Sunday 14th 2017 : The BAPAA Au Pair River Cruise Event

Last Sunday, the annual BAPAA River Cruise event was THE place to be (for an au pair at least)  😉

Starting at 11 am, approximately 300 au pairs were present ( Thank you so much for coming!). It was a great opportunity for au pairs to meet new friends who are going through the same experience as they are. So many different nationalities were present: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Australian …

Furthermore we had the chance to see historic landmarks throughout our journey : The House of Parliament, Big Ben, London Eye, the London Bridge, … As one of the crew member was giving us crucial details about popular places around the river.

Waving at by-passers on boats and on bridges, we finally arrived at Greenwich where a lot of au pairs visited the market, went to pubs, …

We sat on the grass, talking to each other, discovering each others culture and experience. It was really nice, some exchanged their best tips on how to be a good au pair (even if their is no guide for that).

After spending the afternoon in the park, we finally went back to the boat and returned to where our journey begun. 

It was such a special day for us, we are grateful that so many au pairs came and had a great experience.

If you couldn’t come it’s okay there will always be other events!!

I hope you had a great experience during the event and hope to see you at the next BAPAA event , or simply at the next Smartaupairs event!

Smartaupairs is always trying to get it right for families and au pairs! 🙂

Best Wishes

Isabelle (left) & Aurelie (right)

Smartaupairs

Recent Smartaupairs Meetups -The Boat Race and the Oxford Trip

It’s been so busy we have not yet had the chance to post these pics, better later than never!

In April, we joined the famous Boat race Oxford against Cambridge in London. It is a typical English event where the two large universities compete.

The weather was lovely, it almost felt like summer. We were sitting in a park next to the river and watched the race either on the big screen or live.  The atmosphere was amazing! 😊 There were so many people having picnic, drinks and cheering their team.

Three weeks later we travelled to Oxford together. We joined a free walking tour, which was amazing. The guide showed us the most beautiful and famous buildings and provided us with stories of the city.

In the afternoon, we did Punting. It is a very typical activity where three people are sitting in a punting boat and one person tries to push it forward with a large stick. It is definitely more difficult than it looks 😃

We would say we’ve had two successful days 😉

Thanks to everyone who joined us! :*

Isabelle (Smartaupairs)

Smartaupair of the Year 2016-7- Kirby from AUSTRALIA!!

Each year, we select one of our au pairs (based on host family nominations) to win the lovely Smartaupairs of the Year title. With a little bit of a drum roll, we would like to announce that…

Smartaupair of the Year 2016-7 winner is KIRBY FROM AUSTRALIA 🙂 

A MASSIVE WELL DONE TO KIRBY!!

Kirby has been living with her host family in Kent for over a year now (and will continue for another). She will receive a £200 gift card to Boots (her chosen retailer) 🙂

Of course, in our eyes, there are SO so many equally amazing au pairs out there, doing a fantastic job – and being a great “big sister/brother” to their host children so we also wanted to take this chance to also say a big thank you to ALL au pairs (whether nominated or not) for their effort and motivation, you are all great!!!

Below you may find both the host family nomination & Kirby’s own response along with some lovely photographs of Kirby & the host family. 

AuPair of the year award nomination: Kirby 

I first met our AuPair Kirby over Skype in February.  Being a single mum with twin 4 year old boys – we have a very busy household with a lot of energy and sometimes noise! I work full time – mainly from home, but need space and quiet.  I had a clear view on the things we needed as a family – along with being one of our family, loving, caring, organised, full of energy, the ability to be a great cook and have a touch of craziness (in a good way) was a must.  Kirby’s second interview with the boys on skype wow-ed us all – she was dressed as a pirate and kept the twins captivated for over 45 minutes – which is a miracle!

We immediately felt determined that she was “the one!” and flights were booked and she arrived from Sydney in March. For someone who has had to apply for a passport for the first time, she settled with ease and started her morning “walkabout” to gain her bearings, walking more than 5 miles each morning before breakfast. The boys fell in love with her, fighting to be her best friend.  The fact that she is so much fun, full of enthusiasm for everything – even the mundane – has led them to adore her and being an expert on Super Heros has added to their delight in our new AuPair.

Life with twin boys is very difficult to imagine, but Kirby has risen to the challenge with ease.  She copes easily with any conflict: able to distract them with other things. We both work on manners and school work together and Kirby brings exciting and interesting ways of looking at things.

Kirby is full of boundless energy – which is perfect for two very spirited twin boys, she designs boot camp exercises and sports in the park, has taught them how to bake the most scrumptious cakes and biscuits, built wands to make giant bubbles in the garden and helped teach them how to swim:  no day is ever the same.  There are treasure hunts, train track building, domino trails and interesting games to play to improve the boys’ reading, writing and numeracy.  In the background, she ensures the house is running smoothly, the laundry is done and the children’s meals are delicious and highly nutritious.  She has never been anything other than happy and full of joy, a pleasure for all the family. She is caring, loving and kind: often I overhear her reading to the boys and the little discussions they have – precious memories.

The children started school in September and Kirby has seen them easily through this transition and walks to school with them daily.  They always burst through the door after home time, often delighting in telling me what they found in the hedgerows from their walk home, as much as what they did at school! Kirby has developed a great rapport with the teachers and handles dropping each twin into their own class with the right books, gloves, hats, and so on – with ease. She never needs asking, floors get mopped, laundry gets done and the salads are chopped and in the fridge – it is as though she reads my mind.

Meanwhile, I have made a dear friend; she is like an older daughter to me.  Kirby and I will cook together – both with a love of cooking and healthy food, we have the same tastes in movies too and when the children are sleeping, we have made our way through quite a few films.  Kirby has joined us on our summer holiday and spent time in the French countryside with my parents and the boys.

Christmas this year saw a bout of tummy bug for the family including grandparents, and Kirby maintained her happy and energetic self, amongst the washing and Dettol, she ensured the boys had a fabulous Christmas despite it all and helped us all enjoy the break between Christmas and New Year. Santa even delivered her a special sack of presents – as she was on the good list too!

This year – both Kirby and I have signed up for the London Marathon to run for a charity; the long run training will doubtless require friends to step in and help with childcare, but we are working around each other to fit in our training plans.  It will be an amazing experience and one we both will never forget.  Her mother and Aunt have already visited this year – so this time – her brother and father shall be visiting, which will make our day all the more wonderful.

Kirby is truly one of the family here, the boys adore her and I don’t know what we will do when it is her time to return to Australia.  She has been such a positive influence on all of us, including me – we really hit the jackpot when we interviewed that pirate on Skype all those months ago.

Kind Regards

Claire

Kirby’s response – bound to make you smile!!  

We love her down to earth honest approach – let’s face it, there are days which are harder than others, all part of life!

Honestly, where do I even BEGIN..

I guess from the first night I talked to Claire and the boys over Skype – my initial thought being ‘Man, what have I gotten myself into! I hope I can match their awesome level of crazy…’

Ha! That thought was immediately wiped away when I met them in person…these were definitely my people.

I touched down in Jolly old England. Ahhh, I remember it well – my main thought being ‘Damn! 9 degrees! That’s nearly snow temperature! HA! Wasn’t I an idiot. Skip past a short car trip back to my new home of two years…and as soon as I stepped through the door and laid spread eagled on the sofa, I knew this wouldn’t be JUST a house to live in, but a mighty fine home.

As the weeks passed, what I first thought were going to be two, little, golden-haired gremlins, turned out to be two of the coolest little guys I’ve ever looked after, and it has been my pleasure to look after them. Of course we have the odd ‘GAH, YOU’RE DRIVING ME ABSOLUTELY NUTS!’ moments, but come on, what family doesn’t. And that’s what they have become to me. I’ve seen William and Alex go through the transition from ‘little school’ to primary school and it has been AMAZING seeing how much they’ve matured into top little gentlemen. I’ll ask them about their day, what they had for lunch, that seems to be their favourite part, and mostly the big question of ‘Ooooo, who’s your girlfriiiiend?’. I feel that not only will any future girlfriends have to go through Claire, but they will definitely have to pass the ‘Kirby test of awesomeness’, because there is no doubt, that in 20 years time, i’ll STILL be in constant contact with my England family.

Ahhhh, and Claire, what can I say about Claire, she is an absolute stunning human being, with a deadset pistol of a personality. She can make me laugh, fire me up when I’m feeling sluggish and always has a good story for me. The amount of times it’s felt like we have been on the same brainwave is insane, it’s as if she can tell what I’m thinking and I can tell what she’s thinking, whether it’s about what to have for dinner, what TV show to watch, what activity to do with the boys and even the occasional ‘ahhh, does your butt hurt from running today, as well?’

This year was my first year away during the Christmas period, and yes, my mother in Australia made very sure that I was at least a little bit homesick…BUT, that was short lived after waking up to my own personalised Santa sack filled with everything screaming Tangerine (inside joke) and watching the boys excitement as they opened their own presents…of course the real kicker was drinking Buck’s Fizz in the kitchen with Claire and laughing about anything and everything, while preparing my first ever British Christmas lunch. It was an amazing memory I’ll never forget, with a family I’ll never forget, Claire really is MUCH more than just a host, she has been my family while I’ve been here, and I’m sure I’ve been like family to her.

Now up to date in the household, we’ve just welcomed a puppy called Narla, she is REALLY testing all of us at the moment, but I have no doubts that we can handle anything now. I am very keen to see what this last year brings, but I’m also very sad that I only have one year left with this absolute goldmine of a family, I’m so glad I picked this family and would do it again a million times over 🙂

 

IAPA Conference in Munich

The weekend gone, Tuuli, Chloe & Robyn from Smartaupairs attended the IAPA Conference in Munich.

IAPA stands for the international au pair agencies association – and it brings together au pair (and youth travel) organisations from all over the world.

It gave us the chance to meet many of our current and also prospective new partners.

Around our meetings, we also loved getting to know the city (which we thought was beautiful!!), the lovely Bavarian/German food (OK, here we might divide opinions), and the great German beer.

Here are some photos from the 4 day journey!

Hover over the photos for captions.

 

Au Pairs Nominate Their Host Mums for our Mother’s Day Competition

We would like to wish a fantastic mother’s day for all the mums (and of course in particular our lovely host mums)!

This year, we continued our tradition of asking au pairs to nominate their host mums in our Mother’s Day competition. In the nomination, we simply asked au pairs why their host mum is special/why they should win the above Waitrose mother’s day hamper.

The winning entry is from Annalena, Germany – she nominated her host mum Mercedes (Kent):

Why my hostmum is the best hostmum!

From the first day when I arrived, my hostmum was really welcoming and friendly (my hostdad was too, I will just not mention him in here because it’s about Mother’s Day, but he would definitely deserve a hamper too! :)).

I have visited my hostfamily for a few days in October before I came here in December, and I already knew this is the right family for me! This short visit was to get to know each other and right away I felt like I have known them for ages.
They were literally welcoming me with open arms!

I am their first Aupair, but they make me feel really comfortable in their family! They treat me like a real family member and include and integrate me in almost everything! And that is what was really important for me when I chose my family!
Once she called me ‘her big daughter’ which describes our relationship pretty good. I am like her two personal helping hands standing next to her all the time what ‘an older daughter/sister’ would probably be too!

If someone asked me to describe my hostmum in one word, I would definitely say ‘superwoman’!
Not only that she is having a 23 months old girl and two little twin girls; they were born three weeks ago and already now she looks amazing! But also that she still keeps managing everything even when it’s a really stressful and tiring day. Of course there are days more exhausting than others, but I know that we are all pulling together to make the best out of it everyday (especially for the little ones)!

My hostmum is only ten years older than me which is pretty cool because she is more like a friend than like an authority person! We enjoy having film nights with chocolate and ice cream and talking about any new gossip. Moreover, I can always talk to her (and my hostdad) about everything and I always know they are listening!
Her name is Mercedes which is spanish and means ‘compassion’. You can interpret this as ‘being concerned of’ or ‘being interested in’ others needs and I think this really suits her personality because she is always there for others if they are dealing with any kind of a problem or having any concern; it doesn’t matter if it’s her family, friends, me or maybe even a stranger, she always tries to find a solution!
I also want to mention (because I think the following is not self-evident!) the little things like asking how I am every morning or saying thank you for all of my work in the evenings which makes my hostmum/hostfamily the best hostmum/hostfamily I could ever asked for!

All these reasons make me feel like home, remember me that my work is appreciated every day and confirm my decision to live as an Aupair in England with a total stranger family in the beginning, but turning out to be my second one!
I just want to say thank you for everything she/they has/have done for me so far! You are the best and I really enjoy living with you. ❤’

Nomination by Cecilie from Denmark – Host Mum Isabelle (Surrey)
As soon as I saw that you could nominate your host mom for Mother’s day I just knew that I had to write to you about Isabelle. She is such a loving person always doing her very best to make everybody else feel good and make everybody else’s life easier. So I really think that this time someone should do something for her. She definitely deserves to win because she is not only the best mom for her to kids but she is also the very best host mom. I can always talk to her and it is so nice that she is sincerely interested in me. She’s interested in my personal life in Denmark but most certainly also my life here. She always makes sure I feel welcome if they are going somewhere as a family. Even when she is having a bad day or is very stressed she never lets it out on us she still makes sure to do what ever she can to help the children. She is always so sweet, helpful and glad even when she is having a hard time herself. I can have very personal talks with her and just as I talked with her about the other day even though I have only been here for a bit more than 2 months it feel much longer because I’m already such a big part of the family and everything just seems natural with me being here. She takes her job as a mom very serious but she is also very good at it.

So a very big and beloved thank you to you Isabelle not only for opening your home to me but also your heart! I will be forever grateful for you having me here.
Love from Cecilie

Nomination by Lisa from Germany – Host Mum Kerry (Kent)
When I saw this Mother’s Day Special, I knew exactly that my host mum Kerry deserves this 100%!
After our first (and only) Skype Call, I knew right away, that I would love to work with this family and I was so happy, when they thought the same!
From the day I arrived, my host mum made sure, that I felt welcome and part of the family!
She’s here for me no matter what, and I know that I can talk to her about everything.

Even though she’s always really busy with her job and organizing other things, she makes sure that I know what I have to do and is always here to assist me, when I need help with a recipe or other things.
I think she appreciates what I am doing and now I want her to know, that I really appreciate being here with her and her family!
She always makes sure that I am okay, or asks if I need anything before she goes shopping.
My host mum is an amazing cook and an even better baker. She makes the best cakes ever! She spends hours doing them for friends, colleagues or family and really pours her heart into it, to make every cake different and special. She is always here for everyone and I think she deserves this little Mother’s Day special, because it’s time that she gets something back.

I feel so welcome here and I couldn’t have asked for a better host family, and that’s mostly because of my great host mum (&host dad of course)!
I would be so happy, if Kerry gets this great package and I think she would be happy as well!

Thank you so much Kerry!!!

Nomination by Malin from Germany – Host Mum Kathryn (Hampshire)
Kathryn was my host-mum from summer 2014 until summer 2015 and she still is my hostmum in every way – even 439 miles apart! I just remembered my arrival at London Heathrow airport when she and my little boy picked me up and immediately made me feel welcome and home, I never even thought that any of these people could not be loving or caring to me in any possible moment. Just never! And it really never happened: If I had trouble getting somewhere, if I was homesick before Christmas or even if I just didn´t know what to do, they just jumped in and helped me in very way you can think of!

I can´t tell you all the funny, serious or unclear chats we had about everything – always leading us to a very confusing but all-laughing conversation-end! Kathryn helped me expand my English to a level I never thought of – although it´s getting a bit rusty here in Germany again! But never mind because I know where to go to see my second British home! And I regularly do, because not seeing these lovely people would break my heart!

Nomination by Thi from Sweden – Host Mum Jo (Buckinghamshire)
My host mum Jo, she is a super woman! She is a hard working and a very busy woman, but always friendly and kind to me, to her family and to everyone.  She is a lovely mum to two kids, a good wife to my lovely host dad and the best host mum and friend to me. Since my first day here in UK she has always been helpful, friendly, funny and a very welcoming person. She makes me feel very special and important. We can laugh together like teenagers and have a good conversation, but the best thing with Jo – I know she is always here for me if there is any problems, today and always. Even if she is very stressed or busy with lots of things to do she always takes time to help and share thought with me.

I’m very thankful for my fantastic host mum Jo. She is a good role model and definitely a special super hero in my life. I know It’s so many great host mums in the world but I would love to give my host mum Jo the Waitrose Mother’s Day Hampe with lots of love for all the hard work and for everything she has done and still doing for me.
Thank you so much!!
Best wishes
Thi X

Nomination by Josefin from Sweden – Host Mum Paula (Buckinghamshire)
Paula is a really SUPER MUM!
She is on the go all the time, while she runs her own business, she takes care of everything else, cooking, grocery shopping, exercising, get involved in important issues, go to meetings, and also takes care of three sometimes four children plus a dog!

Paula is really a great inspiration!
And has been amazing since the first day I came here. She received me with open arms and welcomed me into her lovely home, and she has created a safe point for me here and I can call her home and her family a home, for a little while. That’s is something very important.
I would love to give her this gift as a thank you for all the hard work she does!
So here’s a HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to a SUPERWOMEN/ SUPER BUSINESSWOMEN/SUPERMUM

THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING.
XX

Photos from Our Recent Smartaupairs Coffee Meetups

As many new au pairs have arrived over the last months we have organised three events in London to help everyone to get to know each other and to find new friends. After all, having great friends is a huge part of the whole au pair experience!

In each of the events, we have done some fun activities in groups – including an all time favourite people bingo (if you are a smartaupairs au pair – you’ll know what this is about!!)

Here are some pictures of our events – if you look really carefully, you can find Tamara, Isabelle and Tuuli (from the smartaupairs team) in the pictures too!

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Here are some of the selfies sent to us from au pairs who continued to explore London together, after the meetup 🙂

We look forward to more fun events with all of our au pairs! 🙂

 

Top Ten Meals to Cook for your Host Children

Au pairs are often asked to assist their host family in cooking an evening meal for the children. Basic cooking skills can be expected but we recommend that families put some time aside at the beginning of the placement to go through a few of the children’s favourite recipes with the au pair to make sure they have got the hang of it.

We asked our au pairs what evening meals go down best in their household. Here are the top ten responses!

“My host children love cooking. Together we make a great spaghetti bolognese. Italian food is their favourite” – Mathilde, French, au pair in London

Pasta and pesto with sausages. Really simple to make and tastes really good”Elin, Swedish, au pair in Hertfordshire

Jacket Potato with Baked Beans & Cheese is easy to make and my host kids loved it”Tamara, Austrian, former au pair in Oxfordshire

Gemma, a Spanish au pair in Surrey sent us this photo of a quiche that her host children enjoyed:

cooking-blog-photo

 

“My kids love pasta with mushroom sauce, homemade pizza, fish gratin with vegetables and also chilli (with a twist):

Cinnamon Chilli

  • 500g mince
  • 2 small onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tins tomatoes
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  1. Fry the garlic and onion and add the mince until it’s done
  2. Add tomatoes and cinnamon and season with salt & pepper (and other spices if you want to)
  3. Simmer for at least 30 minutes (but longer is better)
  4. Add the beans about 30 minutes before serving
  5. Serve with bread, rice or a jacket potato (and maybe some natural yoghurt and guacamole)”

Carina, German, au pair in Kent

 “We like to cook fajitas on Friday nights. We cook the chicken with peppers, onions and spices and then serve with lots of little dishes of grated cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, lettuce and tomatoes” – Diana, Italian, au pair in Surrey

“A really simple meal is pasta bake. I make a tuna and sweetcorn one with melted cheese on top and the boys always eat it all!” – Maartje, Dutch, au pair in London

“When we have enough time in the evening, we make pizzas together. The kids like to get involved. We use tomato puree on the base and choose from toppings including chicken, peppers, onion, mushroom, ham, pepperoni and cheese”Hannah, Australian, au pair in London

 
“My kids love roasts and it’s actually quite easy to prepare it just takes some time. My host dad told me the trick to put a ‘butter paper’ (the paper that the Butter is wrapped in when you buy it) on Top of the chicken. This keeps the chicken juicy and prevents the Skin from getting burned. You put the chicken in the oven for about two hours. About 30 min before you take the chicken out, you take off the paper, so the skin can crisp up. 
You can also put some whole potatoes on the tray with the chicken so you get baked potatoes. Or you Cut them in wedges, in half, … But they need less time than the chicken itself, so you need to time it right 🙂
You can use any vegetable your kids like. My host children’s favourites are runner beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower… I simply boil these or just roast them as well. (Sliced and roasted carrots and parsnip are great).
I serve the food with gravy which I make from granules 🙂 “
Alina, German, au pair in Hampshire

“Today I made a cheesy cauliflower and pasta bake for the second time and the girls loved it”Laura, German, au pair in Surrey

We have lots more ideas for simple meals on our Pinterest page and in our Au Pair Guide which is sent to all Smartaupairs prior to travel.

Happy Cooking!