In 1976, Joan Barnes—a Californian mom frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time—took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree Play & Music. In the decades since Gymboree’s founding, Joan’s vision of a safe place where youngsters could build confidence and creativity has come to fruition and spread to 30 countries around the globe. Staffed by attentive and expertly trained instructors, each Gymboree outpost adheres to a curriculum of activities designed by experts to foster the development of children’s’ cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play and close readings of Goodnight Moon. The staffers also conduct entertaining classes that cover subjects ranging from music to sports, imparting valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. To further set apart her business, Barnes employed nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beck to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers.
NibNobs Sweet Company employs pastry alchemy to transform unwieldy slices of cake into handheld spherical treats in a variety of shades and flavors. Each succulent cake morsel is swathed in a frosting fit for complementing its core, with additional sugar sprinkles and garnish twirls available to dial up its delicious shell. Gourmet flavors, such as the refreshing key-lime pie ($24.95 per dozen) and complex dark chocolate, orange, and sea salt ($24.95 per dozen), please the palate, and classics, such the rainbow-spotted birthday cake ($19.95 per dozen) and triple chocolate chip ($19.95 per dozen), deliver comfort and flashbacks to childhood cake hunts. Thwart indecision with a variety pack (starting at $19.95 per dozen) proffering prearranged truffle harmonies, and then enjoy the treats one by one, each evoking a new emotion and an all-too-familiar urge to rub the belly cyclically.
With a verdant variety of shrubs, trees, roses, and vines, the friendly plantologists will help you wade through the veritable ocean of foliage. Beginning green-thumbers can take advantage of a jumbo planting kit, including ample plant food, vitamin B1, and planting compost—everything a person needs to lure an unsuspecting plant into captivity ($15.97 for the regular kit; $29.97 for the jumbo kit). Advanced yard-enhancements abound in the form of trees and shrubs, such as a selection of 5-gallon citrus trees, good for accenting a living space and forming a focal point for the worship of the Lemon Pledge gods ($34.99). Armstrong can also help organic gardeners reach full-flavored nirvana with a bevy of 3-inch plant varieties ($2.99; selections vary by season and location).
Juicy tidbits of chocolate-dunked fruit arrive on the doorsteps of family and friends, done up in colorful bouquets and candy boxes by the skilled fruit arrangers at Edible Arrangements' more than 1,100 franchises worldwide. The company's in-house chocolatiers drizzle albion strawberries and daisy pineapples in a trio of chocolate flavors. Once properly chocolated, the workers organize the preservative-free sweets into lush arrangements that resemble flowers in bloom. Customers can choose to plop their bouquets in a variety of vessels, including vases, mugs, and sports- or holiday-themed containers that add a personal touch to the edible gifts. Alternatively, customers can opt to adorn gifts with the cheery, red lids of candy boxes, nestling 12 chocolate-dipped morsels inside to build anticipation and determine if loved ones have x-ray vision as they guess whether fruit will come dusted in shredded coconut or drizzled in white chocolate.
The Parlour stocks its chic, exposed-brick bistro space with a Bacchanalian bounty of elegant, hand-selected wines. Its impressive by-the-bottle list boasts more than 200 wines from around the globe, categorized by type and country of origin. If this leviathan list seems too daunting, wizened staff members are on hand to make masterful suggestions. The shorter by-the-glass list streamlines the assortment down to approximately 30 wines, ports, and imported beers (starting at $6) to team up with The Parlour's seasonal menu, like Tom and Jerry when they fight that pesky bulldog, Spike.