How to Get Your Au Pair Ready To Cook

by cv harquail on September 12, 2014

Once your host kids get past the ‘oatmeal and smashed peas’ phase, it’s time for an Au Pair to do some real cooking.

bagelEven au pairs who’ve cooked in their home countries find cooking in America to be a bit challenging.

Au Pairs need to figure out:

    • How our appliances work
    • What each of the foods is named
    • How American weights and measures compare to metric ones
    • What temperature in Fahrenheit is “hot”
    • Where all the stuff is in your kitchen
    • How to cook and mind the kids at the same time

And that’s even before you get to what your dear kids will actually eat!

To help our au pairs get started, the  smartest things I did were to:

  1. Buy a set of Metric measuring cups and spoons
  2. Type up a list of temperatures that foods should reach in order to be ‘cooked’, in both Fahrenheit and Celsius
  3. Make a set of menus for three lunches and three dinners, and
  4. Create some full meal recipes, where I wrote down what to do, for how long, in the right order, so that our au pair could start at 5 and have supper on the table by 5:30.*

Peachtree Mom offered a new suggestion:

Before our next Au Pair arrives, I’m thinking of sending her a link to  Although it is low on the priority list, we do ask our au pair to make dinner 1 to 2 times per week.

3 out of 3 au pairs stated they could cook. Each recited several dishes when we asked about it during Skype — but not one had a clue when they arrived.

Luckily our daughter likes scrambled eggs and hot dogs which works while we ramp up on the cooking skills.


What tips do you have for getting your Au Pair ready to cook a real meal?

* For example, if dinner was Chicken Fingers, Mac n Cheese, and frozen peas, with sliced fruit for dessert, it started with “preheat the oven, set a pot of water to boil for the macaroni…” etc.

See also:

5 Tips to Help Your Au Pair Prepare Healthy Meals for Kids
Au Pairs and Dinnertime: Preparing in advance for a smooth routine
Food secrets from the West Coast: Calif Mom shares all!
8 Ways To Teach Your Au Pair About Food Safety


Smelly House: Host Mom Hates Air Fresheners

by cv harquail on September 11, 2014

Attention readers: This second post about smells and host parents is absolutely unrelated to the previous post.  The Au Pair in the first post and the Au Pair here are not the same person, and the host parents aren’t the same people. It was coincidence that TACL brought up this issue last week….I already had the post from the au pair on the docket.thread

What does this tell us? That smelly houses may be more common that we thought!!

From TACL:

At the risk of hijacking this thread, I’m dealing with a new AP who is obsessed with odor.

I know my house doesn’t smell great all the time – especially this week where my usual September crunch month at work and my stupidity in agreeing to be PTA president giving me a crunch month at school collide. Housework has suffered. I suffer from exzcema use non-scented soaps and detergents (and wear non-latex gloves when I have no choice).

I have made it clear to the AP that I suffer from allergies, but keep them in check by controlling my environment as much as possible.

So last night, on the way to a work event, what do I find? an air freshener in the au pair car (which we took so she could have access to the one vehicle in which The Camel can sit). The scent was overpowering. Do I say something? A no-air-freshener-in-the-car rule is definitely going into the next AP handbook!


My Host Family’s House is Smelly. What should I do?

by cv harquail on September 10, 2014

Everyone’s house has a smell.

Sometimes it’s “dog”, sometimes it’s “curry” and sometimes it’s just “ick”.

good airWe don’t usually notice the everyday smell of our own home because we’re accustomed to it. But when our au pairs walk in for the first time, they notice because the smell is new to them. Over time, they get adjusted and don’t really notice.

Unless it’s truly stinky.

An Au Pair writes:

Dear AuPairMom, My host family’s house smells bad. Really bad.

At first I thought it was the dog– except that they don’t have one. Then I wondered if maybe they just needed to open the windows. (They seem to keep their air conditioner on all the time.)

But I think that the smell is more serious than that.

I have been looking in the house for things that might be causing the smell. There is no pet, no one smokes, no one wears perfume, the smell isn’t the last thing that was cooked. The family is tidy so I don’t think there is garbage somewhere that I can’t see.

Anyway, everything in the house smells this same way more or less. The rooms smell and so do the pillows on the sofa.

I have been here for six weeks now, and the smell has not gone away.

I have been keeping my bedroom door closed, and opening the windows often, and I have washed all the linens in my bedroom. I have started to wear perfume every day so that when the smell really is bad I can just smell my own wrist for a minute. Or I go outside.

Is there any way to bring this up nicely? Or to fix it without them knowing?

Is there anything else I can do?  ~ AuPairWithSensitiveNose

I don’t know about you other host parents, but I think I’d be a little bit offended if my au pair told me she thought our house smelled.

Come to think of it, though, I *have* received scented candles from au pairs in the past.

Maybe my house smells and I don’t know it?

For more details of the science of smelly homes: Why Can’t You Smell Your Own Home?, from the Science of Us


Should She Ask Her Host Mom To Read AuPairMom?

by cv harquail September 8, 2014

Dear AuPairMom – I have been reading AuPairMom while I was deciding to become an au pair and I was expecting that what you have on this blog explains what an au pair should expect. My host mom seems to be having some struggles with having an au pair. I’m my family’s first au pair. My family is […]

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Improve Your AuPair’s Driving With an Online Driving Class

by cv harquail September 5, 2014

An online driving course is an easy, inexpensive way to get both you and your AuPair feeling confident about her/his driving– before your au pair even arrives in the USA! Here’s a tip from TexasHostMom—  Our first AP was 26 when she arrived and had been driving for some time, so I never thought we’d have […]

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Host Mom Desperately Trying — Too Hard?

by cv harquail September 3, 2014

What is it they say about choosing a third au pair after two huge disappointments: It’s the “Triumph of Hope over Experience”? OzHostMom writes with a quandary: She’s really trying, she’s really optimistic, except she’s lost her host mom mojo. I’ve reordered her story, below, so that you get the critical point near the start: […]

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3 Features of Au Pairing: Which One Challenges You?

by cv harquail September 1, 2014

What are the real, important differences between Au Pairs and other kinds of childcare providers, like nannies, babysitters, or childcare centers? What really influences the challenges that host parents and au pairs face when it comes to making this ‘the best year ever’? It used to be that when people asked me how having an […]

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Open Thread: Labor Day Weekend 2014

by cv harquail August 30, 2014
beach chairs

Happy Labor Day weekend– and for those of us whose kids (finally) go back to school this coming week, happy last day of summer vacation. Enjoy this open thread, to converse about anything your heart desires (as long as it fits within our Comments policy). Also, if there are things you want us to discuss on […]

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Labor Day: An American Celebration of Workers

by cv harquail August 29, 2014
labor day

American Culture is on my mind today.   Of the three big distinctions between Au Pair childcare and other childcare, the idea of cultural exchange often takes a back seat.  One reason for ‘culture’ receding in to the background is that we regularly experience cultural differences and cultural exchange at the interpersonal level. Cultural exchange […]

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How to Decline an Au Pair Match — Politely

by cv harquail August 26, 2014

No one wants to be rejected — not au pairs and not host parents.   But reject each other we must, since we know that even a perfectly lovely candidate (in this case, either a host parent or a potential au pair) may just not feel like the right fit. But how can we let the […]

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