a delicious scent. Guests love that the house smells so sweet!”

Whether entertaining last-minute guests or planning an all-out party, hosts with the most will be able enjoy all their events when the stressful task of rigorous cleaning beforehand is made simpler.

For more information, visit: www.bissell.com/freshtips.

Family-to-Family Joins Peapod to Welcome Hurricane Sandy Families Home

As the six month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaches, Family-to-Family, Inc.  along with Peapod, the online grocery service, announces a 90-day campaign to restock the kitchen cupboards of families still struggling from the effects of the storm.

Through its website, Family-to-Family has provided a simple way for donors across the country to click, order and share a “Comforts of Home Welcome Home Box” for affected families. For $62, the care packages are filled with basic food essentials for selected hurricane-affected families in Staten Island, The Rockaways, Brooklyn, New York City and Ocean County, New Jersey. Peapod by Stop & Shop, which will fulfill the orders and deliver the groceries to each recipient family’s doorstep, has also committed to donating a matching box for the first 200 bought by donors and has offered to waive all delivery fees.

“It’s been six months since the hurricane hit, and many families are still struggling, financially and emotionally, to put the broken pieces of their lives back together,” says Pam Koner, Founder and Executive Director of Family-to-Family. “‘Comforts of Home’ boxes will help these families in a concrete way and also let them know they haven’t been forgotten.”

Funded by an operational grant from Robin Hood, the effort is aimed at bringing the aromas, tastes and ‘comforts of home’ back into the lives of the hardest-hit Sandy families, as well as ease the financial burden of replacing costly grocery staples.

Boxes will include items like flour, sugar, herbs and spices, olive oil, oatmeal, breadcrumbs, peanut butter and jelly, black beans, rice, pasta, cereal and condiments. Recipient families can choose from three food types: regular, low-sodium or diabetic.

“This is the best kind of delivery we can make,” said Peg Merzbacher, Director of Marketing for Peapod. “The kitchen – and the food in it – is the centerpiece and heart of every home, so it’s so important that we are able to help families affected by Sandy rebuild with these essentials.”

In addition, donors can purchase a second box (also for $62) for the family they’re helping – a “Clean-up Box” – filled with household cleaning supplies including laundry detergent and bathroom and kitchen cleaners also supplied by Peapod.

Joining Family-to-Family’s efforts, the NYC chapter of WGIRLS INC. has pledged $20,000 to both supplement the “Comforts of Home Welcome Home Box” effort and support Family-to-Family’s mission to meet the future needs of hurricane victims as they arise.

A national hunger and poverty relief organization, Family-to-Family creates impactful one-to-one connections, matching donors across the U.S. with specific families in need. Since the hurricane hit, Family-to-Family has provided Hurricane Sandy victims with pillows, blankets, air mattresses, clothing, kitchen items, small appliances, holiday toys and dinners, space heaters, cleaning products, cell phones, children’s art therapy programs and more.

Meal Planning Goes Mobile with New eMeals App

Lost your appetite for the same old recipes, nightly what’s-for-dinner worries, and frantic dashes to the grocery store for last-minute ingredients?  With online meal planning service eMeals, you can get weekly menus, recipes and grocery lists for 50 different meal plans delivered straight to your email inbox and now – with a new mobile app– to your iPhone. Either way, you cure dinnertime planning panic, freshen your recipe repertoire, eliminate extra shopping trips, cut your annual grocery bill by $1,000 or more – and get your mealtime groove back.

Whether you’re into classic dishes like pork chops and chicken marsala, follow a vegetarian or ‘clean eating’ diet, or adhere to a specialty regimen such as a low-fat, low carb, portion control, gluten-free or even the paleo style of eating, eMeals can fill the bill for as little as $5 a month. The service automatically generates seven budget-friendly menus matched to the plan of your choice every week, along with corresponding shopping lists arranged by grocery section for easy once-a-week shopping.

There’s no need to search a recipe database (as required by other programs) so you save time as well as gain variety you wouldn’t get by picking familiar standbys like spaghetti and meatballs. You can also specify a store such as ALDI, Kroger, Publix, Safeway, Target, Walmart or Whole Foods to take advantage of sale prices that help shape eMeals’ weekly menus. Meal plans are available for couples or families, and for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner.

With the new eMeals mobile app – free with an eMeals subscription – all those features are available whenever and wherever you need them. You can use the app to:

  • View your personalized weekly menus on your phone – no computer necessary
  • Buy groceries without printing your shopping list – just pull it up on your phone
  • Remove a meal if you’re eating out – items will be automatically deleted from the grocery list
  • Add your own items as you’re running errands – or otherwise on the road  
  • Access recipes away from home – in case you’re cooking at mom’s or a friend’s

The eMeals service trims the food budget because ingredients purchased for one meal are frequently reused in another recipe during the week, the advance planning avoids impulse and extra purchases that lead to overspending, and menus are coordinated with sales and seasonal specials at selected grocery stores. Less food goes to waste, too.

“Getting dinner on the table every night involves more than going into the kitchen at 5 or 6 o’clock. You have to figure out what to make, change your menus to avoid boredom, and frequently run out to get the mango or mushroom soup you need for a recipe you decide to make at the last minute,” said eMeals Founder and President Jane DeLaney. “eMeals eliminates all that busywork by supplying a week’s worth of meal plans and grocery lists on your computer and now on your smartphone. It’s like having a personal chef who does everything except the cooking.”

For a full description of the eMeals program, visit www.emeals.com/how-it-works.  To subscribe and sign up for the mobile app, visit https://emeals.com/account/signup.php.

Storybook Subscription Service Brings Children’s Stories to Life

Leaders in the children’s entertainment and publishing industries have joined forces with Speakaboos, the education focused, multi-platform storybook subscription service that brings hundreds of beloved children’s stories to life. Speakaboos immerses children ages 2 to 6 years old in a world of interactive storybooks that inspires a love of reading.

Speakaboos is used by thousands of students in hundreds of homes, classrooms and libraries around the world who consume an average of 50 storybooks per month and spend over two and a half hours reading on the service.

Well-known brands including The Jim Henson Company, DK, ABRAMS, and Charlesbridge are providing content for Speakaboos’ digital library with additional partnerships to be announced in the coming months.

“We’re thrilled that so many industry leaders have joined with us to build the leading children’s literacy platform. Our partners view Speakaboos as an opportunity to produce digital content and reach more readers while growing their revenues,” said Neal Shenoy, CEO and Co-Founder of Speakaboos.

Speakaboos is guided by top children’s industry advisors including Betty Cohen, Founding President of Cartoon Network, Shari Redstone, Vice Chairman of CBS and Viacom, and Gerald Hughes, former President and COO of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Children’s education expert Dr. Alice Wilder is responsible for defining the content vision, educational pedagogy, and strategy for all of Speakaboos’ future releases and has developed award winning television shows including Nick Jr.’s Blue’s Clues and PBS Kids’ SuperWHY!. Amy Kraft manages the interactive content production for Speakaboos and has built top interactive content catalogs for Nook Kids, Scholastic, and Hooked on Phonics. The Speakaboos product team hails from Nickjr.com where they helped build one of the largest streaming video sites for children globally.

Speakaboos will launch its iPad application this May with Android and iPhone applications to be released in the following months.

New Rug Designs Debuting at High Point this Week

rugsIndoor and outdoor rug manufacturer The Rug Market America will debut collections “capturing trends in fashion and today’s living styles” during this week’s spring High Point Market, the company announced, according to Casual Living magazine.

Within the more than 100 new introductions from the Ecconox line, designs include color blocked oversized checks, sailing motifs and vintage inspired graphics.

Casual Living also noted that Capel Rugs has teamed up with shelter blogger and textile designer Coco, founder of the popular design blog Cococozy, for a line of licensed rugs being introduced at the High Point Market, April 20-25.

According to a Capel press release, “Coco has translated her unique graphic design aesthetic into rug collections that are colorful and comfortable, with a fresh California twist.”

Kitchenware Stores See Sales Growth

Small kitchen-appliance purchases jumped 10 percent to $5.51 billion in 2012, surpassing the 9.4 percent increase the previous year and growing at double the rate of the whole $18.3 billion small-appliance category, which includes the kitchen gadgets plus items like hair dryers and vacuum cleaners, according to NPD Group Inc., based in Port Washington, N.Y.and reported by North Jersey Media here.

Driving the trend is Americans’ growing desire to eat healthier and buy tools that help them prepare natural foods, said Debra Mednick, home industry analyst for NPD. Baby boomers have led the charge, she said.

“It’s not about margaritas anymore,” Mednick said. “It’s about getting your antioxidants.”

The article continues with a look at the high-end countertop appliances being introduced to take advantage of this trend, including the Vitamix Professional Series 500, priced at $599.99 from Macy’s, and a commercial-grade food processor from Cuisinart offered at Williams Sonoma for $799.95.


A Couple of Rice Ideas

Jenny at Pots and Pins has a new post with an idea for a frittata recipe that sounds delicious for either breakfast or dinner. I haven’t made it yet, but when I do, I’ll probably substitute one of the Texmati Rice Royal Blends for the wild rice called for in the recipe. I’ve been experimenting a bit with the rice blend that includes brown and red rice along with some wild rice, and I’m impressed. It cooks in the same 20 minutes you’d expect for plain old white rice, but instead of bland, you get whole-grain nutty flavor and chewy texture. I was prompted to try the rice blends, which I found in my regular supermarket, by a press release from the company that also recommends this salad recipe that sounds fabulously refreshing for a hot summer evening. The mint in my garden is just coming up again after winter, so I should have the wherewithal to give this a try in another couple of weeks.
Orange Mint Rice
3 oranges
3 cups cooked RiceSelect™ Texmati® Rice
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and segment two oranges; set aside. Squeeze juice from remaining orange; set aside. In a large bowl, combine rice, orange segments, raisins, mint and walnuts. Add orange juice; toss well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fun New Tableware

Kitchenware News & Housewares Review has a report on some fun new designs for casual tableware. zak2-e1366405272636Zak Designs has created a collection of coordinated items so that you can pick out items to use in the kitchen that’ll coordinate with the dishware you’re using to set the table. Sounds like a great idea for an outdoor party or those family meals where you’re saving dishwashing by bringing food to the table in the same dish you used to reheat it in the microwave oven.

Home Furnishings News from High Point Market

Furniture Today is reporting from the High Point market that retailers are arriving at the market ready to spend on new inventory. Among the trends observed by writer Clint Engel are the return of large home entertainment wall units and a lot of interest in powered recliner chairs and sofas.

The magazine is also reporting three key trends in bedding product introductions: hybrid designs that combine specialty foams with innersprings, new gel memory foam mattresses and more encased coil mattress designs.