Yearly Archives: 2015

A great holiday gift to gain a better appreciation for other cultures

Foreign to FamiliarThis would be a great gift this holiday season ~ Foreign to Familiar is a book that is a splendidly written, well researched work on cultures. Anyone traveling abroad should not leave home without this valuable resource! Sarah’s love and sensitivity for people of all nations will touch your heart. This book creates within us a greater appreciation for our extended families around the world and an increased desire to better understand them.

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy HanukkahHanukkah begins at sundown this Sunday, December 6th and ends on Monday, December 14th. Hanukkah is the Jewish Feast of Lights or Feast of Dedication. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means dedication. The holiday begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew Month of Kislev and lasts eight days. Hanukkah usually falls in the month of December, but occasionally can start in November.

The history: The books of the Maccabees tell the story of Hanukkah which occurred in 165 B.C. After three years of struggle, the Jews in Judea defeated the Syrian tyrant Antiochus. The Jewish people held festivities in the Temple of Jerusalem, and rededicated it to God. After removing all Syrian idols from the Temple, the Jews found only one small pot of oil to light their holy lamps. Miraculously, the small pot provided oil for eight days. Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish leader, then proclaimed a festival to be observed by Jewish people.

Hannukah Traditions

The Menorah: The centerpiece of the Hanukkah celebration is the Hanukkah or menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles. Eight candles symbolize the number of days that the Temple lantern blazed; the ninth, the shamash, is a helper candle used to light the others. Families light one candle on the first day, two on the second (and so on) after sundown during the eight days of Hanukkah, while reciting prayers and singing songs. The menorah — either store-bought or homemade and crafted of metal, wood, papier mache, or clay — is filled from right to left, but lit left to right so each new candle is lit first.

Singing Songs: Hanukkah — one of the most family-oriented of Jewish holidays — comes with its own set of carols sung around the glowing menorah. These celebrate everything from the glory of God and the ancient Temple of the Jews (“Maoz Tzur”) to the simplicity of a dreidel (see below), as in “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel/I made it out of clay/And when it’s dry and ready/Dreidel I shall play.”

Yummy Treats:
There’s nothing low-fat about Hanukkah – many of the traditional foods of the holiday are deep-fried. In honor of the oil-y miracle people celebrating Hannukah like to eat foods that are fried in oil like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) and different fried breads. Want to have a go at making something? There are lots of recipes for yummy treats here:

Spinning Tops: It’s customary to play with dreidels (spinning tops) during the holiday, even wage gambling games in which players guess which side of the top will fall face up. Legend has it that during the Greek-Syrian dictatorship in Israel of yore, Jews got around the ban on reading the Torah by bringing spinning tops to study sessions so their oppressors would think they were just playing around. The Hebrew characters carved into the four sides of today’s dreidels are the first letters of “Ness Gadol Haya Po/Sham,” which roughly translates to “Great Miracle Happened Here/There” (depending on whether you’re in Israel or not).

For fun and educational activities for children go to

Au Pair in America Enjoys a Navy Football Game

DSC_0751What a perfect day we had at the Naval Academy Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday, November 14th! Au Pairs, and one host family, from our three clusters joined together to watch a game between Navy and SMU. It didn’t matter if anyone understood the rules of football or not – the atmosphere was what mattered most to our group. Crisp cool fall weather, blue skies, seeing groups of fans tailgating, seeing the planes fly over before the game after hearing a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. A moment of silence was observed for Paris. It was a beautiful American experience.DSC_0747DSC_0746DSC_0753DSC_0737DSC_0754

veterans dayThere are over 19 million veterans in the United States. Many of us have a family member, friend, neighbor or host parent who has served or is currently serving our country. Let’s all make a wish for peace today and appreciate our veterans. The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held each year on November 11th at Arlington National Cemetery . The ceremony commences precisely at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and remarks from dignitaries. The ceremony is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces. Learn more about Veterans day by clicking on the link below!

New Corporate Partnership with Johns Hopkins Health Care System and University


Baltimore and Annapolis Counselors with Corporate Liaison Kristin Woolston at the JHH Work Life Fair on October 7

Baltimore and Annapolis Counselors with Corporate Liaison Kristin Woolston at the JHH Work Life Fair on October 7

Exciting news for employees of the Johns Hopkins Health Care System and University! Au Pair in America has recently developed a relationship with their Work, Life and Engagement department. Now, any new or reapplying host family who has a parent working in either the health care system or the university will receive a 5% discount off the annual program fee, plus no application fee. The link below will open to a page explaining more and it will allow you to contact the Work, Life and Engagement office.


Columbus Day Observed on October 14th!

Columbus DayColumbus Day, which is observed annually on the second Monday of October, remembers Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492.   Americans are often invited to celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of their country with church services and other activities. In some towns and cities, special church services, parades and large events are held. Most celebrations are concentrated around the Italian-American community. The celebrations in New York and San Francisco are particularly noteworthy. In Hawaii Columbus Day is also known as Landing Day or Discoverer’s Day.  Not all parts of the United States celebrate Columbus Day. It is not a public holiday in California, Nevada and Hawaii.  For more information about this holiday go to: For activities for children including arts and crafts, word searches, puzzles and more facts and history go to

NCR Trail Bike Ride with Baltimore cluster

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Last Sunday a few members of the Baltimore APIA cluster met up at the NCR Trail in Hunt Valley to enjoy a bike ride from the Ashland Road starting point. We rode 6 miles and enjoyed a light picnic and some conversation. It was the first time for everyone there to discover this great trail which is part of the Rails to Trails project. Now they know where they can go to enjoy the beauty of nature and get a little exercise. Bikes can be rented just across the street from the Ashland starting point at Hunt Valley Village,


Childcare with a Cultural Flare ~ Simplify your Life!

DSC_0143If interested in learning more about hosting an au pair in your home to see if this would meet your childcare needs please stop by my Au Pair in America table at The Festival on the Green at the Crofton Country Club located at 1691 Crofton Parkway between the hours of 10am and 4pm on September 26th. I will have au pairs on hand to answer any of your questions. If you are not in the market please feel free to let others know that may be! Have a great weekend. For more information about us visit our website at

Pizza party and back to school safety tips

DSC_0659On Sunday night we welcomed some new au pairs to our cluster and rekindled some old friendships after the long summer months.  We enjoyed a beautiful crisp evening outdoors as we ate pizza and discussed back to school safety tips.

Also, just in time for back to school, Au Pair in America has put together a handy note for au pairs and host parents.  With busy schedules and last minute changes, something simple like writing a note for the school can get lost in the mix. Or maybe your au pair has just arrived and she’s not quite sure yet how to notify the school of any pick up/drop off changes. That’s why we put together this useful note! Print off a few, and you’ll be set for the year. It’s blank so all you need to do is fill in the appropriate information: date, child’s name, teacher, grade and include a parent’s signature.  It can be used to grant permission, for absences, late arrivals or early dismissals, and has a comment section to include any other pertinent information. Print off the note here (it’s a pdf file) and make your life a little easier!