By Melanie Cane

Do you dread bedtime with your kids? Is it a constant battle getting them to go to sleep? If so, then join the club, literally.

The Sleepytime Club, created by Rye resident Brook Packard, is a book-of-the-month and album-of-the-month club geared for ages 2-7. The system is designed to make bedtime easier for all.

Club members receive a downloadable kit that includes an illustrated storybook, as well as songs and quiet activities. Parents and children bond through interactive poems, a story, and a mindfulness practice, “Put the Day to Bed.” Each playlist ends with a classical guitar version of a lullaby. The entire routine takes about 20 minutes.

Packard developed Sleepytime Club because she herself suffered from sleep difficulties. In her research, she discovered sleep deprivation is a pervasive problem that can lead to other conditions, such as anxiety and difficulty concentrating. She also learned that experts recommend establishing a calming bedtime routine.

An early childhood educator and music specialist, Packard described her thought process: “I wanted to provide families with a quality, nurturing experience. Bedtime isn’t bedtime without a story, so I worked to create ones that send positive messages, lead children to sleep, and give parents an assurance they’re doing their best. Adding relaxing music came naturally to me,” she said.

Since launching the Club, Packard has produced four Bedtime Kits: Stars, Heart, Moon, and Clouds. And she plans to add nine more this year.

<Packard will share her knowledge of bedtime routines and positive family habits at a free Get Your Sleep On! Webinar May 8 at 10:30 a.m. Sign up at>


WE NEED Book Cover Stars

All Paws to the Rescue

By Robin Jovanovich

Over a decade ago, Claudia Baker was giving a client a massage when the woman turned to her and asked if she knew anyone who might be interested in buying her established pet store business in downtown Rye.

While Rye wasn’t a hop, skip away from northern New Jersey, where Baker lived, she knew and loved the store and the town, and thought why not!

A few months after taking over All Paws, Baker started adding her paw prints to the gourmet pet boutique. “I cut back on the super pricey merchandise and brought in quality U.S.-made products in a range of prices,” she said.

Not only does Baker help dog and cat owners find the best food and accessories for their furry friends, she also offers training tips and support. In a number of cases, a family didn’t give up on a problematic pup because she helped them work on the dog’s behavior, and their response.

She loves the days when children come in after school and ask her advice about the different kinds of treats she sells. Many families hold birthday parties for their beloved pets, and because every good dog deserves the occasional treat, All Paws stocks freshly baked ones.

“This store is like a family,” says Baker with a smile. Many customers bring their dogs, which thrills Rory, the Yellow Labrador Baker adopted a little less than two years ago. “He was in desperate need — of love and training — and he had me at woof,” said Baker who was recovering from the death of her very special Black Lab, Murphy.

While Baker is helping shoppers choose the right size coat or collar, don’t be surprised when Rory comes over to offer his assistance. He brings you his latest toy and you soon find yourself playing tug-of-war.

One question many longtime clients and customers have asked Baker is: Do you give massages to dogs? “Other than my own, very rarely,” she answers matter-of-factly. “Not every dog is comfortable getting more than a pat or a hug.”

This week, just back from the Pet Rescue luncheon at Apawamis Club, Baker, who wears her affection for four-footed creatures on her sleeve, is thinking of all the ways she can help more dogs find good homes. She already sponsors ads for the Humane Society of Westchester in this paper, and contributes to a number of pet causes, but she’s now planning to donate 10 percent of every $100 sale to the many animal shelters.

Meanwhile, a customer calls and says she’ll be by in five minutes to pick up her order. Baker, “thanks to a generous landlord”, now offers curbside pickup. And the first of many children walks in to browse the large selection of Mother’s Day gifts — hats, mugs, T-shirts — and cards. Rory rises from his afternoon nap to help.


All Paws owner Claudia Baker with Rory

For the fifth year, the Bird Homestead is welcoming young students after school from the Port Chester Carver Center for a hands-on program in organic gardening. For nine weeks the children are learning to plant, tend, and harvest their vegetables without the use of any chemicals.  

Taught by Han-Yu Hung, Children’s Gardening Program Coordinator at the New York Botanical Garden and Anne Mottola, an instructor at NYBG, the program emphasizes gardening without pesticides to keep our food and our environment healthy. Henry Bird (1869-1959), a prominent entomologist, was an early proponent of avoiding pesticides in vegetable gardening and a pioneer in advocating the use of beneficial insects to protect crops.

The program provides an introduction to botany and beneficial insects and is designed to teach an understanding of healthy food and where it comes from. Edible gardening was fundamental to the Bird family’s lifestyle. They maintained extensive vegetable gardens, grape arbors, and fruit trees on the Bird Homestead property.

The children spent their first class of the season digging compost into raised beds and planting tiny radish seeds. Hung and Mottola are introducing the children to basic composting and soil science, explaining how microbes and earthworms help break down organic materials and enrich soil fertility.  

This year the children are adding a native milkweed area to the garden to help Monarch butterflies. As widely reported, these beautiful butterflies are declining at an alarming rate, in part, due to loss of habitat from over development. One of the major threats to the species is the lack of available milkweed, the only host food plant for Monarch caterpillars.

The program for the Carver Center students is offered free of charge and supported by the Anvilla P. Cunningham Fund for Gardening Education at the Bird Homestead. The fund honors the memory of Mrs. Cunningham, an accomplished gardener and botanist, whose flower, vegetable, and herb gardens at her home in Rye were widely admired.

“It is a joy to have the Carver Center students dig in and learn here at the Bird Homestead garden,” said Anne Stillman, president of the Bird Homestead. “We thank all the donors to the Anvilla P. Cunningham Fund for making it possible.

Photos courtesy of Anne Mottola

By Georgetta L. Morque

Shopping takes on new meaning when a portion of the purchase price is donated to a charity of your choice. Designs that Donate is a unique business that gives shoppers this special opportunity. With their motto, ‘We Find, You Shop, We Give,’ co-founders and sisters-in-law Keri Starker and Farrel Starker of Purchase set out to make a difference, and they have.

What started as a small grass roots company in 2014 has expanded throughout Westchester and beyond into the metropolitan area and the national marketplace. Designs that Donate has supported several hundred charitable organizations, and has over 4,200 followers.

“Our goal is to help a lot of organizations and get the word out about what they do,” said Farrel.

Customers can shop on the company’s website (, through Instagram, or by private appointment. Designs that Donate also acts as a pop-up shop at charitable events where donations support that particular organization. The pair have frequented Rye Country Day’s book fair and have supported Pediatric Cancer at Willow Ridge Country Club, and Play for Pink at Brae Burn Country Club, to name a few.

Both savvy shoppers and designers, Farrel and Keri have flair and taste that friends have long admired. They enjoy scouring the marketplace for new trends and high quality finds from all over the world. “We’re always looking to satisfy customers,” said Keri, a jewelry designer for over 20 years.

Designs that Donate works with over 100 designers of fashion, accessories, jewelry, home goods, and more. Many items can be customized which is a big selling point. “People want to give a gift that’s personal,” said Farrel, noting their popular Lucite boxes customized with a school logo or special saying and monogramed blankets and bracelets. “And there’s an extra step in making it personal because it also supports a charity that’s meaningful to the customer.”

In designating their preferred charity, customers can choose from a long list or submit a new one. “We’re learning everyday about new nonprofits and new needs,” said Farrel. The Starkers find their work rewarding although exhausting, but at the end of a busy day they are happy about being together and feeling good about what they are doing.


Keri Starker and Farrel Starker

The Rye Y’s Togetherhood Committee is teaming up with the Friends of the Rye Nature Center for a family-friendly day of service in the woods Saturday, May 13 from 2-4. Enjoy an afternoon outdoors planting and removing invasive vines. There will be projects for ages 5 and above.

Registration required. Call 967-6363 or visit

All ages helped the Westchester Children’s Museum celebrate its first birthday last weekend. Yes, there was cake, but not before the guests — 800 of them! — tried their hands at Rigamajig and yarn sculpture, raced balloon cars, and accepted the construction challenge.

Here’s to many more celebrations.

Photos by Melanie Cane