Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Should Nannies Charge More When Working on New Year's Eve?

A nanny can charge more when her services are likely to be in higher demand, such as on holidays. We recommend you charge more than your usual rate if you plan to work on New Year’s Eve.

Ask yourself if you even want to work on New Year’s Eve. If you would rather have the evening off simply say, “I’m sorry I already have plans that evening.”

If you would like to work New Year’s Eve determine the rate you would feel comfortable making. Would you like an hourly rate (such as $30 per hour) or would you prefer a flat rate (such as $200 for the night)?

According to the The New York Times, more than a decade ago, babysitters were earning up to $100 an hour, some $250 for five hours, with a 13-year old charging $135 per child. If sitters could earn that much more than 10-years ago, nannies can certainly ask for more than the usual rate when working on New Year's Eve.

If you plan to charge double your typical rate, or a high flat rate, you ought to work hard and be prepared to keep the kids busy.

How much do you charge for babysitting on New Year's Eve?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mini Banana Muffins

Cooking with Kids
By The Naptime Chef 

Mini muffins are the perfect size for a quick snack. If you store them in the freezer, simply put them in the school lunchbox directly from the freezer and they will be ready to eat by lunchtime at school. I also love bringing mini muffins along on outings as a healthy snack for the kids. Don't forget that making muffins is a science lesson, so let the kids measure and mix the ingredients.

You Will Need:

1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3 bananas (small, mashed with a fork)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp hot water
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, walnuts ((optional)

What to Do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a mini-muffin tin with paper liners or rub each muffin cup with butter and set aside. In a small bowl mix the flour, nutmeg, and salt, and set side.

2. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the egg and bananas and mix well. Then add the dissolved baking soda and mix again.

3. With the mixer on low slowly add in the flour and mix until it is no longer visible. If you are using chocolate chips or walnuts (or both) stir them in with a wooden spoon.

4. Scoop the mixture into the muffin cups until each one is half full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and spring back lightly with when touched. Allow to cool before serving.

The Naptime Chef 
Photo by Stephanie Felzenberg

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

How to Make Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars

Cooking With Kids
By topsecretrecipes.com

Do you love the Cranberry Bliss Bars that are sold every holiday season at Starbucks? Well TopSecretRecipes.com has a recipe that is similar to the delicious treat found at my favorite coffee house. This isn't an easy recipe to make but when I give it as a gift during the holiday season everyone loves this holiday dessert.

You Will Need:

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup chopped sweetened dried cranberries
4 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks (or high quality white chocolate chips)

4-ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening

What to Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

2. Make the cake by beating the butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs, ginger, vanilla, and salt and beat well. Gradually mix in the flour and baking powder until smooth. Mix the chopped dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand. Pour the batter into a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned on top. Allow the cake to cool.

3. Make the frosting by combining the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. When the cake has cooled, use a spatula to spread the frosting over the top of the cake.

4. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of dried cranberries over the frosting and the cake.

5. Make the drizzled icing by whisking together the powdered sugar, milk, and shortening. Drizzle the icing over the cranberries in a sweeping motion with a squirt bottle or fill a small plastic storage bag with the icing and cut off the tip of one corner.

6. Cover the cake and let it chill out in the fridge for a couple of hours, then slice the cake.

Makes 16 bars

Photo by Stephanie Felzenberg

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Interfaith Books for the Holidays

Weekly Trip to the Library

In Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family Susan Katz Miller discusses raising kids in interfaith marriages. The author explains that nearly half of the marriages in the U.S. over the last decade have been between people of different faiths, and many of those families are raising children fully in both parents’ religious traditions.

I strongly believe that there is no harm in children learning about all religions. In the process, children will learn to love their own religion, customs, and traditions even more. Here are my suggestions for children to learn more about other holidays. Here are my selection of interfaith Christmas and Hanukkah children's books to share with children this holiday season.

Light The Lights! A Story About Celebrating Hanukkah And Christmas by Margaret Moorman

Interfaith families and families that aren't religious crave materials that validate the observance of holidays from the traditions of different faiths. In one of a very few such picture books, the author focuses on a household's joyous celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas, two festivals that frequently occur close together on the wintertime calendar. The book's title reflects a motif common to both: candles in a menorah glow brightly in Emma's house during the eight days of the Jewish holiday; later, lights shimmer beautifully from her family's Christmas tree. The family's celebrations are purely secular, and Emma's response to everything -- be it getting presents or playing dreidel -- is sheer delight, which the author captures nicely in her bright, unpretentious paintings. The story, however, is very slight, and there's no sense of the origins of the holidays, which are very different.

Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas by Michael J. Rosen

A child's vision of religious tolerance is exquisitely played out in this story about an elderly Christian barber and a Jewish child who befriends him. As a hobby, the African American barber makes elaborate woodcarvings -- many of which refer to events or characters in the Bible. Michael, a 9-year-old Jewish boy, often visits the barbershop just to admire old Elijah's carvings, especially that of Noah's Ark--a story that belongs to Jewish as well as Christian teachings. One day when Hanukkah and Christmas coincidentally overlap, Elijah gives Michael a special gift, a carved guardian angel. Immediately Michael is filled with a jumble of feelings -- gratitude for such a beautiful gift, concern that his parents might disapprove, and an even greater fear that God may frown upon a Christmas angel, "a graven image," in Michael's home. The thick sweeps of paint, the heavy uses of wood-tones, and primitive images make the settings and characters look as though Elijah carved them himself. When Michael finally reveals the carved angel to his parents, they help the young boy understand how expressions of friendship, love, and protection can be carried into any home, regardless of the household's religion. Michael J. Rosen based this story on the real-life Elijah Pierce (1892-1984), a lay minister, barber, and woodcarver from Columbus, Ohio, whose award-winning woodcarvings are now owned by the Columbus Museum of Art.

Holiday Miracles: A Christmas/Hanukkah Story by Ellyn Bache

This heartwarming story is truly an interfaith tale, a profile of a family in which the mother is Jewish and the father Christian. (This is a roman … clef: Bache has lovingly drawn from her own experience as a member of a Jewish-Catholic family.) As the parents perform the annual negotiations of latkes and parties and wrapping paper (red or blue?), their five-year-old son becomes seriously ill, making the entire family realize anew the central message of both Hanukkah and Christmas: Miracles are possible. The novella is simply and beautifully presented Bache, a Willa Cather Prize recipient, clearly knows how to tell a story. What could be cloying or manipulative is instead full of honest emotion.

Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family by Susan Katz Miller

In Being Both, Miller draws on original surveys and interviews with parents, students, teachers, and clergy, as well as on her own journey, to chronicle this controversial grassroots movement. Miller argues that there are distinct benefits for families who reject the false choice of “either/or” and instead embrace the synergy of being both. Reporting on hundreds of parents and children who celebrate two religions, she documents why couples make this choice, and how children appreciate dual-faith education. But often families who choose both have trouble finding supportive clergy and community. To that end, Miller includes advice and resources for interfaith families planning baby-welcoming and coming-of-age ceremonies, and seeking to find or form interfaith education programs. She also addresses the difficulties that interfaith families can encounter, wrestling with spiritual questions (“Will our children believe in God?”) and challenges (“How do we talk about Jesus?”). And finally, looking beyond Judaism and Christianity, Being Both provides the first glimpse of the next interfaith wave: intermarried Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist couples raising children in two religions. Being Both is at once a rousing declaration of the benefits of celebrating two religions, and a blueprint for interfaith families who are seeking guidance and community support. (Review from Amazon.com)

Friday, December 20, 2013

How to Make a Yule Log

Betty Crocker Recipe
Find Recipe at bettycrocker.com

A chocolate Yule Log is the most impressive dessert you can serve during the holiday season. It is not simple to make a Yule Log but this recipe using Betty Crocker devil's food cake mix makes the preparation much easier.

You Will Need:

Box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® devil's food cake mix
cup water
cup vegetable oil
tablespoon powdered sugar
cup whipping cream
cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 oz)
tablespoon corn syrup
teaspoon vanilla
Container Betty Crocker® Whipped vanilla frosting

cccWhat to Do:

1. Heat oven to 375°F (350°F for dark or nonstick pan). Line bottom only of 15x10x1-inch pan with foil or waxed paper; spray with baking spray with flour. Place paper baking cup in each of 8 regular-size muffin cups.

2. In large bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Add cake mix, water and oil; beat on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour 3 1/2 cups batter into pan. Divide remaining batter among muffin cups.

3. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched in center and cupcakes test done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If necessary, run knife around edges of pan to loosen cake. Turn cake upside down onto clean kitchen towel sprinkled with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar; carefully remove foil. While hot, carefully roll up cake and towel from narrow end. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 1 hour. Cool cupcakes 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely, about 30 minutes. Save cupcakes for another use.

4. Meanwhile, in medium microwavable bowl, microwave whipping cream uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds or until it just starts to boil. Stir in chocolate chips and corn syrup; let stand 3 minutes. Beat gently with wire whisk until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Refrigerate about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until spreading consistency.

5. Unroll cake carefully, and remove towel. Spread filling evenly over cake; roll up cake. Place cooling rack on sheet of waxed paper. Place cake roll on cooling rack; frost cake. Using fork, drag tines through frosting to look like log. Let stand 15 minutes. Transfer cake to serving platter. Store loosely covered in refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 servings

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pomander Balls Make Great Homemade Gifts

Christmas Scents

A pomander is a lime, lemon, or orange covered with whole cloves. Pomanders can be given as gifts to be used year-round in closets and drawers or displayed in a bowl. They can also be hung on a tree or included in potpourri. This project can be found in 365 Ways to Prepare for Christmas. Please visit our new blog address to see how to make Pomander Balls at bethebestnanny.com

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Should We Only Serve Kids Organic Milk?

Study Shows Benefits of Drinking Organic Milk

In the article More Helpful Fatty Acids Found in Organic Milk published in The New York Times last week, author Kenneth Chang discusses a study that shows "Whole milk from organic dairies contains far more of some of the fatty acids that contribute to a healthy heart than conventional milk, scientists are reporting."

The study's lead author says drinking whole organic milk “will certainly lessen the risk factor for cardiovascular disease,”

A debate has been raging for years over whether girls are now reaching puberty earlier than ever before. The debate escalated in 1997, when the journal Pediatrics published a study of 17,000 girls by Dr. Marcia Herman-Giddens of the University of North Carolina that found outward signs of puberty that precede menstruation — budding breasts and pubic hair — were hitting younger. Many say that cow’s milk is to blame.

What do you think? Should we only serve children organic milk?

The New York Times

Sunday, December 15, 2013

10 Best Wooden Toy Gifts for Kids

Holiday Gift Giving Ideas for Nannies

To see our favorite wooden toy gifts for kids please visit our new blog address at bethebestnanny.com

Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday Paper Garland

Making a Simple Paper Chain

Making paper garland is one of the easiest crafts to make during the holidays. It gives the kids an easy way to practice cutting and pasting. This simple paper garland decorates my charge's fireplace mantel in her bedroom. Follow these steps to learn how to make a classic paper chain:

You Will Need:

Colorful Construction Paper
aaaSafety Scissors
Glue Sticks

What to Do:

1. Fold construction paper accordion style into eight strips.

2. Cut the construction paper along the folded lines into strips.

aaa3. Have the kids use a glue stick to put paste to one side of a strip of paper.

4. Roll a paper strip and hold it together to form a loop.

5. Repeat the steps above linking each new loop through the last ring made. Attach the rest of the paper strips in the same way, one through the next, to form a garland chain.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

aaaCooking With Kids

Nothing tastes better than a salty and sweet treat. Chocolate covered pretzels not only taste great and are easy to make, if you wrap them in colored cellophane with a ribbon they make a great holiday gift as well. While the 13-year-old boy I care for was able to make the chocolate covered pretzels that are pictured without my help I had to help my younger charges roll the pretzel logs in the sprinkles and small candies. I didn't allow the young kids to work with the melted chocolate. Here's what to do:

aaaWhat You Need:

1 12-Ounce Package Milk Chocolate Chips
1 12-Ounce Package White Chocolate Chips
2 Dozen Pretzel Rods
Assorted Sprinkles or Small Candies
Waxed Paper
Baking Sheet
Microwave Safe Bowls

What to Do:

1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

2. Place the milk chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and the white chocolate chips in another bowl.

aaa3. Put sprinkles and candies in a shallow bowl or baking pan.

4. Microwave one bowl on high for one-minute. Remove and stir with a rubber spatula. The chips should melt while you are stirring, but if they don't, you can continue to microwave for 15 more seconds, then stir again.

5. Dip one pretzel rod into the milk chocolate using a spoon to spread the chocolate halfway up the rod. Twist the rod to let the excess chocolate drip off.

6. Roll the pretzel in the sprinkles. Place the pretzel on a piece of wax paper to dry.

7. Once you have used up the milk chocolate repeat the process with the white chocolate chips.

8. Let the pretzels dry for several hours before wrapping them to give as gifts.

My mother's recipe box and photos by Stephanie Felzenberg

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Choose Holiday Gifts that Encourage Quality Play

How to Promote Quality Play

When choosing gifts for children the holiday season it's best to choose simple toys of quality that promote quality play. According to the American Association for the Child's Right to Play quality play promotes creativity, language development, physical development, thinking skills, and social skills. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood recommends avoiding electronic toys, games, and DVDs that turn children into passive players whose main acitivity becomes pushing a button.

Best Gift Choices to Promote Quality Play

For 0 - 12 Months Choose:
Rattles and soft toys
Simple books
Stacking cups and blocks
Musical instruments, peekaboo toys, and mirrors

For Toddlers 12 - 36 Months Choose:
Push and pull toys
Musical instruments that encourage repetition, rhythm, movement, and clapping
Nesting blocks and shape sorters
Books on one topic that interests the child
Art supplies

Five Tips for Encouraging Quality Play

1. Reduce or eliminate screen time: Children may be bored or anxious at first, unsure of how to entertain themselves. Be prepared with simple playthings, good storybooks, and suggestions for make-believe play to inspire their inner creativity.

2. Choose simple toys: The child's imagination is the engine of healthy play. Simple toys and natural materials, like wood, boxes, balls, sand and shovels, beeswax, clay, stuffed animals, and generic dolls invite children to create their own scenes — and then knock them down and start over. Battery-driven gadgets distract them from real play.

3. Encourage outdoor adventures: Sticks, mud, water, rocks, wind — even bugs and weeds — make a paradise for play. Reserve time every day, when possible, for outdoor play where children can run, climb, find secret hiding places, and dream up dramas.

4. Let your work inspire play: When adults are deeply engaged in work — like cooking, folding laundry, cleaning, or washing dishes — their example inspires children to deeply immerse themselves in their play. Avoid interrupting or taking over play, but be available as needed. Let children know their play is important.

5. Become an advocate for pro-play policies: Share the evidence about the importance of imaginative play in preschool and kindergarten, and of recess for older children with other parents, teachers, and school officials. Lobby for safe, well-maintained parks in your community. Start an annual local Play Day, (for how-to tips, visit: www.ipausa.org).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas Children's Books Make Great Gifts

 Weekly Trip to the Library

Reading Christmas books to children is a great holiday tradition. It enhances their beautiful memories of Christmas, as they are snuggled up close and warm, feeling secure, and loved. Reading Christmas books add to that certain magic only a child's imagination could create.The best fictional Christmas books are the classic ones. You don't have to buy them, because they are usually found in the library. But, owning the books makes a Christmas tradition of reading it during the holidays. These books make great Christmas gifts for your charges.

To see this article please visit our new blog address at bethebestnanny.com

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gingerbread House

Cooking With Kids

Nothing is more fun than making a gingerbread house with the kids. We made the gingerbread house in the photo with a kit. The kit has the cookies already baked and in the shapes needed to make the house. The kit also includes icing, candies, and coconut to use to decorate the house.

But, if you want to make a real gingerbread house from scratch here are the directions from simplyrecipes.com.

You Will Need:

6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup dark molasses
1 Tbsp water

What to Do:

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.

3. Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook) until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.

4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.

To see the rest of the directions, including how to decorate the gingerbread house visit simplyrecipes.com

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How To Use Time-Outs With Toddlers

Heidi Murkoff's Way to Teach Limits

In the book What to Expect When You're Expecting: Fourth Editionby Heidi Murkoff the author explains that got an opinion on this controversial topic of time-outs, but done right, time-outs can be an effective way to teach limits. Murkoff says that the key is to think of time-out not as a punishment, but as a brief (emphasis on brief!) break from a negative situation.

For example, if a three-year-old knows what he's doing is wrong (like shoving his sister off the swing) but does it anyway, removing him from the playground for a minute or so sends the message that bad behavior won't be tolerated. A short breather also gives him time to regain control of his impulses (at least temporarily).

Murkoff admits that time-outs aren't right for every child and don't work in every situation. But, here's her guide to using them wisely:

Gauge the child's temperament. If the tot is especially sensitive, he may feel very rejected
when banished from your side, perhaps fearing you don't like him anymore. If that's the case, skip time-outs, which are designed to teach limits and self-calming skills, not to inflict emotional pain.

Pick the right spot. Time-outs should be served in a dull, safe place, away from things of interest (toys, TV, books) and fragile or potentially dangerous items (breakables or tables with sharp corners, which may be trouble if a tantrum ensues). Keep the culprit in sight (no closets or darkened rooms!) but away from the fun of interaction with you (or anyone else). A young toddler can be plopped in a playpen reserved only for time-outs, but if he can climb out, opt instead for an out-of-the-way chair or the bottom stair. One definite no-no: Don't use his room (and especially not his crib) as a penalty box — those places should be associated only with positive experiences.

Be an escort. Guide the child to his time-out spot, and calmly tell him to sit. Don't scold
because lengthy lectures are lost on toddlers, particularly in the heat of the moment, but do briefly state why he's there ("Hitting hurts people"). That will help him understand that he's losing the privilege of your attention because of his behavior — not because you love him any less.

Follow through. If the child refuses to stay seated (and he probably will), firmly return him to his time-out spot as many times as necessary, keeping a hand on his shoulder, but not otherwise interacting. If, once the time-out has ended, he immediately commits the crime again, repeat the time-out.

Time time-outs right. Withdrawing your attention for as little as five seconds may be all it takes to let a toddler know you're not happy with his conduct, but 30 seconds to a minute is a more likely time frame for time-outs. Time passes very slowly at this age, especially if you're confined to the naughty chair. You might try using a kitchen timer ("When the bell rings you can get up").

Don't use time-out too much. Don't let them become your only form of discipline. Dole them out only for actions you've previously warned your toddler are unacceptable; don't use them for first-time offenses.

Reference: What to Expect When You're Expecting: Fourth Edition

You can get your own copy by clicking links above or below.

What to Expect When You're Expecting: Fourth Edition

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

Are the Kids in Your Care at a Healthy Weight?

Studies Suggest that Smaller Bowls May Keep Kids from Overeating

Are you like me and if you have milk left in your cereal bowl you keep adding more cereal to use up the milk? In my battle to lose weight I know firsthand that when I use a larger cereal bowl for breakfast I eat more cereal and when I am served meals on large plates in restaurants I eat more.

Now some small studies published online on November 18 in the Journal of Pediatrics show that using smaller bowls for meals may keep children from overeating as well.

In one of the studies researchers gave 8- or 16-ounce bowls to 69 preschoolers. Adults then served the children cereal and milk in increments until the children said they'd had enough. Children with the larger bowls asked for 87 percent more cereal and milk.

In a second experiment, 18 elementary school students were given smaller or larger bowls. Secret scales were embedded within the tables to weigh each child's serving and to determine how much the children ate. Those with larger bowls asked for 69 percent more cereal and milk, and ate 52 percent more than those with smaller bowls.

Here is a link for information on how to help keep kids a healthy weight.

Reference: Healthyliving.msn.com

Friday, November 29, 2013

Latkes for Hanukkah

Cooking with Kids: Everyone Loves Potato Pancakes

Many families are still celebrating Hanukkah. Latkes, or potato pancakes, are the traditional Hanukkah dish for Eastern European Jews. But, all children like latkes so all nannies and au pairs should consider making the children latkes during Hanukkah, even if the kids in their care don't celebrate Hanukkah.

The reason that latkes are a traditional Hanukkah dish is because of the oil the latkes are fried in. When the Jerusalem Temple was recaptured and reconsecrated by the Maccabbees, only one night's worth of oil remained to light the temple. Miraculously, though, the oil lasted eight nights, or enough time to make more oil. That's the miracle of Hanukkah. This recipe makes about two dozen small latkes.

We adjusted the recipe slightly but the recipe can be found at ehow.com:

What You Need:
  • 3 large baking potatoes
  • salt
  • 2 T. matzoh meal or flour
  • 1/2 onion
  • black pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
What to Do:

1. Grate the potatoes and the onion. The easiest way to do this is using a food processor.

2 . Mix the grated potatoes and onion, beaten egg, salt and pepper, and matzoh meal or flour in a bowl.

3. Heat a skillet over a medium flame.

4. Add 1 to 2 T. oil.

5. Form the potato mixture into small cakes of about two or three T. per cake. Don't make the cakes too big since they're easier to turn when small.

6. Flatten the cakes slightly with a spatula.

7. Cook until the cakes are nice and brown on the bottom, then turn and cook the other side. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture.

8. Drain on paper towel and serve warm.

9. Applesauce and sour cream are traditional accompaniments for latkes. To make latkes that are kosher for Passover, don't use flour, only matzoh meal.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Au Pair Learns the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Why a Japanese Au Pair Loves an American Thanksgiving
By Nanami

A few years ago I came to America from Japan to work as an au pair for a family with two girls in Morristown, NJ. It was a difficult adjustment. Not only was there a language barrier, but I owned just a few non-Western clothes and I was not used to the American diet. In fact, the first dinner I ate in America was a half of one slice of pizza and my stomach was full. Today I can easily fit three slices (why I have gained nearly 15-pounds since coming to America).

The American family that hired me lives in a large home with more toys than I have ever seen in one place, even in a toy store in Japan. The girls’ closets were filled with clothes, some they had never worn before they had outgrown the outfits. The family with only four members had two refrigerators packed with food.

In Japan, my three sisters and I shared one bed in a small room. The home in America had extra rooms for guests, a room just for playing piano, two for the kids to play, one room for each parent to use as an office, another for movie watching, one for doing laundry, and so on.

The selection of food at the grocery store was overwhelming. I still do not understand why Americans won’t eat a bruised piece of fruit or need so many brands of the same product (for example, just think of how brands of toilet paper there are to choose from). It is also shocking how much perfectly good food the family I work for throws away.

I had to learn how to make pancakes, cheesy scrambled eggs, French toast, bacon, and waffles for the girls’ breakfast. All I have ever had for breakfast in Japan is Miso soup. On a great morning we might add rice to the soup. Yet, even with so many breakfast choices the girls in America would complain. And it is the complaining and whining by the children who have so much that has been the hardest adjustment of becoming an au pair working in America.

If I make pancakes and the girls don't feel like eating pancakes on that particular morning their mother simply throws out the pancakes and will make another meal. It is still upsetting to me that children can be offered such lavish meals, only to complain and then turn-them-down. I think of my clear Miso soup that I typically drink each morning in Japan, and I never even thought to complain.

Coming from such a modest life, to the American culture was difficult mostly because the children are so ungrateful. They seem to lack thankfulness. Having to listen to the two privileged girls whine and complain, despite having so much is very difficult. They have so much: nutrition, material possessions, love and nurturing -- but they always want more. They always compare themselves to each other and then to their friends.

That is why I was so pleasantly surprised about celebrating my first Thanksgiving in the United States of America! What a great way to be thankful. Family and friends come together without sharing any material gifts –- just a lot of food. Unlike the American birthdays or Christmas that I have witnessed in America, during Thanksgiving week the girls' negative attitude changed due to the hard work of their mother. Their mother made an effort to have her children focus on their blessings and on others instead of just themselves.

Here are some of the activities the mother did with the girls to prepare, celebrate, and conclude Thanksgiving week:

1. For a week before Thanksgiving she took the girls to donate ten frozen turkeys and all the side dishes to a local food bank for ten complete Thanksgiving dinners for those that might not be able to afford the meal that year.

2. Each night before bed for that week leading up to Thanksgiving she helped the girls list reasons why they are thankful for each guest they had invited to Thanksgiving dinner. They made lovely cards and listed on the cards the reasons they are thankful for the person. Then, during the meal, they asked everyone at the table to voice at least three things they are thankful for as well.

3. The week of Thanksgiving she also helped her children clear out their playroom and closets to donate old toys and clothes to the Salvation Army.

4. Then, on Thanksgiving day the family invited a few elderly guests to join their extended family for dinner. The seniors were members of their church who have children or other family living far away.

I just loved that each guest brought a dish to share at the Thanksgiving dinner. I loved that the mother asked everyone to say what they are thankful for. I loved that we packed up food for each guest to bring home with them after dinner.

I was also pleasantly surprised that on the day after Thanksgiving (which is known as America’s busiest shopping day of the year) the mother took me with the girls shopping to make holiday care packages for American soldiers. The packages included soap, razors, toothbrushes, and travel-sized toiletries. But the most fun was packing cards and games (like crossword puzzles) and books and magazines for the soldiers.

I am thankful the family opened their hearts, home, and minds and invited me into their home. The mother bought me American style clothes to help me fit in, I gained nearly 15-pounds (I just love French fries and pizza), and have made friends with a great family. I hope I will be able to come to America to visit them again and someday they can me in Japan.

Most of all, I loved Thanksgiving. I hope all nannies and au pairs reading this will incorporate some of the activities my Host Mom did with her girls for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Cornucopias

Cooking With Kids

Cornucopias, sometimes called Horn of Plenties, are a common symbol of Thanksgiving. Typically cornucopias are filled with the produce, flowers, and foods of the harvest. Here's a quick and easy cornucopia made with ice cream cones for the kids for Thanksgiving.

What You Need:

Waffle Cones or Large Sugar Ice Cream Cones
Favorite Little Snacks (We used Goldfish, Mini Pretzels, Chez-It's, Chex Cereal, and Mini M & M's)
White Chocolate Chips or Melting Chocolate from Craft Store
Waxed Paper
Plastic Wrap
Rubber Bands

What to Do:

1. Set up a work station assembly line on a counter close to the microwave. Set up waxed paper, ice cream cones, a bowl of chocolate, and a bowl of sprinkles so they are ready to use.
2. Soften about one-cup of white chocolate chips or melting chocolate from craft store in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave on high in 30-second intervals. Stir the chocolate often until the chocolate is melted. Simply repeat the process of softening chocolate in small batches since it hardens quickly.
3. Once the chocolate is softened you will need to work quickly before the chocolate hardens. Dip the wide tip of an ice cream cone in the softened chocolate, then roll in the sprinkles before the chocolate hardens. Place the cone on the waxed paper until it hardens. Repeat with other ice cream cones.
4. After the cone has hardened completely, fill with candies and small treats.
5. To transport simply cover the cornucopias with plastic wrap and use the rubber band to secure the wrap. Tie a ribbon around to hide the rubber band.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Apple Dumpling Dessert

Cooking With Kids

Kids love this easy apple dumpling dessert found on Food Network because it tastes like apple pie but they each can enjoy their own individual dessert. Simply core and peel apples and wrap them in their own pastry shell before baking.

See how to  make this easy dessert by visiting our new blog address at bethebestnanny.com

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Starting a New Nanny Job

What You Need to Know When Starting a New Nanny Job

Before starting a new nanny position caregivers and parents should sign a work agreement, fill out necessary tax paperwork such as Form W-4, and fill out and submit any applications for benefits being offered to the new employee.

Most nanny placement agencies should be able to provide employees and employers with essential paperwork such as a sample work agreement, daily logs, permission for treatment forms, and emergency phone number forms. You can find our list of essential paperwork by clicking here or feel free to contact us on Facebook for our newsletter archive with most of the needed essential paperwork.

Keep an emergency phone number listing near the phones in the home and in your purse or pocket at all times. Nannies should carry health insurance numbers for the children and permission to treat forms with her at all times.

Parents should show new employees where they keep their fire extinguishers, where the main water can be turned off, how to use the fuse box, and alarm systems. The first week on the job is also a great time to do a fire drill with the family. Parents should also show new nannies how to adjust the heat and air conditioning in the home.

Nannies should be informed about any and all allergies and treatment protocol needed for each child they will provide care.

Caregivers should also ask the parents for each child's favorite songs, foods, security blanket or doll, games, and activities to help them bond with the children the first few days and weeks on the job.

A parent should stay home a day or two on the nanny's first days to introduce the new nanny to neighbors, friends, and other nannies. The parent should show their new nanny the local parks,  grocery stores, schools, and the pediatrician's office to make her feel comfortable with the new environment. The parent and nanny can run errands together and the new nanny should also have an opportunity to go it alone.

Parents should be accommodating and patient and invite their new nanny to ask any questions they may have when starting a new job.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cooking Painting

Cooking With Kids

All kids love to paint and all kids love cookies. Combine these two loves by having the children paint cookies. These cookies can be made year round for any reason. Don't forget to let the kids measure the ingredients, mix, sift, roll out the dough, and use cookie cutters before painting the cookies. To make the project even easier feel free to use a sugar cookie mix. Buy small paint brushes to use only for cookie painting or when preparing food. Never use paint brushes that have been used for arts and crafts when cooking or baking. We recommend trying both the egg white and yolk based edible paints below. The egg white based paint will appear shiny after baking and the yolk based paints will be matte.

Sugar Cookie Recipe:

3/4 Cup Butter
1 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp. Vanilla
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt

What to Do:
  1. Mix the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until creamy.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and slowly add it to the butter mixture.
  3. Separate the dough into two flat discs and cover with plastic wrap. Cool the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  4. Roll dough and cut into shapes.
  5. Allow the kids to paint the cookies with one of the recipes below.
  6. Arrange the cookie canvasses on a non-stick cookie sheet.
  7. Bake cookies at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Edible Paint Recipes:

Egg White Based Paint

2 or 3 Egg Whites
Food Coloring
Whisk or Fork
Ramekins or Small Bowls

What to Do:

  1. Separate the egg whites and egg yolks and whisk the egg whites.
  2. Divide the egg whites into three or four separate bowls or ramekins.
  3. Add a few drops of different colored food coloring into the separate bowls or ramekins.
  4. Allow the kids to use paint brushes into the paint colors and paint their cookies.

Egg Yolk Based Paint Recipe

2 or 3 Egg Yolks
1 Teaspoon of Water or Evaporated Milk
Food Coloring
Whisk or Fork
Ramekins or Small Bowls

What to Do:
  1. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
  2. Pour the yolk into a cup and add the water or evaporated milk. Beat the mixture with a fork or whisk until smooth.
  3. Divide the egg yolk mixture into three or four separate bowls or ramekins.
  4. Add 5 to 6 drops of food coloring and beat until the color is evenly blended.
  5. Allow the kids to dip the paint brushes into the yolk mixture to paint their cookies and bake the cookies as described above.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Games to Play with Kids to Help Them Listen

How Do You Get Kids to Listen?
Listening skills can be practiced in fun ways in the home. Since kids learn through play, here are fun ways to teach your charges to listen better.

Story Chain
Play a story game with the child or with the whole family. The Babycenter web site suggests that one person begins a story with the sentence of his choice, and the next person adds a sentence that continues that thought. You can set a limit ahead of time for how long the story should last -- for example, five-minutes or 10 sentences. The game helps develop listening skills because children must concentrate on someone else's words so they can form a logical sequel.

Verbal Scavenger Hunt
DISNEY FAMILY FUN recommends engaging children in a verbal scavenger hunt to help kids learn to have good listening skills. Have children listen as you say a list of three or four items they need to find in a room. Never repeat the list. Send them to find the items. As they become more successful listeners you can increase the number of items on the list, suggests DISNEY FAMILY FUN.

Identify a Sound
Sharpen children's listening skills by using familiar household items, recommends the SchoolFamily website. Blindfold the kids, or ask them to close their eyes. Use a common item to make a noise -- for instance, run the vacuum, chop carrots with a knife, or fill a bowl with water from the sink. See whether the little ones can identify the sound; if they can't, offer some help such as, "What do I do when Fido is thirsty?"

Play Musical Follow-The-Leader!
Univeral Preschool recommends making two identical musical instruments out of recycled products -- one for you, and one for each child. Then, make one, simple noise with your instrument and ask the kids to try to imitate it with their instrument. Then, make two noises, then three, and have the children in your care attempt to repeat the patterns you create. Let the kids make up a sound pattern so that you can repeat what they do. Variation: Sing or hum a portion of a song or tune, and ask the children to repeat it.

Reading Games
When you read to the kids, turn it into a listening game, suggests SchoolFamily. Before you start reading, tell them you are going to zip their lips so they can listen but not talk. When they want to say something or ask a question, they can give you a signal to unzip their lips. When they read aloud to you, reverse roles and let the kids zip your lips.

Reading and Repeating
Read aloud to kids to encourage active listening. Baby Center suggests pausing during the last few pages of a book and ask the kids how they think the story will end. Discuss their theories and how they relate to what they heard of the story so far. This will encourage the children to listen closely and reflect upon what they have heard. Another strategy is to take out an old, familiar storybook and change a few key elements of the story while reading it to the kids. This is a fun way of testing how well those in your care are listening. Kids usually enjoy correcting "silly" adult errors.

Directions Games
Play games that include giving directions. Simon Says is a popular one in which kids have to listen to the directions -- and to whether you precede it with the words "Simon Says." SchoolFamily recommends another listening game that starts with a two-direction command. Tell the kids to walk to the couch and run back to their chairs. When they master two-step directions, add more. For example, tell the kids to pick up a pencil, write their names, and draw a circle around it.

Star Chart
Develop a star chart to reinforce good listening skills. Reinforcing children's listening skills will help increase their occurrence. Include specific listening skills on the chart. When they engage that skill, they will earn a star. Allow the children to add stars to the chart themselves and always tell them what they did to earn the stars. Provide a larger reward to kids once they obtains a specific amount of stars.

How Many Times Do I Need to Tell You?
My idea is simply to gather some index cards. Tell the children in your care that you are going to play a game to see if they can listen and follow directions. Whenever you give them a direction, count how many times it takes the kids to do the task, and write that number on an index card. For example, if you ask them to: "Put your homework in your backpack," or, "brush your teeth and hair," record how many times it takes to remind them until he actually accomplishes the task.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Changing Jobs Doesn't Change You

Simple Secrets of Successful People

In his book 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People David Niven, Ph. D. explains that transitions intimidate us because everything seems so different. But, even though our work environment changes when we switch jobs, we don't.

In his book the author states that we all need some stability in our lives to be able to function. When we undertake new things we really on that stability of how we are to provide us with comfort and confidence.

Nearly everyone feels some anxiety when starting a new job. However, people who focus their attention on their own identity rather than their uncertain surroundings feel less stress and report becoming comfortable in their position in half as much time.

You can purchase your own copy of the book by clicking a link above or below:

100 Simple Secrets of Successful People, The: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It