Yearly Archives: 2010

Holiday Safety

When you travel, plan ahead!
If traveling by vehicle, know where you are going and how to get there and back. Obtain a map or download the latest available GPS data.Check for construction detours; for longer trips, get a weather forecast.

If traveling out-of-state, most states and/or state law enforcement agencies provide road-and-highway information either on-line or at a 1-800 number; check to see what conditions they report before leaving. Visit the Federal Highway Administration’s related webpage…

“National Traffic and Road Closure Information”

Inform a family member where you will be and when to expect you back; give them your route if they don’t know it.
If you have access to a cellular telephone, carry or take it (but don’t use it while driving; this is now unlawful in many states).

If possible, know the emergency cell codes for the area you’re in.

Click here for a state-by-state listing of
highway-related cellphone codes.

When driving, keep doors locked and windows rolled up at all times. Maintain at least half a tank of fuel, and keep vehicle in good repair.

If planning a “road trip” over the holidays, have your vehicle serviced and checked out sufficiently far ahead to allow for repairs if needed. Don’t forget to have the mechanic check your spare tire and all fluid levels along with the other preventive maintenance procedures.

Consider keeping spare fuses and a “breakdown kit” in your vehicle at all times. Breakdown kits may be purchased from a variety of sources, or you can assemble your own at any auto parts or hardware store using a commercial version as a guideline.

Minimally, a “breakdown kit” should include:

a thermal blanket/bag and a gallon of water

a “HELP” sign/flag and flares/reflectors

a flashlight (check batteries semi-annually)

duct tape

In addition to your basic “breakdown kit” you should also have a basic first aid kit in your vehicle at all times.

The single-most essential safety tip:
Devote your full time and attention to driving!

Resist distraction. If you feel yourself getting tired, pull over and take a break (at a safe location where there are other people and light).

Develop the habit of scanning for situational awareness. Use your mirrors frequently to check behind and to your sides. Look ahead, as far down the road as possible, to anticipate slow-downs, stops, snarls, crashes, emergencies, or other events which will affect traffic flow. Avoid the “tunnel vision” which often occurs during monotonous highway driving as you focus only immediately ahead or where your headlights reach.

If you experience a breakdown, pull as far onto the shoulder as possible and turn your emergency flashers on. If you have a cellular phone, summon assistance from a reputable source or call for law enforcement response. Otherwise, raise your hood or tie a streamer to your antenna, and await assistance inside your locked vehicle.

If a stranger stops, speak to them through a partially rolled-down window, and ask them to go to a phone and call police or a tow service; do not exit your vehicle until a law enforcement officer or tow operator are on scene. On longer trips, be sure you have water, food, and blankets in the vehicle.

Should you observe anyone pulled off the roadway and apparently stranded or in need of assistance, extend them the courtesy of reporting your observation to the police at your earliest opportunity.

NEVER pick up hitchhikers (your parents were right!)

If involved in a property-damage collision in an unfamiliar or potentially unsafe location, do not open or exit your vehicle. If you have a cellular telephone, summon law enforcement. If not, acknowledge the accident by hand signal, and motion the other driver to proceed with you to a safe location (where there are other people and light) to exchange information. If unable to proceed, honk the horn to attract attention and ask a passer-by to summon police.

Criminals sometimes deliberately cause minor car crashes in order to rob the occupants or steal the vehicle (so-called “bump-and-rob” or carjacking). If you are involved in a collision which seems suspicious, remain in your vehicle. Get as far off the roadway as possible, and turn on your emergency flashers. Do NOT get out to inspect for damage or to exchange information.

Summon a law enforcement officer or signal the other driver to follow you to a location where you can safely do so. If necessary, sound the horn to attract attention and await help while secure in your vehicle.

If the driver of another vehicle tries to force you off the road, do not stop. Slow to a safe speed, and proceed to a safe location. Try to obtain the license plate number and a description of the other vehicle and its driver and any occupants. Report the occurrence to the police at your earliest opportunity.

Keep your car in gear while stopped at traffic signals or signs. If approached in a threatening manner, honk the horn to attract attention and drive away (as you can do so safely).

Consider car-pooling or ride sharing only IF you have a dependable means of assuring that the other participants are legitimate and safe. Some jurisdictions maintain a central coordinating office for such services; check your telephone directory or on-line. Ride sharing for long trips is NOT recommended unless you are personally acquainted with the other party and fully trust them and have confidence in their driving ability and common sense. Remember; you life is literally in their hands while they’re behind the wheel.

When returning to your vehicle, carry your keys in your hand and be ready to unlock the door and enter as quickly as possible. As you approach your vehicle, scan the area, glance underneath the vehicle, and take a quick look inside before entering.

While out and about, present an alert appearance.
Be aware of your surroundings; scan the area from time to time. Avoid concentrating so hard on shopping that you fail to keep track of your surroundings, others near you, or your personal property.

  • Wear conservative, comfortable clothing.
  • Grip carried items firmly and avoid leaving them unattended.
  • Carry minimal cash and valuables, wear minimal jewelry.

Thanksgiving Celebration

Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday, dates back to the first European settlers in North America. After much hardship, illness and hard work, the Pilgrims were finally able to celebrate a successful harvest which they shared with their Native American friends who had helped them through their difficult beginning in America. Today this day is set aside to feast and to give thanks-something we can all share, as we too celebrate our cross-cultural friendships.
Some activities to share with the children :

Maple-Nut-Berry Popcorn Balls ( for children ages 3 and older): Add some chopped walnuts and raspberries, blueberries or blackberries. Add enough melted butter to lightly coat popcorn. Stir. Pour maple syrup over the warm popcorn and stir until all the corn, nuts and berries are covered. Shape the sticky corn into balls and place on a plate to refrigerate until the syrup hardens.

Thanksgiving cards and place cards: Fold a piece of paper in half, place a leaf on the inside and close the card. Use a crayon to rub lightly across the front of the card in the area where the leaf is. The shape of the leaf will appear on the outside. Remove the leaf. Write a name on the front for a place card, or a message inside for a Thanksgiving card. Older children might want to make more sophisticated designs using more than one leaf.

Make a chain of paper doll (adults should do the cutting): Fold a piece of paper back and forth over and over again with a width between folds of 2-3 inches. With the paper folded cut out a shape of a person, make sure that the hands and feet touch the fold, but don’t cut through the fold. When you unfold the paper there will be a line of people holding hands. Children ages 3-10 can color the figures to look like Pilgrims(men wore big white collars, belts with buckles, and buckles on their shoes, pants to their knees; women wore white hats and aprons over solid color dresses) or Native Americans (draw feather headdresses and brightly colored geometric patterns on their clothes).

Tree of Thanks: This Thanksgiving tree is bound to become a new holiday tradition.

Trace leaves onto autumn colored craft’s paper and cut out. Punch a hole into the stem of each paper leaf. Measure and cut a 2” length of wire or twine for each leaf. Thread it through the hole and bend the ends to make a hook for hanging. Place the tree branches in a pot or vase. Let the children or/and guests choose a leaf or two and ask them to jot down things that they are thankful for.

Au Pairs Give Back

For the second consecutive year, Jan Peedin and her au pairs joined the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Walk ( on 7/18/2010. Jan, a local counselor for Au Pair in America in Maryland (, and her au pairs assisted with a number of walk-related duties including registration, traffic control, food preparation, raffle sales, cleanup and t-shirt distribution. As volunteers last year, the au pairs helped raise over $72,000 for children, young adults and adults with cystic fibrosis. This year, the girls and fellow volunteers helped raise over $80,000 and enjoyed live music and dancing after their day of work.

Peedin and her au pair ‘cluster’ are no strangers to giving back to the community. Over the years, the au pairs have participated in many charitable causes including the Salvation Army where they monitored the Angel Tree at Columbia Mall and a walkathon for juvenile diabetes. In 2008, Jan’s girls helped the Caseycares Foundation ( when a fire destroyed their offices. This past weekend, the cluster  worked  with the DC Kitchen preparing healthy snacks for distribution to the less fortunate during the holiday season.

Fell free to contact any of the organizations listed for more information on how to get involved.

If you would like more information about Au Pair In America, visit or contact Jan at 410-531-1163 or by e mail at

Free Form Apple Tart recipe

Once you’ve picked your apples and brought them home you can make delicious apple treats. Maybe make something from your country’s cuisine. Or try this simple version of an apple pie!

Free Form Apple Tart

Free form Apple Tart for blog

photo by Gaetan Lee

Pastry – 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 cup cold butter cut into 10 pieces, 3 tablespoons ice water, 1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon peel, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.

Filling – 4 large apples, (about 1.5 pounds) peeled, 1/4 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 2 tablespoons butter, confectioners sugar (optional).

Directions: Mix butter and flour with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water, lemon peel and juice. Stir until dough holds together. Gather dough into a ball, flatten, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate 30 minutes or just until firm enough to roll out.

Meanwhile, peel and cut each apple in half from top to bottm. Remove core and stem ends. Turn halves cut sides down and slice thin. Heat oven to 425 degrees. On lightly floured surface roll dough into a 13 inch round. Edges can be uneven. Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet. Leaving a 2 inch border, arrange apples in concentric circles from outside toward the middle. Sprinkle with sugar-nutmeg mixture, then dot with butter. Fold edges of pastry over apples. Bake 15 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 35 minutes longer or until apples are tender and pastry is golden. Slide tart onto wire rack to cool. Before serving, dust with confectioners sugar.

YUM!!! I’m going to make mine today!

October News

Pumpkin photo

photo by Aaron Gustafson

October is the month of hayrides, pumpkin picking and trick or treating on Halloween! Read about the History and Origin of Halloween, Safety Tips, Recipes (you don’t want to miss the Frozen Hand recipe), and more, all on this site.

There are still plenty of apples to be picked and it’s a wonderful activity to gather with your friends/family to go to one of the local orchards to pick your own apples. To find the orchards for your area, visit

Our three clusters can find orchards in their area by scrolling down to the Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Howard County listings. A few quick suggestions are (Germantown), (Westminster) and (Baltimore).

Helpful Tips for Au Pairs

1. Stay in touch with your Community Counselor –it is the only way he/she will get to know you!

2. Attend cluster meetings

  • Call or email if you cannot come to a monthly meeting
  • Let your counselor know if you will be out of town
  • Call when you need help or advice-your counselor is an impartial listener and will always consider both sides of the situation. Your counselor will  give you an honest opinion.

3. Be a good buddy

Remember what it is like to be a new au pair. Welcome new arrivals. Arrange to meet a new au pair. Take her out. Accompany her to the next cluster meeting.

4. Take responsibility for your actions

No one is perfect. If you make a mistake, take responsibility and try to correct the situation. Speak openly and honestly with your host family when a mistake has been made.

5. Respect the privacy of others

Gossiping about other au pairs and host families can be very harmful. If your friends confide in you, honor the confidence. Do not tell others about what goes on in other host families. Use discretion when posting on Facebook. Remember, host families read it too!

6. Communicate

  • Share your ideas, discuss cultural differences, ask questions when you don’t understand
  • If you have a problem, present it to your host parents clearly and calmly. Suggest a solution to the situation. Listen to what they say and try to reach a compromise.
  • Let your host family know if language is a problem. Admit if you do not understand a word or instructions. Ask questions.
  • Keep in mind that everyone has good intentions. We may just not know what they are. When there is a disagreement with your host family, remember to listen to their point-of-view.  You may not agree with it, but it’s important to listen and hear it.

7. Follow house rules.

The only way you will establish trust is by following rules – even those with which you may not agree.  If you are not sure of the house rule, ask..

8. Be considerate of your host parents.

  • Keep them informed of where you are going.
  • Let them know if you are staying out over night.
  • If you plan on traveling, discuss the details with them and do not interfere with their schedules.
  • Remember that your host parents are tired when they get home from work.

9. Show appreciation – return the favors your family does for you with kindness and generosity.

10. Take initiative – don’t wait to be asked, anticipate children’s needs, offer to help when you are sharing “family time”

11. Let a good example.

  • The children you care for look up to you. Don’t do things in front of the children that their parents would not want them doing.

12.Take care of yourself

  • Have reasonable expectations of yourself – be patient as you learn to adjust to life in America
  • Try to understand and accept cultural differences – that is part of why you came here; learn from the experience
  • If you are feeling homesick or house bound call someone and give yourself something to look forward to
  • Keep reasonable evening hours if you are expected to get up early to work the next day

Talk, Talk, Talk! Communication and an open mind are key to a successful year!

Childcare Around the World

Each au pair arrives in the U.S. with her own child minding style and expectations. These individual differences spring from her own experiences in her own family as well as from cultural styles typical of her home country. Throughout the world parents want the best for their children, but what is best in one country may not be considered best in another.

Child care customs, games and songs are not universal and no au pair arrives knowing how parents in the U.S. raise and educate their children. This is just one of many aspects of our culture that are unfamiliar to au pairs when they arrive. Much time is spent at orientation educating au pairs about the patterns and expectations in this country. Host families can help their au pairs learn to adjust to American family expectations while the family learns to understand their au pair. Differences in expectations and style underscore the need for adequate orientation to the expectations of your household.

Au pairs will generally be surprised by the abundance of toys and activities typical of most American homes. Their inclination is likely to be towards more imaginative play, unstructured time outside and less directed playtime generally. The pace set by the classes many children attend adds to a hectic lifestyle unfamiliar to many au pairs.

When it comes to discipline, the majority of American parents tend to give choices, reward, and explain, generally being more permissive and “democratic” than is common in other cultures. Au pairs need help in understanding and accepting these practices as otherwise they may just see the children as manipulative or disrespectful when they voice their opinions and negotiate.

The cultural exchange nature of the Au Pair in America program ensures that au pairs are interested in and committed to learning about new ways of caring for children. Keep a discussion open about differences in parenting styles and be sure to help your au pair learn as much as she can about American child rearing.

Family Fall Festival in Gambrills, MD – Sept 12th

Come out and join us at the Family Fall Festival in Gambrills on September 12th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  at Kaufman’s Tavern located at 329 Gambrills Road.  There will be four bands; a Kid’s Korner with moon bounce, climbing wall, and face painting; food, beer and wine for sale by Kaufmann’s (steamed crabs, seafood, burgers & hotdogs, and more!),  and performances by Studio180 Dance. All proceeds benefit local schools.  Admission for adults is $5 and children 12 and under are free.   Parking at Arundel High School.  The counselor from Annapolis, a host mother and a current au pair will be at a table to answer any questions you may have about the Au Pair in America program. 

Au Pairs at a pumpkin patch

Au Pairs at a pumpkin patch