Can you believe fall is almost here?  I look forward to this season every year.  There are so many fun holidays and activities to do with your kids.  Now if only the weather here would cooperate!  My kids are getting older, but they still love playdough.  Here is a fun recipe from familyfun.com for parents and au pairs to get into the mood for fall.

Total Time Needed:

2-3 Hours

Your little one might not be old enough to bake
holiday desserts, but she can still celebrate the season with this
pumpkin-inspired play dough. In honor of the beloved fall fruit, we dyed the
dough orange and added pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon to it, which makes it
smell — but not taste — good enough to eat.

Ages: 18 months and
up

Materials
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Food coloring (we used 6 drops of red and 15 drops
    of yellow)
 Instructions
  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a nonstick saucepan. Add the oil, water, and
    food coloring and whisk until smooth. Stirring constantly with a rubber spatula,
    cook the mixture over medium heat until it forms a ball, about 3 to 4
    minutes.
  2. Turn the dough onto a counter, let it cool slightly, then knead the dough
    until it has a smooth texture, about 1 minute. The dough will keep up to a week
    in a ziplock bag.
  3. Step 3 - Pumpking Pie Play Dough
    To make stems, place some pasta (we used fusilli) in a ziplock bag. Add five
    drops of green food coloring and a teaspoon of water. Seal the bag, then let
    your tot squish the pasta around until it’s tinted. Pour the pasta onto a piece
    of waxed paper and let it dry for about five minutes before pressing it into
    your pumpkins.
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Go to fullsize image  For the au pairs new to our country, here is a brief explanation about why we celebrate the 4th of July as the birthday of our nation.  Enjoy the festivities!

From History.com

Variously known as the Fourth of July and Independence Day, July 4th has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775-83). In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

I came across this idea for Father’s Day a few weeks ago; a candy bar poster.  It’s easy and I know my kids will have a blast making it for their dad.  Au pairs can easily customize this for the dads in their families with the kids help.  All you need is a poster board, pens/markers and candy bars.  Here are some ideas for what to write.

I know it’s not PAYDAY, but it’s Father’s Day and Dad you are worth $100GRAND to us.  You are better than a trip to the MILKY WAY, a STARBURST through the sky or a shopping trip on 5TH AVENUE.  Your SNICKERS are like a SYMPHONY to us and we just wanted you to know how SPECIAL you are to your SUGAR BABIES!  We wish you MOUNDS of HUGS and KISSES this Father’s Day!

You are the best Dad in the whole MILKY WAY!  When life takes me kown ROCKY ROADS, I can count on you to be my LIFESAVER.  You SKOR hight points as a Dad and I think you are still a BIG HUNK.  You are a WHOPPER of a good Dad!

Be creative and have fun!

Ah, summertime again. My kids love to read and I set aside a specific time everyday for them to do so.  They love going to the library to get new books  and they really enjoy the prizes for reading those books.  This is a great activity for au pairs to do with the kids to keep up their skills and help them stay busy!

Here are a few of our favorite reading programs that give the kids a free book when they are done;

Maricopa County Library District

Barnes and Noble

Borders

Happy summer reading!

I was at a friend’s house the other day when her 3 year old daughter bumped into me.  “Excuse me”, she said.  I immediately thought to myself, “Would my 3 year old say that?”  Honestly, I’m not really sure.  It seems like we work on manners a lot, but it takes them a long time to “get it”.  I found an article on the top 25 manners every kid should know before the age of nine.  It’s a great reminder for parents and au pairs to make sure their charges know these basic rules.  Because everyone loves a polite child!

1.  Say please.

2.  Say thank you.

3.  Do not interrupt grownups who are speaking to each other unless it’s an emergency.

4. Say “excuse me” if you want to enter a conversation.

5.  When in doubt, ask permission.

6.  The world is not interested in what you dislike.  Keep negative opinions to yourself.

7.  Do not comment on others’ physical characteristics unless it’s a compliment.

8.  When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.

9.  After playing at a friend’s house, tell the parents thank you.

10.  Knock on closed doors before entering.

11. When making a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask to speak with the person you are calling.

12.  Say thank you for gifts received.

13.  Never use foul language in front of adults.

14.  Don’t call people mean names.

15.  Don’t make fun of others.

16.  Even if a play or assembly is boring, sit quietly and act interested.

17.  If you bump into someone, say “excuse me”.

18.  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and don’t pick your nose in public.

19.  Hold the door open for people behind you.

20.  If you come across an adult working on something, ask if you can help.

21.  When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling.

22.  When someone helps you, say thank you.

23.  Use eating utensils properly.

24. Keep a napkin on your lap and use it to wipe your mouth.

25.  Don’t reach for things at the table.  Ask to have them passed.

One of the great things about being a Local Area Representative for Go AuPair is having fun with the au pairs!  I really enjoy getting together with them and sharing their cultures and enthusiasm for life.  Here are some of the fun things we have planned for this year.
April – bowling
June – water park (family day conference)
August – movie night
October – Halloween party
December – Christmas party

The families who have chosen their aupairs through goAUPAIR already know why we are such a great agency, but for those of you who are undecided, here are some great reasons to choose us!

Located in Murray, Utah and founded in 1989, this smaller agency is growing.  They have several programs, including Au Pair Plus, Educare and Premiere Au Pairs.  goAUPAIR now recruits au pairs from China, a new trend in hosting au pairs.  Tanna Wilson, Managing Director of goAUPAIR, discusses Chinese au pairs with the Clearinghouse in our exclusive interview.  This agency has added more resources on their newly upgraded website and continue to receive solid ratings on our Agency SurveysAward Winning Agency:  Recipient of the IAPA’s Au Pair of the Year Award in 2004 and 2005.

What are some of goAUPAIR’s Strengths?

Competitive Pricing – goAUPAIR’s pricing is very straight forward. They offer many discounts and don’t have extra fees like some other agencies. 

Great Customer Service – Host Families and Au Pairs always speak with a live, friendly representative in the corporate offices. In addition to the staff at the corporate offices, goAUPAIR’s Local Area Representatives are no exception to the great customer service. Many Local Area Representatives either have been Au Pairs or have extensive experience abroad, giving Au Pairs and Host Families an extra special perspective of the Au Pair program. Host Families consistently refer their friends and family to goAUPAIR because of the outstanding customer service.

AuPairClearinghouse rate their phone service as “good-very good.”

Selection of Au Pairs – goAUPAIR has one of the largest pools of available Au Pair candidates in the industry. In addition, goAUPAIR has many hard to find Au Pairs from countries like Vietnam, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Hungry and more.

Flexibility – goAUPAIR books all Au Pair arrival flights individually, which means they can accommodate the preferred arrival dates, times and locations according to Host Families’ needs. Through goAUPAIR’s Mutual Match system, Host Families are able to review multiple Au Pair applications instead of one at a time. This allows families the most flexibility to help them determine which Au Pair best fits their unique needs.

Host Family Resoures – starting 2 years ago, this smaller agency began to offer host families useful articles on hosting au pairs in their au pair blog, http://www.goaupair.com/blog/ :  au pair tips, news articles, nationality profiles and more!  Its a very nice feature and the articles are fairly good and very informative! 

This is what Kelli, the Placement Coordinator Supervisor at goAUPAIR, had to say about her agency:  

Customer Service – Our excellent customer service is one factor that sets us apart from the other Au Pair agencies. I talk with families everyday who reference how happy they are with the service they receive after switching to goAUPAIR. 

Read the Clearinghouse’s Review of goAUPAIR’s Customer Service!

Flexible Payment Plans – goAUPAIR offers customizable payment plans which allows families to choose customized payment plans ranging from two to eight payment installments depending on the family’s needs. This plan has been very helpful to many families in this economic climate.

Popular Countries – Right now, some of our most popular countries from which our Au Pairs are coming from include China, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.

Placement Coordinators – Every family has their own dedicated Placement Coordinator. Any time a family needs assistance; they can call in and talk to the same person! Host Families enjoy someone who knows their family and their unique needs. I am proud to say our current team of Placement Coordinators is the best team goAUPAIR has had since I’ve worked here!

I honor of our Chinese au pairs, here is a recipe to celebrate the Chinese New Year. 
 
Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Cake)
Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2-1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4-1/2 cups sweet rice flour (Available in Asian specialty markets)
  • 3 dried red dates (Available in Asian specialty markets)

Nian Gao, or Chinese New Year's Cake 

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, boil the water, add the sugar and the oil, and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes.
  2. Mix the rice flour thoroughly with the cooled liquid and transfer the mixture into an 8-inch round aluminum pan. (The aluminum pans at supermarket salad bars work very well for this). Set the dates in the middle.
  3. Put an inch of water into a wok, a large pot, or a large flat pan and carefully set the pan of batter in the water. Cover lightly with aluminum foil and gently steam the mixture for about 50 minutes. Take care not to let the water boil over into the nian gao.Steaming can also be done in the oven: set a large pan of hot water on the middle shelf of a 375-degree oven and carefully place the nin gao, covered loosely with foil, in the hot-water bath. The water should be gently bubbling. Steam for about 50 minutes or until the mixture is firm in the middle. Cool thoroughly before cutting the nian gao into diamond shapes. Makes 12 servings.

I found this craft at familyfun.com and have done it with my own kids as well as my son’s fourth grade class.  It is very easy and fun (for au pairs and kids) and a great way to bring the snow to the desert!

Supplies:

plastic baggy (1 per window cling)

template (you can find the ones I used here)

fabric paint (I used a white glitter color)

Place the template under the plastic bag and trace the outline with the fabric paint.  Make sure to connect all the lines and don’t make it too thin.  Let it dry at least 24 hours and peel off and stick on a window or mirror.

from Nestle

I don’t know about you, but pumpkin carving is not one of my favorite activities.  Maybe it’s because my kids are still little, but it seems like a lot of work, a lot of mess and a lot of safety hazards.  Small  children and knives are not a good combination.  However, my kids talked me into it this year so we will give it another try.  Here are some tips for moms, dads and au pairs to help with the project!

Pumpkin Carving Tips

Pumpkin Carving Tips

A pumpkin carved into a jack-o-lantern is the most recognizable symbol of Halloween. And a well carved pumpkin will impress your friends, neighbors and trick-or-treaters. Today, pumpkins can be carved, painted or even have gourds inserted to create faces. This Halloween activity is a great way to bring the family together to celebrate the season, with something for everyone in the family to do. Kids can design the face and clean out the inside of the pumpkin while adults make the cuts. And everyone can help to make roasted pumpkin seeds when it’s all done.

What You’ll Need To Carve A Pumpkin

1. Knives work best when sharp, and are actually safer because they require less force to make the cuts. Knives need to be sharp, flexible, with thin sturdy blades. Children should not handle knives and should always be supervised.

* Boning Knife – long thin blade to cut top whole and any large pieces out of the face
* Paring Knife – for detail work

2. Gutting Spoons to remove seeds, pulp and strings from the inside of the pumpkin

* Ice Cream Scoop
* Large Metal Ladle / Spoon

3. Candles

* Place votive candles in a clear glass candle holder
* Plain white candles give off the most light
* Never leave a candle burning unattended or overnight
* A glow stick or battery operated light can also be used

4. Newspaper to cover your workspace

Getting Started

Step 1: Preparation

For easy clean up, place your pumpkin on several layers of newspaper before carving. Clean the outside of the pumpkin with a wet rag to remove dirt and debris.

Step 2: Draw and Cut Lid

Draw a five or six sided opening (vs. a circle) with a crayon or a water-based magic marker. The hole should be large enough to allow you to scoop out the guts (seeds and stringy membrane) by hand and with a large spoon. With a long, thin bladed knife, cut out the top of the pumpkin around the stem. Angle the knife so that the lid and hole will be somewhat cone shaped. This will help prevent the lid from falling into the hole by creating a ledge that supports the lid.

Step 3: Clean and Scrape

Use the ice cream scoop or spoon to clean out the seeds and strings. Have kids remove the seeds from the membrane and place into a separate bowl (for making pumpkin seeds). Make sure you have scraped the bottom of the pumpkin flat so that the candle will sit level in the pumpkin.

Step 4: Draw and Cut Face

Inspect the surface of the pumpkin to decide the best side to carve your face. Draw the face you want to cut with a crayon or a water-based magic marker, then use your knife to cut along the lines you drew. When finished cutting, carefully push out the pieces. Now you’re ready to light up your pumpkin!

Other Tips:

Selecting a Pumpkin

Select a pumpkin that is ripe and has no bruises or nicks. Do not carry a pumpkin by its stem – it may break. Make sure the pumpkin has a flat bottom, smooth texture and is evenly colored for best results.

When to Carve Your Pumpkin

Do not carve your pumpkin too many days before Halloween night. To protect against dryness and mold, cover the carved pumpkin with plastic wrap and put the pumpkin into the refrigerator when it is not on display.

How to Make Your Pumpkin Last Longer

To reduce shriveling, coat the cut edges of your carving with petroleum jelly. To revive a shriveled pumpkin, soak it in water in a bucket or bathtub for 1-8 hours, let it drain then dry it carefully. If your pumpkin molds or turns soft, there is nothing you can do!

Start a New Tradition

Go to a local pumpkin patch to select your pumpkin. There are many fun activities and goodies available there for families. Instead of throwing your jack-o-lantern in the trash when Halloween is over, bury your pumpkin in the yard. It’s fun and gives the family a chance to say good-bye to a good friend.

Recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

* Fresh pumpkin seeds
* Salt

Directions

When carving your pumpkin, set seeds aside in a bowl. Do not wash seeds prior to roasting (washing can remove some of the flavor). Remove seeds from strings and place in a SINGLE layer on a cookie sheet. Add salt to taste and bake at 250 degrees until dry, stirring occasionally. Bake for 15-30 minutes, or until the seeds start to turn a very light gold.

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