New School Year Brings New Routine, New Accomplishments

With a new school year upon us, Breyers Ice Cream Toppings recently released its Kids’ Top Accomplishments video which highlights kids’ achievements and reminds parents to celebrate them – no matter how big or small.  Whether it’s being named MVP of the soccer team or learning how to tie your shoes, parents can help their kids set new goals this year and celebrate each accomplishment along the way. managing editor Serena Norr, also a mother of two, recently partnered with Breyers Toppings to offer advice to parents for getting off on the right foot this school year.

“It’s really important to encourage children to set goals, and when they accomplish them, it’s worthy of a little celebration,” Norr said. “Sometimes a little quality time or enjoying a sweet treat together can send the message that they’ve done a good job.”

Norr also recommends:

  • Establishing a routine. Back-to-school means early mornings. To avoid the frantic rush, ease kids into their new schedules by setting up an earlier bedtime and wake-up time at least two weeks before the start of school.
  • Staying connected. Parents can stay connected to their kids by asking open-ended questions about their day, working together on homework and checking in with their teacher to see how they are doing.
  • Enjoying free time. So many kids are “scheduled” to the max during the year with afterschool activities, clubs, homework, etc., it’s really important to help them achieve a balance with free time and play. For some kids that might be art, while others may love playing outside with friends. Whatever it is, make sure that children enjoy some unstructured down time.
  • Weekend rewards. With all the back-to-school busyness, quality time with family on the weekends is important.  Establish new traditions like Movie Night, Game Night or for a special treat – Ice Cream Night. New Breyers Ice Cream Toppings can really help make those celebrations a little easier. Parents can set up a fuss-free sundae bar, complete with fruit toppings, tasty sauces squeezable pouches and sprinkles – all without high-fructose corn syrup. Grab your favorite ice cream, a selection of Breyers Toppings and you’re ready to celebrate together – for little reasons, big reasons or no reason at all.

Breyers Toppings are available at Wal-Mart, select Target and grocery stores nationwide.

Remind Them You Care After You’ve Seen Them off to School

Harry & David is offering a wide range of gift boxes and baskets designed to make leaving home for college a little easier for both student and parent.

image001The Happy Creek Gift Box Classic includes six Royal Riviera pears, four apples, white extra-sharp cheddar cheese and Havarti cheese. It retails for $39.95.




image002The Gourmet Dried Fruit & Nut Snack Gift retails for $49.95 and contains a selection of dried fruits and nuts handpacked for snacking or holiday entertaining.

It includes dried pears, dried apricots, dried peaches, dried dates, prunes, roasted salted cahews, roasted in-shell pistachios, honey roasted peanuts and natural almonds.

Pick 12 Homemade Cookies

image004Nothing says love like homemade cookies, and Harry & David’s homemade cookies might be the next best thing to mom’s. For $19.95, you pick 12 from a list that includes gourmet versions of some of the classics and a few that’ll make a statement to the sorority.





Bake Brownies with a Twist for Bake Sale Treats

Back-to-school season marks the start of the most delicious extracurricular activity: bake sales. Cookies and brownies are two of the most popular bake sale items, and this year, they’ll taste even better with a flavor twist. The McCormick Kitchens have developed easy cookie and brownie recipes – including one that combines the two.
“Our new Choco-Mint Crownie recipe combines a vanilla-rich chocolate chip cookie with a cool peppermint brownie,” said Mary Beth Harrington of the McCormick Kitchens. “They’re easy to make – just add a splash of peppermint extract to your brownie batter, pour into a pan, spoon chocolate chip cookie dough flavored with pure vanilla on top and bake.”

Other easy recipes from the McCormick Kitchens take brownies and chocolate chip cookies from bake sale favorites to bake sale stars. It’s as simple as adding extracts to brownie mix or folding in tasty ingredients like cinnamon and cocoa to your favorite made-from-scratch cookie recipe.

Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies
Try adding these easy variations to made-from-scratch cookies:

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies – Draw a crowd with the warm, inviting essence of cinnamon.
Double Chocolate Chunk Mint Cookies – Combine cool peppermint with rich cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate for a delicious grab-and-go treat.
Double Chocolate Chunk Orange Cookies – Make a sweet treat with dark chocolate, chunks of rich semi-sweet chocolate and citrusy orange flavor.

Brownies with a Flavor Twist
Turn ordinary brownies into crowd pleasers by customizing them with easy flavor twists:

Raspberry Brownies – Add 4 teaspoons raspberry extract to brownie mix and 2 teaspoons to chocolate frosting for a fruity alternative to this bake sale staple. Garnish with a raspberry.
Orange Kissed Brownies – For citrus-infused delights, add 1 tablespoon orange extract and chocolate chips to brownie mix and 1 teaspoon of the extract to chocolate frosting. Top with an orange slice.
Almond Brownies – For a nutty flavor, use 1/2 teaspoon almond extract in the brownie mix and 1/4 teaspoon in the chocolate frosting. Add colorful sprinkles on top.

Online Retailer Acquires Dwell Studio, the largest online retailer of home furnishings and decor, has acquired DwellStudio, a lifestyle retailer known for groundbreaking design and impeccable quality in modern home furnishings with expertise in upholstery, case goods, furniture and textiles for baby, kids and home. The acquisition further strengthens’s leadership position in home retail by adding a popular lifestyle brand with core competencies in original design and product development. The deal will accelerate’s launch of proprietary product lines and lifestyle brands in 2013 while addressing new market segments.

Under the umbrella, DwellStudio will operate as a standalone brand joining Joss & Main and to satisfy increasing demand for unique shopping experiences in the home furnishings space.’s core strengths in selection, service, internet technologies and logistics will drive the rapid growth of DwellStudio. At the same time, will have access to DwellStudio’s world-class product design team for the development of original product lines and new lifestyle brands.

“DwellStudio has built a following of devoted customers who enthusiastically identify with a certain lifestyle and modern design aesthetic,” noted Niraj Shah, CEO and co-founder of “We look forward to expanding the DwellStudio brand through our world class e-commerce capabilities while staying true to DwellStudio’s strategy of developing and delivering trend-setting products of exceptional quality to a growing customer base through a large number of partners.”

Based in New York City with a flagship retail store at 77 Wooster Street in SoHo, DwellStudio is a catalog and e-commerce retailer with a worldwide wholesale business. The company’s products are currently sold in more than 800 high-end specialty retail stores and design oriented online retailers across the United States, Canada and throughout 40 international territories. Known for its modern sensibility, iconic textiles and forward colors, DwellStudio products can be found at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Giggle, Bel Bambini, ABC Carpet, HD Buttercup and F.A.O. Schwarz.

“We are thrilled because is truly transforming the way people shop for home goods and furniture through innovative e-commerce solutions, extraordinary customer service and state of the art logistics. They have the best backend in the business,” noted Christiane Lemieux, CEO, founder and creative director of DwellStudio. “Our design, merchant and product development teams are so excited to help fuel’s move into new market segments and additional proprietary product categories. At the same time, we want our customers to know that we remain dedicated to building the DwellStudio brand with a continued commitment to beautiful original design and impeccable construction. It’s the perfect marriage of style and substance.”

“DwellStudio is an ideal addition to’s portfolio of brands – joining Joss & Main, and to meet market demand for distinctive modern design in bedding, furnishings and decor, with a special emphasis on products for baby and children,” added John Mulliken,’s SVP of strategic initiatives. “The acquisition is a logical step on’s path to becoming the dominant retailer in home. We will enable DwellStudio to scale its core business at a much greater pace while staying true to its design DNA and commitment to the highest quality products for home.”

It’s a Mess Down There on the Kitchen Floor

Our kitchens are the heart of our homes and the hub of our household activities, but a study just released by Kelton Research and BISSELL Homecare, Inc., shows we’re not treating them with the TLC they deserve. More than three in four Americans (77 percent) say their kitchen floor isn’t always as clean as it could be, and one in four admits that it’s at least sometimes, if not more often, dirty enough for feet to stick to. While this has something to do with the level of activity our kitchens see – everything from cooking and entertaining, to doing homework and playing with pets – it’s compounded by the fact that close to one-third of Americans who clean their floors wait at least a week to do so, likely because they don’t want to spend the time and effort.

“What’s ironic about this situation is that, while many consumers are hyper-vigilant about sanitization outside their homes, they’re forgetting about one large surface they actually have control over – their kitchen floor,” said Leah Haywood, associate brand manager for BISSELL. “Plus, our research shows that when they do clean their hard floors, they use a mop which often pushes germs around, or they get down on their hands and knees and scrub1! We want people to know that steam mops offer easy, effective solutions for sanitizing floors. Our goal is to help Americans spend more time making memories and less effort cleaning up after them.”

Kitchen floor confidential
Overall, Americans aren’t proud of the state of their kitchen floors – more than two in three (68 percent) say it isn’t always clean enough to prevent embarrassment if guests stopped by; more than three in four (77 percent) don’t think it’s always clean enough to show their home to prospective buyers; and nearly one in four (24 percent) say it’s at least sometimes too dirty to allow guests to enter the room.

Americans crave a deeper clean, with 58 percent saying their kitchen floor is at least sometimes in need of sanitization, but they’re deterred by the time (20 minutes, on average) and effort they think it requires. Nearly half (49 percent) say their kitchen takes more effort than any other room in their home to clean properly.

At the same time, cleaning perceptions and behaviors are markedly misaligned. About three in four (72 percent) say their kitchen floor isn’t always clean enough to allow a child to sit or crawl on it, but roughly half (46 percent) of parents say they’d let their child eat food dropped on the kitchen floor if it’s been there for five seconds or less, and another 7 percent would allow their child to eat any food that’s been on the kitchen floor no matter how long it’s been there. Are parents unsuspecting of the germs that live on kitchen floors, or just too worn out to care?

Parenting’s sticky side effects
Households with kids have even tougher cleaning challenges, as little ones are identified as causing more difficult-to-clean floor turmoil than pets or significant others. More than half (54 percent) of parents with a cat or dog say their child is more likely than their pet to cause a tougher-to-clean mess on any floor in their home, and four in five (80 percent) married parents say their child is more likely than their spouse to cause these sticky situations. While kids of all ages are cited as mess-makers, on average, the ones who leave parents grappling with the trickiest messes are nearly 4-years old.

Not only do those with kids face greater cleaning challenges, they also hold themselves to higher standards when it comes to their homes. Married parents are 20 percent more likely than non-parents (55 percent vs. 46 percent) to think their in-laws would judge them more for grime on their floor than stains on their clothing, and 65 percent of parents (vs. 54 percent of non-parents) say their kitchen floor is at least sometimes in need of sanitization.

A smarter solution
The good news is that we are taking responsibility for dealing with floor messes, even if it means flying solo. More than nine in ten (92 percent) Americans say they would typically clean up a mess in their home on their own instead of getting help or leaving it there, and only two percent say they would ignore the mess altogether. So, if we’re stuck with tackling floor messes, why not explore a smarter solution?

“As many as 82 percent of Americans perceive steam as an effective tool for cleaning hard floors, but our research shows only a fraction of them realize that steam mops exist,” said Haywood. “We want consumers to know that BISSELL can help them achieve a deep clean with less effort than it takes with a mop and bucket.”

The BISSELL PowerFresh Steam Mop cleans dried-on sticky messes twice as fast as the leading steam mop. Using just heat and water, steam can remove 99 percent of germs and bacteria. It is available for a suggested retail price of $99.99 at and at mass retailers including Target,, JCPenney, Lowe’s and BestBuy.

Visit to learn more about BISSELL’s full line of cleaning products.

Massachusetts Furniture Retailer Collects Clothing for Needy Children

Until September 9, all Jordan’s Furniture store locations will accept like-new and new clothes and shoes for children infant to 12 years old to go toward the Cradles to Crayons “Ready For School” program. Through partnering social service agencies, the donations will go to children in homeless or low-income situations. This will be the second year for the partnership between the retailer and the organization.

“We are so proud to be working together with Cradles to Crayons. They run an incredibly impressive and efficient operation, ensuring the dignity of the children and families that they serve,” said Eliot Tatelman, Jordan’s President and CEO. “It is so important for every child to feel important and worthy. By working with the team at Cradles to Crayons, we hope to do our part in helping area children get ready for school and be prepared to learn. We know that our donation drive made an impact last year. We hope for the same success this year.”

Cradles to Crayons was founded in 2002 and provides for children from birth through 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive at home, school, and play. Items are distributed to the children via social service agencies such as MSPCC, Horizons For Homeless Children, Head Start Programs, and more.

Lynn Margherio founded Cradles to Crayons 11 years ago in Quincy, Mass. The organization moved to a bigger location in Brighton, where the donations are assembled by staff and volunteers for individual KidPacks. “We are thrilled to partner again with Jordan’sto help get local children ready for school from head to toe. Jordan’s is a true champion and advocate for children. I applaud them for their commitment to assist local children in-need. Cradles to Crayons is grateful for the shared belief that the first day of school should be an exciting new endeavor for all children. The items collected in the retail stores will ensure thousands of local children will receive the essential items they deserve and need to start the new school year ready and excited to learn.” For more information, log onto or


New Healthy Gourmet Food Products

By Lorrie Baumann

I’ve just returned from the Summer Fancy Food Show, a trade show attended by gourmet food retailers who go there to shop for goodies for their stores directly from the makers of these products. Many of these producers are small family businesses — it’s not unusual to talk to someone there who’s the third or fourth generation in the same business. Whether they make pickles, gourmet chocolates, or granola from natural organic grains, these products are, in general, artisan-made with a concern both for the well-being of the people who will eventually eat them and for the land from which they originate.

Their product selection also shows us that you can be self-indulgent and enjoy your life and your food while you eat things that are actually good for you. Take, for instance, the Go Organic line of candies that I saw in the Hillside Candy booth. The Go Organic line includes nine different products that are organic and certified to contain no GMO ingredients. Brand new in the line are Ginger Xtreme hard candies and Ginger Chews organic chewy candies. All products are kosher, gluten-free and made in the USA. Visit at

I also saw a new Grain Berry line of cereals and baking mixes from The Silver Palate. I didn’t get to taste, so I can’t be sure they’re delicious, but there are a whole line of products that are made with natural berries of grain and antioxidants to support heart health.

I saw quite a few vendors there who were talking about products made without any of the most common allergens. That’s not to say that it’s going to be easy to feed a child who suffers from food allergies, but it does at least look like there are folks out there making products that’ll make that a little easier. Enjoy Life, at, has a whole line of gluten-free baking chocolate, cookies, chewy bars and lentil chips that are designed for just this purpose. Imagine being able to give your kid a convenient snack food without having to worry too much about an unexpected allergic reaction. I also found crackers from Suzie’s, a brand of the Good Groceries Company, that are made from ancient grains, including quinoa, amaranth, Kamut, spelt, buckwheat and oats. You can find them at

Getting away from grains a little bit, I also found Snapz, a brand of freeze-dried apple snacks. These low-calorie, fat-free crispy treats are made without added salt, sugar or fat. There’s a serving of fruit in each .7-ounce bag, and they’re a source of Vitamin C. Visit at

Kickstarter Launch for Wi-Fi Enabled Teddy Bears

MessagePetz, the Wi-Fi-enabled smart Teddy Bears , have launched on crowd-funding site Kickstarter with early “bear” specials starting from $89. MessagePetz is a huggable, soft Teddy Bear that allows parents and children to communicate whilst they’re apart via Wi-Fi messaging.

MessagePetz is hoping to raise $45,000 in funding on Kickstarter, where people can “back” the project to receive their own MessagePetz Teddy Bear. Parents are able to send their child’s MessagePetz Bear a ‘hug’, a ‘kiss’, an ‘I love you’ or a personalized message from the free companion app on their smartphone. The Bear’s LED heart lights up to let them know you’re in touch and displays the message on the Bear’s screen, no matter where you are in the world.

Glenn Jones , Co-Founder and CEO, explains: “Families want to stay in touch and messaging apps are very popular, but parents have concerns about when to give their children smartphones. We’ve created a huggable messaging platform for kids four years old and up that is fun, private, safe and secure that solves that problem. Kids instead can send and receive messages with our Teddy Bear – no smartphone required.”

Simply by hugging their MessagePetz, your child lets you know they’ve received your message and can automatically reply without the need of a smartphone. Custom replies from your child can be written in advance such as ‘Peter loves you too!’, and older children can use the free iPhone app or MessagePetz iPad app to compose custom replies. Your special Teddy Bear could also be perfect for you and your partner if you have to spend time apart.

The MessagePetz Bear:

  • Is available for early backers at $89
  • Suitable for ages 4+
  • Is 21 inches tall, made from soft plush textiles
  • Is powered by a re-chargeable Lithium-ion battery
  • The Bear itself does not need a SIM card, the person sending the message needs a phone with a SIM
  • Is supported by the free MessagePetz smartphone and iPad apps, available on iPhone. A native Android app will also be released later this year
  • The MessagePetz apps are private, so only your loved ones can send and receive messages. MessagePetz privacy and security standards are COPPA compliant
  • Multiple MessagePetz Teddy Bears can be associated with one MessagePetz family account – so suitable for larger families

MessagePetz is expected to start shipping by December 2013. You can pre-order your MessagePetz now on their Kickstarter page:

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 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.